Review of Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Well all our year end posts have put me a bit behind on things but better late than never I suppose. On Sunday, December 27th I was at the 9:30 Club to see Clutch play along with Crobot and Valkyrie. There was a film crew there so it is very likely that this show, or at least parts of it, could wind up on a future Clutch video.

I got there early to make sure I could catch Valkyrie. The band is from Harrisonburg, Virginia, and is probably best known for sharing a guitarist with the band Baroness, Pete Adams. However it is Pete’s brother Jake Adams that is the driving force behind Valkyrie. The band’s sound is steeped in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with Jake’s vocals often pausing for several extended dueling guitar solos between the Adams brothers. Riffs abound and the chemistry between the brothers is as apparent as the fun they were having while performing on the 9:30 Club’s big stage. These guys have been something of a regional secret and it’s about time the word gets out about them. Hopefully this winter mini tour with Clutch will lead to bigger and better things for them.

The next band to play was Crobot from Pottsville, Pennsylvania. They’re a relatively new band, having formed in 2011, though they obviously see themselves as some sort of 70s throwback band. I’m generally ok with throwback bands but I’ve got to admit these guys just didn’t do it for me. I found their songs overly simple and the vocalist, Brandon Yeagley, was running around on stage striking poses like a coked up Steven Tyler. His voice was reminiscent of Geddy Lee, which is probably a good thing to some and bad thing to others, but honestly his stage presence was so annoying I quickly lost interest in not just him but the entire band.

Finally it was time for local favorites Clutch! This was the first time the Germantown, Maryland, based band would play to a local audience since the release of their latest album, Psychic Warfare, back in October. The album was well received and Clutch played the entire album throughout the course of the night, though not in order. A giant sized banner with the new album’s cover artwork hung behind Clutch while they performed their new songs with some older tunes thrown in throughout as well, and what a performance it was! The band hit the stage hot and seemed to fly through their set list without a whole lot of talking between songs. Clutch has really perfected their sound and live performance over the years and shows like this one make it obvious that they aren’t slowing down any time soon. Many bands at this stage of their careers start to lose a step or three but Clutch seems to only be getting better. It’s a rare quality that makes their energetic live shows special every time they play to their home crowd here in DC.

Below are my shots of the bands that night, you can click on any of them to see them full sized.

Valkyrie:

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Valkyrie at the 9:30 Club

Crobot:

Crobot at the 9:30 Club

Crobot at the 9:30 Club

Crobot at the 9:30 Club

Clutch:

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Clutch at the 9:30 Club

Gwar ticket give away

Gwar at the 9:30 Club

Halloween might have come and gone but you can extend the costumed fun next week when Gwar plays at the 9:30 Club on Sunday, November 9th (that's this Monday!). I’ve been commanded by my scumdog slavemasters to bring more lambs to the slaughter which means one of you (un)lucky DCHM readers will win a pair of tickets to attend this very massacre concert. To enter just leave a comment on this post letting me know what the best costume you saw this Halloween was. At 5pm EST this Friday, November 6th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly for $25 here.

If you’ve never seen Gwar live before then get ready for a truly religious experience! Our alien masters are known for putting on the goriest live show in the universe and you’ll be covered in blood, bile and worse by the time it’s over, a truly epic baptism by mosh pit. But before Gwar even dominates the 9:30 Club stage there will be sets by other bands as well. Born Of Osiris, a Chicago based djent band, will be direct support and starting off the festivities is Battlecross, a melodic death/thrash band that is incredible live. Still not sure if you should go? Then check out these awesome music videos by the bands playing the show as you think up your entry!

Gwar – Let Us Slay

Born Of Osiris – Machine

Battlecross – Never Coming Back

Review of Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

On Tuesday, September 22nd of 2015, Ghost kicked off the first show of their US tour when they played the Fillmore Silver Spring, coincidentally the same day that the pope arrived in Washington DC. The mysterious Swedish band is always a spectacle to see live with their elaborate unholy church theme. While their catchy songs are on the lighter side of the metal spectrum, their live show has always been the main attraction for this band.

