Field Report

MARYLAND DEATH FEST 2019 and MUDHONEY

Maryland Death Fest 2019 and Mudhoney
 
This isn’t a show review as much as it is my experience at an event.
 
6 weeks before MDF I was explaining to my lady friend, Trish C., about Maryland Death Fest (MDF going forward) and how I don’t really know about that style of music:
Me – It’s a  4 day festival of 75 or more, mostly Death Metal bands, I guess
Trish – If you’re not super into it then why are you going?
Me – To hang out with Will and Keith and Kyle and Mario and Dave and Will’s cousin-in-law (Steve) that I haven’t met yet and prolly Rob and they love the stuff.
Trish – How do you know if it’s a death metal band?
Me – By their logo
Trish – The font they use?
Me – Well, no. It’s more like, um,… have you ever been doing yard work and you rake a bunch of sticks and twigs together and it almost looks like words?
Trish – Yes!
Me – That pile of twigs and sticks could also be a death metal logo.
Trish – Ohhhhh, so what does it sound like?
Me – Prolly what you think.
Trish – Sorta yacht-goth-ska?
Me – Sorta.
 
MDF day 1 Thursday
I woke up at 3AM to make my flight to Baltimore and, due to my poor planning, I arrived 5 hours before the rest of the crew. I decided to take this time to treat myself to some good eats, made a call out to the internet for chomps and was directed to Red Emma’s for the “best vegan Ruben in the world.” Challenge accepted. My second, third, or fourth beer in, I realized that I didn’t know who was playing at MDF this year. I pulled up the flyer, my eyes go straight to Grotesque Organ Defilement. I wondered what would happen if the folks at Grotesque Organ Defilement find out that I had a vegan meal. I don’t know their dietary preferences but I’m pretty certain that their idea of “grotesque organ defilement” isn’t my Great Aunt Clara at her church playing “Light my Fire” on the pipes for 12 hours straight. Then again, who am I to categorize what Grotesque Organ Defilement is without having even heard or seen them? It was a
really good sandwich. When I arrived at the house that contains the floor where I’ll be sleeping for the following 3 days; Keith H, Will T, Mario T, Steve were just arriving as well. Inside the house was abuzz about VoiVod. Sorry Keith, I mean VOIVOD.

MDF-Geezers
Party of the Damned. Photo: Justin Dratson

Pulling up to MDF, our cab driver looked panicked. Garbage cans had been moved to block the road and the contents set ablaze.  You couldn’t see down the road.  It was fiery cans and the kind of black smoke that only comes from man made things like plastic and rubber. This was the start of the road that led to the deserted industrial warehouse district where MDF was being held. Will T. assured the driver that this was the place and that we could walk form there. Just kidding. MDF is held on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor,
a football field’s length from the National Aquarium and a P.F. Chang’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if after MDF ended they set the place up for Grandma Nettie’s Quilt and Mitten Exchange. The event is split between two venues that are a 2 minute walk from each other and packed within that walk are a dozen places for drinks and food and a Slurpee.

We walked into Ram’s Head after missing the first few bands. I bought the first round of drinks and, with my back turned to the band, I was overtaken with a familiar sound. I didn’t know the song inasmuch as the sound of the song. It was transportive to my mid-90s. The band is called Come to Grief but the way the word Grief was written is the exact way of a 90s band called Grief. I wondered why the name change because I was pretty sure they were the same band. Well, I guess that the biggest difference would be that Grief, the word in its singularity, can leave a foreboding and overwhelming impression. Contrary to that, Come to Grief sounds like a party put on by dudes that wear long sweaters with the sleeves pulled over their hands and a lot of clove cigarettes and no girls. I leaned over to Kyle:

Me – Is Come to Grief a Grief cover band?
Kyle – No. It’s pretty much Grief.
I bought some of their stuff and, regardless of the name change, it’s amazing.

MDF-Come to Grief
Come to Grief, Photo: Justin Dratson

Malignancy was the next band that really stood out for me. They have everything going for them; speed, metal, sticks in a pile logo, a wedding proposal, harsh and disturbing imagery. Look, MDF may seem menacing in title, bands playing and appearance but it’s also a place for love and sweetness. I’ve seen more dudes hugging here than any movie about the ancient Romans or ancient Greeks. In between songs the singer paused, invited his lady friend on stage and asked her to marry him. She said yes and everyone cheered. As she left the stage the singer said “OK, this next song is called “Your Life is Shit.”
 
In my notes I have Rippikoulu written down. I must have been moved by them in some way. Maybe it was their dedication to wanting to become god parents and the lengths they’d go through to prove themselves worthy. To be honest, I’d been up for 19 hours (after a previous night of 3 hours sleep) and a steady day of sipping and catching up with everyone, I’m starting to get tired. But I also know that VOIVOD will be playing in 2 hours so I have to make it at least until then.    
 
