Maryland Deathfest IX Recap

I’m not doing a super detailed Maryland Deathfest recap this year because I missed all of day three, Saturday, so I could attend the wedding of a good friend. However, I was there for day one, two and four and I shot a ton of pictures and video footage, including 70 minutes of the Neurosis set and 82 minutes of Coroner’s set (that footage is below). Each band I saw gets a blurb and a photograph and a video and you can hover over any image to see which band it is if you just want to skip to the ones you like. You can click on any of the photographs to see more images that I shot of that specific band. I hope you all enjoyed Maryland Deathfest as much as I did, or at least enjoy checking out all this stuff I shot for ya. You can see all the other pictures and videos that I didn’t use one this post on Flickr (here) and YouTube (here) if you want more of those. So anyways, here’s Maryland Deathfest IX over Memorial Day weekend 2011 as seen through my eyes (and lenses).

Day 1 – Thursday

The first day of the fest was all indoors on the main stage at Sonar and it was the only day that sold out. Most of the early sets were grind bands. Miasmal was playing when I got there. I didn’t know anything about them but they really impressed me. I was too far in the back to get any decent shots though so my first pics and videos from the fest are of Southern California grind act Lack Of Interest.

Lack Of Interest at Maryland Deathfest IX

Next up was Flesh Parade, a reunited grind band from New Orleans. Their vocalist made a lot of anti-gay comments and talked about how he loved smoking weed between almost every song. Flesh Parade had a bunch of people come out in various costumes (Santa, a surgeon, a Teletubby, a ketchup bottle, etc…) and start a crazy circle pit that involved dozens of glow sticks and inflatable animals and penises being thrown around the audience and onto the stage. These characters, dubbed the Party Patrol (picture here), would show up during various sets throughout the rest of the festival.

Flesh Parade at Maryland Deathfest IX

The next band was grind act Extortion who came all the way from Australia to play Deathest and they were pretty intense stop and start grindcore. When they finished playing the vocalist for Lack Of Interest came out on stage telling everyone to give them a bigger hand because he liked them so much (and he told us we all should too!).

Extortion at Maryland Deathfest IX

Extortion was followed by North Carolina based stoner act Buzzov•en, quite a contrast from the previous acts. These guys looked and talked like they walked out of a backwoods scene in Deliverance! The band isn’t super heavy but more of a groove base, sorta rough around the edges and definitely southern in sound. They were a lot slower than the grind bands before them and it seemed they would have fit better playing just before the night’s headliners, Cathedral.

Buzzov•en at Maryland Deathfest IX

Next to play was Tragedy, a rare appearance by a band people had been waiting to see. They’re not really a metal band at all but a very aggressive punk band along the lines of Discharge or early DRI. The band is originally from Tennessee but relocated to their current hometown, Portland, Oregon. People were pretty psyched to get to see them live and the audience energy level was at a peak for day one while Tragedy played.

Tragedy at Maryland Deathfest IX

Finally the headliner of the first night was Cathedral. They are from Coventry, England and their lead singer, Lee Dorian, is a legend of the doom metal genre (he was also the original vocalist for Napalm Death). The band had recently announced their plans to break up at the end of the year and this one off concert would be their last performance ever in the US. They played a set with a lot of their old classics as well as some fairly obscure material for fans to commemorate the occasion. It was a good start to the fest, and although the last three bands weren’t grind it still felt like a pre-fest day instead of being part of the rest of Maryland Deathfest proper, mostly due to the single indoor stage I suppose.

Cathedral at Maryland Deathfest IX

Day 2 – Friday

Day two of Maryland Deathfest IX was the first day to use the two outdoor stages. I didn’t get there as the doors opened so missed the early bands but I did get there in time to see the Norwegian blackened thrash band Aura Noir play. They didn’t bring along the former Mayhem guitarist Blasphemer to play with them so they were a three piece. However Apollyon, the current bass player for Immortal, was there and he introduced the band as the ugliest metal band in the world! The set was fast paced and pretty straight forward and what you’d expect from them, just sold black thrash metal.

Aura Noir at Maryland Deathfest IX

The next band I watched was the Raleigh, North Carolina band Corrosion Of Conformity. Their sound is somewhere between stoner rock, southern rock, thrash metal and punk. The band has been around since 1982 and this was their classic line up of Mike Dean, Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin but they were noticeably missing Pepper Keenan (he has been a member of the super group Down for some time but is still considered an official member of C.O.C.). The band seemed to really enjoy themselves on stage, the drummer, Mike Dean, seemed to be smiling the entire show. I guess they had more time to play than they had expected because at one point they asked if they could do another song and they were told they had another 20 minutes left to play!

Corrosion Of Conformity at Maryland Deathfest IX

After Corrosion Of Conformity played the sky looked like it was getting ready to storm. I wanted to see the Italian grind act Cripple Bastards playing on the indoor stage but I skipped it because I didn’t want to lose my spot in the front row to see the day’s headlining act, Neurosis. The Oakland, California based band rarely plays shows due to medical reasons of one of the members, and this was their first east coast concert in 10 years or so. When they were supposed to start playing the sky opened up and a thunderstorm rolled through, but the crowd didn’t disparage and actually started chanting Neurosis. I was worried they might not play because the outdoor stage’s roof was leaking water onto all the equipment. Their show was delayed but they did come out and the rain soaked crowd roared with approval. The lighting during their show was poor, the big lighting rigs had been covered due to the storm, but they did have a projector displaying all kinds of stuff on the band and the stage. The set was really awesome, and the vibe in the air after the storm only enhanced their performance. This was by far my favorite set of all of Maryland Deathfest IX. Neurosis has never been a highly technical band, they’ve got a sound you just sort of experience and their mastery of mood manipulation was in peak form during this rare performance. It’s hard to describe but luckily I’ve posted about 70 minutes of footage of them performing, check it out below.

