May 272014

photo by Kusha of Theories

One of the most striking aspects of Maryland Deathfest XII was something that hit me even harder after I returned home to Seattle: As one of my new MDF acquaintances put it on Facebook today, it was a place “where EVERYTHING in totality, literally, everything in a 360 degree view, was ‘metal’ oriented in some way or another.”

You get that feeling at just about any metal show, but it’s a feeling that usually only lasts a handful of hours and then you’re back in the world. At MDF, it went on for days. Everywhere you looked, at almost all hours of the days and nights, even on the streets of Baltimore, you saw and heard the sights and sounds of metal. And especially at the Edison Lot, it was like being transported to another planet populated solely by metalheads. I’ve never seen so much black (or so many patches) in one place in my life.

People-watching was definitely one of the primary MDF spectator sports, second only to watching the bands on stage. Given that this was like a metal homecoming party (or, as Kim Kelly put it, “metal’s version of Spring Break”), lots of people obviously put a lot of thought and care into their selection of finery — including the dude in the horse-head mask pictured above, just after he had successfully crowd-surfed over the barricade at Edison Lot’s Stage A.  And of course the official mascot of MDF, Chicken Man:


photo by Jack of Brutalitopia


photo by Jack of Brutalitopia


I saw Chicken Man every day at almost every venue, beginning with the pre-fest show on Wednesday night at Ottobar, and he was always fully costumed and usually right in the middle of the pit action. I’ve heard he has been a fixture at MDF for a long time. That suit must be smelling pretty rank by now.

I heard about but did not see Chicken Man’s “Hippie Killer” sign at Bongripper’s set on Sunday afternoon. High-larious.


photo by Jack of Brutalitopia

And then there was this dude:


photo by Jack of Brutalitopia


He was there every day at the Edison Lot in his metal speedos adorned with the cover of Death’s Symbolic album. I feel blessed that I was never behind him when he bent over for a solid headbang.

But perhaps my favorite piece of attire was the flowery lemon yellow Hawaiian shirt with an enormous Entombed patch right on the back that I spotted at Edison Lot on Saurday. Wish I had a photo of that bit of inspired madness.  Update: Thanks to my hero Brooks Rocco of The Five Eyes, I now have a photo of this awesome shirt (cool hat too — as my friend Brutalitopia Jack said, LG Petrov would approve):



Now take another look at the photo at the top of this post and you’ll see an example of something else I forgot to mention in yesterday’s observations about the superb logistics of the the events at Edison Lot: security dudes having a shitload of fun.

I don’t know where the festival organizers sourced their security service, but I’m guessing many of them had never been at anything like MDF XII — because who has? And yet I’ve never seen a less grim, less intimidating, less “trigger happy” group of security guys at any metal-related event. Whoever trained them for this thing did the job well. In addition to the fact that many of them were smiling and rocking out to the music along with the crowds, they seemed to have a. . . genuinely helpful attitude. [Update: I’ve now learned through reader comments that the MDF stage guys work at Ottobar and have been a mainstay at MDF for a while — big props to those guys.]

When crowd-surfers would be passed up to the barricades, the security guys would cradle them in their arms like newborns and lower them gently to the ground, usually with a smile and a pat on the back. I heard stories of some ugly incidents involving gate security at previous MDFs, but I never saw anything remotely like that at this installment, at any of the venues.

Granted, I wasn’t closely surveilling the security apparatus, and maybe there was some unpleasantness somewhere, at some time, but from what I saw, it was really well-done.


photo courtesy of Maryland Deathfest


Yesterday I wrote about the Edison Lot, and I thought I’d close this part of my travelogue with some observations about one of the other festival venues — and then pick this up again tomorrow.

Edison was of course the biggest setting. The smallest was a place I never managed to get to — the Sidebar. That was the place where dozens of metal bands were putting on free shows throughout the long weekend. It was described to me as something like a basement show, with a tiny space that was densely packed with bodies.

Apart from Sidebar, Soundstage was the smallest of the three venues where you needed a ticket to get in. But it was still a pretty large place with an elevated area opposite the stage and a big floor. Soundstage was where most of the crust, hardcore, and grind bands played, in addition to bands from other genres.

Unfortunately for me, the sets at Soundstage were happening at the same times as the shows at Edison Lot and Ram’s Head Live (the third venue, which I’ll discuss tomorrow). I had to make some tough choices, and I wound up missing a lot of what went on there — including performances by Black BreathEnabler, NoothgrushMaruta, Kill the Client, ACxDC, Cripple Bastards, and Impaled, just to name a few who I really wanted to see.



I did see the performance by Seattle’s Theories, which was goddamned obliterating. Those four dudes (some of whom I knew slightly before this trip and got to know better during our time at MDF) were all firing on all cylinders, delivering a blast-furnace explosion of death/grind that I thought was electrifying — heavy as hell, brutally groovy, and thoroughly venomous.

I also caught the performance by the UK’s Extinction of Mankind. I particularly wanted to see that show because the band’s guitarist is Scoot, who is also the bassist for one of my favorite death metal bands, Vallenfyre. Man, that set left me feeling like someone had jammed a lightning rod into my brain stem and turned on all the juice — one hard-hitting dose of crust punk after another, with frontman STE yelling and barking in a raw, skin-abrading voice that made me hoarse just listening to him.

