Maryland Deathfest 2014: Day 2

MDF XII: Friday, May 23, 2014

Day 2 of Maryland Deathfest 2014 is a wrap (or make that Day 1, if you’re counting by full-on multi-venue fest days). There were a few less than ideal things too significant not to notice: the time needed to move between venues (not that I actually tried), the lack of free water, the slightly sub-par sound, the cost of beer… But I’m getting these things out of the way off the bat so I can get to my actual experience of this year’s first main stage event day, which wasn’t negative at all.


Our hotel has some pretty effective room-darkening blinds. I woke up thinking it was the middle of the night only to realize I better get my ass in gear if I wanted to take advantage of free breakfast. I made it with plenty of time to spare (plus a little time for metal celeb-spotting – though it took my sleepy brain a while to realize why the Swede next to me at the breakfast bar looked so familiar…).

With the nearest grocery store out of commission, Team Triple-Dub (aka Team Curmudgeon, aka Team Old Farts, aka Walschots-Wills-and-Wiebe) took a scenic stroll up N Charles St through the picturesque Mt Vernon district toward Eddie’s – a very serviceable independent grocery store on W Eager St. Morning/early afternoon escapades kept us occupied a little longer than we’d planned, but soon we were on our way down the hill toward the Edison Lot.

The Edison Lot

veganAsianWills and Wiebe opted for the main stage-only pass this year, so you won’t read anything more from me on the Ram’s Head or the Soundstage, though we spoke to people who were making the trek back and forth.

We arrived at the Edison Lot to join the end of a long but decently paced line during (or shortly before?) Mgla‘s set and we had to enjoy most of it at a distance. But enjoy we did. I’d never heard them before but am definitely interested in hearing more.

Shortly after we made our way inside ,The Ruins of Beverast began their set, and as odd as it is to consume atmospheric black metal on a sunny afternoon with cars speeding by in the background… well, I was still impressed.

Agalloch (photo by Adam Wills)

Agalloch (photo by Adam Wills)

After that I was in the mood for merch and willing to forego watching Necros Christos while listening from the other side of the fence. (The merch alley was somewhat segregated from the stage areas.) To be honest, I kind of tuned out, not really listening with any serious attention until the next switch-up when Iceland’s Solstafir began to play. I’m open to what they’re doing but only just heard them for the first time recently, so I’m still just getting to know them and not ready to make a conclusive judgement. And while they definitely caught my ear, that was partly because they were distinctly different from what we’d been hearing so far.

It hurt me a little to miss Taake after that, but the groceries in our suite fridge were calling. Reunited, our team made its way back to the hotel for a meal break (and more wonderfully bad SyFy programming) before returning to the fest.


Jack Fruit “pulled pork” and tacos

As we returned to the Edison Lot, the layout and the lighting had me imagining an alternate reality MDF featuring a metal-themed midway complete with games and rides. Instead, we arrived back to find that Agalloch had started without us (the horror!). I found this bothered me more the longer they played. After seeing Agalloch several times already I wasn’t especially excited to see them perform again, and the rather muddy mix made it hard to enjoy the intricacies of their sound. But as their set progressed they drew me in all over again, reminding me of their skill as song writers and as performers – and their magic.

At the Gates (photo by Adam Wills)

At the Gates (photo by Adam Wills)

A slight delay before At the Gates began, and then an immediate short break to sort out some technical problems, meant that all the adrenalin I’d been building up during Agalloch started to ebb away. Last summer at Heavy MTL I was thrilled to see At the Gates. This year at MDF it just seemed alright – nothing special –and these old farts (ie Team Triple-Dub) ended up feeling no guilt about turning in early. And I have no shame in announcing that the last thing we watched before bed was the end of a Murder She Wrote episode. (In fact, I was tempted to write that detail in all caps.)

The important extras

I haven’t taken advantage of it yet, but I was happy to see an area of picnic tables set up under the shade of the overpass – especially so as I felt the mid-afternoon beating down and frying my oh-so-burn-prone white girl skin (though standing beside Walschots I look comparatively swarthy).

MDF_XII_programI kind of liked the lay-out of the merch alley too – not too claustrophobic and lots of opportunities to browse. I stocked up on patches, a book and one shirt so far. Today or tomorrow I’ll turn to looking at the actual music for sale.

Of course, I also have to emphasize how much it warms my dried up little heart to see the variety of vegan food options available from the vendors! Plus the vegan-friendly food listed in the ‘guide to Baltimore’ section of the excellently put together official MDF program.

Bands aside, the food and especially the merch options at MDF make this a so much more scene-friendly fest than events run by more mainstream entertainment and promotions companies. For example, as great an event as Heavy MTL has been each time I’ve attended, it fails miserably in terms of supporting the retail, publishing, distribution, etc. elements of the scene, making for a much more ‘commercialized’ experience. Sure, commercial transactions of a sort are taking place all up and down the line of merch booths at MDF, but I don’t think there’s any company larger than Century Media represented and many much smaller. The people selling are people who, like their customers, are actively involved in the metal scene.

using rock n roll to raise $ for spaying and neutering rescue pets

using rock n roll to raise $ for spaying and neutering rescue pets

Hellbounder-spotting and other encounters

I’m not a super social gal, but one of the pleasures of an event like this is the opportunity to enjoy the festival in the company of many cool people I don’t spend nearly enough time with. In addition to my fellow hotel curmudgeons and the always awesome Kevin Nunes, we ran into Hellbounders Kevin Stewart-Panko, Albert Mansour and Laina Dawes (Laina was working the Handshake, Inc. table). We also met some new folks, including some Albertans (we’d actually met one of those the night before as well). Today I hope to add some more names to the list.

Read more: Day 1 recap

Laura is associate editor of and co-host of weekly metal show Kill Eat Exploit the Weak on CFMU 93.3 FM. She loves doom, prog, cats and basketball, believes in equity and social justice and is not cool with any form of discrimination, marginalization, harassment or oppression.