Freedom Hawk Announce Tour Dates with High Reeper

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

freedom hawk

Before you start in with the hey-I-live-in-a-city-they’re-not-playing-I’m-gonna-go-complain-about-it thing that happens on social media all the time, let’s all take a breath and be thankful Freedom Hawk are touring at all. They’re not playing where I live either. Don’t sweat it. Give it some time. They’ll do Ripplefest Texas on Aug. 7 — man, that looks like a party — and they’ll do a warmup date prior to that, but clearly the intention as they head out with High Reeper starting Aug. 19 is to kind of test the waters and see how it goes. For what it’s worth, I hope it goes well.

By the time they head out, it seems likely their next album — currently being mixed, so I’m told — will have a solid release date and much anticipation preceding it. The band premiered their jammy single “Liftoff” here back in March and played other new songs in a livestream last year as well, so it’s all been a while in the making. If you’re not looking forward to that, I don’t know what to tell you. Weren’t you just complaining about not seeing them live?

Anyhoozle, the dates are here for your perusal. Good bands doing cool stuff. It’s refreshing, and I say that without any sarcasm whatsoever.

Boop:

freedom hawk tour

We are hitting the road for a few shows with our buds in High Reeper. We played some shows in Europe together in 2018 and stoked to bring it for US audiences. Tix now on sale!

Stoked to finally make up some locations/dates that were cancelled mid-tour and return to some locations we couldn’t make it to due to the COVID epidemic Fully vacc’d and ready to roll!!!!

Here are dates:

Bunker – Virginia Beach – July 31
Ripplefest – Ski Ranch – TX – Aug 7

High as the Sky Tour w/ High Reeper
Aug 19 – Wilmington, NC – Reggie’s 42nd St. Tavern
Aug 20 – Savannah, GA – The Wormhole
Aug 21 – Jacksonville, FL – Archetype (formerly Knighthawks)
Aug 22 – Orlando, FL – Wills Pub
Aug 23 – Atlanta, GA – Bogg’s Social and Supply
Aug 24 – Nashville, TN – Springwater
Aug 25 – Louisville, KY – fifteenTwelve
Aug 26 – Chicago, IL – Reggie’s Music Joint
Aug 27 – Detroit, MI – The Sanctuary
Aug 28 – Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups

https://www.facebook.com/freedomhawkmusic/
https://freedomhawk.bandcamp.com
http://www.freedomhawk.net/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/

Freedom Hawk, “Liftoff”

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RippleFest Texas 2021 Adds Wino, Freedom Hawk, High Desert Queen & Fostermother to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

ripplefest texas 2021 banner crop

This week brings four more acts for the inaugural Ripplefest Texas, and with Wino, Freedom Hawk, Fostermother and High Desert Queen joining in the fun, it’s starting to look like a pretty stacked bill. Headliners are still to be announced — take your pick among TX or Ripple-associated heavy and feel free to let me know whom you’d choose — but one way or the other, this is a lot for a one-day fest.

It’s outdoors, which you’d probably want at this point, and I’m just going to assume it’s more than one stage — maybe two alternating? — to account for this many with more to come. Or maybe the party starts early? I don’t know. I guess after a year-plus of no shows it’s fair enough to want to pack in as much as possible. Got your shot yet? This is a pretty good argument in favor of doing so if not.

Social media has it like this, and there’s the ticket link and whatnot as well:

Ripplefest Texas new poster

NEW BANDS ANNOUNCEMENT: Ripple Music and Lick Of My Spoon Productions is happy to announce Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Freedom Hawk, as well as High Desert Queen and Fostermother to the already stacked 1st Annual RippleFest Texas, August 7th at Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas.

We still have our MAIN HEADLINER to announce next week so stay tuned! Tickets are going fast!

Previously announced: Void Vator, Bone Church, Witchcryer, Holy Death Trio, Howling Giant, Forming the Void, Mr. Plow, Thunder Horse, and Switchblade Jesus!!!

Bring a swimsuit and swim on the beach at Texas Ski Ranch while listening to music from the hottest label in the business: Ripple Music!

