Woke up this morning with not the worst headache ever, but certainly enough of one to get the job done. If you made me guess, I’d say I’d probably done some drinking. It was early, and I posted the notes from last night and crashed out some more before finally getting up around 10AM and deciding that a cure was needed. Fortunately, there’s a Waffle House attached to the Days Inn where I’m staying, and that shit is so greasy it’s like carpetbombing your hangover. Mission accomplished there, I made for CVS to buy earplugs, then to a coffee house to get that fix, and finally, to Krug’s Place for day two of Stoner Hands of Doom XI.
It’s already after 2AM again (funny how the timing of these things works out), so I’m going to stick with the note form from yesterday, and in all likelihood, I’ll again nod off before I finish and post it tomorrow. Not the end of the world. Part of me hopes so anyway. This afternoon and tonight, I saw 14 bands. Everyone who took the stage at Krug’s, I caught at least part of their set. In the immortal words of Nebula, “It’s been a long, long day.” Here’s how it went down:
The PB Army: They switched places with Ambition Burning, who were running late and played second. I didn’t know that at the time, and despite the fact that I’ve seen them before, they have a singing drummer in Keith Bergman, and the guitarist was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, I still thought I was looking at Ambition Burning until Bergman announced who they were. I must have sat there for 15 minutes and it never even occurred to me. I actually slapped my forehead. When they got going, The PB Army ruled. Uptempo heavy rock to start the day. I also give them credit because, like me, they were there for the entire show. Not always in the room where the bands played — in fact, mostly at the bar from what I saw, drinking the PBR from which they take their name — but there nonetheless. Where most left, they stuck around. That should say something.
Ambition Burning: This was the first time today when I was really jealous of the scene down here. These guys are former members of two bands I’ve previously played with and dug: Durga Temple and VOG, and they were easily the most thrashing act of the day. They hit it fast and loud and came off like Gwar-meets-Lair of the Minotaur. Some riffy parts, but more head-down punk fury. It worked well, and their last song showed a weird progressive bent that’s never going to hurt them. Heavy stuff for heavy heads.
Sinister Realm: This Allentown, Pennsylvania, five-piece were also quite metal, but in a completely different way. I had to remind myself who they were by reading my review of their last album from 2009, and what I took away from that was that they were very metal, and so they were. Full-on oldschool metal, complete with Dio Sabbath riff complexity, Trouble‘s Marshall tones and Judas Priest fist-pumping rhythms. They have a new record out called The Crystal Eye, which I bought, and they played a couple songs from it, but what really caught my attention aside from the coordinated rocking among the string section was that bassist/backing vocalist John Gaffney (who also played in Pale Divine later) had written at least four print fanzines dedicated solely to Candlemass. Fucking awesome. Maybe the best seven dollars I spent today buying one of the issues.
Muffler Crunch: They were the surprise of the day. A male/female Canadian duo, guitarist/vocalist Luke Lavigne and drummer/lead vocalist Angie Neatby absolutely destroyed. Lavigne, armed with an acoustic guitar run through a Dual Rectifier, was a noisy, feedback-laden, ultra-distorted mess (and I mean that in the best way possible) and Neatby, through a headset microphone — which I’m usually not a fan of for singing drummers, because you hear every breath they take when they’re not singing — laid down blues righteousness like it was coming back in style. Things got really fascinating when they slammed on the breaks and went uber-doom, with Lavinge adding death growls. Trippy stuff. Definitely different, definitely dug it. Definitely a hard act to follow.
Iron Front: Straightforward heavy rock. Not really stoner, but probably digs on a Kyuss record every now and again. They covered Soundgarden, but did “Outshined,” which was kind of a bummer, since it’s not one of their best and it’s the kind of track you’re never going to be able to do as well as the original. Their original stuff was better, but like they didn’t really add anything to the cover, they also rested comfortably on a stylistic middle-ground that, particularly after Muffler Crunch, seemed like ground that had already been covered. Not bad — I wouldn’t be ready to count them out completely — but seemed to be just on the other side of what piques my interest. They pulled a good crowd though, so there’s that.
Electric Magma: Probably the band I saw the least of, owing to dinner. It was 6:30 by the time the Toronto trio went on, and while I most definitely enjoyed their fuzzy instrumentals from the next room, I’ll admit that it was the hot roast beef sandwich with fries as the foremost occupant of my attentions. I felt guilty and bought one of their records later on — the one I didn’t think I already owned, as it happens. Figured that’d probably be the way to go.
Lo-Pan: What the hell else is there to say about these dudes? At this point, I feel like even saying they were the tightest rock band playing tonight undersells it, because they go beyond that. Go see Lo-Pan. There. I put it in bold. In talking before (and after) their set, they were telling me about the Dude Locker III fest they’re putting on Sept. 10 in their native Columbus, Ohio. Apparently Chapstik is playing, along with 20 or so other bands on two stages. To hear them tell it, they’ll also be destroying a car. I might have to make the roadtrip for that. More details here. In the meantime, Lo-Pan slayed like Lo-Pan slays. They’re dominant live and they know it.
