You know, it’s funny. People are always skeptical about Baltimore, like they come here and expect to step foot into the set of The Wire. When my sister and I hosted some friends from the West Coast recently and walked them through our block, it prompted the typical, “oh, this isn’t so bad”-type of response. Well, I guess it depends on your definition of “bad.” I guess it’s “bad” in that it’s definitely a trap. I’ve tried to move away on several occasions but some kind of course of events always ends up occurring that holds me down, and I know several people here whose stories echo those of my own.
But I never really understood the whole misconception that walking around any given street is equivalent to a Fear Factor challenge. In terms of crime, it’s mostly narco dealers killing narco dealers, and even they’re not doing it out of evil, but out of shear desperation stemming from the lack of legitimate economic development. Neighborhoods get neglected. People are just doing what they have to do to survive. For the most part, if you just mind your own business and don’t act like a jackass you’re probably not going to attract much trouble (at least not from civilians, anyway).
My point here is not to rag on the Baltimore’s Finest for the ten millionth time, but rather to inform you that I was reminded this past weekend of what’s truly scary, and that’s venturing outside of the Bmore metro area into the abyss that is Western Maryland. Since I’m taking a wild guess that you’ve never been, I’m going to try and help you out: go to your local Costco, buy a jumbo box of Premium saltine crackers, jump in the box, smash up all the square little friends with your hind paws like you’re that nice yuppie couple harvesting grapes on their honeymoon in Sonoma, writhe around in your finished product, snort it, lick it, let the sharp edges cut you like sword of Varg’s Aryan forefathers, and then have a friend half-assedly sprinkle on a few gluten-free, sea-salted, sun-harvested lentil chips on top of you for good measure.
That’s Fredrick, Maryland, U.S.A. And as the most perplexing blend of hill people and lazy attempts at budding bourgieness you will ever see, it only makes sense it’s the town that hosts the most perplexing festival you will ever see — Maryland Doomfest, which is markedly devoid of both doom and fest.
Man, and Julie and I had been amped, too. We sped up Route 70 thumping Bell Witch out the subwoofer. I was looking like a tan, thotty Joan Jett. I had 7-Eleven tequila nuts and a 16 ounce Redbull on deck. The sun was up. Saturday was young. Everything was fine. Gucci, even. But then we actually got in the venue, and well, the only word I really know how to describe it was just fucking wack.
Let me preface the rest of what I’m going to say by explaining I ventured up to this dive before to see Crowbar a year ago and it was pretty benign. The sound wasn’t the best (it’s a pretty cavernous place with a low ceiling so everything gets kind of trapped), but it was, you know, just your average fucking metal show. I’m also not the type of person that needs to get their ass sucked everywhere I go. In fact, I prefer to just kind of be left alone to my own business. That being said, I don’t know what the hell happened to this fucking venue in the past year, but it’s fallen to shit. I think the median audience age went up about twenty years and any attempt to keep the place somewhat fucking sanitary had been pretty much abandoned. And I know this might sound crazy, but I do ask that my time not be used to wipe someone’s ass with.
I could go on a rant to end all rants with this one, but in an effort to keep things from rambling on into god knows where, I’ll just say this – I felt like I was trapped in an episode of Bar Rescue. It was a god awful cloud of fedoras, vapes, and Mountain Dew mixed with retired members of biker gangs in non-ironic American flag Charlie Sheen-esque short-sleeved button downs. Maybe I should clarify, though. I’m not ragging on people’s looks here. I’m not a complete bitch. It’s more of the attitude of these types of people that’ll ruin your time real quick. The fedora boys just stared at us like they had never seen women before (and lord knows if we called them out they’d blame our disdain on the evils of ~*feminism*~), and you know how the bikers rednecks do…making you feel like you’re stepping on their turf because they’re still trapped in some 80’s B movie. When you’re a chick at a metal show there’s always a baseline feeling of non-belonging, which is only heightened by being thrown into these kinds of shitty environments.