Tickets are available through the link on the FB page. Tickets: www.outhousetickets.com/Event/m17387-Ripplefest_Texas

Get yours now as more bands will be announced because it WILL SELL OUT!

https://www.facebook.com/events/293941965680685
https://www.facebook.com/LOMSProductions/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://www.instagram.com/ripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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Freedom Hawk Premiere “Liftoff”; New LP Due This Summer

Posted in audiObelisk on March 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

freedom hawk

Virginia Beach heavy rockers Freedom Hawk will release their new single ‘Liftoff’ on April 2. At nine minutes long, reportedly completely improvised and captured on the first take, it’s about as raw as the four-piece have ever presented themselves. Their reputation, at least as far as I’m concerned, is for being a songwriting-minded band. They’re never too flashy on a technical level, and even when they jam out, they do so in a structural context. Well, like so many of the rules by which the world has previously been governed, all that goes out the window here. Do I think Freedom Hawk are turning into a heavy jam band and that their next album is going to be just like this? Nope. But as a one-off, it’s a pretty killer look at the basic dynamic of what happens when these guys get together and just let sound flow.

You might recall last summer when Freedom Hawk — guitarist/vocalist T.R. Morton, guitarist Brendan O’Neill, bassist Mark Cave and drummer Lenny Hines — got together and did a rehearsal-space livestream (review here) that, among other tunes culled from their catalog, featured a few new songs. “Liftoff” might have been born in the same room, but it’s a different intent, and in terms of sound it goes more to showing how the band start sculpting their material rather than how they refine it once theFreedom Hawk Liftoff structure is set. In another context, in another time, parts of “Liftoff” might become something else — they still might for all I know — or end up on the backburner like any number of other jams any number of other bands tool around with along the way in their respective practice spots.

What makes “Liftoff” different? Well, it works well on its own terms, but frankly, if it didn’t the band probably wouldn’t bother to put it out at all. The airy, lead-soaked progression is mellow but held together by the drums such that when it bursts out it doesn’t do so out of nowhere, and I mean, not for nothing, but Freedom Hawk do this kind of spaciousness pretty well. I know their thing is usually more locked down, but they’ve had psychedelia in their playbook for a long time. “Liftoff” proves they’re able to pull it off in a way to which they haven’t treated their listeners before.

The video below is found footage that seems largely geared toward enhancing the atmosphere and giving you something to watch while you float along with the band. It does what it needs to do in that regard, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

Info on the single release follows, as well as confirmation of Freedom Hawk‘s next LP’s hopeful arrival in August.

Dig:

Freedom Hawk, “Liftoff” official track premiere

April 2nd – Single Release – “Liftoff”

Despite the pandemic wave cancelling our tour mid-run and cancelled future tours we channeled all our creative energy into setting up our own recording/rehearsal space and writing a new 9 song album. We are right now recording these 9 songs for an Aug release via Ripple Music!

Part of this journey allowed us to record every rehearsal and spontaneous jam. This is one of them – a 9-minute spontaneous live jam single. This is a first take. This jam was captured on Sept, 30, 2020.

This will be a digital only release through our 2008 imprint Magic Lady Records in partnership with Ripple Music.

Killer cover artwork from the aerosol master – Mark Fussell

If you sign up on our email list at www.freedomhawk.net you can get it early.

Lyrics: You tell us…. we can’t remember.

Live Recording from Freedom Hawk’s Rehearsal Space

Mixing Engineer: Ian Watts
The Magic Closet South, Portland, OR

Mastering Engineer: Chris Goosman
Baseline Audio Labs, Ann Arbor, MI
www.baselineaudio.com

Get ready for – Liftoff!

Freedom Hawk on Thee Facebooks

Freedom Hawk on Instagram

Freedom Hawk on Bandcamp

Freedom Hawk on Twitter

Freedom Hawk website

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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Ripple Music and Vegas Rock Revolution Release The Revolution Lives! Benefit Compilation

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know how much cash a name-your-price comp is bringing in ultimately, but the not-cynical part of me wants to think supporting bands is still something humans are interested in doing, so here’s another way to do that. And if you name your price and your price is nothing, that’s not me trying to guilt you. Over 800,000 people filed for first-time unemployment insurance last month in the US. England has super-covid. Shit is tough everywhere and for everyone. There’s a reason it’s name-your-price and not $35.

