Third Time’s The Charm: Maryland Deathfest XII: Saturday & Sunday

Ramen is truly some food of the gods level shit. I subsisted on all of Friday and most of Saturday with the aid of four of these magick squares. Only a dollar each at —you guessed it— Dollar Tree. Stock up for the apocalypse. And find this guy.
Ramen unfortunately couldn’t help Diocletian’s very evil brand of blackened death be more than an okay attempt at the sound of canned hell. Dark, swirling riffs and blasts ringing from bottomless pits is cool, but variety is severely lacking. Entrails, however, came to save my life —or end it, rather?— with their sticky, sweet old school Swedish Death Metal, complete with a logo that looks suspiciously like Entombed’s.
Spain’s Machetazo brought yet more evil to the fore with their wicked gore/death inflected grind, en Español.
Hearkening to bands like Regurgitate and fellow countrymen Hæmorrhage, they seem  uninterested in being unique (and with Grind, that’s quite a feat), just brutal, and they’ve certainly succeeded in that regard.
God Macabre, yet another group of old school Swedish Death infantrymen long forgotten, made their first appearance in the U.S. here, and probably was in the top three bands most likely given to old ladies if they asked fest-goers what “concert” they were heading to.
With only one full length to their name, The Winterlong, you could probably guess the setlist, plus a cover of a Carnage song. Forget which one, but it was damn near heartwarming when vocalist Per Boder smiled in delight when the crowd reacted positively to the name of their fellow deathheads. “I guess they’re not so underrated after all.” You bet’cher ass, bud.
When one thinks of progressive death metal, Florida’s Nocturnus (A.D.) should ideally be what comes to mind alongside acts like Pestilence, Atheist, and Death, though admittedly I hadn’t heard of them until I saw their name on the line-up. Playing their seminal album The Key in full, Nocturnus prove that synths don’t necessarily have to end up sounding cheesy when used alongside brutal music.
Vocalist/drummer Mike Browning (ex-Morbid Angel) seemed to be having loads of fun blasting and growling simultaqneously for such uplifting tunes as “Standing In Blood”, “Lake Of Fire”, and even a special cover of “Chapel Of Ghouls”, how rad’s that shit, homie? I think they even played a Death cover, but I could just have been imagining it. isn’t helping my case.
The original Speed Metal Drunks (who’s Municipal Waste?) in Germany’s Tankard were clearly not hammered enough; they could still play their instruments. The crowd was one-upping the fuck out of them, however, with a beer-soaked circlepit despite the blazing sun cooking them through. Songs about zombies, and beer. Party. It’s fun stuff, though not the absolute greatest that thrash, has to offer, nor is it the best that humour has to offer, but these krazy Krauts won’t fail to get a chuckle or headbang out of you.
Finally taking my non-drunk self to the Soundstage to catch DropDead for my third or fourth helping this Gregorian year, I first caught Sweden’s d-beat heroes in Victims. They play a version of the genre that reminds me of Martyrdöd, with more melody than is normally allowed, and less ear-fucking distortion, though weren’t quite as captivating as I would hope. Had they played it straight Swedish and aped Anti-Cimex or even Finnish contemporaries (all Scandinavians are the same, right?) in Riistetyt and Kieltolaki, I dare say they’d be more what I was seeking. DropDead, however, are consistent in their delivery, combining crust punk, powerviolence, and d-beat cooked the right way; raw and still bloody.
Between socio-political and generally ‘wake-the-fuck-up’ rants came short but intense bursts of distilled punk fury, very rarely going below speeds safe to drive on the highway. The setlist seems to have changed, as they are including more new material that, while less speedy than the material of old, still has its fangs, yellowed with age but reddened with new blood as they press on. There was a special guest appearance, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to even mention it, though I will mention that they played a cover of Siege’s “Drop Dead”, and as an extra spiffy bonus, a cover of “It’s Not What It Seems To Be” by fastcore/powerviolence legends Lärm. Sweeeet,
With Nocturno Culto finally bringing his drunk ass to America only to not play in DarkThrone was a disappointment to many, but I suppose Sarke is the next best thing. Who knows, maybe Fenriz’ Red Planet will stop by to play material fromEngangsgrill in a few years.
At least the crowd hungry to hear one song, any song by DarkThrone got their wish, sorta, since they played a ‘cover’ of “Too Old, Too Cold”. Clearly the case since Nocturno is never seen without a leather jacket. A weird mix of black-ish metal, normal-ish heavy metal, death rock, and whatever else Nocturno deems the right thing to do these days, it was interesting, but c’mon. DarkThrone. Not gonna stop saying it ‘til it happens.
True Norwegian Viking Death Metal warriors in Unleashed were something. Among my main draws to the fest this year, it’d be wrong to say I was disappointed, but underwhelmed is the word I’ll go with since their set was noticeably lacking in the glorious potential they are capable of.
Having a staggering 11 full-lengths of Nordic praise, and my having only heard 5 or 6 of them in full (not counting the ...Revenge demo), I knew there were gonna naturally be some songs I wouldn’t know well enough to fistpump to. However, the lack of “In Victory Or Defeat”, “Warriors Of Midgard”, and prime material from As Yggdrasil Trembles was distressing. To add to the discomfort, they stretched out some songs by at least two or three minutes (“Death Metal Victory” count: 8+), thus cheating themselves and the audience out of more songs. It sucks that happened, but at least Johnny Hedlund brought out a Viking drinking horn, and the predictable happened. My diagnosis: they were drunk. To Asgaard, their brains flew.