I think what was most disappointing of all, though, was the fact that the majority of the bands we heard play were fast, and barely even metal. Not knowing the vast majority of the bands on the lineup, we were hoping to discover some hidden gems that had been buried across the bowels of the Mid-Atlantic. Instead, we got Iron Maiden mixed with Five Finger Death Punch (just what the world has been waiting for). Julie pointed out that maybe the promoters were using the term “doom” loosely in the same way that MDF hosts a lot of other kinds of bands than just death metal. Which, yano, is fine, but maybe then a bunch of stoner art shouldn’t have been used to advertise the thing. Maybe descriptions of the bands should have been given like HHF promotions did. Maybe someone should have actually exuded any effort at all.
As we took a lap around the facilities, the humid, wood-paneled facility, it also became increasingly clear that this wasn’t really a festival as much as it was just an extended club show. To me, festival implies that there’s actually something going on outside each singular band performing. Maybe some outside vendors. Drink specials. A chance for other local artists to showcase their work. SOMETHING OTHER THAN PEOPLE STANDING AROUND LIKE FUCKING BONERS. Okay, to be fair, I think there was one chick selling bowls (even though the only smoke I smelled the whole time I was there was technically vapor) and I think one band had put up a science fair display board of their album artwork. But that was about all she wrote.
Sick of standing, we decided to go hide out in a corner of the bar. A bar that does not serve Jameson. A bar whose whiskey supply consists of a millimeter of honey Jack and some Canadian Mist. A bar that then proceeds to charge you $9 for a drink. Random shit ranging from half empty cans of Red Bull to free VFW calendars to discarded beer boxes was piled up all over everywhere. There were some free water pitchers, but no cups, so random dudes had to keep reaching over top of where we were sitting to snatch cups from behind the counter while the bartenders stood around obliviously eating chicken wings and licking their fingers (and then proceeding to touch the limes they were putting in people’s drinks).
After literally reading the names of beers on their open register screen in an attempt to keep myself entertained, I noticed a drink menu that had been randomly discarded next to me on the bar top. Having tapped out on shitty whiskey, I was in desperate need of a fruity vagina drink. I pointed to the first one on the list (some kind of hard lemonade shit) and showed it to the bartender, who then immediately looked like she was going to burst into tears admitting that she didn’t know how to make it. I felt kind of bad so I reassured her that whatever she could put together was fine. Instead, she grabbed a coworker who made me what seemed to be Tito’s, Minute Maid, and simple syrup that looked relieved when I said I liked it. I confirmed the $7 price on the menu, to which she replied “it’s $8 now.”
As I sucked down my sugar rush and we were once more hit with the smog of the fedora-ed gentleman, Julie turned to me with a revelation:
“I never knew I was a hipster until this moment.”
My point here (yes, there is one) is ultimately this: If you’re a dive, that’s fine. It it’s a fedora rock show you’re putting on, that’s fine. But then advertise it as such. Be honest. Otherwise you’re misleading people into wasting their fleeting free time and hard-earned money. Even once we ventured out into the rest of Frederick we noted that same kind of issues to those of the festival. Walking along Main Street (such things really do exist apparently), it was just a weird mix of hepatitisy-looking tattoo shops and corner stores living amongst tapas bars and other attempts to wrangle in the D.C. yupps, even though they can’t quite pull off the bourgie factor (i.e. the trashed Starbucks with discarded cups in the display case…ahahaha I know I’m a white girl complaining about Starbucks, shut the fuck up). Ugh, just pick a direction and really fucking go in it. Don’t half ass shit. For the love of god.
On a positive note, there was redemption in the form of two other shows I had the pleasure of seeing since then, with the first one being Classhole’s long-awaited Northeastern tour. I know I’ve been pretty much sucking Classhole’s dick since my first ever article on here, but I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon (sorry), especially now that they put me through the religious experience that occurred Sunday at the Depot back here in the ‘More. I lost my goddamn mind. I had some emotional breakdowns. I remember throwing things. My legs failed me at many points in the evening. I went down like the Titanic. I crashed and I sank. One moment I was telling drummer Paul Webb how much I admire his pet chihuahua, Dolly Parton, and then all of the sudden I seemed to be waking up on my kitchen floor with my head rammed underneath that space where the sink ends. 10/10 night. Also more than worth mentioning was how killer Dragged into Sunlight was. We were the first night of the tour, and I encourage all of the North American friends to go check them out. When it comes down to shear talent, DIS is the best I’ve seen in a minute. The bass player also borrowed my lighter and said “cheers.” 10/10 again.
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