Neurosis at Maryland Deathfest IX

Although Neurosis headlined the day there were still a few bands left to play inside after Neurosis. Their set ran later than expected because of the rain so I didn’t get to see a lot of Kylesa‘s set, who was already playing indoors. I’ve already seen them twice this year so that wasn’t the end of the world for me. The spiraling lights they have on during their show looked really good on the black walls at Sonar. Next up was Exhumed, a gore grind/death metal band from San Jose, California. This was their first US show in six years! To start their show they held up the backs of their guitars with each having one word of “Gore Fuckin’ Metal” on the back of it. Their set was brutal, as to be expected. Quite a fun show really. They brought out a real chain saw on stage at one point and I laughed as the guy swung it low in the photographer’s pit, making them all duck to avoid the whirring saw! At the end of the set Matt Harvey decapitated some dummy Gwar style on stage that sprayed blood all over himself. A nice way to end the set!

Exhumed at Maryland Deathfest IX

The final band to play on day two of Maryland Deathfest IX was the Swedish black metal band Marduk. The stage was very dark and I wasn’t close enough to get any decent photos of them but I did shoot some video. They played mostly newer material (read: slower) and as usual they didn’t play my favorite song of theirs, Infernal Eternal. Their new stuff isn’t bad, I really liked their Rom 5:12 album, and they did play a song off Panzer Division Marduk, but the band has lost a lot of it’s raw energy and aggression over the years. Still, they’re pretty tight live and since their set started late they ended up playing right up to 2am! The venue even put on their last call lights while they played their final song, which you can see video of below.

Day 4 – Sunday

I got to Maryland Deathfest on Sunday just in time to see Anaheim, California’s Gravehill playing on one of the outdoor stages. These guys love fake blood! They’d eat random fake blood capsules throughout the show and it got all over them. Matt Harvey was back on stage with these guys (he also played with Exhumed and Cretin at the fest) but he broke a string midway through the set and didn’t come back for a few songs. And although he dumped blood all over himself at the end of Exhumed’s set, he was the only member of Gravehill who wasn’t covered in it at the end of the set. Anyways, their songs were black and thrashy with a bit of a punk attitude thrown in and the vocalist’s self deprecating banter between songs was entertaining too.

Gravehill at Maryland Deathfest IX

The next band I saw perform was the Texas based death/thrash three piece act Nokturnel. They were alright though they didn’t really do much that stood out to me. Their lead singer/guitarist was saying he felt particularly inspired after seeing his favorite band, Voivod, play the fest the night before but still they didn’t really do that much for me. It was death/thrash alright but I didn’t really find much interesting about it. Maybe I’d have liked it more if I knew some of their material.

Nokturnel at Maryland Deathfest IX

Next I caught some of the Czech punkish thrash band Malignant Tumour playing, again with the party patrol people in the mosh pit. These guys looked right at home with the party patrol, wearing ridiculous costumes, fake beards and wigs that seemed like they were taken from the set of a Cheech And Chong movie. Their bass player was running all over the stage and it was such a spectacle to see that it was hard to take your eyes off them when they were on the stage. These guys were really a lot of fun live!

Malignant Tumour at Maryland Deathfest IX

Next I had a problem, there were two bands I wanted to see playing at exactly the same time. I decided to try to catch some of both of their sets, and I started by watching Orange Goblin play on one of the outdoor stages. They’re from London, England and I’m pretty sure this was their first US concert. They’re a doom metal/stoner band and I’ll tell you they were totally awesome live! The vocalist, Ben Ward, had a great charisma on stage and got everyone pumped when he jumped off the stage and ran up to the crowd yelling “Let’s start a fucking riot!” at the beginning of their set. They really blew me away live and I didn’t want to leave their set early but I did because I wanted to catch another band indoors.

Orange Goblin at Maryland Deathfest IX

That other band playing at the same time was the brutal death metal act Skinless from upstate New York. This was the band’s last concert ever and they were breaking up once the show was over. For this special show they had the original line up play. I missed the early part of the set to see Orange Goblin but I wanted to make sure I saw the end of their last set. They kept the intensity turned up to the max while I there and the lead singer even did a stage dive into the crowd, chorded microphone still in hand, and continued to grunt lyrics until he was pushed back to the stage. They finished up their last brutal set and then they thanked the audience for the fun over years and then they all left the stage for the last time.

Skinless at Maryland Deathfest IX

The next band I saw was the reformed hardcore punk band Citizens Arrest. I really only saw a bit of their set because I needed to head out and get some food so I could make it back in time to get a good spot for the night’s headliner, Coroner. They were ok but I didn’t really know much of their material but I could tell the punk fans were enjoying the chance to see them live.

Citizens Arrest at Maryland Deathfest IX

When I got back from eating I the 80s thrash band Nuclear Assault was starting their set on one of the outdoor stages as the sun was setting. They played some of their old classic songs mixed with newer material. Their bass player Dan Lilker mentioned he remembered playing in the exact same spot last year, though he was performing with Autopsy then. The set was good but I left early because I wanted to be in the front row for the night’s headliner, who was up next.