Next up were Dark Angel, who’ve probably got more riffs in a single song than an entire Bolt Thrower album (or two), arrived to show us that indeed, time does not heal, because Thrash is a lifelong disease.
Now recovered from a spine injury that left him unable to move, much less sing, Ron Rineheart is now back in action, and the L.A. Caffeine Machine is once more abrew. With speeds equal to or greater than that of even the fastest cuts on Sepultura’s Arise, it’s a wonder how Dark Angel never got up to the Big 4 instead of Megadeth, who stopped being Thrash after Killing Is My Business. Oops. They’re as virile and potent as 14-year old sperm after all these years.
Following U.S. fast with U.K. fury were Extinction Of Mankind, who, while not a founding band in crust (having formed in ’92), are as important as acts like Deviated Instinct and Hellbastard when assigning blame to old British guys spreading this filth. Their particular style is that popularised by acts like Misery; slow-churned Thrash infused riffs, barked vocals, and a steady beat to break down the walls of establishment. Naturally, the scent of unwashed dreads is the only perfume to adequately accompany such sounds, what with their LPBaptised In Shit, and all. I saw them again in someone’s basement a few days later, but don’t expect a review of that.
I took a little nap during L.A.’s Excrutiating Terror, who weren’t all that painful, nor scary, to be honest. It was decent grindcore, though not too much of a racket, so I caught a few Zs before heading over to catch the real death metal bastards in Asphyx, because what the fuck is a Schirenc? I’d have liked to have caught “Shrunken And Mummified Bitch” live, but The Church Of Pungent Stench would be a much more sensible name, aye? Or even Pungent Stench A.D., in keeping with what seems to be an MDF tradition? Whatever.
So, The Netherlands’ Asphyx, fronted by one of the few aside from John Tardy who can audibly sneer while growling, —is this a blonde thing?— Martin van Drunen belted out classics like “M.S. Bismarck” and newer ballistics in “Deathhammer” with equal ease and aggression, and the band are no slobs either.
Come to think of it, Hail of Bullets should play next year. Just a thought.
The soreness had began to set in by this time, yet my body had no say in preventing further torture. There was yet more on the plate for this exercise session from hell. Luckily for my muscles, a one-two-three heavy handed slap of stoner/doom in the form of Windhand, Bongripper and Graves At Sea was how the Sabbath day was to begin. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the former two bands practiced and recorded stoned and played sober?
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My next gym coaches in Misery Index, however, demanded a few proverbial pushups, despite the lack of shade. How cruel of them to play “Traitors” when they know that it’s impossible for me to stand still during such a thing.
The new track(s) from the newest opus The Killing Gods were business as usual; brutalising politically conscious death/grind the way Misery Index has delivered it to their hometown of Baltimore and the world for 13 lucky years. I’m assuming they all walked home after Deathfest, since they probably live up the street.
Pseudogod, they existed, and Wrathprayer from Chile played Blackened Death Metal that was surprisingly not too generic, though little stuck out in particular from their performance. The wizardly dissonance of Colombia’s (now based in Seattle, WA) Inquisition was much needed following these two noble, if not uninspiring acts.
Dagon’s trademark croaks take some getting used to if you’re not already into that thing, which I found out some years ago when I first heard “Those Of The Night”. I thought, “How the fuck are these Black Metal vocals? Weak shit, kid”, and fell in with the camp that didn’t enjoy the Popeye With Throat Cancer treatment. However, with time, I came to see them as an integral part of their sound, as important as the spiraling, dark melodies and atmospheres that blanket their deceptively simple aural landscapes. The tastefully militant blasting and appropriately placed groove sections provided by drummer Incubus are done well enough to the point that variety is not of great concern. Dagon even had the foresight to have two mics set up so he wouldn’t simply stand in one place the entire time, and that somehow made it a lot less likely to be bored while watching their ministrations. Clandestinely keeping you titillated since 1989.
A smorgasbord of Louisiana’s most metal featuring members of Goatwhore, Crowbar, and Eyehategod, Soilent Green are an unexpectedly well-done mixture of blues-tinged sludge metal and blasting deathgrind. I’d go so far as to say they’re one of my ‘favourites’ among bands I had gone in not expecting to be good, much less pretty darn good. Makes for good BBQ eating soundtracks. Because, y’know, the South. Following them were the French-Canadian band voted least likely to have anything to do with gore or guts, Gorguts, who are equal parts surrealist staircase-to-nowhere artists and death metal.
Reanimating “Orphans Of Sickness” from The Erosion Of Sanity (complete with slamdown) and “Inverted” from From Wisdom To Hate, Gorguts shows that they’ve not gone entirely soft on us. That is, if you consider the fact that they’ve run with the avant-garde angle from Obscura onward going ‘soft’. Opening with two songs from Coloured Sands as if to say “now that we’ve got that out the way”, they proceeded to blow some minds the way they have been for a quarter century. Damn, they’re old. Luc Lemay’s cheesy but charming stage banter will tell you that much. Why isn’t he my uncle?