As for critical observation, here’s one: John Gist does good work, Ripple Music does good work and these bands do good work. Stay tuned for more heavy hitting insights on the next episode. Make sure you like and subscribe.

All of the following comes from Bandcamp:

va ripple vrr the revolution lives

The Revolution Lives ***A Benefit for the Bands!***

In this day of the coronavirus-enforced shutdown of live shows, Ripple and Vegas Rock Revolution wanted to join forces to rejoice about all the great live music we’ve experienced. Based in Vegas, John Gist, running VRR has created a heavy underground scene where none existed! From his infamous Planet Desert Rock weekends to his numerous shows at Danny Koker’s Count’s Vamp’d, the Beauty Bar, and Bunkhouse Saloon among others, VRR has brought tons of Ripple bands to Vegas to rock the hell outta the desert.

So, now let’s celebrate. Think of this compilation as a virtual show… holding space until the real ones can resume.

Dig into this free comp, made just for you, summarizing all the Ripple family that has journeyed to the desert to play for VRR. Gist himself chose this tracklist and the incomparable Kyrre Bjurling provided the stellar art.

Although the album is “pay what you want” any proceeds raised for the purchase of this compilation will go to help out all the bands that have missed out on being able to perform live shows.

Dig in, and let’s unite when this is over to rock the hell out once again!

Tracklisting:
1. Brutal Winds – Freedom Hawk 04:54
2. Oklahoma Black Magic – The Watchers 04:29
3. Nothing to Lose – Void Vator 03:43
4. Chopper Wired – War Cloud 03:34
5. City Nights – Mothership 05:22
6. Lonely One Kenobi – Mos Generator 05:06
7. Into the Shredder – Ape Machine 03:56
8. Ain’t Trying to Go Down Slow – Shotgun Sawyer 03:16
9. Sun and Mist – Salem’s Bend 05:16
10. Hour Glass – High Priestess 06:46
11. Isolation – Wino 04:12
12. Three Minutes to Midnight – Wo Fat 06:20
13. Fathoms – Horseburner 08:12
14. Sunshine of Your Love – Blackwulf 03:38
15. The Grace of Time – Mr Bison 07:22
16. Light of Day – The Hazytones 03:56
17. Hypnotized – Red Desert 04:17
18. Fog of Whores – Cortez 04:55
19. Cactus Highways – Red Mesa 03:09
20. Better Off Alone – Fuzz Evil 04:42
21. Low Tide – Chiefs 03:48

https://www.facebook.com/vegasrockrevolution/
https://www.instagram.com/vegasrockrevolution/
https://vegasrockrevolution.com/

https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://www.instagram.com/ripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

VA, Ripple/VRR: The Revolution Lives (2020)

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Stream Review: Freedom Hawk Play New Songs Live, 06.03.20

Posted in Reviews on June 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

freedom hawk livestream

If you want to know the arguments in favor of bands doing live streams, here are a couple numbers to consider. In about 13 hours after completing their 25-minute set from what was presumably their rehearsal room in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the heavy rock four-piece Freedom Hawk boasted 8,100 views of the resultant video. It was shared nearly 100 times, including by me, and had over 425 comments. True, none of that translates directly to money. They probably didn’t sell many t-shirts specifically as a result of doing the stream, but consider this: they also set up a donation link and brought in — as of this writing — $630.

I don’t know how much Freedom Hawk get paid to play a show, but I do know this: playing this gig involved no major travel for the group. They didn’t have to load in or load out, or find a place to eat in a strange city, or spend money on gas, food or lodging. They were able to directly engage their fans while also keeping the presentation strictly on their own terms. It was a GoPro or a phone set up in a corner of their rehearsal room. It kind of looked like a security camera, actually. But they played four songs — a smart move to keep it relatively brief; a lesson other streamers who approach it like a regular live show should learn — that are as yet unfamiliar to their fans, got to showcase the direction of their new record, and rather than go through the give-and-take of touring, were able to take in a decent amount of money that they can then take forward to the recording process.