The only opening act at this show was Purson, a London based psychedelic rock band. I only caught the end of their set (there was a huge line to get into the show) but I wasn’t too impressed by what I did hear. The music was fairly standard for the style and not really that interesting to me. Vocalist/guitarist Rosalie Cunningham was wearing an extremely low cut, skin tight catsuit that certainly got her lots of attention for anything but her music. I couldn’t help feeling like I’d just seen the same shtick when Lucifer opened for High On Fire and Pallbearer at the Baltimore Soundstage last month.

Ghost is known for their stage set up which resembles the inside of a cathedral complete with an imitation stained glass backdrop. The band is anonymous so they all wear masks to hide their identities, a gimmick that has led to much speculation about who the band members actually are. The instruments in Ghost are all played by the “Nameless Ghouls” who were wearing metallic masks with devil horns and no mouths. The vocals are handled by Papa Emeritus III, an unholy pope with a skull painted mask on his face, long papal robes with upside crosses adorning them, and even a mitre (what most people call a “pope hat”) with the band’s logo emblazoned on it.

Ghost played for about an hour and a half, but that time went by pretty quick since they are so entertaining. They played eight songs off their newest album, Meliora (see the entire set list here). The songs have kitschy but fun openly satanic lyrics for the most part, and the entire audience sang along for most of the entire show. The music itself isn’t anything revolutionary, it’s fairly simple and straightforward but they do have some cool riffs in there and Ghost is really catchy overall.

The performance can best be described as broken up into two halves, the first half had five songs from the first album Ghost album, Opus Eponymous, and was the typical unholy church mass you might expect. For some reason they started the show off with the song “Spirit,” the rather lackluster first track off of Meliora. An odd choice since just two songs later they played “Ritual,” a song which has one of the best openings to get a crowd into a show that a band could hope for. Even the second song they played, “From The Pinnacle To The Pit,” would have been a better opener. There was also a short drum solo in the first half of the set, which was ok I guess but to a metal head that has seen some absolutely incredible live drum solos over the years it wasn’t anything that wowed me. If you have seen Ghost prior to this tour then you probably knew what you were getting for the first half of the show.

The second half of the show was a bit different than the first, and caused some controversy among the band’s older fans. There were still plenty of songs from Meliora in this part of the set, but no more tunes from the debut were played. Several from the second album, Infestissumam, were performed in the second half of the show though. The really defining thing that separated the first and second halves of the show was when Papa Emeritus III changed costume. He ditched the robes and mitre and came out in a much more form fitting jacket that looked like something a naval commander in the days of wooden ships might wear. I can understand the idea of trying to update and evolve the character of Papa Emeritus to keep it from getting stale, but I think the execution here was a miss. An evil twist on a more traditionally religious costume might have gone over better and kept with the unholy church theme. Papa’s voice also seemed to have more trouble in the second half of the show, he missed a few notes here and there, though he tended to recover quite well. There was a cool section that featured two songs being played acoustically. I rather enjoyed this as I had to miss their recent acoustic performance at the Sound Garden in Baltimore. At one point the Nameless Ghoul on keyboard duty stepped into the spotlight for a brief keytar solo, which was a bit ridiculous yet seemed to fit right in with the campy Ghost performance. There was an encore which featured several songs, including “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” a highlight of the show, and even “If You Have Ghosts” a track off their covers album. The 19th and final song of the set was “Monstrance Clock,” a catchy song that had the entire audience singing along to the chorus.

In all the show was a lot of fun. The first half was a more traditional Ghost show while the second half was a more modern take, even if didn’t quite hit the mark at times. Still, it’s good to see the band trying new things to stay fresh and relevant in a time where music fans have such short attention spans. Ghost is still a great band to get the uninitiated into metal concerts because they’re just so much fun live and that’s something both new and old metal fans can agree on.

The following photos were all shot by Metal Nick at the show, the first of hopefully many collaborations between Metal Nick and Metal Chris!

Purson:

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost:

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Review of Maryland Folk Fest

Metal Chris here. In the past I’ve written all the concert reviews on DCHM and usually I shoot all of the live photos as well. For this post we’re trying something new as long time DCHM album reviewer Tal went to the first Maryland Folk Fest last weekend and put together this review. I wasn’t able to attend so I had to ask for photos from those who attended, so big thanks to Tigran Kapinos and the Dogs And Day Drinkers photographer Aubreii Dove for letting us use their images in this post. And as usual, you can read more of Tal’s writing on his blog In My Winter Castle. Now, on to this in depth review and recap of Maryland Folk Fest!