Yet another fuzzy treat for my unaware ears were Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, who got my vote this year for the category of “Why Is This Band Playing Deathfest?” in the same way Anvil did two years ago. Good old fashioned psychedelic doom rock worship aside, they should seriously consider changing their name to Sharp Dressed Man: The Band.
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Sure beats the hell out of Bigelf as far as semi-metal 70s hard rock goes. Just out of curiosity: why do none of these bands ever wear ‘normal’ clothes?
And now came the apex of sadness: Having to abandon the truest Sabbath worshippers in Sweden’s Candlemass after their opening song, “Mirror, Mirror” to go catch Japan’s legally insane grind outfit Unholy Grave at the Soundstage. Mats Levén of Therion fame handling vocals and the fact that I missed “At Gallows’ End” just makes me want to cry forever. Ancient dreams of an alternate reality where this was an easier choice. Almost makes me wonder; was it worth it? I don’t like to ask myself these questions, because regret is an unproductive state of being.
The misery continued with the U.K.’s masters of the maudlin, My Dying Bride, with frontman Aaron Stainethorpe sporting a newly shaved dome after my only having ever known him with perpetually soggy lachrymose locks.
Sadly (word choice?), “Deeper Down” and “My Body, A Funeral” didn’t make it onto their setlist, and I’m woefully (word choice?) unacquainted with much of their discography, though “The Dreadful Hours” and “Turn Loose The Swans” rang somewhat familiar. Hymns to never ending grief, complete with the mourning, sobering sound of a violin, though unfortunately (word choice?) no rain to complete the ambiance. If it can rain during Neurosis, Electric Wizard, and even Pelican, why no appropriate weather this year? You sicken me, skies. To compound my consternation, I noticed the beginning sign of an oncoming suckfest; that sensation of having a patch of permanently dry skin at the back of your throat, the messenger of death, the common cold. It only got worse from there.
All sordid business with the Edison Lot now done, I had a hot date with the Soundstage and Ratos de Porão, who play fucking fast.
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Brazil’s Ratos don’t play no bossa nova, fool. It’s balls-to-the-wall with no breaks at all crossover thrash meets the rawer (or rawwwwwwrrrrrr) sounds of 80s hardcore. Think Suicidal Tendencies in their Join The Army days if they took more cues from Charged G.B.H.’s City Baby Attacked By Rats, with thrashcore beats that threaten to become blasts, and you’ve got an approximation of how this beast sounds. Pure energy and speed, but always on the right track, like a studded train full of crusties hitting you with a fist made of metalheads. Someone eventually decided that a trash can would have more fun near the pit, and the result was a lot of beer cans and empty food containers on the floor that was once just covered in beer and sweat.
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Perfect way to cap off the Soundstage skullduggery.
Meanwhile at Ram’s Head the progressive death metal Kiwis in Ulcerate serenaded all present with positive vibration songs such as “Confronting Entropy” and “Clutching Revulsion” from their newest opus Vermis.
Packed full of enough angular riffs to make your head spin, and heavy enough to make it flatten itself, they and Immolation provided an ideal closing combo for this year’s Maryland Deathfest. Emphasis being on the death, Yonkers’ Immolation packs a firestorm of riffs that haven’t died down in over 28 years as a band. From their debut Dawn Of Possession to their most recent Kingdom Of Conspiracy, all eras were covered as they burnt the fest to ashes.
Post-Deathfest Shenanigans
Yours truly got kicked out of a hotel (rather, kicked himself out) because someone decided smoking a cigarette in the hallway was a good idea. To be fair, I tried to help them by putting it out, but what’s common sense?  Some people just can’t hang, and those people are hotel security. Oops.
Then on the walk ‘home’ I found some people being obnoxious and singing random metal songs at the top of their lungs on the front porch of a hotel. Naturally I go over and join them. I found some beers and a girl that’s sexually attracted to snakes or someshit, and she stole the inflatable dinosaur that the guy dressed as a doctor during Impaled’s set gave me. Presumably to fuck it.
Then I drank with said doctor and he showed me the horror show that was his hotel bathtub. Thing was a mess of fake blood and empty beer cans. We drank some whiskey for our faces and peaced out. He had a D.R.I. cigarette case, which was rad.
Thrashers, meet your king, passed out on the steps of said hotel at 6 in the morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still hungover to this very day, because that kid was literally drunk the entire weekend. And I saw him a lot (he was in just about every pit at Edison), so you know I’m not bullshitting.
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Then, just in time for me to get onto a cold 4 hour bus to New York and a subsequently cold 4 hour bus to Boston, my cold reaches fruition, and I die in my seat. Somehow I came back to life to write this review, and all I can say after this glorious headbanging, circlepitting, beer drinking, weed smoking, not-drug-doing, skirt-wearing, awkward-socialising weekend is: Fuck the common cold. Maybe I’ll do this again next year.