I was fortunate enough to meet those two after their show, and to hear STE’s hilarious stories about his exchanges with the tight-assed American woman he was pinned next to on the flight over from England. Somehow, she took it the wrong way when he called her “flower”.

One other thing about Soundstage — though that place was the smallest of the three MDF venues, it had some of the biggest and most energetic pits I saw during the whole festival. I wish I could have cloned myself and caught more of what went down there.

(More babbling about MDF tomorrow and the next day.  For previous babbling, Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.)

  33 Responses to “MARYLAND DEATHFEST: A TRAVELOGUE (Part 3)”

  1. Sidebar is an old punk venue..and yeah, it basically looks like someones basement. I really wanted to get over there, especially on Friday, but there was no way to fit it in, which is too bad.

    Security has been a real issue in years past..two years ago there was a huge brawl between security and some drunk attendees and people got maced..even the ones who werent doing anything. They were just nailing everyone. Last year was a similar deal….Security was bad..screwed the entrance line up nearly everyday and got into a brawl with a bunch of attendees at the end of the fest. That being said, most of the guys who worked the rails inside have universally been cool (with a few exceptions), doing great work catching people and passing out their own water to people who were hurting from the heat.

    ..and major props to horsehead kid…that guy was nonstop in the pit from day one

    • ..and just in case that sounds like a condemnation of the security team..I want to be really clear and say, those guys this year were outstanding. It was pretty much a whole new crew and they were awesome

      • We got a comment on our Facebook page saying that a lot of the stage security guys at this edition of MDF work at Ottobar.

        • The Ottobar/stage guys are a mainstay and are always awesome year after year. The problematic ones were mostly the un-vetted team working the gates last time. Everything seemed to go really smooth this time around so props to Ryan and Evan.

          • Thanks — I’ve now added that info in the post above.

          • Yeah..thats what I was trying to say in my rambling post…I knew those guys who worked the rails in years past were a different group, and theyve almost always been awesome. Theyve always done a great job keeping people safe every time Ive been there

      • Yeah – I’ve never seen a security team that seemed to enjoy being there as much as we did, while still ensuring that none of the crowd surfers bit it on the other side of the rail. They were also good about helping the front row out with some water now and then. Can’t say enough about those guys – hopefully they’ll all be back next year.

        • I hope so, too. They were a key part of the chill vibe that pervaded the whole festival.

        • They probably will, or at least similarly cool guys will be..From what I understand, after last years fiasco, the guys who organize this thing took a much more direct hand in selecting who would be working security. They brought the good dudes over from previous years and ditched the bad apples who were causing trouble

      • The security guy that tackled the stage diver into Kirk Windstein seemed a bit over enthusiastic.

        • Rams Head has several big ass signs that say dont do that shit..Dude took his chances and got pasted for it. Ive got no sympathy for him

        • I missed almost all of Crowbar’s set (though I could hear it). After Coffins finished, I headed straight for their merch table, which was being mobbed. Took me a big part of Crowbar’s set to get up to the front and get my shirt(s), and then I had to go outside withe some friends for air.

          • You really didnt miss much in my opinion…Coffins completely blew Crowbar off the stage. About half my group bailed on their set, including me

            …watched the video though, and that security guy nailed that dude

  2. Gahhh this sounds like it was perfect! I “attended” vicariously through Instagram over the whole weekend…hopefully IRL next year. Looking forward to the rest of the write up.

    • Thanks! I realize that to some people who didn’t make it, these travelogues may come across like pouring salt in a wound, even though that’s not my intent (though I know that’s not what you’re suggesting). Honestly, I’m just so full of memories that I feel like I have to get them out of my head or I won’t be able to think about anything else. 🙂

      • Thats exactly what it is…you’ll be pumped up from MDF for the next few days, and soon you’ll start wishing it was time for the next one to be here. Its like Christmas for metalheads

        • I am having SO much trouble concentrating on my job, and really everything else about daily life now. It so exceeded my expectations that I feel like I’m waking up from a really good dream. A wet one of course.

      • No really, in every photo and report I’ve read, everyone’s joy is truly palpable. It sucks to have not gone, but there’s few things I love more than happy metalheads being happy at metal shows. It might be one of those rare cases where seeing someone else’s high is (almost) as good as having it yourself.

  3. The security guards were seriously the best festival staff I’ve ever seen. They were not only fun and down to party, they were insanely good at their job of keeping people safe.

  4. Hey Jack! The pics look great!

  5. I think it was the vocalist from Soilent Green who remarked “I fucking feel like Peter Griffin from Family Guy, keep seeing a giant yellow chicken wherever I look”

  6. Can I just say, I cant wait till you get to the band reviews…So much good stuff, Im curious to see what you and other posters thought of the bands you caught

  7. this just sounds so awesome 🙂 you mentioned meeting Jacobo Cordova, i would love to hear more about that!

  8. But honestly, I’m gonna get a work-study job for the express purpose of going to this next year. I can’t resist anymore.

  9. Sounds like a great festival! Definately something i hope to attend if i ever go over the (big) pond.

  10. The best thing for me is that Horseguy is wearing a Rush Tee!!!

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