Live Coverage- A Day at The Maryland Doom Fest, June 24, 2017
Words and Photos: David Locklear
One of the drawbacks of being the sole cameraman, writer and photographer for even just one day of an event as mountain crushing as the Maryland Doom Fest is that you cannot see every band.
Between hanging out with Dave Sherman from Earthride, nerding out about favorite and obscure doom albums with Terry Savastano of Grief, Come to Grief and currently Conclave, or just meeting cool folk while wandering around in a fog of alcohol, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. But it’s awesome to try.
It was 3:15 when I finally darkened the door of Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland after a 5-hour trek from North Carolina.
Frustratingly, I missed the opening set by Boston doom harvesters, Conclave, COMPLETELY; however, when I later admitted this discretion to their drummer, Dan Blomquist, he was completely cool about it.
“That’s what happens sometimes when you go on at 2:30 in the afternoon!”, he said.
Which was a shame, because based on what several of the audience members told me that had seen their set, it was a crushing experience and many of them were now fans. As it should be.
Black Tar Prophet had just taken the stage and was smearing their brand of doom sludge across patrons of the club for a solid 45 minutes, brandishing their tunes with strength, priming the audience for the next 10 hours of metal pummeling.
When Witches of God took to the stage shortly after 4 pm, opening with a partial performance of the song, “The Horror”, from their 2013 album ‘The Blood of Others’ before jumping into their full set that combined a nice mix of both of their albums, including “Some Die Slowly” from 2016’s ‘They Came to Kill’.
Their sound and look had an underlying buttery, but no less sinister, groove that seemed to connect with fans in a way that made them groove more than clench their fists.
When the Austin, Texas trio The Well took to the stage around 5, they fully pushed the mellow psych doom smolder WOG had started into a full blown fire and the potential for hallucinations became a very real possibility.
They thundered through their monstrous set, with cuts such as the sexy banger “Mortal Bones” and the gravelly “Dragon Snort” from their latest album, “Samsara”. All three members, Singer/guitarist Ian Graham, bassist Lisa Alley and drummer Jason Sullivan never stopped their heads from banging for every tune. On the rare moment there was even a pause, it was more designed to taunt their demons and dare their muse to give them more fuel before punishing the music again.
After The Well finished their amazing set, the crowd were given a brief respite, but the trio of Heavy Temple commenced with the doom pummeling as they quickly jumped onto the stage and ripped all the way through their set with hardly a moment of rest between songs, a la Ramones-style rocking.
Black denim wrapped legs were thrown onto the tops of amplifiers, flying V guitars were slung low and made to squeal, and drum skins were beaten into the very dirt of hell after these ladies finished crushing their tunes. I hadn’t had the chance to hear any of their music before their set, but I can confidently say that I will be actively seeking out their shows when they come to town from now on.
It was during King Bison and Serpents of Secrecy that I fully appreciated why I needed my cameraman/photographer John Richardson’s assistance at these types of festivals: all of Conclave were available for a sit down for an interview and I had to make a choice.
So, please enjoy my interview with badasses of Conclave and know that I have nothing but the utmost respect for King Bison and Serpents of Secrecy, and will do my best to make up to them an absence of pictures from what I heard from many patrons were really awesome sets. All of the guys from Conclave (In the video, from left to right: guitarist, Jeremy Kibort; guitarist, Terry Savastano,; bassist/vocalist, Jerry Orne; and drummer, Dan Blomquist) talked with me about how they formed, their fairly ordinary lives and a love of doom. (Warning: As I mentioned before, I did not have a proper camera/cameraman and I was the only one that could film the interview. I am a shitty cameraman, coupled with the fact I was several beers deep into the day, so I hope that you-and Conclave-will forgive my poor film skills. Especially when my stupid thumb makes an appearance towards the end.)
