Metal Marathon – The Final 3 Days

Well this is the final post in my series covering my 11 metal concerts in 9 straight days, aka my Metal Marathon. Friday I finally got my car back so I could actually drive myself around to shows in my own damn vehicle, what a concept. This was good because the last three days of my Metal Marathon would see me going to four concerts that were each in a different venue.

The first show I was headed to was at Firehouse in Fairfax, Virginia to see a little known band from New York City called Meek Is Murder. Their debut album, Algorithms, wasn’t even out yet and I went into this show with no idea of what to expect of them musically. When I got there apparently none of the bands had arrived yet, so there was a bit of down time before the first act started. They were a local grind/experimental act named Gradius, I suppose after the old video game. They opened their set with an instrumental song I liked a lot. They all seemed to switch off doing back ups but the lead singer of the band was their drummer. He kept making faces the entire set while still pumping out some crazy beats and screaming too. They put on a highly energetic set and I didn’t mind the wait so much by the time they were done. Next up was the touring act Meek Is Murder. These guys were really something! I didn’t know what to expect but they played short songs with outbursts of raw brutality with some dissonant parts tying it all together. They seemed to play several songs all back to back and since I was not familiar with their material at all, it was hard to tell where one song ended and the next began, but that was ok, it worked well that way. There weren’t a lot of people there to see these guys, but it didn’t matter, they put on a killer show. The guitarist/vocalist Mike Keller was running around all over the place and at times I thought he might fall into the drum kit. The set ended a bit abruptly but it was certainly the highlight of the night for me. The next band to play was local grind act Drugs Of Faith. I had seen them play before, but the trio had a new bass player since then. Their set was about the same as I had remembered them, typical grind with a political bent. It wasn’t a bad set, but it was pretty hard to go up after Meek Is Murder that night. They did ask who was going out to the Dropdead show the next night in DC, which of course I already had my ticket for.

Saturday the 12th of March I headed to another venue I hadn’t been to before, St Stephen’s Church in Columbia Heights in Washington, DC. The headliner was the famous 80′s vegetarian power violence band Dropdead. Though I knew who they were the real reason I was there was to see some of the excellent local talent that was opening. Ilsa started the show off with a short but powerful set of their death/doom metal sound. It was a bit odd seeing them on such a big stage, but they pulled off their set really nicely. Their vocalist, Orion, still hardly looked at the audience, instead keeping his back to them most of the show. At least he didn’t puke anywhere this time! I’m pretty sure they played the same set on this night as they had when I saw them at the Corpse Fortress a few nights before (read about that here). The next band to play was Richmond’s Cough. They’re a doom band that really just crushes. They’ve got some very slooow parts that are just heavy as hell and they put on a really fun show too, lots of super slow motion headbanging. Great stuff and you like doom you should really check out their latest album, Ritual Abuse, if you haven’t already. The next band to play was a hardcore act that I was totally unfamiliar with named Wasted Time. They sure got the crowd going nuts instantly and there were big mosh pits and stage divers the rest of the night when they played. They weren’t really my thing though, just seemed like standard hardcore that didn’t stand out to me, but I’m no expert on the genre anyways. Apparently there were a few fights at the show during and/or after their set, and before the next band performed a woman who was helping to run the event told everyone that if people were drinking, doing drugs or fighting that shows would not be allowed to continue at the church. Someone else came up and gave a speech about voting for gay rights in Maryland and then finally DC’s best grindcore act, Magrudergrind, hit the stage! I’ve seen them a few times, including at Maryland Deathfest last year, but this was the best set I’ve ever seen them play live. They were even more energetic than usual and the band seemed like they were trying to outdo the audience at being out of control. Vocalist Avi Kulawy even did a stage dive into the crowd at one point (video of that below), eventually getting thrown back onto the stage just in time to start screaming into the mic again. The intensity was broken up once in a while between songs and Avi would talk about political issues, tho he didn’t make anything sound too preachy. In the end it was a great set and my favorite of the night. Next up was Dropdead, who was pretty entertaining but again, not really my thing. The vocalist was constantly moving about on stage and doing things with the mic cord, simulating hanging himself with it and swinging it around like a helicopter over the audience and other things like that. The songs were high energy and the audience seemed to eat it up, but I ended up leaving early to grab a (non-vegetarian) bite to eat.

