A three-day music festival in the woods with rock, punk, metal, copious amount of drinking, and an undying sense of community… throw that all in a blender with some camping and yard games and you get RPM Fest. The “Heaviest Party of the Summer” and the unofficial end to the summer in the New England metal scene. This was my 2nd year at RPM Fest so I knew what to expect, but at the same time, I didn’t know what to expect. As it is never a repeat of the year prior at this loud and dirty circus. Continue reading
Day 3 of Rock and Shock was underway by the time I arrived in Worcester. Rock and Shock, like all events at this venue is a big party type atmosphere. Especially when you run into all of your peers and scene regulars who make the shows here so fun. Some of my peeps were looking pretty rough from a few longs nights and days of metal and gore-tastic fun. I was feeling pretty fresh since I took it easy this year and only made it to day 3. As much as I am a fan of King Diamond and Overkill (a huge fan) I have seen The King before and the `Kill countless times, so I was good. This date of the fest has some amazing bands, but most notably The return of Life of Agony and GWAR‘s return to Worcester without Oderus Urungus (RIP Dave Brockie).
One of the downsides to the stacked bill on both the large downstairs stage and the smaller upstairs room was the over-lapping of band sets that took place. More about this in a bit. I showed up a little too late to see local stars in the making such as Conforza and Swarm of Eyes share the small stage along side of national touring bands such as American Shark and Thy Will Be Done. I caught some of their blistering set and I always wonder why these guys aren’t better known by now. I’m sure their new album is going to be killer. I also caught a little bit of Carnifex who is always solid and had a big showing of fans in the pit by the main stage.
Then came the consternation-having part of the day. Origin was to headline the small stage, which if you’ve ever experienced them live, you know how much fun they can be. However, playing at the exact same time was Origin’s Nuclear Blast label-mates Decapitated, fresh off the release of their amazing new album Blood Mantra. I went through all the stages of denial. How could this be allowed to happen? Two of my favorite bands competing for my attention. Them came the torn and angry stage. How the fuck did this happen? And the final stage, righteous indignation: this better never happen to me ever again!!! Seriously…. what the hell is my problem (a first world problem at that!). I tried to be pragmatic as ever, but there was no way to really see both bands. I watched the intro and the entire first song from Decapitated, which was face-melting fast! There was a huge crowd for them, but not too much of a pit for such a killer opening song as ‘Exiled in Flash’. As the second song started I turned on a dime and ran (or my approximation of running) upstairs to see Origin positively destroying the second stage. The tiny presentation just made them seem larger than life, awesome. On of the things that makes me crazy about Origin is how out of control technical they are, while looking like the barely break a sweat. One guy sweating was vocalist Jason Keyser who has really taken over and owned his spot on the mic. The pit action was non-stop and there were even some chubby vest wearing crowd surfers! Playing a mix of old and new tracks, the proved to be one of the best bands of the day, and can rival Dying Fetus as a live act any day. Towards the end of the set they had the fans do a river of death or a red sea of death or um, a chicken dance of death… I couldn’t tell. All I know is the entire floor of people bumrushed each other in a a cool new way I never saw before. Game. Set. Match. Origin.
With scant little time to spare I darted out of the building to hit the convention center briefly. I essentially did a victory lap in the venue and I have to echo the sentiment of my esteemed colleague Tim Ledin from his review, which is one must really earmark time to make sure to get over to this. It looked pretty amazing with horror movie stars meeting and mingling, tons of vendors, a horror movie film fest, live tattooing, and much more. My other motive for hitting the convention up was a brief but fun interview with Alan Robert of Life of Agony. Not so fun was the look of death stare Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein gave me as I interrupted, him, LOA’s Joey Z and Alan from talking to get my interview done. Thems the breaks when your a music journo folks! Sometimes you gotta risk a beatdown from a legend to get your story.
Finishing with Alan, I ran back in the venue to catch most of Darkest Hour’s set. With the newly shorn of his long locks, front man John Henry struck an even more imposing figure on the stage. DH is always a solid live band, if some days not spectacular. They never have a problem playing with any kind of bill and certainly brought out their heavy material playing between Decapitated and Dying Fetus. They definitely had their fans in the house, as they always do, but the rest of the crowd wasn’t feeling them as strongly as I have seen in the past.