Of course, touring has other tangible and intangible upsides, but so does streaming. I wouldn’t advocate one over the other; I’d advocate both if circumstances allowed for them. But in the current pandemic situation even as lockdowns ease, streaming makes the most sense, and even though I saw them in January live on stage in Brooklyn (review here), I have no problem admitting to being grateful for the opportunity to check them out again from the comfort of my own home, without driving into the city, paying tolls, gas, social anxiety and so on.

True, being at home offers its own distractions. A 6PM start-time came up against my toddlerian son’s bedtime, and I spent the first eight or so minutes of the stream trying to cast it from my phone’s Facebook app to the Chromecast in my living room, without ever succeeding. My wife had a Zoom birthday party for one of her friends at the same time, and all of this was happening at once. It was far, far removed from the experience of being in front of a stage, staring ahead as Freedom Hawk graced a crowd with new songs and a set of old favorites. But like any new experience, there are kinks to work out in terms of process on all ends, including the audience’s. And it being live, as opposed to just a watching a video pre-recorded, makes a huge difference in the mindset.

I don’t know when Freedom Hawk‘s next record might surface, but the songs sounded spot-on. With the four-piece arranged in a circle facing each other as they surely would in rehearsal, it was fun to hear drummer Lenny Hines ask what one of the new songs was called — it was “Seize the Day,” as guitarist/vocalist T.R. Morton informed, his signature effects coming through his voice when he sang on mic — and there were other flashes of the band’s persona that came through subtly. It has to be a little awkward for a group basically inviting an audience into a rehearsal space that was previously entirely their own — the banners on the wall, a flag on the ceiling, the garage doors up; maybe a storage area or something like that? hard to tell — but HinesMorton, bassist Mark Cave and guitarist Brendan O’Neill made the most of the occasion, stopping for a sip of beer between songs and even offering a “cheers” to the virtual crowd. As I might at a show, I lifted my cup of water in salute.

As for the new material, the other cuts alongside “Seize the Day” were “Baron,” “Dickerson” and “Jimmy Jam,” though of course any and all titles might change before a final record comes out. The sound was quintessential Freedom Hawk: flashes of NWOBHM riffing set to a forward heavy-rock groove, moments of psychedelic nuance brought to bear with strong purpose in the songwriting. Freedom Hawk have never been a hard band to appreciate when it comes to hearing tracks for the first time, and that accessibility served them well in this context. It wouldn’t work for every band, but again, at 25 minutes, this was almost a teaser for the live experience and their next album at the same time. And having sat and watched it in its entirety, even distracted by a pre-bedtime diaper change and getting dinner started, I look forward both to when I might see the band again — on stage or not, should they decide to do another stream — as well as hearing the LP when it might arrive.

This was fun. Watch it here.

Freedom Hawk on Thee Facebooks

Freedom Hawk on Bandcamp

Freedom Hawk website

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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Freedom Hawk Announce West Coast Tour; Working on Next Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

freedom hawk

Virginia’s Freedom Hawk have begun writing songs for their next record, which they’ll issue through Ripple Music maybe late this Fall — unless writing takes like another week and they’re done, then record immediately — if not in 2021. Still, progress is progress, and they’re continuing to tour in support of fifth album, 2018’s Beast Remains (review here), which is never bad news to see. Plus they say they’re trying out new material on the road, so that tells you at least a couple songs have been put together enough for a stage.

I’ll take it either way, but there is a part of me that feels kind of bad for the fact that I basically expect a Freedom Hawk album every year. I have z-e-r-o reason to do so, and yet, I do. This is a band that puts marked care into the songs they write, and for whom songwriting is a clear priority, and still I’m sitting over here on my couch like, “What? You guys can’t just plug in, bang out 38 minutes of catchy-as-flu high-grade riffery and tour? Come on!” Two or three years between LPs for anyone is reasonable. For some reason, it just always feels like forever going from one Freedom Hawk LP to another.

Again, though, whenever it shows up, it’ll be welcome. You like rock and roll? Them too. You should party.

Tour dates and whatnot:

freedom hawk west coast 2020

Freedom Hawk To Hit The West Coast In March!