Exhausted Minds, Sonic Warfare, Musical Starvation, Polluted Soundwave Problems, Poison Messages. The Eventual Result – DropDead & Brain Killer At The Cambridge Elk’s Lodge

My deary my, what a show. It’s a shame I haven’t already been a frequent patron of the Cambridge Elk’s Lodge, but I didn’t become cool until sometime last year, so take that into consideration before you weigh it to heavily against me. Plenty of wacky pictures were taken, look here if you’re interested. Okay fine, here’s one featuring the Spaniard.

Spearheading the phalanx were local boiz Bloodkrow Butcher, whose name makes one think of a Native American serial killer.

Not much one can say about Bloodkrow Butcher aside from they play fast and furious punk rock. The singer’s mic wasn’t even on, but he could still be heard over it. How do I know it wasn’t on? Elementary, dear Watson: The volume when he was shouting into it and not shouting into it was equal, therefore I know that it wasn’t on at all, but some semblance of words could yet be heard, and that my friends, is punk rock spurred. It’s basic, dirty, and raw. Pogo, skank, etc. Just have fun.

Following BKB were Brain Killer, hometown heroes making this show their last, and leaving with a big bang of noisy energy rivaling the Japanese scene.

I had come back into the Elk’s some minutes after Brain Killer began, having taken a brief sojourn to 7-11 to beat the heat, and also witness some hoodrat drama between the finest ratchet hoes you’ve ever laid eye on, but ask the Spaniard, for he has all the details.