Nuclear Assault at Maryland Deathfest IX

The last night’s headliner was the Swiss technical thrash band Coroner. They had broken up 15 years before and though they had recently played a festival in Europe this was their first US concert in 20 years! The trio was the original line up, though they also had a guy playing keyboads on the stage but I don’t know what his name is as the band doesn’t list him as an official or even live only member. They were on the same stage Neurosis had been two nights before but they had all the cool lighting rigs working as well as fog machines. That stuff all helped set the mood for an awesome set by one of the legends of underground metal. Their set was never boring and they really killed it live. They performed two encores at the end of their set, one of which was a cover of the Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze. I shot a lot of video of them live from up front, over 80 minutes worth actually, all of which you can see below.

Coroner at Maryland Deathfest IX





After Coroner finished their headlining set outdoors there were still a few bands left to play indoors. The first of these last three bands was the one I was most excited to see, the technical death metal band from Spain, Wormed. I never thought I’d have the chance to see these guys play live so this was pretty cool for me. They played what was the heaviest set I saw all weekend. Nonstop brutality from start to finish and just a crazy amount of energy. I’m really glad I got to see these guys tear up the stage, totally awesome!

Wormed at Maryland Deathfest IX

The next band was the Dutch grind act Last Days Of Humanity. They were pretty damn intense but by this point I was starting to get a bit tired (it had been a long four days!). I shot a bit of video before I went and hung back a bit during their set in the hopes that I could rest my feet and get up closer later for the last band of the night.

Last Days Of Humanity at Maryland Deathfest IX

The final band of Maryland Deathfest IX was the mysterious band Ghost from Sweden. Unlike pretty much any of the bands at Maryland Deathfest they sing all their songs with clean vocals. They aren’t very brutal and their sound lies somewhere between Mercyful Fate and 70s Ghost at Maryland Deathfest IXrock. The band stays anonymous though you could see members of In Solitude and Repugnant (both bands who played the fest this year) on the stage during sound check which would lead one to believe Ghost is made up of members of those also Swedish bands. Anyways, I thought the crowd for Ghost would be a bit more laid back due to their type of music as well as it being the end of the fest and people just being tired but I was wrong. The crowd was really psyched to witness the band’s first US concert and they became really rough, while at the same time singing along to every word. It was all a bit ridiculous really, and the costumes on stage just sort of added to that. Apparently Ghost has a rather ravenous fan base and I simply don’t care enough about them to deal with that just to see them up close so I ended up hanging a bit farther back by this guy in an elaborate Cthulhu costume. That’s right, hanging out with Cthuhlu was safer for all my cameras than getting fairly close to Ghost performing live, wtf? I was hoping the set would be more impressive but with the audience singing along so loud it was drowning out not only the singer, Papa Emeritus, but the rest of the band as well. The set was short too, lasting only around 40 minutes. They have released just one album and I was hoping they’d play maybe some covers or something to fill out the set list some but they didn’t (though they did play a Beatles cover two nights later in New York). For a band with so much hype I was hoping for a better show, but it was just OK.

After the show was over I quickly left the venue and got to my car. Apparently after Ghost played there was an incident with security guards beating someone and then pepper spraying innocent bystanders for whatever reason. I luckily avoided that and only read about it online the next day. A shame that the fest had to end on a sour note like that, perhaps they’ll have better security next year. In all the fest was fun as usual and while I missed seeing some of the bands on Saturday I still had a great time at this year’s Deathfest. I got some cool merch, drank some beers, got some good footage and ran into a bunch of friends all over the place. They’re saying that they are planning something really special for next year since it will be the 10th anniversary of the festival and I can’t wait to see what that entails (and don’t worry, I’ll pass on the info to you all too as soon as I find out). Sorry this post has taken so long to get up but I had thousands of pictures and videos to sort through to put this together. Thanks for reading it and stay tuned for more going on in the local metal scene from DCHeavyMetal.com

Maryland Deathfest IX Survival Guide

Maryland Deathfest IX is almost upon us, and for those of you coming to this year’s event in Baltimore, Maryland on any or all of the days from Thursday, May 26th through Sunday, May 29th, 2011, there are some things you’ll want to be aware of and this survival guide is to help you have the most fun and least amount confusion at MDF this year. Please note that I’m not an official representative of either Maryland Deathfest nor Sonar, but this is my advice after having attended the previous three. Please note that Sonar is open and has their liquor license. By the way, I’ve posted quick reference schedules for each day that will load fast on a phone. Bookmark the following links to use at the fest: http://bit.ly/mdfthursday and http://bit.ly/mdffriday and http://bit.ly/mdfsaturday and http://bit.ly/mdfsunday

First off, the free parking lot fills up fast! If you want to park in the free parking across the street from Sonar, you’ll have to get there early. Sonar will shut down Saratoga Street in front of the venue to put the outdoor stages and such, and you will have to enter the parking lot from the rear. Last year there were a bunch of local homeless junkies that started hanging out in the parking lot during the fest so it’s probably not somewhere you want to pre-game or tailgate at before you go into the show. When the lot is full there are several local pay lots, or metered street parking you can use also. In Baltimore the meters run until midnight, but you don’t have to bring quarters as they will accept credit cards to pay. I think they’ll let you pay for 5 hours at a time. You will be able to leave and re-enter the venue to feed the meters or whatever, as long as you keep your wrist band on. Depending on what kind of ticket you paid for, 4 day, 3 day or single day, you will have different colored wrist bands on. Those of you with multiple day wrist bands be careful! I saw some of the junkies roaming around inside Deathfest last year wearing wrist bands that had surely been stolen from people, these guys certainly are pick pockets and thieves so I really cannot stress enough that you should avoid them. Also, when all the bands are done playing at the end of each night, the staff will herd everyone out and you will find the parking lot area swarmed with police also telling you to get the hell out. Don’t get so drunk that you’ll argue with, fight, vomit on or otherwise annoy the police, just be ready to leave when the show is over.