Virginia’s, Freedom Hawk will be rolling through the US in March with their latest record Beast Remains (Ripple Music, 2018) in tow. Their unique brand of energetic dune rock will elevate your mind and body, through heavy riffs, rolling grooves, and soulful psychedelic melodies wrapped in metal harmonies! Grab a ticket to take a heavy transcendent trip with the warm sun melting your face while cruising with the top down to your favorite beach party on the sand dunes. Come rawk out with your hawk out!

Tickets available @: https://bnds.us/i9tx5f

The band will be playing tracks from their latest album Beast Remains and classics from their previous decade of material with possibly a few new tracks from their forthcoming Ripple release sprinkled in. Look out for a new album in 2020 and more live dates as they continue to expand their music and their reach to fans around the world!

The band says of the new material “We are really excited about the new tunes coming together. The material seems to capitalize on our previous work but really expands into newer territory of tasty bluesy melodies, driving harmonies, and killer song structures that have hooks for days…. We feel like this is our best stuff to date. We can’t wait for people to hear it!”

~Peace&Rawk~

Spring US Tour Dates booked by the new heavy music division of AMG featuring many Ripple Music artists:
March 6 – Denver, CO – Streets of London
March 7 – Salt Lake City, UT – Bottoms Up
March 8 – Boise, ID – The Shredder
March 9 – Seattle, WA – Funhouse
March 10 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir
March 11 – Eureka, CA – Siren’s Song
March 12 – Santa Cruz, CA – Urbani Cellar
March 13 – Los Angeles, CA – Hi Hat
March 14 – San Diego, CA – Til Two Club
March 15 – Tempe, AZ – Yucca Tap Room
March 17 – San Antonio, TX – Faust
March 18 – Dallas/Fort Worth, TX – Division Brewing
March 19 – Lafayette, LA – Freetown Boom Boom Room
March 20 – Jacksonville, FL – Archetype
March 21 – Raleigh, NC – Slims Downtown

https://www.facebook.com/freedomhawkmusic/
https://freedomhawk.bandcamp.com
http://www.freedomhawk.net/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/

Freedom Hawk, “Brutal Winds” official video

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 19 (Maryland Doom Fest Special)

Posted in Radio on July 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Yeah, I know, Maryland Doom Fest 2019 was like a month ago. Quit livin’ in the past and all that. Well, this show was supposed to air July 5, so whatever. It got pushed back because apparently July 4 is some kind of holiday now — what.ever. — and it was kicked down the line to two weeks later with re-runs on in the interim. Did anyone notice? Did anyone care? I did. But I’m glad to have had the chance to pay homage to MDDF one way or the other, since it was such a killer time and boasted a lineup of so many good bands.

Of course I had to lead off with Beelzefuzz and Foghound, two staples of the Frederick diet, and the show unfolds from there with new stuff from Zed and Lo-Pan and Kings Destroy amid the likes of Devil to Pay and Earthride and Backwoods Payback and Greenbeard. I made sure to put Solace and Freedom Hawk and Horehound and Toke and Witchkiss in here because their sets were particularly righteous — not to mention Year of the Cobra! — and in addition to representing the headliners in Conan, Mothership and Earthride, I had to include WarHorse since their reunion set was something so particularly special and such a huge part of the festival.

For those who didn’t hear the show, Gimme Radio runs the ‘Gimme Brigade’ which you can sign up for. I think it’s $5 a month or something like that, but you get access to their full archive and help them with hosting costs, etc., so fair enough. If you got to hear this one, thanks. If not, the basic point of the thing was that Maryland Doom Fest 2019 kicked ass, which I sincerely hope also came across in the reviews.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 07.19.19

Beelzefuzz All the Feeling Returns Beelzefuzz (2013)
Foghound Known Wolves Awaken to Destroy (2018)
Zed Chingus Volume*
Lo-Pan Savage Heart Subtle*
BREAK
Devil to Pay Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife Fate is Your Muse (2013)
Kings Destroy Yonkers Ceiling Collapse Fantasma Nera*
Earthride Vampire Circus Vampire Circus (2005)
Witchkiss Seer The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes (2018)
Year of the Cobra Cold Burn Your Dead (2017)
BREAK
Solace Khan (World of Fire) The Black Black (2007)
Backwoods Payback Whatever Future Slum (2018)
Toke Blackened Orange (2017)
Greenbeard WCCQ Onward, Pillager (2018)
Conan Battle in the Swamp Monnos (2012)
Apostle of Solitude Ruination Be Thy Name From Gold to Ash (2018)
The Age of Truth Come Back a God Threshold (2017)
BREAK
Horehound Dier’s Dirge Holocene (2018)
Freedom Hawk Danger Beast Remains (2018)
Mothership Midnight Express High Strangeness (2017)
Warhorse Lysergic Communion As Heaven Turns to Ash (2001)

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Aug. 2. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2019 Pre-Fest, 06.20.19

Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest shod preparty poster

One could go on at some length about the legacy of the Stoner Hands of Doom Festival, which, like much of the pre-social-media universe, feels like part of some bygone era, when in fact the last edition was held in 2013. The Maryland Doom Fest 2019 pre-fest party — which I’ll only argue with because, really, when you have nine bands playing, that’s a festival one way or the other — was co-billed as SHoD XX in honor of the 20th anniversary of that fest’s first edition in 1999. Two of the bands on the evening’s bill were actually there in Virginia and Maryland on that weekend — Solace and WarHorse — but everyone who took the stage at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD, was a veteran of it one way or the other. Slow Horse and Tummler remain sadly unaccounted for.

SHoD traveled — that first Arizona lineup is legendary — but spent a few pivotal years in Frederick down the road at what used to be Krug’s Place, and in both mission and manifestation, there isn’t a better festival to inherit the mantle than Maryland Doom Fest, though at the same time, it’s never been so plain just how much MDDF has come onto its own and found its place among the wider festival sphere. The WarHorse reunion is a coup, but for the greater incorporation of Guido’s as a second venue and the expansion to four days, Maryland Doom Fest has expanded its reach across borders and styles in a way that has only added to and enriched its original purpose. Earthride headlining tied it all together as only they possibly could.

It was a 5:30 start and I rolled into the venue about half an hour before that. Already, familiar faces were in ample supply, and they’d only be more so over the course of the evening. I have the feeling it’s going to be that kind of weekend. Right on.

The night went like this:

After the Sun

After the Sun (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Along with Earthride and Solace (who were two for two at that point), Ohio’s After the Sun played SHoD in 2000, the same year they formed. They’d return in 2001 as well. Given their style, it’s pretty notable that they’re actually not from Maryland itself, as their traditional take on doom definitely seemed to have been born of an awareness of the likes of The ObsessedPentagramUnorthodox, and so on. After putting out an EP in 2001, they released their first full-length just last year in the form of a seven-song self-titled, and they served it well live, making a highlight out of “Delusion of Sanity” late in the set. They had a new short release, The Demise, out for the festival, and were solid, workingman’s doom rock, the guttural belt-out of vocalist Doug Perry recalling earlier metallic grit while the chug of Lance Collier‘s bass and Rob Perkins‘ guitar and the thud of Bryan Kaiser‘s drums provided suitable backing for such conviction. The fact that they’ve released more music in the last nine months than in the prior 17 years shouldn’t be lost, and one has to wonder what their future plans are with this feeling very much like a return set, on-stage altar and all.

Freedom Hawk

Freedom Hawk (Photo by JJ Koczan)

This band just rocks. It hasn’t been that long since the last time I saw them, and they were still one of the sets for which I was most excited. There’s no bullshit to Freedom Hawk. They’ve got the songs. They plug in and kick ass and then they’re done. Five records deep, they know they’re doing it right and they play with that conviction. “Blood Red Sky,” “Lost in Space,” “Solid Gold,” “The Darkness and the Light,” “Radar,” “Executioner” and “Indian Summer” made for a quick set that seemed even faster than it was, but the Virginia Beach four-piece very obviously made the most of their time. I still have “Indian Summer” stuck in my head, if that’s any indication. Freedom Hawk only played the final Stoner Hands of Doom in 2013, which was held in Richmond, Virginia, and saw fest-organizers Rob and Cheryl Levey hand the reins to Brendan Burns (who at the time ran the Eye of the Stoned Goat festival), but any excuse to have them in just about any lineup is cool as far as I’m concerned. They’re just doing a weekender around Maryland Doom Fest, but they absolutely brought it like they’d been on the road for weeks.

Weed is Weed

Weed is Weed (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Double-duty Sherman! And on guitar, no less! With Gary Isom playing drums! With the incense-burning bong-shaped mic stand present and accounted for, Earthride frontman Dave Sherman took the stage with the three-guitar riff machine Weed is Weed to bask in crunchy nodder vibes and, as they always seem to do, have a really good time. I’ve been lucky enough to see them a couple times now — always in Maryland — and I don’t think they’ve ever had the same lineup twice. Sherman playing guitar was a nice touch, and Isom‘s move back to drums (from guitar) was of course nothing to complain about either. They lurched into “The Bong Remains the Same” and the eponymous “Weed is Weed” and sundry other greatest hits, and the room was with them all the way. I don’t know if they’d get the same reception anywhere else, but at Cafe 611, they were home, and it was a family atmosphere all the way through. The lights were green, and by the time they were done, they only seemed greener. If the East Coast had the Pacific region’s same proclivity for using the word “gnarly,” Weed is Weed might be the standard by which that was measured.

Deer Creek

Deer Creek (Photo by JJ Koczan)

At some point early in the set, Deer Creek guitarist/vocalist Paul Vismara noted that it was the band’s first show east of the Mississippi River in something like 17 or 18 years, and he thanked all the bands who have played their native Colorado in the meantime because, as he put it, “that’s a long fucking drive.” I believe it. Vismara — currently working on cover art for the next Solace record — and fellow guitarist Conan Hultgren, who also ran Game Two Records — the first Sourvein, the Halfway to Gone/Alabama Thunderpussy split, releases from Pale Divine, Negative Reaction, etc. — led the four-piece through a round of massively-riffed tonal plunge, a noisy, sludgy aggression cutting through the thickness of Hultgren‘s and Paul Vismara‘s guitars and Stephanie Hopper‘s bass, set to roll from drummer Marc Brooks. Their late-2018 EP, Quisling, wanted nothing for atmospherics, and their live presentation had that same sense of open-space, but neither was the impact neglected, the band hitting hard and locking into raw doom and sludge with an abandon more willful than reckless and a focus on mood that no one else would touch for the remainder of the evening.

Devil to Pay

Devil to Pay (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I know Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay played SHoD in 2012, because I was there. It was the one in New London, Connecticut. They also played in 2004, 2007, 2009 (I was there, too), and indeed 2013, so with five appearances total, that makes them the most-SHoDded of the bands playing the first night of Maryland Doom Fest. Not a minor distinction, but of course they’ve done plenty since as well, making their debut on Ripple with 2013’s Fate is Your Muse (review here) and following it with 2016’s A Bend Through Space and Time (review here). They’re about due for a new record — though now sharing guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak with Apostle of Solitude (playing this weekend) as well as The Gates of Slumber — and indeed they had new songs called “Heave Ho” and “37 Trillion” in the set alongside favorites like “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife,” which seemed to fit well alongside their melodic, heavy and straightforwardly structured songs. Like Freedom Hawk, they’re rarely dug into frills of any kind, and it had been too long since I saw them, but they reminded of what a well-kept secret they are and gave me something to look forward to in their next record, whenever it might show up.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Big news coming next week from Wasted Theory. I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s not a new record — according to drummer Brendan Burns that’s still in the “messing around with riffs” stage, and fair enough since they released Warlords of the New Electric (review here) just last year — but it’s big news. And cool news. You know, I don’t always get down with where Wasted Theory land in terms of theme and whatnot, but as I watched guitarist/vocalist Larry Jackson, Jr. lead the band — Burns, guitarist Andrew Petkovic, bassist Corey Pettingill — through the set, I thought back to the first time I saw them early in 2013, and the difference six years have made in their sound is huge. On every level in terms of songs and performance, they’re a more professional, realized band, and yeah, they should be with three full-lengths out, but it’s still striking just how far they’ve come and how much work they’ve put in to find their place in Southern heavy rock. They’ve locked into their niche and set about developing as players and songwriters, and despite lineup changes they’ve never done anything but move forward. Look out for that news this week and join me in being vicariously happy for the band when the time comes.