Two hours later, VOIVOD is perfectly what I thought they’d be; disjointed and Canadian.  My favorite disjointed Canadian band is NOMEANSNO and my second disjointed Canadian band has to be VOIVOD. 

MDF-Voivod
Voidvod. Or, VOIVOD. Photo: Justin Dratson

To be honest, I’ve had 3 hours sleep and going on 21 hours awake, I’m really trying to keep my head up but I want to sleep. I promised I wouldn’t sleep outside under the Season of Mist tent this year but maybe just for a few minutes, just one song. VOIVOD won’t know if I cut out for one song. Flash forward 40 minutes. What’s that word that means that all of your ideas are bad ones?  Well, that’s the word that I lived in. I fell sleep it in a chair at the Season of Mist tent again and was woken up by a stumbling bachelorette party that nearly walked into me and was louder than VOIVOD. Now I don’t
know what that says about VOIVOD or about bachelorette parties but it is a fact and facts are science.
Then I saw Will’s face 10 inches from mine:
Me – Thanks for grabbing me, man. Let’s get back in for VOIVOD
Will – Ya missed it buddy. Come on, we’re headed back
Me – Is Keith gonna be mad I missed it?
 
MDF Day 2 Friday
I woke up in my sleeping bag on the floor of the kitchen with my underwear on backwards. They were probably like that all day but maybe not too. Dave brought a ton of beer without labels so it’s been a mystery grab morning. We have a song to the tune of the Electric Company’s Spider-Man theme “Mystery can, mystery can, into the mouth and out though your can”. The room was still abuzz with how great VOIVOD was. Let me give a little history, VOIVOD is Keith’s favorite band and, admittedly, influenced his guitar writing style and helped to shape the sound of all the bands he’s been in. At the 2018 MDF Will and Keith had conspired to offer the idea of the 6 of us doing a one-time band at MDF. We have a name and everything. Flash forward to now times:

Keith – I have the best idea with no room for change
All – Ok, sure , let’s hear it, what is it, …
Keith – When we do our thing we should cover the entire War and Pain album.
Me – I’m in. What’s that?
Keith – VIOVOD’s first album
Me – HEY! What if we call it “Warren Payne” and all the songs are about a guy with blonde feathered hair in a tan suit, and the songs are about being employee of the month, and the bland egg salad sandwich he eats for lunch every day?
All – Groans
Keith – Hard no!

MDF-Metal Up Your Ass
“I found a spot on the 2nd floor of Ram’s Head that was clean and terrific except for the person that was there before me had clearly never played in the NBA.” Photo: Justin Dratson

Today we arrived early enough to catch the first bands. All bands were terrific but I was having some bubble gut and had to find a clean place to make a butt baby. I found a spot on the 2nd floor of Ram’s Head that was clean and terrific except for the person that was there before me had clearly never played in the NBA  (see pic). The big deal for me today was that I was going to see the Cro-Mags for the first time. I already had a plan. I was going to walk up to Jon Joseph and it was going to go like this:

Me – Hi Jon.
Jon – Hi Paul. There’s a fukin’ H in my name.
Me – I know, but this is my recap and I changed it so I don’t have your publicist to Google search this and get mad at me.
Jon – Gah ahead.
Me – As you know, my mom’s a vegan and she thinks you’re funny and charming and I’m not asking you to be my new dad, but would you make a recipe for her, and make a Youtube video of it?
Jon – Sure. Does she like fukin’ summer squash ‘n shit?
Me  – Probably.
Jon – I fukin’ got just the thing. 

But guess what. The Cro-Mags had to cancel and somewhere between finding out that they weren’t playing and that Drop Dead was playing, I was told that I can take my beer outside, which opened up an entirely new world. Because of the new mobile drink discovery, I wandered around all of the tents selling all things but always found myself back at the Season of Mist tent. I hung out with them for a while. I think I might have missed 12 bands. My first year there I told them that I didn’t know anything about Death or Metal or Doom but I would give them $50 bux and they could pick out their favorite for me. This year I gave them $100 to give me their favorites. I like everything they’ve sent my way. I can’t say that I’m a fan yet but I’m slowly seeing the bigger picture. It was right around this time that I walked back in to see whichever band was on and I sided up to Mario as the band was about to start:

Me- Did he just say, “We’re called ANAL CRACKPIPE”?
Mario – No, he said Ahhnnl Naathhhrock (Anaal Nathrakh)

Turns out that Anaal Nathrakh are not only pretty great but are also well versed in the enchantments of the great wizard Merlin and lizards that need to remember to brush after every meal.

Earlier, I went to check the Drop Dead merch and started talking to their guitar player/merch slinger Ben. Turns out that my good buddy Derek K. (from Philly) gave Ben his guitar. We started talking about some other stuff:
Me – So… do you have any shirts with swear words on them? My 12 year old daughter Celeste wants a shirt with swears.
Ben – We do. A couple in fact. There’s this one with the head in a vice. He holds it out. It says “Fucking Assholes Don’t Get It” on the front and “Against Animal Experimentation – It’s Not Too Late to Evolve.”

MDF_Dropdead
“… so this is better than some lewd shit.” Photo: Justin Dratson

Me – I’ll take it. A few years ago, when Celeste was in 1st grade, she decided she didn’t want to eat meat anymore so this is better than just some lewd shit.
Ben – What made her decide that?
Me – Every day she would walk by these cows that our neighbor, the topless farmer, had and…
Ben –Topless farmer?
Me – Dude never wore a shirt. I mean ever. And he had 10 cows with name tags in their ears. Celeste fed them grass and it got so when the cows would hear the school bus pull up that they’d go over to the fence and wait for her. Jordan and Sam were her favorites. One day they weren’t there anymore so we had to gently explain that the topless farmer raised them to eat them. She cried like crazy.
Ben – Ohh man.
Me – Here’s the kicker, we’d just recently put our Great Dane Buttercup to sleep because she was riddled with bone cancer, so Celeste asked if we were going to eat Buttercup, so I got to use that Gorilla Biscuits line.
Ben – The cats and dogs one?
Me –Yeah, so… I guess that was cool?

When I arrived back to see Drop Dead play they were already a couple songs in, & the place was packed. I made my way around to the right side of the stage. Over the PA I heard something about millions of animals being slaughtered and that’s when I saw the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. Up front, against the stage were two people  kissing. No, I mean making out. They were going at it like they were teenagers at a basement party locked in a closet. I thought it would stop when the song was over but it
didn’t and it didn’t stop after the next song or after the following 10 songs. Drop Dead played a brutal and amazing set of all the classics and even a couple new ones. When they were over, the couple was still making out. After the room had cleared out, they were still making out. It was so ostentatious that photos of the two could be used in a teenage abstinence pamphlet titled “Toilet Seats and Kissing Will Get You Pregnant”. And at the same time, it was heartwarming. People had been leaping over them, bumping into them, Drop Dead even made mention of them during their set.

DropDead_3
“Up front, against the stage were two people  kissing. No, I mean making out.” Photo: Justin Dratson

 

DropDead_1
The amorous sounds of Drop Dead on display at Maryland Death Fest. Photo: Justin Dratson
DropDead_2
“Drop Dead played a brutal and amazing set of all the classics and even a couple new ones. When they were over, the couple was still making out.” Photo: Justin Dratson

MFD day 3 Saturday
Things are a bit blurry here. In my notes I had written “Coffin Dust killed it” and nothing else. I was excited to see Grotesque Organ Defilement, and see if it was a bunch of Aunt Claras playing church organs, or if it fell more in line with rest of the fest. Also, I wanted to see Squash Bowels because … Squash Bowels! Right!? Are they vegetables that are created in labs to take the place of damaged human bowels or is it a 2 word order to go and start squashing bowels? And the answer to both these questions is I don’t know. I
was talking and goofing around and I completely missed both of the bands. Somewhere in here Steve started drinking these bright blue drinks and then we all were drinking them, our tongues changed color, we laughed a bunch, and all of the bands I wanted to see I missed. 
 
MDF Day 4 Sunday
I left. We went out to brunch with a couple of Mario’s old hometown pals but I had to go meet my friend Derek in Chicago to see Mudhoney. Metz opened and were concussive and nonstop. Mudhoney came out and did their thing. Interestingly to me is that it seemed like when they did their encore of “You Stupid Asshole” by the Angry Samoans, that few people in the crowd seemed to know the song, but when they played “Hate the Police” by the Dicks, everyone went nuts. Question… is it possible that people think that
“Hate the Police” is a Mudhoney song?  After their show we went to the bar at the front of the venue.  My vision was blurred from the long weekend of little sleep and too many mystery cans of beer that when a group of mid/late 50s folks in boat shoes and pastel shorts walked over to the doors we’d just left through, I leaned over to Derek: 
Me- Look at all those drunk uncles walking over to that lady that looks my Aunt Linda
Derek – (glances over his shoulder and back at me) That’s Mark Arm.
Me – Oh…want to get a picture with him?
Derek – I do.

MDF-Mudhoney
Mudhoney. Photo: Derek

A few weeks later I sent an LP mockup of “Warren Payne” to our MDF secret band group.

MDF_Warren Payne
The Monocle “Warren Payne” LP. Already sold out. Photo: Justin Dratson

MDF 2020 is May 21-24. I already have my weekend pass. 257 days away. See ya there, perhaps.  (JD)
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/maryland-deathfest-2020-tickets-63476056594?aff=website

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