Ok, so you showed up early and got a parking spot, now what? Get in line! There was a very long and time consuming line to get in on the first day of Deathfest last year. The first problem was they needed to issue all the wrist bands on this day, so everyone was in line giving their tickets to the door guys. They were also carding people to see who could drink. On top of that they also went through everyone’s bags, including purses, backpacks and camera equipment bags. This meant the time to get in the door was a good 45 minutes for me, and the doors were already open for a couple hours when I got there! Now on the next couple of days the line wasn’t as bad because people with their wristbands could just skip the line and walk up to security. This year is a bit different, and I’m not sure how it will play out exactly. Since the Thursday pre-fest is considered part of the rest of the fest, and you can get a 4 day pass this year, the wrist band line might not be as long, since some will be entering for the first time on Thursday, and 3 day pass holders will be coming in on Friday. On Thursday and Friday I recommend arriving at the venue a good 45 minutes to an hour before the first band you want to see plays. You may get in quicker than that but it’s better to check out a few random bands than miss part of the set of one you wanted to see. Also, I’m not totally sure what you can and can’t bring in, but I’d guess bringing food, drinks or alcohol, or weapons of any kind will be banned. They will allow any kind of still image camera, including SLRs and DSLRs. Keep in mind that Maryland Deathfest allows both moshing and crowd surfing, and audience members will be doing this most of the day. There are no photo passes this year so if you want to bring your expensive camera gear you’re allowed to, but be warned that there will be crowd surfers ready to destroy your cameras for most bands, so I recommend keeping your distance from the front, especially towards the center. Also, on Friday through Sunday there will be 3 stages all going, often with two bands playing at a time, so if you want to get to see your favorite band up close (for taking pictures or not), you’re going to have to miss watching part or all of other bands’ sets to get there early enough to get close to the front.

Note that Thursday is sold out! This day of the fest is inside Sonar only, there are no outdoor stages in use on Thursday. Originally it was supposed to be the pre-fest again, but they decided to make it part of the rest of the fest and started selling 4 day passes as well. All single day Thursday passes are sold out, as well as 4 day passes. You can still purchase 3 day passes (for Friday, Saturday and Sunday), or any other single day tickets here. They will be held at will call (pick them up at the door when you arrive). You can order online and there are no fees, so the price they list is the actual ticket price. There are also official Maryland Deathfest t-shirts and hoodies (at very reasonable prices) that you can buy here and pick up at Deathfest, or buy when you are there. There will be an official Maryland Deathfest merch booth, and they will have these as well as copies of the Maryland Deathfest: The Movie II on DVD there. MDF: The Movie II is is a DVD by Handshake Inc that has live footage from lots of the bands while performing at last year’s Deathfest. You can pre-order those here if you’d like and pick it up at the show. You can also get this year’s official screen print poster (the picture of the demon guy with the knife things in his hands) from Warlord Clothing, though presales are done now. They’re limited to 250 so get one early if you want one! Aside from all this, many of the bands who are playing the fest will have their merch for sale here, and I recommend checking back each day as different bands come to the fest on different days (depending on what day they are playing) and will often have their merch available only in small quantities and for one day only here. This year there is also an official Maryland Deathfest program, which will have a listing of the running order of the bands as well as interviews with 19 of the bands playing this year’s fest and really has a nice layout and some great photographs. You can buy a digital version (in either PDF or iPad format) for $1 or get a paper copy for $12.50 that includes the digital download also. However, if you pre-order (here) it you cannot pick it up at the fest, it will be mailed to you. If you’d like it in hand there you should bring cash to buy it at MDF. There will also be tons of vendors setting up shop there to sell their wares, mostly vinyl, CDs, tapes, rare demos and band merch from tons of bands, including those playing the fest and those not. There is a lot of bootleg merch here so if that pisses you off be aware of that. They will probably have the smaller indoor stage area (not the main stage) set up for vendors too, and sometimes you’ll see artists doing signings at various booths. Bring cash! Some might take credit cards but I’m betting most will want cash.

UPDATE: I shot some pictures of some of the exclusive merch for sale. There’s an In Solitude shirt you can see the front of here and the back of here. There’s also an exclusive Ghost shirt you can see the front of here and the back of here. There was a limited edition Marduk CD you can see here. And sorry, I forgot to ask about the prices of the shirts! Oh, they also had a place where you could get your face painted corpse paint style for $5, and you can see that here.

As far as food is concerned, last year there was only one food vendor inside the fest gates. I got a cold burger and bag of chips from them for around $10 the first evening and I never ordered from them again. They were selling bottles of water for the same price the bar inside (about 10 feet away) was selling PBR cans! Total rip off. Two years ago they had several food vendors, so maybe they’ll have more options this year. If not, then I recommend venturing outside the venue for lunch and dinner breaks. UPDATE: There is only one food vendor inside the Deathfest gates. Their menu is kinda pricey but it does have more items than last year, including several vegetarian options. I shot pictures of the two part menu and you can see them here and here.
The little diner on the corner of Saratoga was open last year during Deathfest and they had decent breakfast and lunch food, as far as diners go. There is also a convenience store that is, if you are facing the front door of Sonar, to the right of the venue on the corner. It has a smaller sandwhich shop in the back of it, I had them make me a gyro that was ok last year. My favorite place that I found, the South Beach Sandwicherie, is about 1.5 blocks past the convenience store, also on Saratoga. It’s pretty cheap, around $10 to eat, and they make excellent sandwiches, hot or cold, with cold cuts and your choice of bread or croissant. The staff loves the MDF crowd and they usually have Maryland Deathfest specials as well as extended hours. The wait can be a bit long sometimes, particularly during peak eating hours as each sandwich is made to order by hand, and they don’t sell alcohol, but really this is my favorite place to eat that is within walking distance of Sonar.