Solace

Solace (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Solace are chaos. So much chaos. From the about-to-fly-off-the-rails dual-leadwork of Justin Daniels and Tommy Southard to the fact that they had Danny Golin (Halfway to Gone) sitting in on drums for the set after only rehearsing with him twice, to frontman Justin Goins spilling all the beer, the New Jersey five-piece are barely able to be contained on a stage — and at Maryland Doom Fest, they weren’t; Goins definitely spent some time in the crowd. They started recording their new album a year ago, reportedly, and I’ve already put up I think more than one news piece about it being done, but indeed, the thing’s still in progress, but whatever they do, wherever they go, Solace bring that sense of punk-metal danger with them, and it’s not just about a threat of violence, though maybe that too, even in the one new song they played, but the material itself has this frenetic energy to it that pushes everything into the red — figuratively and literally in terms of the lighting in this case — and when their set was done, you could almost feel the crowd at Cafe 611 exhale the breath it had been holding while they played. Hey, Solace — finish the goddamn album already. The world needs more of this kind of destructive catharsis. Badly.

WarHorse

Warhorse (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Yeah, so I know Massachusetts’ WarHorse only have two shows booked — this and Psycho Las Vegas in August — but I’m going to tell you straight up that this reunion is going to have to be a real thing whether they like it or not. The offers are going to keep coming. As in: “start writing songs and get your passports ready.” Already on the lips of fest-goers since the start of the day, the trio of bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne, drummer Mike Hubbard and Terry Savastano laid waste to the room. If Solace were the bull in the china shop, WarHorse were the steamroller knocking over the building afterward. It was magnificent. I never saw them during their original run, but their lone LP, As Heaven Turns to Ash (discussed here), is the stuff of legend — especially in the Northeast — and within the first five minutes of “Horizons Burn Red,” it was obvious they need to keep going. The set was that, plus “I am Dying,” “Scrape,” “Lysergic Communion” and “Black Acid Prophecy,” and when they were done, people were shouting for more. Rightly so. You know how you’ve been listening to that record for all these years and thinking like, “Wow, this must’ve been amazing to see live?” Well, it still is. Tour, new songs, album, festivals, all of it. They sounded like a band ready to get their due.

Earthride

Earthride (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m not sure how else you could hope to close out the night but with Earthride, who, again, tied together the spirit of Stoner Hands of Doom with Maryland Doom Fest perfectly. There was some problem early on with the bass rig, but it got worked out and after being introduced by drummer Eric Little‘s daughter — he looked pretty flabbergasted — they were off and rolling soon enough into the quintessential Chesapeake nod of “Something Wicked,” the title-track of their most recent album (review here), which came out in 2010. The intervening years have found vocalist Dave Sherman involved in Weed is Weed and the Spirit Caravan reunion that morphed into the current incarnation of The Obsessed, as well as other projects in the works and lineup changes in Earthride itself mostly in the bassist role — Greg Ball has handled guitar for the last several years — and true, they had the Witch Gun 7″ out in 2017, but even so, it’s time for a fourth Earthride album. I was dragging ass by the time they went on, but Earthride are kingpins of Maryland’s heavy underground and there’s nothing quite like seeing them on their home turf. As ever, I came out of doing so with no regrets whatsoever. They are a definitive band for what Maryland Doom Fest is all about.

It was, uh, late, when I got back to the AirBNB where I’m staying a few blocks away from the venue. I crashed on the futon in this room at about 2AM and was up before 7 thinking I needed to start making coffee and writing. Correct on both accounts. Today is another packed day — they all are — but it starts a little later, so I’ll see if I can’t crash for a bit this afternoon ahead of making my way over to Cafe 611 again. Also need to buy a toothbrush, so yeah, I think I’ll go do that. After I sort pictures.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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