Brain Killer’s ferocity is rivalled only by the beard of one of the vocalists. Yowza, that’s one fine upside-down hair mountain. I can find no pictures, but rest assured, it’s a marvel. This same vocalist is in the band No Sir I Won’t, so you’ll be able to enjoy his live vocal talents for some time to come. The other guy, I can’t say the same about, since I’m not sure if he’s in any other bands. Regardless, it’s a shame to see such a good band go, but at least the crowd didn’t slack in their vicious assault of one another to commemorate the swansong of local legends. If anyone was injured, then perhaps it was a great success.

DropDead, on the other hand, show no signs of slowing down, and with this rare treat, they threw down the gauntlet as the crowd threw down their fists, showing they are here to stay for a long time.

No pictures, because I can’t find a good one. Sue.

Powerviolence/Grind/Crust legends from Lovecraft County, celebrating 23 years of waging war on all that is melodious and unaware of human travesty, thought it good to grace Boston with their malevolence, having not made the journey since that Middle East date with Trap Them, Burning Love, and Converge, the lattermost of whom they released a killer split with. This band is indefatigable, its style is impetruous. It’ll rip out your heart, it’ll eat your children. They’re loud, abraisive, and of course, have an important message, but they’re the type of band that’ll make you actually listen because they’re just that damn good.

It’s a “you had to be there to see it” kind of situation, but the fact that I survived the whirlwind of legs, arms, and haphazardly thrown beer cans without a scratch is none short of miraculous. Some upfront mic-sharing and headbanging does wonders for the next morning, I tell ya what. And one can’t help but notice the impeccable similarity between DropDead’s bassist George and Tom of Draize fame. Must be the wraparound glasses and the chrome dome? I’m getting sidetracked. It was a celebration of pure punk fury. An important message, but without the pretense or insincerity of some modern bands. If you want a band that means what they say, then get behind DropDead. Wear their shirts to your cousin’s funeral.

I Can Think Of Nothing Clever. Revocation at The Great Scott

Ah, the Great Scott, how I thought I missed you. This venue has been the site of many a great show: Toxic Holocaust, Shonen Knife, Ringworm/Nails, and The Red Chord. All massive blasts of great times and home to rousing rounds of avoid-the-beer-spills-so-as-to-not-die-in-a-rather-embarrassing-fashion. It seems that over my times of going to shows there, I can just tell which ones are going to be the type where chubby bearded men stand and drink PBR as opposed to actually showing signs of life. Not necessarily mosh-til-you-drop, but something more than one or two guys who genuinely seem to enjoy the opening bands, y’know? Regardless, there was some great talent to be found here in all forms, as usual, and opening the festivities was the obligatory local band with a strange name, Lunglust.

While Lunglust are certainly a group of good musicians who know a little something about writing songs, their Hardcore meets… something else combo isn’t something that meshes well with my own interests. Some of the songs crawled along too slow, and while others were at a pace more my speed, they still didn’t quite capture my attention for much longer than a few seconds at a time. They have a sizeable following in the Bosotn area, I believe, so I’m probably alone in not nodding along while they perform. So be it.

Following the hometown heroes were KEN Mode, three angry Canadians that play Hardcore that sounds very angry.

Only in Canada can you get red-carpet treatment after expressing your desire to destroy.

KEN Mode’s style of hardcore is one that’s as abrasive as it comes in Canada. If you thought Cursed were a shovel full of soot to the mouth, then KEN Mode are stepping it up to a shovel full of soot on fire to the nuts. It’s no-compromise, it’s sludgy and covered in scars, and it’s mean. KEN Mode weild chugging riffs that seem to come from the bottom of the sea, breakdowns that make your soul hurt, and during one song the guitarist swapped out for a bass, providing even more low-end battery that could make mighty castles crumble. This band’s a take-no-prisoners type, go see them and be wowed. It’s the type of Hardcore that doesn’t even require any pit antics, and pitting would almost take away from just seeing them go about their hateful proselytism.

A Life Once Lost is a band with quite a reputation, and even they would have a hard time topping KEN Mode in their tooth’n’claw approach to Hardcore with their mishmash of psychedelia, slap-chopped prog riffs, and whatever else they feel is appropriate.

Little do fans know, Doug and Bob work in a factory that exclusively produces mannequin torsos.