Admiral Browning: Another instance where I was jealous of the Maryland/surrounding-states scene. Admiral Browning‘s uniquely thick and riffy progressive instrumentals went over huge, and I’m always amazed that there’s a climate down here for this kind of thing. Back home in New Jersey, there’s nothing. Nothing. Fucking pop punk bands out the ass, and here’s Admiral Browning, brazenly exploring untested musical ground in a supportive community just 250 miles away. A boy could cry at the sight of it, much like a boy could cry at the sight of Admiral Browning‘s technical prowess, which they, as ever, presented at SHoD in a manner entirely void of pretense. It was the band’s 200th show, and beardly bassist Ron “Fez” McGinnis was doubling as the stage manager for the fest. He had the unenviable duty of corralling stoner rockers all night, which was a task he handled like a pro.
Pale Divine: I remembered seeing this Pennsylvanian trio with The Hidden Hand in Philly years back around when their second album, Eternity Revealed, came out in 2004. As I mentioned before, Candlemass-loving Sinister Realm bassist John Gaffney played here as well, and they were precisely the kind of heavy traditional doom one expects to find at SHoD. It’s a style that doesn’t go over everywhere, but goes over really well here. They were more than decently heavy if not necessarily the most exciting act of the night, but I had to make an escape for a bit. I came back to the hotel, changed out of my stinking shirt, threw on some deodorant (it had already been a sweaty day), and went back to Krug’s feeling like a new man.
War Injun: It was fortunate that I was feeling like a new man, because the energy War Injun brought to the stage was formidable. I’d also stopped drinking before Pale Divine went on, and was well on my way to sobered up — a status I’d keep for the rest of the night — and was glad for the lucidity that let me better appreciate drummer JB Matson‘s chest-rattling kick. Vocalist JD Williams (formerly of Internal Void) gave Earthride‘s Dave Sherman a run for his money as the most charismatic frontman of the evening, and it was clear that the double-guitar fivesome knew their way around Maryland doom. The audience they pulled in might have been the best of the night, which was only unfortunate because the room thinned out some when they were finished.
Blood Farmers: On sheer sound alone, they were the best doom band that played today. There was nothing showy about what they did, but the sound was perfect for them, Eli Brown‘s vocals were almost as heavy as his bass sound, and they ran through an excellent set of songs, dwarfing in my mind even their Roadburn 2011 Main Stage appearance. They were so tight, so troubled-sounding, it really seemed like a love of obscure/classic ’70s horrordelic film was in their songs. New song “Headless Eyes” was especially a highlight, but really, their pacing, their patient riffs and the precision with which they were executed made Blood Farmers high on the list of the day’s best sets. The only shame was that there wasn’t more people there to see it.
Earthride: They’re the kings of this scene. They went on after midnight, and so I don’t think all the native-types who were there for War Injun came back after the non-Old Line State Blood Farmers, but there were still plenty on hand for what certainly felt like the headlining set of the night. Dave Sherman was telling stories about being in Spirit Caravan and playing the first SHoD in 1999 before the set even started, and in a classy move, he and the band (which includes guitarist Kyle Van Steinberg, drummer Eric Little and new bassist Josh Hart) brought up Rob Levey to play air guitar and help sing the chorus of “Supernatural Illusion.” Scott “Wino” Weinrich does the guest spot on Earthride‘s latest album, Something Wicked, but the man behind SHoD gave a more than laudable showing of himself, and was treated to a fitting round of applause afterwards.
Negative Reaction: Kind of got screwed. Earthride had finished their set and then decided to do the “one more song” that was on their setlist the whole time in the form of “Vampire Circus.” Not a problem except for Dave Krug (of Krug’s Place fame) getting on stage between the bands and saying everyone needed to be out by 1:55AM. I looked at my watch and it was 1:15 and Negative Reaction — who were supposed to headline Friday night and didn’t because bassist Damon had a seizure and had to go to the hospital — were definitely going to have their set cut short. And so they did, although they also pushed it time-wise to the very last second, guitarist/vocalist Ken-E Bones bashing himself in the head with his guitar, throwing himself on the floor, playing with his teeth and crafting the weekend’s nastiest noise barrage. It was short, but they were furious, and it was among the strongest sets I’ve ever seen them play. Still a bummer to see them get stuck after not being able to do their set the night before, but they clearly made the most of what they had.
I can’t say enough how glad I am to have stopped drinking when I did (roughly six hours from when this post started). There’s still one day of Stoner Hands of Doom XI to go, and though I don’t think I’m going to be able to stay and see all of Sunday’s bill, there are more bands I’ve never seen in that lineup than even today, including Earthling, whom Jake Adams from Valkyrie personally recommended I check out. Though it had been years since I’d seen him, I’ll definitely take that recommendation and look forward to the set. All the same, the thought of going to work Monday morning is starting to press, but I was talking to a couple people today who had come from Rochester, New York, and from Kentucky, so I’m not the only one with a long drive. Stuff like this is worth traveling for.
Tags: Admiral Browning, Ambition Burning, Blood Farmers, Earthride, Electric Magma, Iron Front, Lo-Pan, Muffler Crunch, Negative Reaction, Pale Divine, Sinister Realm, Stoner Hands of Doom XI, The PB Army, War Injun