Maryland Doom Fest 2019 Announces Lineup: Pentagram, Conan, Earthride, Mothership, Lo-Pan and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2019 announcement

Holy fucking shit. It’s a good thing Maryland Doom Fest 2019 isn’t until next June, because it’s going to take me that long to process how badass this lineup is. It’s like JB decided this was the year everybody plays. A fourth day has been added. A second venue has been added — it’s Cafe 611 and Guido’s Speakeasy now — and wow. Just, fucking, wow. The headliners: PentagramConanEarthride and Mothership. And the list of bands that follows is absolutely staggering. Of course some things are bound to change between now and then, and there are announcements yet to be made about the pre-show, but really. They’ve absolutely, positively gone to a completely new level of festival here.

It’s gonna be crowded.

And it’s gonna be a blast. If you need me, I’ll be booking my room at the Motel 6 in Frederick.

The announcement was simple and came just in the form of the poster — art is by Kyle Stratton, whose band Atala also make a return to the bill — and from near and far, far and wide, acts are coming in to make what looks like it’ll be an absolutely unforgettable weekend (-plus) of heavy.

Here’s the lineup:

maryland doom fest 2019 poster

MARYLAND DOOM FEST 2019 – JUNE 20-23

DOOMSTERS, GRUNGERS, SLUDGERS, STONERS, & PAGANS —

We are extremely pleased to present to you……The Maryland Doom Fest 2019 lineup!!!

50 of the heaviest, most talented bands to grace the stage.

We bring you INTERITUM from Tasmania, CONAN from England, PENTAGRAM from our soil, and an additional 47 top performing USA acts traveling from all across the continent!!

As if that’s not enough, the MDDF Pre-Fest Party will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the SHoD (Stoner Hands of Doom) Festival with a spectacular lineup of bands who have performed at the great SHoD fests in years past!! The Pre-Fest / SHoD 20th Anniversary Celebration will be monumental in countless ways!!!!

Please support the Doom scene and share this epic event with your comrades and we will see you at #4daysofdoom !!!!

EARLY BIRD Discounted ticket sales start Dec. 17th, 2018 – for two weeks only.

This astronomical lineup and the 2019 festivities are dedicated to my very good friend and prior MDDF partner from 2015 – 2018, Mark Cruikshank!!

DooM !!! ~JB

Lineup:
Earthride
Warhorse
Solace
Wasted Theory
Devil to Pay
Deer Creek
Weed is Weed
Freedom Hawk
After the Sun
Mothership
Pale Divine
Lo Pan
Year of the Cobra
The Age of Truth
Backwoods Payback
Kingsnake
Interitum
The Druids
Clouds Taste Satanic
Benthic Realm
Dead Sisters
Funeral Horse
Pentagram
Apostle of Solitude
Foghound
Beelzefuzz
Atala
Sixes
Forming the Void
Knoxxville
Atomic 26
Eternal Black
Greenbeard
Electric Age
Pale Grey Lore
Thunderchief
Seasick Gladiator
Crooked Hills
Conan
ZED
Kings Destroy
Toke
Thousand Vision Mist
Horehound
Thonian Horde
Shadow Witch
Faith in Jane
Temptations Wings
Wolf Blood
Stone Dust Riders

https://www.facebook.com/events/371836710006412/
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

Earthride, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2018

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Backwoods Payback Announce November/December Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback

There are some really good shows on this tour. Boston. Brooklyn. Houston. New Orleans. Atlanta. And in between there aren’t many bummers to be found either, frankly. Backwoods Payback, whose recent live sets rank among some of the best I’ve seen domestically this year, head out once again supporting their 2018 album, Future Slum (review here), which, if you haven’t heard it, why not? They’ll do the Northeast and head south before cutting west into Texas, basically tying together a long weekender and a longer stretch as they do, en route to wrapping in North Carolina back on a northern swing. I could tell you to go see them and blah blah blah and all that kind of crap, but the bottom line is that the stream of Future Slum is embedded down there under the PR wire info for the tour, and you don’t check it out, it’s your loss. The rest of the blathering I’ll save for year-end list time.

Okay then:

backwoods payback tour

BACKWOODS PAYBACK ANNOUNCE TOUR

Sludgy grunge outfit Backwoods Payback are about to embark on a tour in support of their recent album Future Slum, sharing the stage with Doomstress, Royal Thunder, and many more on their way from the Northeast to Texas and back.

Says the band:
“Future Slum is here and it’s time to start spreading it across the land.

We are heading to some areas we haven’t toured in quite some time and a few bucket list destinations as well. The lineups for these shows are nuts. They form a pretty solid vision of where we come from, where we are, and where we are going.

This is just the beginning… Watch the trees, look past the tip of the knife… We will be running with the wolves.”

