The A389 Bash has long been a veritable bastion of the Central Atlantic scene. The guy behind it, Dom, is a veritable genius whose heart is on fire with love for the scene. This weekend, my birthday weekend, was a blast and allowed me to get a better understanding of American metal culture. He gave us all a sense of freedom, a look forward into a world we are all coming down to, a world that we must embrace for the scene to continue, for such is the nature of underground music as an eternal liberating force.
Another day, another chance to go out and enjoy Baltimore, and perhaps more importantly feel the strength of the scene around us. Today I would see nine bands, and get to watch Noisem practice. In other words, it was, to use the parlance of our times, the shit. The day started off early, we had to be ready to load into the Noisem van (Which is starting to become in need of repairs) right after the band finished practicing and I had to pack up my stuff, because I would be getting a ride home that night. While the adventure may have been coming to a close, the best was yet to come.
One of the biggest highlights of my trip to Baltimore was getting to watch Noisem practice in the basement of the Phillips brothers. Surrounded by guitars I watched these guys blaze through their setlist keeping it tight and accurate. Perhaps more impressive is that, according to Billy Carnes the bands bassist, this was only their second practice in as many months. As much as these guys claim to be punk, and only in it for the fun, there is a sense of morbid professionalism that keeps them going. There is no stopping the immortal attack of this band as they thrash their way into your heart. Though I may have missed the first band to take the stage at the Charm City Art Space I think this rare opportunity was much more valuable and gave me a profound incite into the workings of a band I love.
The first band I did get to see was the surprisingly memorable Lifeless. Normally with shows that have a lot of hardcore bands they all kind of blend together and I get lost somewhere in the mix, but this set stood out. Lifeless have a wonderful ferocity to them, and watching something like that early in the afternoon is a lot of fun. It got my blood going and whetted my appetite for bands to come. Though I would have to go out to get food after these guys wrapped up, I knew that they were a great way to start my day and made me eager to come back for more. Lifeless understand what hardcore is all about and they deliver punishing and fun music that anyone can latch on too.
After a quick break to eat for the first time in twenty four hours, I went back to the venue and checked out the face ripping Like Rats. At first I was a bit dismayed, thinking they were just another hardcore act. Then they pulled a creepy Slayer-esque melodic line out of their collective hats and forced me to re-evaluate my stance on the band. Suddenly it all made sense, coming together in a sort of unified masterpiece that proved to me for once and for all the crushing might that these guys have. By adding just a touch of contrast their hardcore attack became that much more powerful, inspiring me to dive into the pit and take a few heads. In a venue as crowded and DIY as this one, the fact that they could get people going was impressive. Bodies flew and crashed into the stage, and we weren’t even on the headliners yet!
Magrudergrind were the band I was most looking forward to seeing on this particular bill. I had watched them pull off a twenty minute set (Maybe even less!) when they played with Noisem in Philadelphia back in September, so I was, of course, excited to see what they would come up with this time around. Suffice to say I was impressed with their attack and the ferocity of the bands lead singer. Their new drummer has a wonderful approach to the bands music and helps to keep the energy level up. For a three piece with only one guitar and no bassist they are remarkably heavy, something that escaped me the last time I saw them. Kids destroyed each other in the pit, and it was a pleasure to watch them leave a pint of blood on that stage.
The final band of this matinee was In Cold Blood. They kicked things off ferociously, unwilling to bend and immediately got the fans into it. I have a distinct memory of a kid stage diving and then crowd killing while crowd surfing, which, while probably super hardcore, doesn’t seem like a good idea. They played fairly standard hardcore, driven forth by the ferocious drumming of Matt Izzi who also plays in Homewrecker (Who actually were to play later in the day) He, in particular provided the necessary means for the necessary means to keep their set as violent as a hardcore show should be. They were a fun end to a great afternoon show and got me excited for the chaos to come that evening with the five final bands of the festival.