UPDATE: I shot a picture of the alcohol prices the bartenders are using at Maryland Deathfest IX and you can see it here: http://flic.kr/p/9MjWk6 It’s cash only, though they do have ATMs in the venue.

Another thing to notice is that the headliners DO NOT play last each night. The outdoor stages close before the indoor stage, and the headliners close out the outdoor stages. Unlike a lot of metal concerts and festivals, MDF is run very closely to schedule. They don’t let bands stay longer than their scheduled time very often, even if their set was started late due to no fault of the bands (such as technical difficulties). I’ve posted easy to remember links to a schedule for each day with the bands in the order they are playing. They’re just HTML and should load quickly on any phone with internet access, so you may want to add them to you bookmarks now. The addresses are: http://bit.ly/mdfthursday and http://bit.ly/mdffriday and http://bit.ly/mdfsaturday and http://bit.ly/mdfsunday with all letters in lower case. Keep in mind there are always some problems the day of that adjust the schedules some, such as bands not being let into the country, showing up late, missing flights/gear, etc… and I’ll do what I can to keep them up to date as best I can.

Here are a few sets I think are of note. This is apparently the final US concert for doom metal legends Cathedral as the band has announced they are breaking up after they put out one more album, around the end of the year. They have no US tours scheduled so this is probably it for US concerts. The grind band playing early Saturday named Creative Waste is from Saudi Arabia. I’ve become quite a fan of middle eastern metal in general so hey, it’s cool to me at least. Who knows when you’ll get another chance to see them. The line up for Corrosion Of Conformity is the Animosity era line up of Mike Dean, Reed Mullen and Woody Weatherman. Sunday will be the final show ever for death metal band Skinless and they will have their original line up in place for this show. Apparently Coroner played a recent show in Switzerland consisting mostly of newer material, but the guys running MDF have said the band will play a show with more older classics at Deathfest.

There are several bands that were supposed to play that have had to back out for one reason or another. Those bands are: Death Breath, Deströyer 666, Devourment, Goatsnake, Hatred Surge and Lock Up and Regurgitate. Again, this list may grow when bands can’t show up as planned for one reason or another.

If this isn’t enough metal for you, there are a few prefest shows going on. Most notably Anhedonist, High Priest, Oak, Ilsa and Midnight Eye playing at the Corpse Fortress in Silver Spring, Maryland on Wednesday 25 May 2011. It’s just $6 and starts at 7pm. You will need a car to get there if you are staying in Baltimore as Silver Spring is a suburb of Washington DC. More info on the bands and this show on the event’s Facebook page here.

There is also a MDF prefest show in Brooklyn, New York featuring several of the MDF bands as well as DC’s own Magrudergrind. It’s also on Wednesday 25 May 2011 and is at the Public Assembly. The bands playing are Cripple Bastards, Magrudergrind, The Kill, Noisear and Shitstorm. It’s $15, ages 18+ and starts at 8pm. More info on the event’s Facebook page here.

Saturday the Hexagon is having what they’re calling a Ghetto Deathfest in Baltimore, basically a metal show for people unwilling to shell out for an expensive MDF ticket. This show is on a sliding scale of $6 to $10 and you can bring your own beer and also food to throw on the grill cause this is also a bbq! There’s 9 local bands playing, including a personal favorite of mine, Balor’s Eye. The venue says it starts at 2pm but the flyer I saw says 3pm. I doubt they’ll turn ya away either way.
UPDATE: Since Hexagon has been abruptly shut down, the Ghetto Deathfest has been moved to the Baltimore Free Farm. Website is here and the address is 3510 Ash St, Baltimore, MD 21211. I’ve gotten word the doors are at 3pm and the first band is at 5pm. It’s still BYOB at the new location.

I’m really excited for this year’s fest, it’s always a blast so if you see me walking around feel free to say hi. Please don’t damage my camera in the pit and stay tuned for lots of pics and videos after the fest is done. You can check out my extensive recap of last year’s fest here. I won’t be there Saturday because a good friend of mine is getting married, but I’ll be there Thursday, Friday and Sunday. I’ll see you there!

Club Sonar In Baltimore Is Shut Down

UPDATE: It appears Sonar is going to re-open and both Maryland Deathfest and the sold out Deftones shows will still be happening there and go on according to plan. What a PR nightmare and awful mess. I’m glad Sonar is still open but I have a feeling the next time I go there it will feel a bit different.


MAJOR UPDATE: Sonar is apparently reopening, or at least trying to. It appears they won’t be able to get a liquor license for about two weeks. It has been announced that the Deftones will definitely be playing in Baltimore, though the venue is still to be determined. As of this update, Friday the 6th around 7:30pm, Maryland Deathfest has not announced where it is moving. It may stay at Sonar or it may move to Bourbon Street, or another venue. They have been given the go ahead by Bourbon Street, but their management is waiting for a final decision by the guys at MDF. The two posts (here and here) on Sonar’s Facebook page that say the venue will be re-opening read:

Today was a good one. I think Sonar will be able to open within 2 weeks and many if not of the all of shows scheduled from that point on should be able to occur as originally planned. Its definitely a fight but we are still in it! Sorry I have not been online more but I’m running my ass off to try and fix this!