Order/Stream Future Slum here: https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/album/future-slum

Tour Dates
11/16 – Midway (Boston MA) w/ Set Fire, Cortez, Lord Fowl
11/17 – Brickhouse (Dover, NH) w/ Set Fire, Scrimmy the Dirtbag, The Humanoids
11/18 – St. Vitus (Brooklyn, NY) w/ River Cult, Eternal Black, Blackout
11/19 – Basement Transmissions (Erie, PA) w/ Fog Giant
11/25 – Banditos (Richmond, VA) w/ Book Of Wyrms
11/27 – Springwater (Nashville, TN) w/ Shadow Horse, Hogan’s Goat
11/28 – Dan Electros (Houston, TX) w/ Doomstress, Red Beard Wall, Mr. Plow
11/29 – The Mix (San Antonio, TX) w/ Red Beard Wall
11/30 – Lost Well (Austin, TX) w/ Red Beard Wall
12/1 – Santos (New Orleans, LA) w/ Suplecs, Choke
12/2 – The Earl (Atlanta, GA) w/ Order of the Owl, Royal Thunder
12/3 – Slims (Raleigh, NC) w/ Chaosmic

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

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Review & Video Premiere: Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on August 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback future slum

[Click play above to view the premiere of Backwoods Payback’s ‘Generals.’ Their new album, Future Slum, is out now.]

Future Slum could hardly sound more sincere if Backwoods Payback had cut themselves open and bled it out. And, listening to the melodic, post-grunge ending of “It Ain’t Right” — an Alice in Chains reference, maybe? — I’m not entirely sure they didn’t. There are raging moments as the album begins at a sprint in “Pirate Smile” and “Generals” seems to lay hands on the listener only to shove them out of its way, and the later “Alone” offers tonal thickness and grooving lumber of a more seasoned pace. This while “Lines” finds the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson locked into blood-boiling tension before skillfully cramming in one last chorus for the opening salvo that ends with the rolling “Whatever” bringing forth a hook that one might call “signature” before guest vocalist Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder hurls out a scream that reminds of the harsher edge Backwoods Payback stand ready to unleash at any given moment.

Rest assured, Cummings will answer soon enough in “Threes” at the end of side A as Larson gives his toms a torrential workover, and “Generals” wants nothing either in terms of aggro edge. To the notion of authenticity as a myth in terms of art or, really, anything — it’s a false standard at the very least — Future Slum is a challenge. It is so much the band’s own, and so much of it comes across as an arrival point in their ongoing growth, that in kind with the atmospheric spaces it covers in “Cinderella” and “Alone,” its punk, metal, grunge and heavy rock elements craft an identity that stands in the middle of a Venn diagram of genres while delivering a hard no to committing to any of them for more than the purposes of the single track being served. And as they make their way through the 10 songs/34 minutes of Future Slum, what ties their disparate ideas together — aside from Baker‘s basslines, which would probably be enough on their own — ends up being that flat-out refusal to play to style or be anything other than the band they’ve become.

This isn’t accidental, of course. Backwoods Payback have never been shy in terms of getting out and touring, and as they returned in trio form with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here) after a half-decade’s relative quiet — they had a 2012 live release (discussed here) and 2014’s In the Ditch EP (review here) filling that gap — following 2011’s Small Stone-delivered sophomore album, Momantha (review here), they maintained their commitment to pushing their sound forward on stage. Future Slum only benefits from this on a performance level, as CummingsBaker and Larson are tighter as a unit than they were even just two years ago, and one can hear it in the initial thrust of “Pirate Smile” as much as the dug-in emotionalism of the memorable “Big Enough,” a wistful highlight as much for its self-harmonizing as the instrumental build happening beneath, culminating in a wash and some quiet strum soon enough devoured by the opening riff of the penultimate “Alone.”

backwoods payback (Photo by Useless Rebel)

I used to call Backwoods Payback “dirt rock,” and there’s an aspect of that still applicable, but Future Slum makes easy tags a thing of the past, and as a fan, it’s all the more an exciting release for that. It’s been two full-lengths thus far, but since Cummings and Baker brought in Larson on drums, one can hear in the songs not that they’re playing against each other, but that all three members of the band are challenging each other to make the whole group stronger. And they do. Future Slum has three inclusions over four minutes long, and the band’s execution is accordingly teeth-grindingly tight, but as they continue to refine their processes and their delivery, their output makes it plain for anyone to hear that they’ve reached a new level in style and substance. Fortunately, in accord with this is a consistency of songwriting. Cummings‘ lyrics are spit poetry and the forward drive he, Baker and Larson are able to conjure amid dynamic turns of tempo and melody, is unmistakable. Fire Not Reason laid the foundation, and as a result of that, Future Slum is the strongest release they’ve ever had.

That’s true in terms of performance, craft and overall production sound, which remains thick where and when it needs to be while allowing the three-piece to still have a live feel and highlight nuances like the layered-in guitar effects in the second half of the opener or the timely shouts that punctuate the lines of “Generals.” Following the weighted nod of “Alone,” “Lucky” closes out as the longest cut at 4:57 and seems to find some middle ground in a Sabbathian central riff and steady initial pace, but true to form, it ups the tempo in a classically metallic turn — no less Sabbath, for that matter — that soon enough gives way to the slower chorus before landing in a chug that seems to disintegrate as it fades out, ending Future Slum with a bit of tension that one might even dare to think Backwoods Payback would answer with the start of their next album. Whether they do or don’t, and wherever they might go from here, the organic nature of their progression only makes Future Slum all the more of an accomplishment.