Earlier this year, Paganfest America announced that their gigantic folk metal tour would not be happening in 2015. Folk metal fans all over North America were distraught – and Sarah Stepanik, fiddler and vocalist of Sekengard, decided to do something about it. With the help of other local metalheads, she pulled together this mini-festival of East Coast folk metal (and folk metal-ish) bands at Metro Gallery in Baltimore on Saturday, August 22nd. And Maryland Folk Fest was phenomenal.

Maryland Folk Fest

Metro Gallery seemed like a small place to hold a festival, but then again maybe they weren’t expecting a huge turnout, and Metro Gallery’s capacity is 240 (which sounds like it’d be jam-packed!). At the peak of the festival, the place was comfortably full – there was enough room that you weren’t right up against your neighbor, but there wasn’t much empty space, either.

When I went in, I handed my ID to the guy at the door and said half-jokingly, “Don’t judge me” — because the name and photo on my ID don’t match my look nowadays (although this was the last time dealing with that because I received the legal document changing my name two days after the show). He said, “No judging here. This is a Safer Space.” And he pointed to a sign in the window (I think it was this one). So that was awesome. While I feel pretty comfortable as an LGBT person in the DC area metal scene, it was still nice to know that respect and decency are codified in the venue’s policy.

I got into the venue about 6:45; I thought I was late, but the show wasn’t actually starting till 7. There were maybe 30 or 40 people there then. I figured most of them were band members and their significant others.

Around 7, Heimdall, a band from Lynchburg, VA got started. I haven’t had any spare brain cells for months, so I didn’t have a chance to check out the bands I didn’t know ahead of time, and so I knew nothing about these guys before the show. They played a fast and furious mix of thrash and death metal, with vocals ranging from a Black Dahlia Murder-esque scream to low growls, some thundering thrash riffs and some groovy or churning death metal parts. They looked very young, and rather 80’s/thrashy, with battle vests and wavy chest length hair. There were maybe 50 people standing around during their set. This was definitely not a thrash crowd — the floor was practically still. There was no pit nor even any vigorous headbanging, just a few bobbing heads. Then again, the singer didn’t ask for a pit; based on later events, people might have obliged if he had. He didn’t really interact with the crowd at all, just growled the names of songs, but I have no idea what he said. The band seemed tight and professional though, and sounded good. If I were into thrash or traditional death metal, I would follow them. I was not sure why they were on the bill, though, since the only folk things about them seemed to be their band name and rune-ish looking logo.

Heimdall at Maryland Folk Fest

Heimdall at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Heimdall at Maryland Folk Fest

Heimdall at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Isenmor was the first of the four bands on the bill that I was familiar with ahead of time. Isenmor was just formed about a year ago in the lovely, tiny town of Savage, MD, and released an EP this past June, which I recently reviewed for DC Heavy Metal. At the fest, they played all the original songs from their EP (though not in order), a cover of Eluveitie‘s “Havoc,” and some new original songs. At least one of these new songs, “Furor Teutonicus,” I’d heard them play last month when they were supposed to open for California’s Helsott at Cafe 611 and unexpectedly got to play a long set when Helsott walked out. This time at Metro Gallery, the sound for Isenmor was clearer, so I was able to get a better feel for the song. It started with a furious barrage of buzzing notes on the two violins, and kept up the fast pace with a volley of harsh vocals. The song I enjoyed most, though, was my favorite from the EP, “So Willingly Deceived” — even though they seemed a little out of synch at first, and the violins sounded a bit out of tune at the end. It’s a slow song, but very grand and melodic. The crowd had grown, and there was a five-person pit during one of the new songs. But the fun was short-lived, because someone got hurt, possibly broke a leg and had be helped out of the pit (and I later found out she was taken away in an ambulance). That put a damper on the moshing for a while. Toward the end of the set, Nick called for a circle pit during “Death is a Fine Companion,” and one started up again, this time with a few more people – maybe seven :P Isenmor made a big finish, and the crowd cheered enthusiastically. They’d be a hard act to follow, I thought.