Once I finished waving the camera around for the Conclave interview (Again, my apologies if any one grew dizzy watching my terrible camera work), I managed to squeeze to the front of the stage at 8 pm for the solid concert by Hollow Leg. The crowd had grown exponentially larger as the sun began to hang low on the horizon, which always makes it much more tricky to get a good shot of a band performing their craft. But, as I wrote earlier, it is always fun to try.
The Jacksonville, Florida group took confidently to the stage and rammed their massive sound into the ears of anyone within a five mile radius. It was a slow, steady thunder they wrangled and held on display for the concert goers, as they stomped their way through songs like the recently released “Raven”, “New Cult” and closing with the groove infected “Coils” from their 2016 release, “Crown”. I was glad that I was able to catch them, because they were going to be performing my hometown the following night with my local buddies, Lords of Mace, in North Carolina and I wouldn’t be able to be there.
As I wandered through the crowd following Hollow Leg, the air of mellow friendliness seemed to have befallen most of the people in attendance that I met: I made fast friends with a fellow beer nerd wearing a Sleep shirt:
Chatted with Ian from The Well and bought some sweet merch:
Got to know a couple that is bonded in love and a love of doom with Laura and Will:
Who were kind enough to take my pic with the legendary Eric Wagner:
And finally, I got to talk in person with the legend himself, Dave Sherman of Earthride:
I was so stoked-for the first time, I was going to finally be seeing Earthride live. After listening to the destructive awesomeness of their albums, “Vampire Circus”, “Taming of the Demons”, and “Something Wicked” for the last ten years, hearing these brutal, down tuned wah-wah chords, ball-rattling drums and the infected, choking-on-gravel vocals live was like Christmas for a doomer like me.
Sherman slithered across the stage, as guitarists Greg Ball and Karl Van Steinburg seduced their guitars, bassist Edmund Allen Brown poured out his low end and drummer Eric Little angrily punished the drum skins. They brought out the old crowd favorite, “Mr. Green” and dropped their newest skull crusher, “Witch Gun” before closing with their classic “Fighting the Devils Inside of You”. The crowd was electrified and Earthride left them twitching in the dust.
Bang! are truly something else. Recording a handful of solid pre-doom, groove laden records in the early seventies (“Death of a Country”, “Bang”, “Mother/Bow to the King” and “Music”), they have gained a surge of popularity in the last few years with the reissues of their back catalogue and finally getting the recognition that eluded them during the same decade in which I was born. So watching as Bang! gathered one of the biggest crowds of the night, you could see in their eyes that they loved what they were doing. And that passion in playing was certainly passed on to the crowd, which ate every song up.
As I waited at the front of the stage for The Skull to take the stage at midnight, my body officially hit ‘The Wall’: that moment when your body runs out of fuel and involuntarily decides it is done working for the day.
‘The Wall’ I hit was a result of having a steady diet of water and beer and nothing else for nine hours because I sometimes enjoy what I do so much, that basic instinctual nutrition doesn’t come up a priority until it is too late. Light headed, I asked a fellow doom brother standing next to me to hold my spot as I desperately bought a bag of chips and not so much chewed them, but inhaled them through my mouth hole and absorbed their life giving energy. Clumsily making my way back up front, a small energy rush surged and I knew my time was limited.
As The Skull slowly dragged their songs out of their caves and began their signature, old school riffing, the crowd swayed together to the sounds of soon-to-be-classic tunes “For Those Which Are Asleep” and “Trapped Inside My Mind”. Having interviewed singer Eric Wagner and talking with him earlier in the evening, it is amazing that a man with such a deep speaking voice can still hit the same notes he did on the Trouble albums with no problems at all. This is someone who has clearly taken care of his vocal instrument.
It was well after 1 am as the second day of the Maryland Doom Fest finally drew to a close. There was still one final day of live, slab-dragging riffage waiting for many concert goers with a lineup that featured Black Pyramid and Burn Thee Insects, among other defenders of the doom faith who were slated to perform. For me, I had a date with the three most beautiful ladies in the world: my wife and two girls. As much as I would like to stay for more of the doom slaying, family calls.
(A Big THANK YOU to JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank)