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.

Review of Agalloch at Sonar

So Monday the 21st of March 2011 saw the Portland based dark metal band Agalloch come to Sonar in Baltimore. They put out an album late last year, Marrow Of The Spirit, that as per their usual won a lot of critical accolades and was put on many best of 2010 album lists. I did like it a lot though I have to say I prefer some of their older material more. Still, it does have some really good songs on it and is another quality album in their back catalog. Agalloch has quite a devoted following and their fans tend to know every song, not just a few ‘hits’ or whatever. This show saw a lot of people in the local metal community come out. It’s always nice to see a strong turn out for underground metal bands. The smaller Talking Head Club stage was used for this concert though it was rather cramped in the room by the time Agalloch hit the stage and they probably could have put this show on the larger main stage.

When I first got to the show some band named Vindensång was playing. They were awful but I missed all but the last few songs of their set so it wasn’t that bad. The next band was Worm Ouroboros, a three piece with Agalloch drummer, Aesop Dekker, and two women playing guitar and bass who also both sing. Aesop has another non-Agalloch side project, named Ludicra, that is pretty good and since I hadn’t heard anything by Worm Ouroboros going into this show I was hoping for something that might be on par with that. Unfortunately, and contrary to what just about everyone else I spoke with about them thought, they were awful. Their sound was very slow, atmospheric and it sorta seemed like a lullaby trying to put me to sleep. That would be OK perhaps if it was the intro song to their set or something, but the music never picked up. The women’s voices were singing very softly and they didn’t seem very in tune with each other at any point where they were both singing simultaneously. There were a couple of times where it seemed the music was starting to pick up, but it was a trick, just more soft and slow music would follow. I realize headliner Agalloch isn’t the most brutal band in the world and their opening acts aren’t going to cover Napalm Death, but this was still a fucking metal concert! When Worm Ouroboros was playing I couldn’t help feeling that I was watching a band on the second stage at the Lilith Fair. I didn’t bother shooting video of them because I didn’t want that on my YouTube page so if you want to check them out you’ll have to do that somewhere else. When they finally finished (and took their Christmas lights with them) much to my bewilderment the audience gave them a great response. Am I some elitist narrow minded prick who only listens to metal, the more extreme the better? Hell no, I listen to a lot more than metal, of various levels of speed and all sorts of moods. This was just bad and made me wonder what everyone else saw in them. Perhaps I should have been drinking more?

I felt like I was waking up out of a coma before Agalloch’s set, so I really hoped they were going to keep it interesting. As if in an effort to wake everyone up, after the taped intro they opened the set with Into The Painted Grey which starts off with one of their faster riffs. They went right into Falling Snow and then played one of their new songs, The Watcher’s Monolith, which just happens to be my favorite on the new album. By this point I was pretty into the show with any thoughts of poor opening acts far from my mind. Agalloch’s very dramatic atmospherics and epic, well polished riffs have always been present in their sound. It’s the details that seem to change the most from album to album. More acoustic guitars used on one, female back up singing on another. They are very good at writing songs that go through a lot of changes in tempo but always seem to feel like they flow perfectly from the highs to the lows and back again. This was even more apparent live where the faster parts had more energy and the grand build ups to those great riffs just seemed more powerful. Their set list was a good mix of tunes spanning their career, three songs from Marrow Of The Spirit, three from Ashes Against The Grain and a song each from their older full lengths and they even played what vocalist John Haughm identified as the fourth song they had ever written, Of Stone, Wind And Pillor. I was hoping they would play my favorite song of theirs, Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony but they didn’t. People were calling out for the band to perform that song’s album, Pale Folklore, in its entirety as an encore but they only played two songs (I have video of the entire encore posted below). The band didn’t seem too cramped on the small stage, at least not from where I was. They used the fog machine a lot and the lighting was pretty low the entire set, and they had members of Worm Ouroboros going around the crowd telling people to stop using the flash on their cameras (that was annoying) but whatever, the songs are good enough that they made this show excellent regardless. I, and the rest of the audience, probably could have stood there and listened to them play their entire back catalog if the band had wanted to. After the set guitarist Don Anderson got on the mic and asked who had stolen one of their three cauldrons from the stage. I have no idea who did, but that’s kinda metal that it had to be asked. Agalloch does not tour a lot out here on the east coast so I’m glad I got the chance to see them as they came through the area. This is a band highly recommended by critics and my opinion is the same, see them live if you have the chance, just get there late to miss the openers. Now, check out my videos of Agalloch at this concert below and feel free to look at the rest of the pics I shot of them that night on my Flickr page here.

Metal Marathon – Days 4, 5 and 6

Ok, so my Metal Marathon posts are a bit behind, but I’m still going to recap them because the shows I saw during those 9 days were just too damn good. This is my second of three posts covering the 11 concerts and I’m going to recap the metal concerts I went to from Tuesday, March 8th 2011 through Thursday March 10th in this post. Three great shows, especially considering they were all in the middle of the work week.

On Tuesday I borrowed a friend’s car and drove to Silver Spring after work to catch a DIY show at the Corpse Fortress. The touring band was Earthling and they were playing with Baltimore based Revolta and the DC band Spine Buster. There was also a surprise set by Ilsa at the end of the night. Spine Buster had just started their set when I got there, and they were pretty entertaining but Harrisonburg, Virginia’s Earthling came out and just shredded for their entire set. They played what must have been the longest set of the night and it was high energy and just a lot of fun to be there for. I hope they play around here again because they really are worth seeing again. If you don’t believe me check out the thrashtastic video I’ve got of them at the bottom of this post. The video quality sucks visually but the audio is great and it’s a killer song! The next band to play was Revolta, a sort of punkish thrash band from Baltimore. I’d seen them a few weeks before at the Candlehaus with Fatal, though they had another guitarist then. Their set seemed a bit short this time, I think there were outside time constraints going on that were made worse since Ilsa was still yet to play. Ilsa did play a good but short set, I think it was basically a practice for their show coming up on Saturday opening for Dropdead (more on that show in my next post). I’m not sure why, but the band’s vocalist, Orion, started puking all over the floor at the end of the set. You gotta admit that it’s pretty damn metal to be barfing your guts out, mic in hand, while your band plays. I’m really glad that I wasn’t the one who had to clean that mess up! In all the show was a lot of fun and the venue was really laid back, even for a house show, and I got to talk to a lot of great people all night between sets. It was really a fun atmosphere and a great experience for my first show at the Corpse Fortress.

The next show on my list was Rotting Christ and Melechesh on Wednesday the 9th of March at Jaxx. If you go to a lot of metal shows in the DC area you’re going to find yourself at Jaxx sooner or later and fittingly this was the only venue I’d be at twice during my Metal Marathon. Some people complain about various aspects of the venue but at the end of the day, they are the only place in this area that will play any number of international metal bands and if it wasn’t for them I’d surely have seen a lot less of my favorite bands from Europe and even farther away. This night was a perfect example of this fact when the Greek band Rotting Christ headlined a show with Israel’s Melechesh. Two great black metal acts that happen to not be from Scandinavia. The tour also features the Polish black metal act Hate but they weren’t able to make it to this gig, the first show of the tour. When I got there Melechesh was getting ready to play and I quickly secured a spot in the very front. These guys are one of my favorite bands these days and I was really excited to get to see them again. They had played their first US concert ever at last year’s Maryland Deathfest (my extensive recap of that is here) and this night’s show at Jaxx was going to be their second US show. Their set at MDF had been cut short and they had a new album out since then too, so this concert’s set was longer and featured new material too. Simply put, they hit the stage and just killed it. Yeah I’m pretty biased about these guys but even most of the people I talked to afterwards said they also thought Melechesh had put on the better show. Their sound is certainly black metal but with a distinct middle eastern bent and they have some really catchy riffs that really make the sound work. That all said, Rotting Christ didn’t put on a bad show by any means. Their set was heavy with a lot of songs from their latest album, Aealo, which is ok but I think their album previous to that, Theogonia is the best of their 20+ year career. They did play several songs from that too, but the last time I saw them they were touring in support of that album and the setlist was just superior. They didn’t play much of their older material though. I was hoping they’d play some of their classics like Under The Name Of Legion and Sorrowful Farewell but I guess they’re trying to appeal more to their newer fans. I enjoyed the material they did play and combined with the set by Melechesh would say this show was definitely worth the price of admission.