Next was one of the highlight bands of the fest in Dying Fetus. I have spend many hours in the past espousing how brutal and tight the DF crew is live, so for a change of pace, I am going to just list some observations that I noted during their set.
No band has as many female moshers or crowdsurfers as them.
Trey Williams is perhaps tireless and flawless as a death metal drummer.
Even when Dying Fetus doesn’t play their “hit” songs, as a fan you are never left disappointed by what they did play.
I have never seen John Gallagher smile once. Ever.
Sean Beasley’s forearms look like giant butternut squashes, holding up a bass guitar.
There is almost no band except for Cannibal Corpse that is as good live in death metal.
Despite following that tough act in Fetus, Unearth came up like they owned the stage. The usual almost-hometown band schtick always works for them at The Palladium. This time was no exception. Their new material from their new album Watchers of Rule (eOne) was very solid and I think will surprise people with its throwback (hardcore metal, less metalcore) angle. At the same time, some of the fun Unearth has playing live seems to feel a little scripted to me these days. Maybe I have just seen this band too many times in the past. Could be. Still tuneful and entertaining.
For me seeing Life of Agony again was always going to be emotional, as it always is. I was most looking forward to seeing this band, before the fest happened. I was blown away by how many LOA heads were in the house, especially since to me they are such a quintessential New York metal band, and Worcester is spitting distance to Boston. I told myself I wasn’t gonna cry, but exactly three notes into ‘River Runs Red’ and tears were rolling down my face. I couldn’t really help it. I know a lot of people feel like LOA is an unknown commodity these days, but even the toughest hardcore dude from back in the day dare not front on the sanctified, emotive lyrics of this killer band. They played great considering they only had one show recently, a sell-out, comeback-type affair in New Jersey in September. They also chose an immaculate set list full of gems. I definitely lost it a few more times, most notably during ‘Bad Seed’, ‘I Regret’, and ‘Lost At 22’. Anyone in attendance could vouch for the fact that Mina Caputo’s spot on performance was the individual, musical highlight of the day. Part fiery blues shamaness, part rocking chanteuse, part hardcore hellion all grown up: she gave a chilling and inspiring display. Fans who are going to catch this act live in a few months time in Europe, I am jealous of you all.
Last and not least, it was go time for GWAR. With many Bohabs traveling far and wide (and local) to see one of the first shows minus the late great Dave Brockie, there was a lot of pre-fest talk if they should be touring at all without the visage of Oderus Urungus in tow. People asked me if I thought they have the right to go on. I say, yes, yes they do! For a full 20 minutes before the band took the stage, the crowd loudly chanted for the band and Oderus. Fans were already moshing and surfing with no band on the stage! Finally a sampling of ‘War Pigs’ over the PA got people a little under control. The reaction of the crowd was succinct: GWAR was back, and the death of its front man wasn’t going to stop people from wanting to get fake blood and jizz on them.
And they backed it up with an amazing show! Starting with the premise of a missing Oderus (and an appearance I was not ready for, of Oderus performing from outer-space via video) the entire troupe of scumdogs running through an intricate story of missing their leader, coping without him, everyone vying temporarily for his spot in the band, and finally, accepting his death. It was heavy, but I could not stop laughing or smiling until the end. Oddly enough the entire band seemed a lot more animated and mobile on stage with out the big guy there. New additions Blothar and Vulvatron were fine and it was killer to see Gor Gor too.
The end of the set, where they acknowledged his death was one of the deepest things I have ever seen in metal. They had a moment of silence for Brockie/Oderus and brought his sword on stage, with everyone taking a knee and bowing. Tears were flowing, including the band members who broke character for a few minutes of painful realism. With the singing of ‘The Road Behind’ nearly everyone in the venue was welling up and losing it. It was tough, but good a group to share this experience. Then after another brief silence the band celebrated their “breakthrough” of acceptance by playing their new cover song ‘West End Girls’ and calling it a night. It was a draining, but satisfying way to send out the show and night. Yes, it is not the same old GWAR and I hope in time they can go back to a more traditional type of show. At the same time, how many bands had to deal with this kind of loss and have done so well with it? The moral of the story is GWAR rules and even death can’t stop them.
WORDS: KEITH (KEEFY CHACHKES)