Isenmor at Maryland Folk Fest

Isenmor at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Isenmor at Maryland Folk Fest

Isenmor at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

The next band on the bill was Dogs And Day Drinkers, hailing from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’ve seen this band numerous times over the past few years, and they’ve really come far. They seem to have finally hit their stride and found their sound, maybe partly due to their new vocalist, who seems to have a stronger voice than their previous singer. At times the band sounds like early A Sound Of Thunder — the charging heavy metal riffs, the powerful female vocals. But Ashley Marie’s voice isn’t exactly same as that of Nina Osegueda of A Sound Of Thunder (of course); Ashley’s voice has more edge to it, and the band’s overall sound is more straight-ahead heavy metal than A Sound Of Thunder ever was. One thing they do share are blazing guitar solos, although Dan Wise’s are more shred and not bluesy like those by A Sound Of Thunder guitarist Josh Schwartz. The band played a new song that they’d never played before, which Ashley said that people wouldn’t like, but it was actually was one of their best songs. It started off with a very “Barracuda”-like riff and then got more creative. Another song was introduced as “that one folk metal song we wrote one time,” and it had a much more epic, Viking-metal sound. They closed with “Battle Hymn,” whose chorus (“We march, we die, leave the bodies where they lie”) has been getting stuck in my head the last few times I’ve seen the band. The floor emptied a bit during their set, with a lot of people sitting down, which was unfortunate since they’re getting pretty good.

Dogs And Day Drinkers at Maryland Folk Fest

Dogs And Day Drinkers at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Dogs And Day Drinkers at Maryland Folk Fest

Dogs And Day Drinkers at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Next up was another band I had never heard of before, Yonder Realm from Long Island. They reminded me of Eluveitie at first, with a strong death metal flavor to their sound under the folky touches of keyboard and violin and a similar style of harsh vocals, but they also sometimes used lower growls (surprisingly low for the willowy vocalist) or core-y choruses. Their recordings feature a flute as well, which adds to the Eluveitie vibe. Live, they were quite heavy on the guitars, and the keyboard (and I think also a backing track of other folky instruments) was drowned out by the guitars at first. This was fixed after the second song, but then the keyboard was kind of loud and overwhelmed the rest of the band, making the guitars just background noise. The whole band sounded their best when keyboardist Dana Lengel switched to the violin — at that point the acoustic violin balanced nicely with with the other, electric strings. In keeping with the two following bands, the vocalist/guitarist Jesse McGunnigle was a bit of a jokester — he said one song was about “eating all the bitches” (when actually it was called “Pillars of Creation”) and later joked about the fact that there were two “Realm” bands on the bill: “We’re thinking of changing our name to Yonder Aether, or maybe Realm Realm.” The last song they played, “Moonbeam Road,” was very cool, with a dreamy atmospheric beginning before going into epic melodic riffs and then a frenzied fast section in the middle. I was very impressed with the band, and picked up both their album and EP.

Yonder Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Yonder Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Yonder Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Yonder Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Sekengard was in the second slot, but probably played the longest, and liveliest, set of the night. They started off with a polka and invited the crowd to dance — so we obliged! They had the most energetic crowd, with lots of dancing and moshing, and about tied with Isenmor for size of crowd. I believe they also played everything from their recent EP, again not in order though. In addition, vocalist/violinist Sarah Stepanik sang “Where did You Sleep Last Night,” which she introduced as an Appalachian folk song that was covered by Nirvana, and I realized that she can really sing! She started out with a sweet voice, but pretty soon she was belting and snarling the words, giving the song quite a creepy feel. The instruments gradually built up while she was singing, and the band launched right into “Striped Paladin” after the Appalachian song. In between other songs, mandolin and guitar player Dan Paytas made us groan with bad jokes. Sekengard ended with their “two craziest songs,” inviting the crowd to mosh. First was “Howling of the Fen,” so I guessed that “Time Flies When You’re Having Rum,” a song originally performed by Dan and Sarah’s other band Pirates For Sail, was going to be the last one, and so I saved myself for that one (I had already taken a blow to the ribs that knocked the wind out of me early in the set, so I didn’t want to push myself too hard). I was right, and the floor went wild with dancing, spinning and moshing for this rousing and fast-paced song. I think we ended the song with a jig line, and the crowd was wildly appreciative when the band finished.

