Monday morning, Oakland waterfront
This wraps up our coverage of the second installment of CALIFORNIA DEATHFEST, which took place from October 14-16, 2016, in Oakland, California. As was true of my posts on Day One and Day Two, I haven’t written fulsome reviews of the performances I saw on the final day, though this time I have included a few more impressions than in the earlier installments — but I’ve once again included photos and videos I made using my iPhone.
Yes, this is a half-assed way to document a festival compared to what you will probably see from a few of the more well-healed metal publications out there who employed professional photographers and videographers. However, because “Half-Assed” is in fact my middle name, I’m being true to myself.
Besides, I don’t think the photos and videos are terrible. In most cases, I was again able to situate myself right up against one corner of the stage where I could both get an unobstructed view and not annoy the shit out of anyone behind me by holding my phone up above my head. The downside is that I was about five inches from a big PA speaker, and so the audio on the videos is very bass-heavy and more distorted than I would have hoped for. But the picture quality is not bad.
My friends and I were more punctual on Sunday than we had been on the first two days of the fest, and so we at least caught the last couple of songs by the opening act, Necrosic (whose line-up includes members of Autopsy, Ghoul, Scolex, Ascended Dead, and Funebrarum). Based on those two songs, I was kicking myself for not catching the whole set. I did get some photos of them, but wasn’t yet in a place where I could make any videos.
After Necrosic, Vastum went on a skull-splintering bombing run that was enormous fun, as I knew it would be from previous experience. It’s a complete blast to watch this band — and you’ll get a good taste of why when you see the video. The music was killer, too.
After Vastum, things took a deep descent into a black/death abyss with the next three bands. The mysterious Dead in the Manger, in what I believe was their first live performance, were one of the bigger and most electrifying surprises of the festival, playing a frightening and frighteningly good set in smoke-shrouded near-darkness. If you haven’t heard their sole album, Cessation, go do that (here).
The mighty Mitochondrion followed Dead In the Manger with an absolutely obliterating performance. I’ve been lucky to see them three times in the U.S. this year, and perhaps because of my vantage point this time, it was the most overpowering of the three — and one of the most dark, violent, and staggeringly heavy performances of the festival. Definitely one of my personal high points in a great weekend of metal.
Canadian dominance continued with the next band, Rites of Thy Degringolade. The band have been on hiatus for more than 10 years, but have returned in 2016 with a few live performances including this one. Metal-Archives now also lists the release this month of a demo named The Universe In Three Parts, though I’ve been unable to find any info about it. Long story short, Paulus Kressman and company created a ritual of decimation; and their return is a very welcome one.
I think it’s fair to say that Blood Incantation’s debut album Starspawn has produced a meteoric rise in their popularity and critical acclaim. I think it’s also fair to say that their set at CDF was one of the festival’s best, and maybe THE best — intricate, head-spinning, brutal, and tight as a coiled spring, and they pulled off the musical fireworks while headbanging more than any other band I saw (you’ll see a lot of flying hair in the photos below).
At this point my friends and I took a long dinner break, returning in time to endure the long soundcheck by Hooded Menace — the first of many ultra-long set breaks that plagued the rest of the night, virtually all of them appearing to be caused by various equipment malfunctions. In each case, however, it didn’t take the bands long to put a jolt into the increasingly frustrated crowd when they began playing. In the case of Hooded Menace, I thought it was time to rename the festival Hooded Menace CrushFest. Such a heavy band….
After another torturously long set break beset by apparent equipment malfunctions and technical issues, Exhumed really ripped. As beleaguered as my feet and back were by that point, even I came fully alive….
…but I also decided that I would have to forego the rest of the night — which was clearly going to be a really late one due to the delays that had already happened — in part because I didn’t have it in me to stand around any longer and because I knew I had to get a bunch of posts ready to publish for yesterday in addition to getting packed up and out of the hotel for our flight back to Seattle the next morning.
To sum up, I thoroughly enjoyed the music at CDF 2016. But I hope that if this continues next year, the logistical side of the fest will be improved. For two nights in a row, the schedule got way out of whack; there didn’t seem to be enough on-site staff people dedicated to keeping the train moving on time (which is a hallmark of Maryland Deathfest); and security seemed very lax, and virtually non-existent inside the venue (as far as I could tell, there was no security on stage, only one dude parked at an exit at the very back of the music space, and that was it).
Don’t get me wrong — I’m very grateful that CDF 2016 happened, and the line-up was hellishly good. But the experience as a whole could be improved. Now, here are the photos and some of the videos (I’m experiencing really slow upload times to YouTube from my home, and so it will be later this afternoon or tonight before I finish adding them.)
DEAD IN THE MANGER
RITES OF THY DEGRINGOLADE