Hey everybody we are working as hard as possible over here! We don’t want to post any information until we know that it is 100% accurate. Please bear with us and keep checking our posts for the most up to date info. We appreciate your patience and support!


Today is a sad day for not just the metal scene but also the greater music scene in Baltimore. The popular concert venue Sonar is shutting down, immediately. They posted this on their Facebook page today:

We here at Sonar regret to inform you that we are no longer able to operate as a venue. Mr. Lonnie Fisher, corporate owner of Sonar, has shut the building down. He has refused to renew the liquor license and the corporate charter for 407 Saratoga Inc. All of the money in our account went into paying our taxes with the promise of the license being renewed and transferred to the new owners.

Which was followed by this statement, the closest thing I’ve seen to something about concert refunds:

Now that we do not have a license and can not obtain one, Lonnie Fisher has given us no means to continue. It is with great despair and frustration that we must announce this to all of our friends, employees, and customers, but we have been given absolutely no choice. If you are owed money by 407 Saratoga Inc, we will do everything in our power to help you recover it.

Not good news at all! The first thing that went through my head was, what about Maryland Deathfest IX which is scheduled to be at Sonar from Thursday May 26th through Sunday May 29th? They had just announced the set times for the running order this morning. Turns out that the guys at MDF have a backup plan in effect, and shortly after Sonar’s announcement they posted this:

Yes, we know about Sonar. It was just brought to our attention. Please DO NOT panic. The festival will still go on as planned. If Sonar does not end up working, we already have a alternative site in the same area that would have a similar set up, so you do not need to worry, and you do not need to consider changing plans. More info about this is expected to be posted on Friday.

They later posted this statement, with a bit more info:

In just a few hours, we’ve managed to get some positive news regarding a new fest location. Everything should be wrapped up in the next couple of days. If the plan stays as is, you will not need to change your hotel plans, etc.

A bit ambiguous but I think it means they’re trying to move it to Bourbon Street, which is about one block away from Sonar. Bourbon Street has even been holding a few metal shows, you may remember I saw Cradle Of Filth there as part of my Metal Marathon in March (my recap of that is here) and they’ve also got concerts for Danzig and Joey Belladonna and Destruction on their schedule currently. I’ll be sure to update this post when the new venue has been confirmed, apparently on Friday.

UPDATE: Maryland Deathfest has issued another statement on their Facebook page here which reads:

Thank you for your patience while we sort through this mess. We’re doing everything in our power to deliver another memorable MDF, and in 3 1/2 weeks, the party will commence. As of now, we expect to post new venue information either tomorrow night (Thursday), or on Friday.

UPDATE: Maryland Deathfest has posted another update here at around 11:15am Thursday May 5th which reads:

We have a meeting tonight that should clear up a lot regarding the new fest site. We’ll most likely be updating you on the new location tonight or tomorrow morning. Don’t panic, and don’t freak out about your hotel reservations. The location change will not be a huge difference at all.

Around 10am May 6th the Maryland Deathfest Facebook page posted this:

OK, so here it the latest. We have a couple of options on the table now for a venue, and we need to sort through the details today before deciding on one of them. Long story short, we aren’t in a position to lose money by moving the fest, so please be patient a bit longer. In either scenario, it will be downtown, and your hotel reservations do not need to be changed.

I have no idea what is going to happen to other upcoming Sonar concerts, including the two already sold out dates the Deftones were scheduled to play on the 16th and 17th of May. Hopefully there will be a venue change for that as well, but I haven’t seen anything yet. (Sonar is apparently working on it, according to their post here). If you’re a promoter for any of the upcoming concerts at Sonar, the Charm City Arts Space has posted this on their Twitter account:

We’re sad to hear that @Sonar_Baltimore has been shut down. Sonar promoters, send us an email charmcityartspace@gmail.com.

If you’d just like to troll the Lonnie Fisher guy, the good folks at Maryland Deathfest have posted some private contact info of his here (taken down but a screen shot is here) and he apparently has a Facebook profile here.

RIP Sonar, I’m going to miss you. Hopefully something else awesome, that also books metal concerts of course, will move in there but who knows.

If you’d like updates on where all the non-metal concerts are being moved to, check out ShowlistDC.com for up to the minute updates on those concerts, as I will only be tracking the metal concerts and Deathfest here on DCHeavyMetal.com

UPDATE: Sonar posted this on their Twitter page about tonight’s Talib Kweli concert:

BALTIMORE: TONIGHT’S TALIB KWELI SHOW HAS BEEN MOVED TO BOURBON STREET http://www.bourbonstreetbaltimore.com PLEASE RT

UPDATE: Sonar has posted another venue change, this time for the Across Tundras, The Pilgrim, Putrid Servant, Legion Lost and Admiral Browning concert on Saturday 21 May has been moved to Hexagon as stated on their Twitter feed here.


UPDATE: OK there’s a lot to update here… First, the Baltimore Business Journal has an interesting article with some of the background on who owns the club, which you can read here. There is also an article on the Baltimore Sun’s site with more details here. In these articles there seems to be a lot of confusion as to who owes money for the liquor license, is it Lonnie Fisher, or is it Daniel McIntosh who is responsible for getting Sonar closed? I’m really not sure myself. A little before 10am Thursday May 5th, Sonar made a new post on their Facebook page here which reads:

We are trying to do all we can for the shows and the customers but Owner Lonnie Fisher was well aware of what was going on and he demanded that all the taxes where paid and then did not renew the business or the liquor license. With hope of getting out of any responsibilities Lonnie has caused everyone involved to suffer needlessly.