Some 11 years removed from their self-titled debut, they’ve risen to their own challenge and come together to create something special and truly theirs. It’s not dirt rock. It’s not stoner, or Southern rock, or doom or grunge or hardcore punk or whatever else. It’s Backwoods Payback. They’ve carved their sonic persona out of all of these things, and most of all, stayed true to themselves while embracing such a breadth of influence. In their faster and slower songs alike, one can hear the sense of immediacy, and it’s completely reasonable why. Backwoods Payback have been around, and they’re not dumb. This is a moment they’ve managed to capture, and there are parts of Future Slum that sound like they’re almost chasing after themselves before they get away. That’s not a negative at all. Rather, as it manifests here, it serves notice of the consciousness underlying their efforts, and they’re right. This is a watershed for them. Their urgency is nothing if not well placed.

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

Backwoods Payback on Instagram

Backwoods Payback on Twitter

Backwoods Payback on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback website

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Live Review: Backwoods Payback, Set Fire and Owl Maker in New London, CT, 07.21.18

Posted in Reviews on July 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)

Right down the block from where the El ‘n’ Gee used to be — the space is still there, with a new name and a line outside waiting to get in — is 33 Golden St., a classic rock and roll basement bar that feels immediately like home. It’s not dirty in that hey-it’s-rock-and-roll-so-we-never-need-to-sweep kind of way, and the room is warm and welcoming and they play Sabbath over the P.A., so somebody clearly has their head on straight. My guess is that would be the owner, Craig, though I didn’t get to meet him to tell him so.

The occasion for the trip to New London was to see Backwoods Payback, who’d so recently laid waste to Maryland Doom Fest 2018 in Frederick, MD, as part of heralding their new album, Future Slum, and the purpose for the long weekender was much the same. Joining them on the intended bill were Set Fire from Boston and Southern Connecticut’s Owl Maker, as well as Witchkiss, who dropped off at the last minute owing to a family emergency. Without the fourth band, it was an easy atmosphere to the evening. Three bands, cool vibe, stage tucked into the corner at the end of the bar. The place reminded me of what O’Brien’s in Boston might be with a little upkeep.

Owl Maker led off and were not entirely unknown to me, having checked out their March 2018 EP, Paths of the Slain (review here), Owl Maker (Photo JJ Koczan)from which they played a couple songs including “Freya’s Chariot” and “99.” Led by guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli, also of Vestal Claret and UP Recording Studio, the trio was completed by the punch of Jessie May‘s bass and the metallic-style drumming of Chris Anderson.

Deadpan humor and NWOBHM-inspired riffing — also a more direct line, with a cover of Iron Maiden‘s “Wrathchild” — ensued, and he had a few good ones, but I think my favorite song intro from Tuozzoli might’ve been, in full metal voice, “This song is one less than 100. This is ’99’!” Good fun. Formed in 2016, they’re still feeling out where they want to be sonically, but their pursuit of that is well-directed and they played 33 Golden with a solid idea of who they are as a band and how they want to get where they’re going. They have a new collection on Bandcamp called Summer Singles and I’ll look forward to hearing what they do next.

A couple familiar faces in the trio Set Fire, who played next. Three, actually. Drummer Rob Davol was a bandmate of guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey‘s in the trio Shatner and used to play in drunken rockers Cocked ‘n’ LoadedHealey of course featured in Black Thai and We’re all Gonna Die in addition to Shatner and various others along with his resonant singer-songwriter solo work. And keyboardist/synthesist Jess Collins used to play in Mellow Bravo, so all three members have significant roots in Boston’s fertile if insular rock underground. Along with the bands, Healey also helps put together the Grub, Sweat and Beers festival, which was held this weekend, and which Set Fire and Backwoods Payback would both play the night after this show.

Got all that? Despite their incendiary moniker, which to my mind

Set Fire (Photo JJ Koczan)

seems to foretell harsher noise rock, Set Fire‘s style is dug deep into classic straightforward heavy, shades of Soundgarden — the second cover of the night there, in homage to Chris Cornell — and other ’90s acts coming through as filtered through the distinctive vocals of Healey and Collins, either of whom could easily front a band on their own. Together, they make Set Fire a melodic powerhouse, and Collins‘ keys and Korg and Healey‘s double-neck guitar filled out the space a bassist might otherwise occupy such that there was no loss of presence either in the low end or on stage in general. They were encouraging to watch and clearly enjoyed the collaboration between the three of them. I did likewise.

I’ve all but stopped wearing a watch, so my sense of time isn’t what it used to be, but I know it definitely wasn’t early when Backwoods Payback took the stage. Maybe 12:30? Something like that. The West Chester, Pennsylvania, three-piece are absolutely locked in. Brutally locked in. More locked in than they know, and they know they’re locked in. And a band like that, you want to see as much as you can. So while it’s been mere weeks, I knew I wanted to catch them at this gig. They’d had van trouble leaving Long Island after the show the night Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)before and managed to catch the last ferry across the Long Island Sound to New London, so perhaps guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson were a bit harried, but though they brought the culprit component on stage with them and at one point hoisted it like a slain beast to show the room, tubes flailing this way and that, their actual performance didn’t suffer in the slightest.

The highlight was the short, grunge-derived roll of “Big Enough” from Future Slum, but anytime Backwoods Payback want to show up and play “You Don’t Move” from 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), you won’t hear me complain. Air tight and still dangerous, their dirt rock aesthetic has matured but is especially propulsive with Larson behind the kit, each player challenging the others to play better, be stronger on stage. The result is a kind of torrent that’s weighted emotionally as well as tonally. When it moves fast it absolutely burns, as on “Generals” from the new record, or “Snakes,” which closed out, and when it grooves, as on “Day to Day” or the ultra-catchy “Dirge” from the last album, it holds a tension and a nod that seems ready to break out at any second. They’re in utter control, however, and as much as Fire Not Reason showed the force of this Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)lineup, Future Slum shows how remarkably well they can wield that force.

They didn’t start early, so they didn’t finish early either — funny how that works — but the ride home wasn’t nearly as bad as some I’ve had in my time, and the show was easily worth giving up a bit of my otherwise rigid schedule to see. I didn’t even wake up the baby when I got in, so bonus. Great night all the way around, from arriving at the venue for the (overdue) first time to hanging out after, and one all the more worth appreciating for the infrequency of its caliber.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night Three, 06.24.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland-doom-fest-2018-night-three-poster

Before I get started on the last night of Maryland Doom Fest 2018, I want to thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for the incredible work they’ve put into making this event something truly special. Think Maryland was ready for a festival to help define and codify its generations-spanning underground scene? Maryland Doom Fest has done so in four years’ time, and not only has it helped give an understanding to what Maryland doom is, but it’s working actively to broaden those horizons as well. And its reach is growing. Not only in bands. Last night the dude standing to my left was there with friends from Portland, Oregon, and to my right was a handful of folks from Albuquerque, New Mexico, all packed right at the front of the stage. It’s growing, and quickly.

But as Maryland Doom Fest enters what might be its Golden Age in presenting shows people will talk about years later — “ah yeah, were you at Doom Fest when Windhand played?”, etc. — the event has also kept its head on its shoulders about the work in progress. It’s a grounded experience, very much of its place, and a thrill to be able to return here and see it, especially after missing last year. I very much hope to be back to Frederick and back to Cafe 611 in 2019.

I don’t mind telling you I rolled into the venue in time to catch the first band feeling like I’d had my ass kicked up and down 6th St. already — because I had, two days running — but the momentum of the final day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018 was as thick as the riffs and it was a pleasure to be shoved along to a riotous finish.

Happened like this:

Gateway to Hell

Gateway to Hell (Photo JJ Koczan)

Baltimore natives Gateway to Hell started a few minutes late, which unless I’m mistaken resulted in a shortening of their set. If so, all the more a bummer, because when they were done, I wanted more. They made their debut last year with the EP, Clovers (review here), and though I had a more metallic impression of them in my mind from that going into their set opening the last day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018, with an orchestra of effects there was an experimentalist psych edge to the guitar work of Alex Briscoe that blended with straight-ahead rhythms from bassist Eric Responsible (who wins the weekend as regards surnames) and drummer Dan Petrucelli, all of which gave frontman Jerrod Bronson ground to belt out lyrics over top. They had intense moments to be sure, but I wondered if their next release might bring more of that weirdo sensibility to bear in their sound. Fingers crossed. It worked really well on stage.

Bedowyn

Bedowyn (Photo JJ Koczan)

Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Alex Traboulsi, guitarist Mark Peters, newcomer bassist Channing Azure and drummer Marc Campbell, Raleigh, North Carolina’s Bedowyn were about as close as Doom Fest got to black metal this year, and well, it was pretty close. Bedowyn, who got their start in 2011 and have an EP and full-length under their collective belt, blend that genre with a handful of others — thrash, classic metal, heavy rock, and so on — to conjure an aggressive but still poised sound, and Traboulsi‘s vocals turned from screams to sort of cleaner shouts while Campbell‘s drums held together all the part changes and stylistic turns. They went on early, so got an extra five minutes to play and made the most of it as a standout coming from someplace different than just about everything on the bill, which, again, was packed the whole way through. Also, if I remember right, I was told Campbell played drums with two broken fingers, thereby earning immeasurable bonus points. So there’s that too.

Saints and Winos

Saints and Winos (Photo JJ Koczan)

I guess everyone was on the 4:15 doombus to Frederick, because all of a sudden I turned around and the room was was pretty full for Saints and Winos from Rochester, New York. Mixing clean and harsh vocals, they tipped hats to more extreme and sludgy sounds, but had their basis in heavy rock and roll and a somewhat classic style, with plenty of low end fuzz and metallic swing very much in the spirit of the weekend in those terms and as regards general ease of pace. Their debut album, the all-caps WE RISE, came out late last year and featured three-part harmonies from guitarist Joe Dellaquila, bassist Amanda Rampe and drummer J.B. Rodgers on songs like “Great Wall,” and there was some of that on stage as well but it didn’t quite come through the house P.A. with the same kind of balance. Hazards of being the third band on the bill with complex arrangements. They were engaging enough to make me dig into the record anyway, and while there’s room to grow in their sound, it was plain to hear that potential during their set.

Book of Wyrms

Book of Wyrms (Photo JJ Koczan)

Look, I don’t want to say classic doom will never die, because let’s face it: everything fucking dies. Someday the ocean is going rise up and eat us all about 30 seconds before the asteroid hits and splits the planet in two, only to be later consumed by the sun, also dying, so yeah. Classic doom will die, but it sure as shit ain’t dead yet. Book of Wyrms made an intriguing opening statement with 2017’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy (review here), which came out via respected tonal specialists Twin Earth Records. The lineup of vocalist/effects-bringer Sarah Moore Lindsey, guitarists Kyle Lewis and Ben Coudriet, bassist Jay Lindsey and drummer Chris DeHaven dug into traditional stoner-doom vibes that were, indeed, a pleasure to witness, and their potential was writ large over their time on stage in much the same fashion as on the record. I don’t know if it’s the balance of samples vs. riffs or doomed aspects and more heavy rock roll and melody in Lindsey‘s vocals, but there’s something waiting to be tapped in their sound that, if they get there, will make all the difference for them. As it was, they carried the room with ease.

Sierra

Sierra (Photo JJ Koczan)

What a way to start a tour. And what a tour to start. Canadian three-piece Sierra obviously enjoyed launching a run of shows as they did last year at Maryland Doom Fest 2017, because they were doing the same thing all over again. This time, they’ll be out supporting fest-headliners Weedeater, and as they’ve been a steady presence on the Tone Deaf Touring circuit the last several years — they’ll also be at de facto sister fest Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh this September — they’re tight enough in their delivery to have a professional sheen. They’re a tricky band as well, because it’s easy to watch them and say, “Okay, heavy rock, fair enough,” but that’s not it. There’s more just under the surface. To say Rush is a lazy comparison based on the simple fact of their northern origins, but they’re more prog than they let on, and they work smoothly in tipping that balance back and forth between the straightforward and the more complex. Of course, that makes them more exciting to watch, since they’re neither purely clinical nor just another collective bearing riffs, but instead offer something more varied between the two. It was my first time seeing them, and they were better than I knew, making a highlight of “Rainbows End” before finishing out with a cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Into the Void.”

Curse the Son

Curse the Son (Photo JJ Koczan)

However, I knew damn well that Curse the Son were going to be incredible. Perfect band for the setting, great slot, a room that would just bounce their volume off the walls. Yeah, it was gonna work out. And it did. It’s been a little bit — more than I’d prefer, certainly — since I last saw the Hamden, Connecticut, trio, and in that time, they’ve released their third album, Isolator (review here), signed to Ripple Music and brought in drummer Robert Ives alongside bassist/backing vocalist Brandon Keefe and founding guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, so yeah, it’s been reasonably busy. Another band Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is sharing with Descendants of Crom, they also appeared at this Spring’s inaugural New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and as Vanacore announced from the stage, they’re working toward a new album for early 2019. “Huzzah” would be putting it mildly. They were the first band all weekend for whom I removed my earplugs and let go a little bit to headbang and really take in. A lot of Maryland doom resides in a mid-paced groove. Curse the Son play slower and lower, and that nod was exactly what my weary soul needed. With Vanacore‘s tonal morass and vocals cutting through, older cuts like “Spider Stole the Weed” and “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” were familiar and welcome, and though he had some rather significant shoes to fill, the swing and intensity Ives brought to the drums was a dead-on fit. They don’t really tour, but still, theirs was one of my favorite sets of the whole weekend, and if you’re reading this and you ever get the chance to see them live, do it.

Backwoods Payback

Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)

Under general circumstances, I’m not one to gush, but I tell you know lie, I went up to each member of Backwoods Payback individually — to guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson, each separately — and told them how incredible their new album, Future Slum, is. I don’t even know how many times the word “awesome” left my mouth, but needless to say it was an embarrassing number. The thing about it is, they just absolutely nailed it. Same could easily be said of their set at Maryland Doom Fest 2018. Playing new material and old after opening with “You Don’t Move” from their most recent outing, 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), they absolutely laid waste to Cafe 611. And it’s for the same reason: everything has clicked. The songs, the lineup, the performance, the presence — it’s all in the same place and they’re experienced enough and smart enough to throw it at the audience in just the right way. And the conviction from all three of them. Plenty of bands this weekend meant what they were doing. To be blunt, nobody was phoning it in. But with Backwoods Payback, it was another level entirely, and when Cummings jumped off the stage toward the end of the set and shared the mic with a couple kids in the crowd who knew the words, it felt like a moment that encapsulated the band’s capacity to hit hard and still translate that their conviction into a meaningful experience. I’ll have more to say about the new record and I’ve already made plans to see them again next month, but this one was a landmark not to be forgotten anytime soon.

Caustic Casanova

Caustic Casanova (Photo JJ Koczan)

I knew Caustic Casanova were underrated, and seeing them for the first time, I guess I was interested to find out if I could find a reason why. Their sound is certainly accessible enough; the Washington, D.C./Frederick trio play a style of heavy rock that in part feels drawn from ’90s college/art rock weirdoism and part drawn from a desire to mash that against sonic pummel and punker drive, but they’re also a thoughtful band. Each part has its purpose, and even in their delivery live, there was a sense of focus that pervaded what they were doing. It was fun to watch, definitely, but there was a strong intent there — nothing felt like an accident, however experimental it may have been in the composition. One knows they’re Melvins fans because they did a cover of “Cow” on their latest 7″, but their style has much more to it than just post-Buzzo riffing and tryhard avant gardeship so often resulting from that influence. And if Caustic Casanova are underrated, the reason is precisely because they’re not easy to pin down. They’re a dynamic, complex trio given to deft rhythmic turns and an indie aspect to complement/contrast their heavier elements, and they don’t fit into any single genre tag necessarily beyond the blanket “progressive heavy rock,” which is a pale descriptor for the actual depth of character in the music they make.

Duel

Duel (Photo JJ Koczan)

The rest of the night would be given to riotousness, and Duel were the start of that. Up from their home in Austin, Texas, this would mark the largest tour they’ve undertaken in the US, but they come into it with multiple European stints on their CV. Recently also announced for Heavy Mash 2018 in October (info here), their latest release is actually a live album called Live at the Electric Church (review here) that Heavy Psych Sounds put out as a complement to their two to-date studio LPs, 2016’s Fears of the Dead (review here) and 2017’s Witchbanger (review here), and from that, I thought I had a pretty decent idea what to expect. What took me by surprise, though, was the energy behind what they were doing. They’re classic heavy rock in their stylistic root, but rather than present it as some staid relic to be showcased like a museum piece under glass, they instead break that glass with their bare hands, smear the blood over their faces and proceed to capture the dangerous spirit that drove the earliest days of riffery in the first place. Actually, they do more than just capture it. They make it their own, so that this sound so often associated with the past becomes something inextricably forward thinking. I dug the records, so wasn’t surprised to be into the live show, but the sheer vitality of it was staggering. They made it a celebration.

The Midnight Ghost Train

The Midnight Ghost Train (Photo JJ Koczan)

Their last show. Heavy rock and roll loses one of its most potent live acts in The Midnight Ghost Train, who made Maryland Doom Fest 2018 the occasion for their final gig. Ever? Maybe. One has learned time and again never to say never in rock and roll, but the band made it known in April they were calling it quits, and this was their version of going out with a bang. Did you ever get to see The Midnight Ghost Train? It’s a question I can see myself asking in conversation for years to come — they are a litmus test for music and performance as a kinetic force, and a comparison point to which few will be able to live up. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss and ending with longtime drummer Brandon Burghart (I don’t know what else he’s got going, but I can’t imagine any band not wanting him in its lineup) and relative newcomer bassist Tyler Harper (also of Capra), they were fury incarnate with a bittersweet underpinning. I’ve watched The Midnight Ghost Train shows for a decade, and I tell you with no reservation that they’re among the most powerful heavy rock bands I’ve ever seen. Moss transforms into a shuffle-blues madman, Burghart‘s swing is nigh-unmatchable, and Harper stood toe-to-toe with the guitar, which is saying something. They will be missed. But they went out as they always were — on fire — and I stayed up front the whole time and felt fortunate to be there to see it, as I think did everyone else in the room. They were a big part of what made the day so special. And even if they get back together at some point, years down the line or whatever, the impact of this night, this set, stands as a monument to who they were as a group and Moss‘ realized vision of heavy, funky, bluesy righteousness.

Weedeater

Weedeater (Photo JJ Koczan)

Well, if one band over the course of the three-day event was going to ignite a genuine mosh, it might as well be Weedeater, whose tonal dominance was evident from soundcheck onward despite “Dixie” Dave Collins breaking a string on his bass. Years of near-constant touring have given North Carolina’s Weedeater a reputation that well precedes them, and though it had been years since I last caught them, I knew the lumbering sludge that was about to unfold as soon as they hit into “God Luck and Good Speed” to open their set, with guitarist Dave Shepherd and drummer Carlos Denogean doing no shortage of the heavy lifting when it came to rolling out massive, lumbering nod. I’m too old for that slam-dancing shit, so I hightailed it from the front of the stage on the quick, but Weedeater left no question as to why they were headlining. What the hell else could possibly follow them? They’ve made a career on sounding unhinged, and even down to Denogean wailing away at his kit, they lived up to that, but they’re long since veterans, too, so they’re not just fucking around. They’re professionally fucking around. Good work if you can get it. The crowd knew the set the whole way through, and though Weedeater are coming up on due for a follow-up to 2015’s Goliathan (review here), which they’ve basically been on tour supporting since it came out, their command of the stage wasn’t something that just happened. It was whittled down from the years of grinding on the road they’ve done. Worth it? You’d have to ask them, but watching them play for the first time in a long-enough while, they looked like a band that made themselves headliners the hard way, and who have earned every accolade, every top slot, every laudatory hyperbole they’ve gotten. Like so much of the festival that led up to them, they were the right band, right time.

I saw and met a lot of really wonderful people this weekend who had absurdly nice things to say about this site and whatnot, from the Horseburner guys to hanging out with Mike from Backwoods Payback and Leanne Ridgeway from Riff Relevant, to seeing Paul-forever-to-be-known-as-MadJohnShaft and talking about the various European fests he hits, Dave Benzotti, Erik Larson, Earl Walker Lundy, Ron Vanacore, Deanne Firkin, Billy from Philly and the gents from The Age of Truth, Mark and Pete from ZED, Uncle Fezzy, Darren Waters, Dee Calhoun, Shy Kennedy, Pat Harrington, the dudes from Bailjack, Steve Moss, Melanie Streko, Lisa Hass, Chuck Dukeheart and the Foghound gang, Mat from Castle, Doomstress Alexis, Mark Schaff, Justin from Molasses Barge, Brenna from Lightning Born, on and on and on.

Thank you is my point. People say incredible stuff about this site, and I can’t ever really let myself hear it, but I’m happy if someone feels positively about a thing that happens here. Every now and then I do too. This weekend was one of those times. Thank you for reading and being a part of it.

It was five and a half hours north in the car when I let out of the Super 8 in Frederick to get to Connecticut, which is how this review ended up being later than I’d prefer, but so it goes. Before I end the post, I need to send a special thanks to The Patient Mrs., whose management and running point on The Pecan the last few days made this trip possible in the first place. That’s a hard job, even more for her than for me, and I owe her eternally for her efforts in allowing me to pursue crazy ideas like, “so I’m gonna go to Frederick for a weekend and hit Doom Fest you got the baby okay cool thanks.” It means more to me than I can say.

More pics after the jump. Thanks again all.

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Backwoods Payback Announce Aug. 3 Release for Future Slum

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback

New Backwoods Payback arrives on a relatively quick turnaround. This is unmistakably good news, as it means all that, “We feel better as a band than we’ve ever felt” stuff wasn’t just riding a cool moment, but actually something that has fed into the creative process. Since founding duo Mike Cummings (guitar/vocals) and Jessica Baker (bass) joined up with Erik Larson (drums; ex-Alabama Thunderpussy, etc.), they’ve seem recharged. You could hear it on late-2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), and I’m not saying that I’ve already listened to it or anything, but their new one, Future Slum, is only a step forward from where they left off a year and a half ago.

For a bonus to the good news, they’ve got live shows coming up, including Maryland Doom Fest 2018, so dig the album art and posters below, then find more from the PR wire, a special quote Cummings sent over about the record, and a teaser clip.

All goes like this:

backwoods payback future slum

Backwoods Payback – Future Slum

Future Slum is not a pretty record. It’s not the clean and well-manicured one sitting awkwardly at a table in the local watering hole, it’s the grizzled one propping up the bar and regaling the crowd with conspiracy theories. Mike Cummings, guitarist and vocalist of Backwoods Payback – the ones responsible for this lumbering hulk of stoner rock n’ roll – certainly fits the bill, whether he’s yowling his head off or singing in an eerily hypnotic manner. Meanwhile, Jessica Baker is the reliable anchor on bass, and Erik Larson (he of Alabama Thunderpussy and the legendary hardcore band Avail, no less) gives a thumping performance on his kit. A friend pops her head round the door too – Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder trades words in her usual melodious tones on the apathetic ‘Whatever’, yet also pulling out a surprising rasp.

Backwoods Payback are also able to spin a good yarn about their travels – sharing stages with Fu Manchu, Scissorfight and Third Eye Blind, a bewildering list when put side-by-side, but each represents an important factor in this band’s aesthetic. Fu Manchu demonstrate the “gloryfucked fuzz”, as Backwoods Payback so eloquently put it; Scissorfight showcase the no-holds-barred burly brawling such as on “Generals”; Third Eye Blind for the occasional moments of calm (!) like in “Big Enough”, giving brief respite from the warning shots being fired throughout the rest of the records.

Five albums in, Future Slum is the fruit of a hard slog for fifteen years. Understandably, they are excited for it to see the light of day, not least for its cryptic subject matter. “It all revolves around the idea of feeling lost and disenfranchised with your surroundings, finding your people, and losing yourself within them. Have you ever followed?” Mike finishes, quoting from second track “Lines”. It’s up to you if you can read between them.

Mike Cummings on Future Slum:

We went into the studio (back to Noisy Little Critter, where we have done everything since “in the ditch”) immediately following our Jan tour with Royal Thunder and laid down the record. We had been working on the songs for the few months leading up to that tour and it came together very fast. This definitely feels like the next step in the evolution of the band since Erik joined. The three piece thing has really streamlined the writing process and kind of taken us to a whole new place. I’m not quite sure where we fit into the landscape anymore, but we are making ourselves at home in this little valley we are carving out. We are stoked to be hitting the road again and getting back on the horse. See you out there with some new jams, some new gear, some new ideas, and our old hearts.

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum teaser

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Backwoods Payback Announce January Tour Supporting Royal Thunder

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

As they continue to support late-2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), Pennsylvania-based trio Backwoods Payback will hit the road for 11 shows alongside Royal Thunder this coming January. Most of the gigs are in the Southeast, but the tour starts out in Philly and hits Brooklyn before dipping back down the Eastern Seaboard to hit Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and so on, and in addition to Royal Thunder and Backwoods Payback, the first four nights of the stint are set to feature Heavy Temple as well, which only bolsters the bill as far as I’m concerned.

I was lucky enough to see guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson perform earlier this year at Roadburn 2017 (review here) as part of their European tour with New Hampshire riffwreckers Scissorfight, and of the many times I’ve been fortunate to see them play, I can’t recall one where they sounded so completely on-all-cylinders. The material on Fire Not Reason is a joy of heavy rock combined with raw hardcore, metal and other elements, and their presentation has never been so tight. Am I telling you outright it’s worth showing up to see them play? Yes, yes I am.

They announced the tour thusly:

royal thunder backwoods payback poster

Greetings from the other side of Halloween!

Lots about to be happening in the Backwoods Payback camp. We are hitting the road this coming Jan 2018 for a run of shows supporting ROYAL THUNDER! Heavy Temple will be jamming the first four shows with us as well.

1/18 – Philadelphia PA, Kung Fu Necktie
1/19 – Brooklyn NY, St Vitus
1/20 – Lancaster PA, Lizard Lounge
1/21 – Richmond VA, Strange Matter
1/22 – Charlotte NC, The Milestone
1/23 – Johnston City TN, The Hideaway
1/24 – Nashville TN, The End
1/25 – Jackson MS, CS’S
1/27 – Birmingham AL, The Nick
1/28 – Atlanta GA, The Earl
1/29 – Raleigh NC, Slims (just Backwoods Payback)

We were also just announced as a part of the Maryland Doom Fest taking place June 22/23/24 2018 in Frederick MD alongside some old friends in The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Lightning Born, Caustic Casanova and a TON more!

Some cool stuff should be hitting the digital shelves before the end of the year too…keep your eyes peeled

See you on the road,

bp

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Backwoods Payback, “You Don’t Move” official video

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Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Announces Full Lineup with The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Earthride and Many More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Invariably there will be some change between now and next June, and there’s the tradition of the pre-show to consider the night before, but right out of the gate, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 impresses with its scope of heavy rock and doom, cross-country reach and loyalty to its core mission. With The Obsessed, Windhand and Weedeater set to headline, the fourth edition of the fest curated by JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank will welcome return appearances from the likes of Castle, Earthride, Thousand Vision Mist and Foghound, while reaching out to bring first-timers from afar like Texas’ Doomstress and Duel and Switchblade Jesus, Kansas rockers The Midnight Ghost Train, Connecticut’s Curse the Son, New York’s Geezer, and — I believe traveling the farthest — Disenchanter, from Portland, Oregon.

It’s a killer assemblage, and I think the three headliners do a lot in summarizing the whole idea behind the fest in the first place: The Obsessed are among the founders of what we think of as “Maryland doom.” Windhand are the forerunners of the modern scene. And Weedeater bring a riotous sludge party like no one else on the planet. What more could you possibly ask of three bands in terms of expressing what Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is all about?

I’ll have updates as I see them, but in the meantime, mark your calendars for June 22, 23, and 24 at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD, and I’ll do the same, because this looks absolutely awesome.

Dig it:

maryland doom fest 2018 poster

Maryand Doom Fest 2018

A 3 day weekend of Doom in its purest form.

June 22, 23, and 24

Cafe 611 Restaurant
611 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701

Full lineup:
The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Castle, Unorthodox, Duel, The Watchers, Zed, Switchblade Jesus, The Midnight Ghost Train, Lightning Born, Earthride, Geezer, Disenchanter, Bedowyn, Cavern, Doomstress, Caustic Casanova, Hawkeyes, Curse the Son, Las Cruces, Horseburner, Shadow Witch, Foghound, Witchhelm, Book of Wyrms, Thousand Vision Mist, Molasses Barge, Backwoods Payback, Bailjack, Electropathic, Gateway to Hell

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2018-tickets-39468562533
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

The Obsessed, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2016

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