Sunday the 13th of March 2011 was the ninth and final day of my Metal Marathon, but I had a double header lined up, and this time the venues weren’t just blocks away like they were on the first day in Richmond. First I was going to see Trap Them and Gaza play at Jaxx. The actual headliner for the show was The Red Chord but I didn’t care about seeing them and was going to see Apocalyptica at the 9:30 Club afterwards. The 9:30 Club had two concerts that day too, so the Apocalyptica show’s doors didn’t open til 10pm and there was also an opener. But I’m getting ahead of myself, first I got to Jaxx to see the new band To The Teeth open the show at Jaxx. I’d been meaning to catch these guys and I’m glad I finally got a chance to. Not really sure how I’d define them exactly, sort of a thrashy hardcore band (but not the chugga chugga breakdown kind) with some death metal elements in there too. They were pretty good for such a new band, I look forward to catching them again and recommend them to anyone reading this. The next band was another local act, this time a grind band named In Hell With Traitors. They had three members, a vocalist, a guitar player with fake blood dripping down his face and the drummer/backup vocalist who was wearing some bloody surgeon scrubs. They were ok for grind, they certainly had their violent outbursts and brutal riffs and all, but in the end they didn’t really stand out a whole lot to me. They were a good opener for this show though, and Gaza was up next. Gaza had been on the schedule as the second to last band but I guess Trap Them was going to play after them. Their singer is a very tall and lanky guy who seemed to pace around the stage like a caged daddy long legs. He had a suit tie wrapped around his head and enjoyed making lots of jokes about Christianity between songs. At one point he jumped off the stage without his microphone and walked around, not in the audience but behind them, while yelling out “there is no future in this” over and over. I’m not sure if that’s how one of their songs is supposed to start or if he was just spazzing out, either way it was something I hadn’t seen before. Gaza was good live, but next was the real reason I came to this show, Trap Them. Their latest album, Darker Handcraft, is just totally awesome and one of the best metal albums I’ve heard so far this year. These guys came out with a fire raging that never left during their entire set. They have some kick ass songs with various levels of brutal, catchy and just plain aggressiveness in each one. They were not easy to watch and just stand there and shoot pictures of. I really wanted to be running around smashing shit during their entire set (the Jaxx staff should be glad I was carrying cameras!). Their vocalist, Ryan McKenney was going nuts the entire show and even climbed one of the amp stacks during the set and continued to bark out vocals from up there. The drummer was getting so pumped he’d actually stand up during parts of songs while still playing and never missing a beat. The tunes were great, the performance was great and the energy was awesome, this was definitely one of the best sets I saw on my entire Metal Marathon. Sometimes you get lucky and catch a band when they’re at their peak both performance wise and with their material, and this was one of those concerts. When they finished I resisted the urge to run down the street kicking trash cans and instead headed out to get some food and then made my way to the 9:30 Club.

I got to the 9:30 Club a bit later than I wanted, but I still found great parking right by the venue and got my photo pass set and went into the show before they started playing. There was a three song limit for the photo passes, which means us ‘pro’ photographers have to be out of the photo pit when the third song is over. That’s kind of annoying but I think I got some great shots anyways. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen Apocalyptica so I had an idea of what to expect, a cello based band that plays metal covers as well as some original material (some with a vocalist, some without) and a few classical pieces as well. This show’s setlist was just that, with the original material focusing on the latest album, 7th Symphony, and a few singles. They had a different guy singing for them now, and there were only three guys playing cellos, they had four when I’d seen them in May of 2008. The band is nothing if not showmen, and they love posing for the audience as well as throwing their hair around like a helicopter, picking their cellos up over their heads and various other things to really get the crowd going. The main thing I’ve always liked about these guys are their covers. They played three by Metallica and two by Sepultura. It was funny how the audience all sang along to Apocalyptica’s version of the Metallica song One yet when they played the next song, Refuse/Resist by Sepultura, everyone seemed to stare blankly, haha. The show was entertaining, even during their original songs, which are the ones I tend to be the least interested in. After getting kicked out of the photo pit I shot several videos (Apocalyptica is one of those cool bands that doesn’t mind fans shooting video of them at the 9:30 Club) and I even shot their entire encore set, which you can see below. The show ended late but it was a great way to end my 11 metal concerts in 9 days Metal Marathon. My car broke down, I hitched rides to other cities, but I still made it to every show! I hope you guys have enjoyed it as much as I have on this adventure, it really was a fun experience not just going to all the concerts, but meeting people and overcoming the shit life throws at you to get to every concert. Perhaps I’ll do another one sometime, but until then you can enjoy these selected videos from the final three days of my Metal Marathon. If you like the photos scattered throughout this entry you can find more of those on my Flickr page, I even made a special set just for the Metal Marathon concerts here and I’ve got a lot more videos on my YouTube page here. I’m a bit behind on my reviews and calendar right now, but keep an eye out for an Agalloch concert review next. Stay metal everyone!

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