It starts getting interesting in the comments though, where the person running the site, allegedly Daniel McIntosh, starts posting comments on this same post and is debating people’s comments. The following are all comments on the above post by Sonar in the order they were made:

i am just trying to get out there what happened in hope that someone can make him do the right thing. LONNIE HAS THE POWER TO STOP THIS NOW! lonnie please stop this look at what is happening to all these people!

above is an email from lonnie to a lawyer please notice the date and notice that is an owner giving a lawyer direction

There was no “email” posted above, though there is what appears to be a copy/paste job of it a few comments later.

and just to be clear we would do whatever it took to stop this madness. will Lonnie? and that is what it takes.

Subject: Liquor License

Eric

This email is to inform you that I would like you to represent 407 Saratoga
…Inc in ongoing matters pertaining to the continued operation of the
business, with regards to the Liquor Board, Stage agencies, etc…

Lonnie

this happened on 9/14/10

The only one running is Lonnie Fisher I Daniel McIntosh am one of the owners. I too will be paying back all this money that people have had in my opinion STOLEN from them. By a very dishonest business move by Sonar and as a direct result of what lonnie did and did not do.

they aren’t what they seem it is a very complex situation

it should be clear that we (all of the owners are responsible to some degree. But Lonnie Fisher is the only one that can stop it!

even if all the other partners sucked he still had the power to do this in a differently

no he is not foreign, lived in Bmore his whole life

This next comment is the first thing I’ve seen that seems it might be positive, a hint that there is a possibility that Sonar could re-open:

we are working on the deftones and have not at all given up hope of figuring all this out

I want to point out the we are not removing any comments everyone has a right to be heard. Other people should do the same

UPDATE: The Hate Eternal, Origin, Vital Remains and Abysmal Dawn show scheduled to be at Sonar on Monday 11 July has been moved to the Ottobar.


Well if you wanted to hear Lonnie’s side of the story, this appears to be it. Apparently this was written to a Baltimore promoter but DCHeavyMetal.com reader James Byrne saw it posted on the Maryland Deathfest message board here and alerted me to it. It’s a long one but a really interesting read and if it’s true, the guys running Sonar should be ashamed of themselves.

I, Lonnie Fisher, am writing this statement to inform any interested parties of the true course of events that have led to Sonar’s decision to close its doors. As many in the music industry and many in the Baltimore area know, I co-founded Sonar in 2000 at a small spot in Canton, then moved the business to 407 East Saratoga Street, with the dream of creating Baltimore’s most vibrant and vital music venue. As fate would have it, although the dream was a great one, the reality of business was such that from the day those doors opened, that business was a continuous stream of lost revenue, headache, and heartache. By mid 2003, the business had to take on an outside investor, and everyone’s interest in the company (shares) were diluted. I retained 51% ownership through this period. By 2005, this investor had lost such an exorbitant amount of money that his wife finally said enough. The business was still losing money almost every single month, so we took on another investor who believed in the dream enough to pick up the torch and carry it: Daniel McIntosh, owner of the then Talking Head club. He began a string of investments in the club which almost quarterly saved the business from going out of business. With every new investment came a new dilution, and by 2007, I was no longer a majority shareholder in the company. I remember vividly the board meeting in which Dan stated that to continue investing in Sonar, he had to be the majority shareholder. By the time January 2009 rolled around, a date that will have significance later, I was down to 18%. However, important events in the business history occurred 1.5 years before then.

In April 2007, I was offered a “day job” with a commercial development company, which I started on June 1, 2007. I announced to my beloved Sonar staff and friends that I was out of the business and everyone who knew the music industry in Baltimore in those days knew that to be the case. Owner and founder of Sonar leaves = BIG BALTIMORE NEWS. Within the week of taking the job, Dan and I walked over to Sonar’s bank, and I signed every single bank account over to him. From that date on, Sonar was fully under the control and direction of Daniel McIntosh. Since May 2007, I have not had one iota of involvement, let alone control, of one single aspect of Sonar’s business or its business decisions. I sent all remaining partners notice that I was resigning the presidency, my seat on the board of directors, and all responsibilities in the company.

Fast forward to late 2008. After a period of time in which I was showing leniency and a lack of urgency to get my name fully out of the business I no longer interested in and had a very small share in, I realized I had to finalize this era of my life and move on. Dan and I agreed that he would buy my final shares (18% of the company), and he made two payments to complete that transaction, one on December 16, 2008, then the final payment on January 21, 2009. I quote from the contract “On Wednesday December 16, 2008, Lonnie Fisher agrees to sell Dan McIntosh his remaining shares in 407 Saratoga Inc” and further on “On Wednesday January 21, 209, the balance ….was paid in full”. Signed of course, by both parties and two witnesses.

As of that date, I was out, officially. The last pieces of the puzzle were to get my name off of the corporate charter, and to transfer the liquor license into someone else’s name, which unfortunately for me, I would find out, would require a lot of cooperation from Dan. To sum it up, he has refused to live up to his responsibilities to get me off the license. For 2.5 years, I have been imploring, pleading, sometimes threatening the business to complete its list of requirements to make that happen. Year after year, Dan has refused to complete the process.