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

I can’t remember if this happened before or after Sekengard’s set, but in further silliness that night, Sarah introduced us to the Maryland folk scene’s signature drink: When you combine Sekengard and Isenmor, you get — Isengard. And Sekengard sells shot glasses and Isenmor sells pint glasses, so if you fill one with spiced rum and the other with dark beer, and drop the first into the second, you get — “Taking the Hobbit to Isengard.”

Closing out the night was the other “Realm” band, Aether Realm from North Carolina. Like Yonder Realm, they have a melodeath-ish sound, but theirs is somewhere between Ensiferum and Amon Amarth. I think their time might have been shorter than planned, as they only played about five songs. They were heavy and brutal to rival the first band, and unlike the other bands, turned off the stage lights so they were in darkness, lit only by colorful flashes of light like constant rainbow lightning, which heightened the atmosphere. They started with the single they released this spring, “The Chariot,” which has a catchy melody and chorus. For “Swamp Witch,” they had a guest vocalist, Stormblood of Distoriam, who did even more extreme harsh vocals – lower and growlier – making it even more brutal (video footage of that song is posted here). Aether Realm vocalist/bassist Vincent “Jake” Jones opined that Distoriam ought to have been on the lineup. Another impressive song was “One Chosen By the Gods,” which was very dramatic. It was a massively heavy show, but didn’t show off their melodic side well since it was so loud and distorted that the melodies were mostly lost. The crowd thinned considerably during their set (it was after midnight), but there were still a solid fifty or so people for them, including the other bands. They had Jon Teachey from Wilderun filling in on drums because their drummer had family obligations, but with the noisy sound, I couldn’t hear any difference. Jake said that after a show in September, they were going to take a break from performing for a while since they want to concentrate on writing another album.

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

With six bands including two unknowns, I had worried there might be some duds or dull moments during the evening, but such a thing never happened. Some sound issues aside, every band delivered an excellent, captivating performance. Before Aether Realm’s set, Sarah gave a little speech thanking everyone, especially the rest of her band and local promoter Bobbie Dickerson, and promised that this will possibly, no, definitely happen again next year. If folk fest were to become a Maryland tradition (à la our other yearly metal festival), this was an awesome start. At least from a fan’s perspective, this first Maryland Folk Fest was an unequivocal success. There is very little I would change — maybe only things I would add, like a food vendor (although that’s perhaps not necessary with all the excellent options outside, and it’s good to support local businesses), and vendors selling folk related stuff. The biggest question of course is, what will next year’s line-up be?

Empire’s final concert

It was the best of venues, it was the worst of venues. Empire, Jaxx, Zaxx, whatever you called the movie theater turned concert venue located at 6355 Rolling Road in Springfield, Virginia, it was certainly one thing: the most important venue in Northern Virginia to heavy metal fans. It had been a club that transitioned through a few names and hosted many bands of various musical genres but it wasn’t until Jay Nedry took it over in 1994 that the venue became Jaxx. Jaxx became a place to see rock and heavy metal bands come through on tours and they would regularly book performances by underground and European metal bands that you just couldn’t see anywhere else in the area. In January 2012 new ownership took over Jaxx and rebranded the nightclub Empire. I personally attended literally hundreds of concerts at Jaxx/Empire over the past 20 years or so, far more than I’ve seen at any other concert venue.

It was pretty surreal going to Empire/Jaxx’s last concert on Sunday, May 3rd of 2015. I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t the venue’s final show ever and I think a lot of people there would have said the same thing. I said hi to lots of friends, most of whom I’d been to concerts with at the venue in the past, and I talked to a lot of the staff throughout the night. I had a lot of great concert memories at this place. I remember seeing Arch Enemy on their first US tour with Angela Gossow on vocals there and people were blown away by her stage presence. I remember seeing David Vincent’s sweaty return to Morbid Angel there, a sold out show where the AC didn’t work. I got drunk and saw Napalm Death play there on Easter one year. I saw Electric Wizard open for Macabre and Enslaved there (the only metal show I ever convinced my mom to attend with me). I saw plenty of other shows with eclectic line ups like when King Diamond played with Entombed and when Cannibal Corpse, Dimmu Borgir, The Haunted and Lamb Of God all shared the stage for a night. I remember taking a piss in that awful men’s room troth while talking to Lord Worm of Cryptopsy as he cleaned live worms in the sink to feed to fans from the stage. It was at Jaxx that Rob Dukes, at the time the vocalist for Exodus, stage dived right on top of me while he was wearing a cheerleader costume during Kreator’s encore, all while I was shooting video. These memories and more floated through my head at the final show.