Thursday the 10th of March was the sixth day of my nine day Metal Marathon and since my car was in the shop I found myself in need of a ride to see Atheist play at Sonar in Baltimore. Luckily one of my readers, a really cool guy named James (who I’ve run into at a few shows now after this night) gave me a lift in the pouring rain up to Charm City. This show was a bit of an odd line up. While I was there to see Atheist and catch opening act Revocation, I didn’t care about some of the metalcore opening acts, A Life Once Lost or Last Chance To Reason. This show was the first time I’d seen Revocation and they certainly come from the Galder school of on stage facial expressions. They were making all kinds of faces during their highly energetic set. I’d heard they were a good band live but even so I didn’t expect them to be that entertaining. They also played a cover of the Death classic Pull The Plug which is always a good way to get extra points from me. My only problem with their set was that they weren’t the last support act for Atheist. After they played A Life Once Lost hit the stage. I wasn’t familiar with their material but it seemed to be pretty typical metalcore, which I’m not a fan of and after a couple songs I’d heard enough and found my way to the bar for a beer I’d gladly enjoy out in the hall. After some good conversations out there, I went back in while Atheist was setting up to get right up front for taking some pictures. Atheist is a progressive technical death metal jazz fusion band. Yeah, that’s quite a description but pretty much sums them up. They were around in the late 80s/early 90s Florida death metal scene but broke up in 1994. They reunited in 2006 with guitarist Kelly Shaeffer sticking to just the vocals because he was unable to continue playing guitar due to some medical issues. I saw them play at Jaxx in July of 2009 but this time they had an album of new material, their first in 17 years, and this was the first tour that they’d be playing any of the new songs live. Luckily the new album, Jupiter, kicks ass and fits in with their older songs perfectly. The set was pretty awesome except for two things really, they skipped over Mother Man which was on the setlist, and their final song, Piece Of Time, was totally screwy due to technical difficulties. Those are my two favorite Atheist songs so that kinda sucked, but otherwise the show was great. They have a unique sound that fans of either technical heavy metal or jazz will enjoy, not just people who are fans of both. The band is really tight live and it sure is fun watching them play those kick ass tunes in person. The audience begged for an encore but guitarist Chris Baker came out on stage and said they couldn’t because of the technical difficulties they were having. Sort of a shitty way to end the night but what else could they do?

Well, that’s what I did on days four, five and six of my nine day Metal Marathon. You can read about the Metal Marathon plan here or about the concerts I saw on the first three days here. My next post will be covering the four concerts I went to in the final three days. So stay tuned to hear about my impressions on concerts by Meek Is Murder, Dropdead, Trap Them and Apocalyptica in my next post. Until then you can check out some of the videos I shot over days four, five and six of the Metal Marathon below or go to my YouTube page to see all of them. You can also check out my Flickr set here that has pics I’ve posted from this awesome string of concerts.

Review of Immortal Gig at Sonar

It’s not every day one of the “inner circle” bands from the infamous Norwegian black metal scene of the early 90s comes through the area, the last time was almost two years ago when Mayhem played Maryland Deathfest in 2009. So when Immortal came to Sonar on Sunday the 20th of February 2011 you just knew going in that it would be epic. To the best of my knowledge this was their first appearance in the area since I saw them play the now defunct Phantasmagoria record store in Wheaton, Maryland with Satyricon in March of 2000. They were only playing six concerts on this mini tour, and Baltimore was lucky enough to get one of them. They brought along Texas based black metal band Absu for the tour but there was no local support for this show.

Immortal has a certain duality in the metal scene, on one hand they’ve got a lot of credibility in the metal underground being that they’re one of the main second wave black metal bands, and through their band’s evolution they basically invented the blackened thrash subgenre of metal. That said, they’ve also been known to be one of the most ridiculous bands in black metal in regards to their image, laughable posing in photo shoots, things like witch hats and crab walks showing up in music videos, and a general willingness to embrace most of the idiotic image stereotypes of the black metal genre. Immortal has been called the Kiss of black metal but they’ve been able to keep a legion of fans by putting out albums with some damn good songs on them. Their original guitarist, Demonaz, had to leave the band due to severe tendinitis in 1997 and so bass player Abbath took over as guitarist. The band didn’t slow down until 2003 when they broke up for several years. They did get back together but they hadn’t played a concert in the mid-atlantic region since then until this evening.

When I got to the venue, about 10 minutes before the scheduled time for the doors to open, the line was already stretched around the block. All kinds of people from the local scene were there as well as people coming in from out of town and it sort of reminded me of when Carcass came to Sonar on their reunion tour in September 2008. Once inside I quickly staked out a spot as close to the front as I could and awaited Absu to start playing. I’d seen them in June 2009 at Jaxx but now they were a three piece, apparently this was just their second show as such. It didn’t hurt the fullness of the sound at all, but it did make it easier to see the band’s main man and lead vocalist, Proscriptor, play the drums. He’s quite a talented drummer with some unconventional drumming techniques that are pretty fun to watch live. For some unknown reason he had this sort of studded belt thing on as a headband, apparently some of Immortal’s image sense is rubbing off on him. He never dropped his “metal” voice while on stage even between songs and he kept the introductions entertaining too (check out his introduction to Four Crossed Wands in the video posted below to see what I mean). The band was in good form and was as good of a US based warm up act as there was going to be for Immortal though you could tell by the end of their set that the audience was ready for the reason they all came out this night.

Immortal sure took their time getting to the stage, finally arriving a good 45 minutes or so after Absu had finished. They played for at least 90 minutes and didn’t talk a whole lot between songs, but they didn’t really need to as their material stands on its own. Immortal was never one of the more political or religious of the Norwegian black metal bands, their lyrics mostly focusing on the fact that it’s damn cold in the north which isn’t really something to talk about between songs either. Their set list (photo of it here) had 14 songs and consisted mostly of songs from their latest two albums, 2009’s All Shall Fall and 2002’s Sons Of Northern Darkness. Totally awesome for the newer fans, but I was hoping they’d play a bit more off of Damned In Black and Blizzard Beasts. Still, it’s not like some bands where the newer material is just awful or something and considering how young a lot of the people in attendance were (at least up front where I was) it wasn’t surprising they’d play a lot of the newer material. The trio played very tight, the music was pretty energetic and the crowd went crazy from the beginning. When there were lulls in the music Abbath would strike a menacing pose and egg the crowd on by raising his arms and gesturing to keep the energy up. There were several crowd surfers throughout the night and during the song Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms some dipshit threw a beer bottle on stage which caused the band to suddenly stop playing. Abbath got pissed and dared whoever threw it to come on stage, but they played on (I’ve got video of this below) and in fact seemed to have a renewed vigor through the rest of the song and into the next track, Withstand The Fall Of Time. They didn’t do any fire breathing on stage, which I was hoping for, but they did keep the corpse paint, leather, spikes and boots. There was a lot of fog used too, and Horgh, the drummer, was pushed so far to the back of the stage that you could hardly see him the entire night through all the fake smoke. He did not have his Satan’s Goalie Pads on though, haha. I really could have watched Immortal play another 14 songs but the show did end a bit after midnight after a pre-determined encore performance (hardly an encore when the songs are already on the setlist!).

It was a really fun show, and while Immortal didn’t play a ton of older material, it was still a bad ass concert. Absu was a great opening act too, though I wish they’d allowed a couple of the local black metal acts to open. I managed to work my way to the front row by the end of the show and got some photos that I’m really pleased with from there, and Abbath even posed a bit for me during their final song. You can see all my photos from this show on my Flickr page here. I also got 2 videos of Absu and 3 of Immortal that are all embedded below. The last video is the one with the beer bottle throwing incident, which happened about 1:20 in. Check them out and get ready for the next sure to be epic black metal show to come to the area, Rotting Christ, Melechesh and Hate playing Jaxx on March 9th. Oh yeah, and I’ve started a Facebook page for DCHeavyMetal so help me out and “like” the page (here) if you’re a fan of this site. Now, check out these cool videos.

Recap of Eyehategod gig at Sonar

So on Thursday the 17th of February 2011 the New Orleans based sludge act Eyehategod was coming to Sonar in Baltimore. I’m really not a huge fan of their albums, though they are influential in the sludge scene. I probably wouldn’t have gone but they were playing with a few bands I do really like, Misery Index, Magrudergrind and Cough specifically. Unfortunately the flyer for the show didn’t list the bands in the order they’d actually be playing and I ended up missing Cough, who apparently played first. Someone said they had played too long and so the rest of the show was being rushed. I did catch one of the local openers, Surroundings. They were ok I guess, pretty standard grindcore with a frontman that was really energetic, even crowd surfing during the set. The audience moshed for about a song or two at the beginning, but considering it’s grind that means about 30 seconds, haha. The next band to play was Strong Intention but I wasn’t really in the mood for hardcore so I went into the other room to have a couple beers and talk to people while they were playing. They do play the area a lot and I’m sure I’ll see them sooner or later though.

The next band to take the stage was Washington DC based grindcore act Magrudergrind. They made a stir last year when they gave their new album away for free (get it here) since the album was sponsored by Scion, a branch of Toyota. Apparently all the anti-corporate grind people took issue with this and so yeah, people were actually complaining about getting a free album. Anyways, I caught them last May at Maryland Deathfest, but this setting was a bit better to see them in I think, for one it wasn’t so crowded but it was also a local crowd so that was cool. Their set was fun, full of people jumping off the stage while the band played their spasmatic outbursts of DC grind. The main problem was they only played for 20 minutes! That kind of sucked, but was probably due to the time constraints the show was having.

Next up was the band I wanted to see the most, Misery Index. They’re from Maryland and the band was formed by ex-members of Dying Fetus. Only one of those guys are left in the band, and in fact this was the first show I had seen them play with their new guitarist, Darin Morris. Any fear I had of how the band would play with the line up change was quickly dispelled. As usual they played a very tight set showcasing their extremely brutal songs and even managing to play them faster live. Most of their set consisted of stuff from Heirs To Thievery, their latest album. They were told to stop playing at 12:20 am even though they had more songs left to play.

The headlining act, Eyehategod, is a band that I never really got into. Figured it was worth seeing them once though since ya know I run a metal site and all. They played a new song (video of that below) though they didn’t say its name. Their set was very downtuned and while I know plenty of people there were psyched to see them, it got monotonous to me after a while. I kept thinking that it was getting so late they’d have to end soon, but after thinking that for a few songs I checked the time around 1:45 and decided to call it a night even though they were still playing. As I said before I really was there to see the openers anyways. It sucks that their sets were all cut short after I drove up to Baltimore though! Anyways, I’ve got videos of the bands below, though most are dark the Eyehategod guys did have good lighting for me to shoot video in. The final song is their new one that I’d imagine will be on their next release, enjoy!