I should explain how this works. All of this comes to a head annually in the months of March and April, which is when anyone holding a Baltimore City liquor license has to renew it. In order to renew it the holder of the license has to sign the form, but more than that, the majority shareholder of the company CANNOT CHANGE, or the license is no longer valid. In March of 2009, to put it plainly, I should not have signed the form because not only had majority ownership changed, I simply didn’t own even one share of the company anymore. I signed it because Dan and the other Sonar owners asked for a brief period of time to get their affairs in order, find someone to take the license, and do what they were supposed to do. He also gave me an iPad (full disclosure). I couldn’t bring myself to shut them down, and I also still felt an attachment emotionally to the thing I created for this city. I didn’t want to be the nail in the coffin, and I had faith that they would do what they needed to do right after the renewal as they promised. They didn’t.

2009 progressed and I continued to implore Dan to get me off the license. By then the transfer had been approved for the person to take the license, but in order for that piece of paper with my name on it to be torn up, and a new piece of paper printed with the new license holder, Dan had to do three basic things: Get the taxes up to date, complete a very minor checklist of business documents, and get the property re-inspected. He would do none of it. We had knock down drag out arguments about it. I would threaten to simply nullify the license, he would somehow talk me out of it, and convince me that he would do what he needed to do after this show or that show, or this month or that month.

2009 dragged into 2010. Again March was looming, and again we’re faced with the same form that needs to be signed. I told Dan I wasn’t signing, but then found out the business had a tax liability of at least $50,000.00! And guess who the state could collect from if Dan walked away… me. Not that they couldn’t try to collect from everyone involved, but I had no idea what could happen. So, I signed again. This time with a demand that if he didn’t get me off the license by June, I really was cancelling it. June was significant, because for two years now he promised that after “Deathfest”, he’d be bursting out of the seams with cash and could pay for any repairs, licenses, etc… Deathfest happened that May. Two weeks later, Dan hadn’t even picked up the phone to call me! At this point, I hired a lawyer to try to force some action.

The attorney put Dan on notice of what needed to be done. I offered to help in every way I could. I even told Dan I’d come fix something myself in the building if I had to. He responded to none of it. Finally I had no choice, I told him on a certain date, we were nullifying the license. Literally on the day before we were going to do it, we got a communication from an attorney he had retained. “Don’t do it, we’re going to work it out”. We wrestled with this attorney for several weeks, and we finally got THEM to produce a timeline. They stated that this document would be done by this date, this inspection would happen on this date, this tax would be paid on this date, etc… Note: This was THEIR timeline, and trust me, it wasn’t short. If I asked you to guess how many things on the checklist they completed, I bet you could guess by now: NONE. Literally, not one. Not even the most simple one page document could they produce.

So we again threatened a shut down. Then all of the sudden the ORIGINAL money guy showed back up on the scene, claiming he had assigned someone to deal with this and promised action. I actually had faith it would occur since this guy was a corporate type of guy, and had no involvement in the music scene to speak of. Well, once again, nothing happened. Now it was 2011. Due to me getting busy with other things, I just kind of let it slide, and then Dan approached me pre-March to ask me to sign the form once again. All this time, he was telling me how Sonar was getting on a path to profitability and the corner was turning, and things were going to be rosy in 2011. I wanted to believe. All this time, I never held him any malice, and Sonar was still the entity I created for this city. I told him I’d sign, one last time, but this really was the time he’d have to put up, or shut down… He gave me an iPad2.

Here is where our story takes an unfortunate turn. In mid March I was questioned by the IRS about my involvement with Sonar. How or why this came to be is not for this discussion, nor is the nature of that questioning anyone’s business but mine. Suffice it to say, that the gig was up. They were aware that I had turned the finances of the business over to Dan in 2007, and they were aware that I no longer held any stock in the company whatsoever, let alone a controlling interest. If I had any intention of helping Sonar stay in business one more time, it was now an impossibility. This is the FEDS people… no F***IN joke! My choice was clear: Sign the form and be at risk for fines and jail time from an agency that already told me they had my number, or not sign. The ultimatum I was given by Sonar: Break the law for us, or we’re going to go to war with you. Not really much of a choice in the end.

Now we come to the current unpleasantness. Due to the inability to face their own incompetence, Sonar’s majority owner Dan McIntosh, and his staff, have gone on a full court press to slander my name, distort the truth, and otherwise harass me by any means they can. I truly feel bad for all of the bands, patrons, and fans who are being misled, whose shows are now being cancelled, and who are otherwise being confused by this ridiculous ruse. The simple truth is, HE is the one to blame for the mess he’s in. I have had a 24 year career in music and everyone who has ever known me knows exactly what an honorable and even courageous life I’ve led in the music industry toward both the patrons and the people in the business. Everyone in Baltimore knows the difference in our professionalism.

Just one example, one rumor they are circulating about me, is that I have stolen the ticket money for the upcoming shows, and thus they cannot give people refunds. I haven’t had access to a penny of Sonar’s money since June of 2007. 2007! If you have a ticket to a Sonar show, you’re a band that is now not getting paid, or a promoter whose show isn’t going to happen, the truth is, Sonar’s current owner has spent your ticket money on expenses of the business. This is why they started their own ticket company, so they could spend your ticket money as it came in and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, Sonar’s operators are still in a phase of their lives where they think all the rules of the world should bend to their needs, simply because they own a music venue. Well there’s a way to do it right, and there’s a way to do it wrong; and the way they are doing it is wrong.

And by the way, I’ve mailed Dan’s iPad back.

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