But it was a show, not some flashback montage, and while my mind often wandered throughout the night there was plenty to remind me that hindsight isn’t always 20-20, it has a way of looking at things through those rosy lenses of nostalgia. The same old problems the venue had were still very apparent at the final show. The farewell show itself had way too many bands on the bill, a total of eight, only two of which were on the tour package. I had brought my nice camera hoping to take some shots of the final show but the lighting was so bad for most of the bands I didn’t even feel like bothering. And of course the same old issues of bands not being allotted enough time, or being put in the right order, were glaring. Locals Iris Divine and Oberris had been on the bill for several weeks before the announcement on April 23rd (here) that Empire would be closing on May 5th, though once word of that got out bands started jumping on to the line up. I can understand that, but the bands that were already busting their asses to promote the show shouldn’t have been bumped to play earlier and had their amount of stage time reduced. The sound guy cut off Iris Divine’s set mid song, which I thought was a technical issue at first. Then Yesterday’s Saints played, and their set wasn’t bad but I’ve seen grindcore bands put on longer sets than they were allowed to play, something like 15 minutes. A shame since they had driven home from Louisville, Kentucky the night before to be able to play this show. The final local to play, A Sound Of Thunder, was also cut off while on stage. It was all just handled poorly and left most of the locals feeling slighted to differing degrees.

After a longer break than Yesterday’s Saints was even allowed to play the first touring band came on. Next To None is a lesson on what nepotism can get you. The Pennsylvania based prog band is made up of teenagers aged 15 to 17, the most notable being Max Portnoy, son of the famous ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. Mike was even on hand to introduce his son’s band at the start of their set. I guess they were technically proficient but like most bands made up of kids, they don’t really do much besides mimic other bands. There wasn’t anything new or innovative about what they were doing, it was well rehearsed and safe, but they’re just teenagers so I guess you have to cut them some slack. I could totally see them touring with Unlocking The Truth and playing shows for younger kids.

After Next To None finished it was time for Haken to perform. I had heard they were planning a two and a half hour set this evening, which I suppose is fairly normal for prog bands, though it actually ended up being a little under 2 hours. The band is based in London and I believe this was the final date of their first US tour. I wish they had gotten a band that had played Jaxx many times over the years to close the place out, or even one that had played it once before, but that wasn’t really a practical request. The Haken vocalist, Ross Jennings, made some comments between songs about the closing a few times, wondering why the place was closing because it was so awesome and commenting that it was a strange privilege to be the last band to play there. The crowd had thinned out quite a bit by the time Haken got to their scripted encore, though the final two songs were definitely the highlight of their set. To close out the venue they played a cover of Metallica’s “Fade To Black” then Mike Portnoy got behind the drum kit and Haken covered “The Mirror” by Dream Theater to end the set, their tour, and the venue’s history of concerts.

At the end of the show I hung out and talked to a few friends while the bands tore down their gear. Eventually I said goodbye to the staff as well, who have always been good to me (going back to the Jaxx days) but that probably has something to do with the blog I run, local bands seem to have mixed reviews. The show was over but I didn’t want to say goodbye to the venue, I think I was the last person to leave that wasn’t an employee or part of the tour. I’ve spent a lot of time in that place, complained about plenty of its problems over the years, but I still kept coming back. When I first started going to see concerts that weren’t at giant amphitheaters or arenas Jaxx was there to let me see the bands I was into perform live, and to discover more bands as well. Jaxx was there showcasing locals from around the region before I even knew of any of our local bands. When I first started attempting concert photography, several years before I started this blog, the first shows I shot were Behemoth and Watain at Jaxx. I lived about a mile down the road from Jaxx for a few years as well, sometimes if I was bored on a particular night I’d check their calendar for what was playing that night and head over if it sounded interesting, or at least not terrible. Empire/Jaxx had a lot of problems though. The room wasn’t a great shape and the speakers were set up in a way that the sound was really bad in several areas of the room, and there were the days the AC would be turned off in the summer to increase drink sales at the bar. On some nights Empire would actually charge for water at the bar, a practice that isn’t illegal but is pretty underhanded and potentially dangerous. However the most polarizing aspect of the venue was always its pay to play policy, which had the local bands pre-selling tickets to the shows they were added to. It was great that they allowed locals to play on a stage that size but it was awful that they had to shake down their friends time and again to do so. Many bands boycotted playing the venue because of this policy, and many people refused to even see shows there because of the policy. The fact that after the closing announcement was made so many people took to social media to comment about it, even people that hated the venue and were glad to see it go, is a testament to the impact it had on our area’s metal scene.

