Paganfest 2014: Live at The Palladium, Worcester, MA

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The last stop on this year’s Paganfest America tour was Worcester, MA, in the tiny upstairs portion of The Palladium. With a lineup consisting of the Finnish darlings Korpiklaani and Turisas, Taiwan’s Chthonic, Germany’s VARG, and Cincinnati’s own Winterhymn, it was bound to be an excellent way to spend a Sunday night.

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Wait a minute. A folk metal band…from Ohio? It’s true! If you’re like me, you’re used to folk metal coming from European countries but Winterhymn plays the part well, violin and all. It may have been the last show of the tour but they played as though it were the very first and the crowd danced and drank along with every song. Even their tour mates in VARG got involved when they came onstage to prank the band by slathering them in fake blood in the middle of their set. All in all, it was a job well done.

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Let’s get this out of the way right now: I love Germans and I probably shouldn’t be allowed into their country unsupervised. That said, how did I feel about VARG? I loved them too and judging by the crowd’s reaction, they agreed with me. I had heard of this band in passing but this was my first time actually being exposed to their music. One of the highlights of the evening was when Winterhymn came back out to stage dive and crowd surf near the end of VARG’s set. They were the heaviest band on the bill and easily wound up sneaking into my number two spot because of this. They were loud, energetic, and perhaps even a tad intimidating. I would love to see them again in the future.

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The third band on the bill was Chthonic. Their sound seemed a bit out of place compared to the other bands. It was bit too monotonous for my taste but they were visually interesting. Chthonic was using screens and lights in an area where most bands choose to not to simply due to the lack of space for anything, but the musicians themselves. Overall, they weren’t bad but they also didn’t wow me either. I didn’t have a very strong opinion either way after this performance but I am willing to give them another shot the next time they come Stateside.

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I have to be completely honest and say that the reason that I even went to this show in the first place was specifically to see Turisas again. If you have never had a chance to see them live, you can usually pick out fans in the crowd by their red and black war paint. There were more crowd surfers during Turisas’ set than any other band but it was their closing song that really took the cake. Sure, they have a ton of great original material but everyone and their mom has a huge soft spot for their cover of Boney M’sRasputin’. The band pulled over a dozen people up on stage to dance and sing along with them. It was a great way to end things and I’m glad that years of demanding to have that song played has finally paid off.

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Headliners Korpiklaani seemed a bit more subdued than the last time I had seen them. I was expecting lots of dancing and men resembling wizards making strange hand gestures. The typical playful banter was instead replaced with their brand of face melting folk metal. Korpiklaani definitely put on a top notch show and things were significantly less boozy until the band ended with ‘Happy Little Boozer’ and we danced with our Jager Bombs held up high. It was a mess. It was interesting to see a group that I usually consider more of a “party band” take a different approach and I believe it worked well. Could this be a sign of things to come? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what these Finns have into store for us next.

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You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t enjoyed attending a Paganfest show. From the great lineups bursting at the seams with incredible talent to fellow fans dressed in full Viking garb, these events are not to be missed and grow in size every year. Here’s hoping Paganfest 2015 gets moved downstairs so we can get some real dancing in.

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WORDS BY ALEIDA LA LLAVE

PHOTOS BY CHRIS SMALL OF CWS PHOTOGRAPHY