On Saturday the 3rd of March 2012 I headed over to Saint Stephen’s Church in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington DC to catch a great line up of metal bands. And while drinking wasn’t allowed at the venue this wasn’t some sort of Christian rock concert, upside down crosses and other metal standards were on display on stage throughout the night. The excellent Richmond, Virginia based doom band Windhand was touring with Natur and Pilgrim and this was the DC stop. To make the show even better DC’s own death/doom masters Ilsa were on the bill as well. Midnight Eye was supposed to open the show but they had to drop off and were replaced by Satan’s Satyrs, a Northern Virginia based sludge/stoner type of band. $10 for 5 bands is normally a pretty good deal on most nights, but this was a killer line up that gave back a lot of quality metal for your buck. That was $10 well spent!
Satan’s Satyrs was the first band up. The crowd was pretty sparse during their set but people were still coming in. The trio were decked out in bell bottoms and played a throwback style of stoner/sludge metal though it had quite a bit of energy as well. The problems with the PA system were a recurring issue throughout the evening and their set was no different. They were loud in the large square rec room space though the faster parts of their songs sounded pretty muddy. This wasn’t the band’s fault, the sound just wasn’t great that night. However it wasn’t bad enough to ruin the music overall and their performance was still entertaining, especially for a last minute add on.
The next band to play was Pilgrim, a three piece doom band from Rhode Island. I was unfamiliar with them but they were pretty good live. They were very heavy and most of their songs were slow paced. They weren’t very flashy but they played some quality tunes, often times just slowly grinding along. They finished their set with a faster paced song that was pretty cool as well. Apparently this was their first tour and this was a good showing.
The next band to hit the stage was Natur, a sort of thrashy metal band from New York City. They had a lot of energy on stage and I was really blown away by how well the executed live. Lots of catchy memorable riffs and wailing guitar solos with some solid song structures that tied it all together. I couldn’t hear the vocals for most of their performance from where I was standing. However things seemed to get sorted out a little bit by the end of their set and honestly they were so fun live the poor sound quality didn’t come close to ruining it for me. I was very impressed by these guys to say the least.
Next on stage was Windhand, one of my favorite underground bands from Richmond. They are a really heavy doom band with a woman on vocals but this is no girl power gimmicky band. I’ve seen them perform a few times before but this was certainly the biggest of those shows as far as attendance is concerned. The whole of Windhand were in great form for this show. Their sludgy doom even brought a few onlookers from the square dance event going on in another section of the church. My only complaint was that the set seemed too short, and judging by all of the applause I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wishing they had played longer.
Locals Ilsa played last. They’re one of the leading bands in Washington DC’s underground metal scene and they were spotlighted in an article in the City Paper last week (here). They play a very crusty style of death/doom metal that isn’t particularly technical but is incredibly crushing. Their sound is dirty and full of great riffs and they got the biggest mosh pits of the night during their set. Ilsa plays pretty regularly around the area and they seem to always put on a good live show. This time they mixed up the playlist a bit and I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen Ilsa where they didn’t play their song Frostthrower. It’s usually a staple and often their closer. I’m glad they aren’t happy just staying put with what they have already done so well and they’re willing to keep moving forward and keep things fresh. The vocals were basically inaudible from where I was standing in the front but the songs are still pretty awesome on their own anyways.
In all this was a great show with a lot of quality bands. It sucks that you can’t drink or order food there, but it also makes it so that some of the younger fans who can’t get into the 21+ shows can get out and see killer line ups like this when they happen. The sound left a lot to be desired but really, I’ve heard worse at plenty of local “professional” venues as well. The lack of any real back stage means the members of the bands are out in the audience (or behind the merch table) most of the night which means anyone can go up and talk to them, which I think is pretty cool not only for the fans but also to help build up a band’s fan base on a more personal level. This wasn’t the first show I’ve been to at St. Stephen’s and if you hear of a good show coming there you shouldn’t hesitate to go, just be sure you eat before you get there. Thanks for reading all of this, and while the winter has been a bit slow around here I hope to have more concert reviews up this spring and summer. Also, be sure to check out (here) the newest contest running on DCHM right now where you can win quality seated tickets to Rammstein in Baltimore AND Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper in Northern Virginia and tomorrow I will be posting a new ticket contest as well. I do love giving away stuff to the readers of this site. Stay metal everyone and remember, support the scene you’re a part of!