After In Cold Blood finished up, I went out and bumped into John Hoffman of Weekend Nachos fame. He proved to be incredibly friendly and rapidly consented to an interview. Let me just say, that he is a truly stand up dude, and someone who really gets what hardcore and metal should be all about. In our brief conversation, he really communicated an understanding, not just of extreme music, but how it should manifest itself in our lives. As I wandered about Baltimore with members of Bandit and my long time adventuring pal Jake, I took a moment to reflect on what this underground music means for us, and how this scene is what gives us identity, and if that’s the case, how we should act in order to maintain a modicum of self respect.
The sun set, the time was ripe, the hour was nigh, use whatever phrase you want to describe it, but the crowd was pregnant with desire for the final and most stacked bill of the festival. Genocide Pact kicked it off right with some of the most gut wrenching and sludgy death metal I’ve heard in a good long while. Though their tones were too muddy for some, I thought the primal heaviness that they tapped in too was actually quite impressive. It left me with my jaw on the floor as I tried to reconcile the incredible darkness that they had managed to evoke in a far-too-brief twenty minute set. They dug their fingers into my skull and slammed me into the wall, a slave to the mind bending power these guys have.
As I mentioned before, Homewrecker were destined to play this bill, and they simply tore it up. Playing a distinctly more hardcore oriented set than the last time I saw them, they got the Baltimore crowd all riled up moving and shaking to the face ripping grooves this band unleash. Their use of two vocalists is pretty cool and helps to keep things fresh. This set further proved to me that Matt Izzi is a beast in man’s flesh. This man plays with a madness that is simply not human, and it makes every Homewrecker set I have had the honor to see extremely enjoyable. These guys ripped it up and left everyone bloodthirsty for Noisem.
Now, I’d seen Noisem three times before this, and each time they got better. I didn’t think they could clear the bar they had set the last time I saw them in Philadelphia when I moshed until I could no longer move. Yet somehow they did. With stage diving and moshing throughout people went absolutely nuts for the bands attack. These guys have the perfect mix of thrash and death metal with touches of technicality to keep everything exciting. Musical masters who would never dare admit to their own ingenuity these guys rip the world apart whenever they perform. They get what death metal is supposed to be about and leave everyone begging for more. The wave of the future dude, Noisem are this generations metal masters and there is no telling where they will end up next.
Full Of Hell are another band I’ve seen a whole mess of times and who have continually gotten better. This time was the best yet. Fully relaxed and coming on stage to applause and war whoops I immediately knew people would be killing each other for this band. Playing with an inhuman energy at a ridiculous volume they took me to an alternate dimension where time doesn’t exist. They were over in an instant, or perhaps it was a year, I still can’t tell. All I know is that they swept me away and forced me to reconsider everything I know about music. This is the kind of band who give me the freedom to believe that anything is possible and through their formula of vigorous and liberating death it is impossible to feel pain. This band will set you free, so go forth and let their almighty deathcrush of a sound fill your soul with blackened beauty.
The final band to grace the stage on this fine Saturday was Weekend Nachos. Now, I knew of this band, they played at Hellfest last year and I got their last record on promo, but I wouldn’t really call myself a fan. Yet after the set they played a couple nights ago, I can’t help but feel that I’m in love. They got everybody moving, destroying the venue with unbridled energy. John Hoffmans face as he prances around the stage is a thing to watch, communicating a wealth of emotion. His antics are fun to watch and keep the entire thing a high energy event. These guys bring the crowd to a sort of emotional climax, and by the time the whole thing is over, you can’t hep but feel satisfied, and in a strange way, clean. Weekend Nachos will guide you through the trials and tribulation of everyday life and show you a path to triumph, and that is something far too few bands can do these days.
And so the journey home began. My fried Gene and I hit the road, braving poor driving conditions with the hope of a brave new day before us. On the ride we talked about the power these hardcore bands have. Extreme music is all we have to give us life and it’s rare that we get a chance to really look into the very nature of what gives us a sense of being. Glances behind the veil like this, into the true nature of the scene are extremely special. They give us a chance to reflect upon the darkness that haunts us all and gives us a chance to look to the East for that bold and hopeful sunrise perpetuating the whole darn human comedy. Aw look at me, I’m rambling again. Well I hope you folks enjoyed yourselves. Catch ya further on down the trail.