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

Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse ticket give away

Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse at the Fillmore Silver Spring

When two of the titans of death metal have a tour coming to our area you know we get excited here at DCHM. And when we get excited about a show we like to get as many people out to it as possible. So this week we’re giving away a free pair of tickets to see Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse at the Fillmore Silver Spring on Monday, March 2nd, 2015. To enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me the name of your favorite death metal band. At 5pm EST this Friday, February 27th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to enter using 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 within 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 Live Nation for $35.50 here.

Last year Poland’s Behemoth put out one hell of a come back album with the release of The Satanist, quite an accomplishment considering, Nergal, the band’s mastermind, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. After a successful bone marrow transplant he has recovered from cancer and is ready to bring his musical vision on The Satanist to stage for us. As if that wasn’t enough, the kings of gorey death metal, Cannibal Corpse, will be co-headlining this tour as they terrorize audiences (and stir up brutal mosh pits) with their songs about murder, zombies and violent torture. In addition to that we’ll also get the chance to see two up and coming death metal bands from Sweden as Aeon and Tribulation open up the show. That’s a ton of death metal for one bill, will you be able to survive? Be sure to check out these videos by each band below and tell me what your favorite death metal band is in the comments!

Behemoth – Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer

Cannibal Corpse – Kill Or Become

Aeon – Aeons Black

Tribulation – Apparitions

1349 ticket give away

1349 at Empire

When it is cold and snowy outside the time is right for some Norwegian black metal and as luck would have it Norway’s 1349 will be coming to Empire on Tuesday, February 24th to spread their unholy black metal gospel in our area. Inspired by the snow outside today we’re giving away a pair of tickets to this very show to one of you grim and frostbitten DCHM readers. To enter: just tell me the name of your favorite metal album to put on when it snows. At 5pm EST this Friday, February 20th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to enter using 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 within 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 $17 here.

1349, named after the year the black plague came to Scandinavia, has been around since the late 90’s bringing their aggressive black metal to fans worldwide. This tour is to support their latest full length, Massive Cauldron of Chaos, and will be our area’s first chance to hear them play some of the new material live. In addition we’ll get to see the spazz out brutality of Origin, a death metal band from Kansas. Lately they’ve been known to have their fans break out in massive pillow fights in the mosh pit during their sets. Also on the tour is Wolvhammer from Minneapolis, who plays some filthy blackened sludge metal. Local support for this show will be from Yesterday’s Saints, who just released their debut full length, Generation Of Vipers, and Cladonia Rangiferina, a black metal band with several Empire employees in their ranks. That’s a hell of a line up to chill you to the bone this February. Be sure to check out these awesome videos by bands playing the show as you leave a comment telling me what your favorite metal album to listen to when it snows is.

1349 – Sculptor Of Flesh

Origin – Absurdity Of What I Am

Wolvhammer – Writhe

Yesterday’s Saints – The Recruitment

Exodus ticket give away

Exodus at Empire

One of the original Bay Area thrash bands from the 80s, Exodus, is coming the Empire on Monday, November 24th for the band’s first area appearance with returning vocalist Steve Souza fronting the band. We here at DCHeavyMetal.com couldn’t be more excited so we’re giving away a free pair of tickets to one of you lucky DCHM readers. To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me which Exodus song you want to hear the most (if you need help you can find their discography here) when they come to Empire on Monday. At 5pm EST this Friday, November 21st, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to enter using 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 $17 here.

Steve Souza fronted Exodus for the band’s four albums from 1987 to 1992, and then again for their 2004 return album Tempo Of The Damned. Now he finds himself back in Exodus with the release of their new album, Blood In, Blood Out, and fans and critics alike are raving about it. Exodus fan’s won’t want to miss the band’s only area appearance this year with Souza back to perform those classic songs with them. Exodus is currently touring with Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies this show is an off date of that tour, which unfortunately isn’t coming anywhere near us. As such there’s isn’t any touring support, however we will get sets by some great locals including Yesterday’s Saints, March To Victory, Oberris, Blunt Force Rebellion, Afarinesh, and Red Sky Research. So check out these awesome Exodus videos below, tell me which song you want to hear them play the most on Monday, and get ready for a killer night of thrash!

Exodus – Blood In, Blood Out

Exodus – Toxic Waltz

Exodus – Salt The Wound (feat. Kirk Hammett)

Summer Slaughter ticket give away

Summer Slaughter at Empire

On Tuesday, August 12 (that’s next week!) the Summer Slaughter Tour makes its only area stop at Empire. The bill is loaded with some of the most brutal death metal bands in the world, including: Dying Fetus, The Faceless, Thy Art Is Murder, Goatwhore, Origin, Decrepit Birth, Within The Ruins, Fallujah and Boreworm. This week DCHM is giving away a pair of tickets to the show at Empire to one of you lucky readers of this site. To enter leave a comment on this post telling me which band you’re most excited to see at Summer Slaughter this year. At 5pm EST this Friday, August 8th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! 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 within 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 right now for $30 here.

Fans of death metal do not want to miss this show! With bands like The Faceless, Goatwhore, Origin, Decrepit Birth and Maryland’s own Dying Fetus all playing, you can be sure this show will satisfy all your mosh pit and headbanging needs. There will be food specials all day and be sure to bring a few extra dollars for some of the sick looking merch that you just know will be available with this many death metal bands on the bill. Now check out some of the tunes below and tell me, which band are you most excited to see at Summer Slaughter this year?

Dying Fetus – From Womb To Waste

The Faceless – Accelerated Evolution

Goatwhore – Baring Teeth For Revolt

Origin – Absurdity Of What I Am

Decrepit Birth – The Resonance

Septicflesh ticket give away

Septicflesh at Empire

This Sunday marks the return of one of the best metal bands from Greece, Septicflesh! Their US tour comes to Empire in Springfield, Virginia on Sunday, June 22nd and to help get as many people out to this show as possible we’re giving away a free pair of tickets to one of you DCHM readers! To enter leave a comment on this post telling me why you’re excited about this show. At 5pm EST this Friday, June 20th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! 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 within 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 right now for $20 here.

Septicflesh plays a unique style of death metal that incorporates symphonic elements that they blend together flawlessly. Their new album Titan, is released next week and from what I’ve heard of it so far they seem to be going even farther in perfecting their sound that made their 2011 release The Great Mass so popular. Also on the bill is Italian band Fleshgod Apocalypse who are making a name for themselves by blending symphonic and classical elements with aggressive technical death metal. Fellow Italians Hour Of Penance were supposed to be on this tour but unfortunately had to drop off because of visa issues. Montreal’s Necronomicon will be smashing ear drums with a blackened death metal sound that fans of Behemoth and Lovecraft will surely enjoy. There are also several great locals worth checking out for this date including Seraph and Gloom so be sure to get there early. Give a listen to these songs below and tell me why you want to go to this awesome show!

Septicflesh – Order Of Dracul

Fleshgod Apocalypse – Pathfinder

Necronomicon – Rise Of The Elder Ones

Saint Vitus ticket give away

Saint Vitus

Many years ago Scott “Wino” Weinrich was told, by Ian MacKaye (of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame), of a doom metal band out in LA called Saint Vitus. Wino ended up moving from the DC area to California to become the front man for Saint Vitus and doom metal history was made by this perfect matching. Now Wino and Saint Vitus are coming back to the area to play a show at Empire on Sunday, October 20th and we’ve got a free pair of tickets to give one of you lucky readers! To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me what song you’d like to hear Saint Vitus play live the most at this show. You can see their discography here if you need some help. At 5pm EST this Friday, October 11th, 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 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 Amped & Alive for $17 here.

Along with Saint Vitus on this tour there will be psychedelic sludge band Zoroaster performing as well as a high energy set by punk/metal/rock band The Hookers. Local support will be from DC’s stoner riff masters Borracho. In all that’s a damn solid line up! Now check out these songs below by the bands playing and tell me what song you want to hear Saint Vitus play live.