Empire/Jaxx definitely wasn’t perfect, no concert venue is, but it is the one we had for so many years, a constant in our metal scene. This is officially the first day that there is no Empire, no Jaxx, in Springfield. It has been bought by the kabob restaurant next door, they want to expand to add a banquet hall for weddings and other special occasions. There is a part of me that is sad to see the end of Empire/Jaxx. I made a lot of friends and memories there, I saw many bands close up, and I probably wouldn’t be the metal concert addict that started a local metal blog if it didn’t exist for all those years. But like the overdue end to a long term relationship, I’m also glad that I don’t have to put up with its bullshit any more either.

Behemoth at Jaxx in 2007
The first concert I ever shot, I’d like to think I’m a little better by now

Rob Dukes stage dives on me while Kreator plays at Empire

Live photos of Electric Wizard

On Wednesday, April 1st of 2015, UK based stoner/doom metal band Electric Wizard played to a sold out crowd at the Baltimore Soundstage. The place was crowded, I’ve never seen it so packed before, but the band put on great show and played those super fuzzy riffs for about an hour and a half. The band had a video projection behind them for the entire show, which mostly showed clips from old exploitation films of nude blond women dancing around with psychedelic patterns superimposed. I didn’t get there in time to shoot locals Satan’s Satyrs, who are opening for the entire tour, but it was cool getting to see their bass player, Clayton Burgess, perform with Electric Wizard. The last time Electric Wizard played the US was also in Baltimore when they headlined Maryland Deathfest in 2012, and they didn’t tour the US around that show, it was a one off performance. Combine that with the fact that Electric Wizard hadn’t played in the US for many years prior to MDF due to problems getting visas, and people were hungry to see these guys in action. Considering that, it isn’t much surprise that their merch sold out very quickly, only a few Electric Wizard tote bags and black light posters remained by the end of their set and all of the t-shirts were long gone. They played a lot of their classics that night, like “Dopesmoker” and “Satanic Rites Of Drugula” and I think most people left pleased with the set list overall (you can see the entire thing here). Whether you got to attend this epic show or not, I hope you enjoy the photos I shot below. If you’d like to see more of them just go here.

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Live photos of Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse

The Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse dual-headlining tour stopped at the Fillmore Silver Spring on Monday, March 2nd, 2015, and it was a great show! Death metal fans were treated to two titans of the genre and the bands didn’t disappoint. This was the first time I have seen Behemoth since the band’s main man, Nergal, recovered from cancer. I have to say the Polish band’s stage show has really improved since the days they used to open for other bands all the time at Jaxx! Behemoth played a lot off the new album, The Satanist, but old fans were treated to some older classics like “Chant for ΕΣΧΗΑΤΟΝ 2000” as well. Cannibal Corpse put on a brutal show as always. While I don’t think they were bad I still think they’re a better show in smaller venues where the band is closer to the audience and the place is a packed, sweaty mosh pit from stage to exit. Still, they’re always tight and it was cool that they mixed things up by closing their set with “Devoured By Vermin.” The lighting for Cannibal Corpse wasn’t the best for shooting but I did get a few shots, Behemoth was much brighter and had a lot of stage props as well (including Nergal’s mic stand that he must have purchased from Cobra Commander’s yard sale). Unfortunately I didn’t get there in time to catch openers Tribulation and Aeon, the latter of which I really wanted to see, but early start times aren’t the best for week nights in this town with the crazy traffic we get. Anyways, I hope you enjoy the photos I shot below of Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse.

Cannibal Corpse:

Cannibal Corpse at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Paul Mazurkiewicz of Cannibal Corpse at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Behemoth:

Nergal of Behemoth at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Nergal of Behemoth at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Behemoth at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Nergal of Behemoth at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Behemoth at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Nergal of Behemoth at the Fillmore Silver Spring