Though ALOL no longer play what people nowadays refer to as “djent” (the term didn’t exist in the time they were trailblazing), they still bring enough heaviness for the chubbies who frequent this hole in the wall. Beginning their musical trek sounding like Meshuggah meets metalcore, and becoming one of the frequently cited bands of this style, I wasn’t quite ready for the more laid back, ethereal feel that the tunes on “An Ecstatic Trance” offered, with a light-show to accompany the musical goings-on.

Far be it for me to make assumptions, but seeing that they were selling a “Drop Acid, Not Bombs” shirt and now knowing that two members of the band dabble in mild-altering substances, I can guess who, but I ain’t snitching. All I will tell is that some standing on the bass-drum occurred, and the sober mind considers the consequences of such an action.

Moving on, ALOL played a set mainly taken from the new album (I assume), and closed with “Surreal Atrocities” from their seminal release, A Great Artist. Throughout, the band remained focused, andseemed to be enjoying the direction their music has taken, which emphasizes their groovy nature and ditches a lot of the polyrhythmic pummeling, but it still remains in trace amounts. Certainly not a bad direction to take, though some old fans are understandably miffed. I, being a newcomer, see no evil, and will jam An Ecstatic Trance with no remorse.

Last and arguably not least were Revocation, who I’m proud are from here because David Davidson is the mad notes, yo. MetalSucks and hopefully other sites have had him pop up on Best Guitarist list multiple times, so you know that he’s better than Buckethead.

Revocation’s one of those bands that just can’t seem to stop getting better. Since Empire Of The Obscene they’ve just gotten more proficient in their Death/Thrash craft: ever-deepening technicality and melody seamlessly integrated with a heaviness that lets them clear the battlefield of all opposing forces. Their latest EP, Teratogenesis is free, so go steal it guilt… er… free. Though it isn’t wildly different thematically from what they’ve been doing on Chaos of Forms or Existence Is Futile, you can’t argue with a FREE Revocation cd. It’s pretty sweet, and it’s green, go eat it. They sold their souls to Scion to give us, the fans, a little something in return for stealing their albums already and making up for it by buying shirts.

Anyhow, they always boast an energetic and above all, entertaining live show. It’s amazing how much the crowd changed from ALOL to Revocation. Virtually all of the hardcore dudes hightailed it, and longhairs were the kings of the ring. David Davidson being intoxicated and silly is always a great treat to see, and marveling as to how he manages to pull off all those solos while possessing a firm buzz is a favourite pastime of Revocation fans nationwide.

While the band members themselves were in top form musically despite the most queer absence of Anthony Buda (I don’t know the story, someone research it for me), the audience was a whole different kettle of fish. Mr. Davidson, the grand judge, juror, and executioner of the festivities, was eager to see some harebrained knuckle-dragging mosh action, just to see if everyone was alive or an oil painting. While there was indeed movement as per the nice man’s request, it was more like an oil painting running due to a poor mixture of linseed and whatever else oil paint is made of. In short, an uninformed onlooker would think it was a drunken game of football occurring during a Metal show. The sheer clumsiness of the sport closer resembled a 5th grade game of tackletag, it was fucken hilarious to see. Circlepits were a lost cause, since some people don’t really know how to run in a straight circle, opting for hexagons instead. By the honour of Greyskull, it was a sight to see. Mr. Davidson attributes the poor moshing skill to the fact that Converge and Suffocation immediately preceded this show, but I can personally say that none of the attendees of tonight’s show aside from perhaps one were at either, and thus have no reason to be tired. While I was licking my wounds from a knockout, they were probably watching 16 And Pregnant.

Due to the MBTA’s propensity for stranding people in the Autumn and Winter cold after a certain time, I couldn’t stay for the whole of Revocation’s set, though they did play some choice cuts such as “Harlot”, “Re-Animaniacs”, “No Funeral”, “Across Forests And Fjords”, and of course, “Dismantle The Dictator”. Lots of air-shredding and headbanging remained to be seen, but I like to not walk all the way from Allston to Dorchester at 12:30 at night in order to minimize chances of encountering the stab-happy.

How I had missed the dim light and redolence of ages of spilt beer and sweat lingering in the rafters of this old pub. Many a great show I have seen, and many I shall still see. Add this notch to my bedpost, or whatever one does to keep score of shows these days.