The first annual Decibel Metal & Beer Fest—the alleged product of years of scheming—proved itself to be a success. After all, without three trips to the ATM you didn’t budget for, a 5:1 male-to-female ratio, and a dude in a chicken suit for no reason, it just ain’t a festival. Two nights, twelve bands, and countless beer booths don’t hurt, either. My whiskey tango ass errs on the side of “if it’s not Boh it’s bullpucky,” so I can’t speak too much on the craft brews, but without a doubt, the music end of the deal delivered in its relatively clean-cut setting of the Fillmore Philadelphia.
Any function in which fancy booze is central to its thesis holds the potential to turn into a bloat fest – literally and figuratively. But, when the venue runs out of clear plastic sampling cups and has to start breaking out the paper Dixies, all becomes a bit more humanized. This sense of humbleness spilled over onstage, where everyone from the likes of Krieg to Sleep expressed their genuine gratitude for being a part of the inauguration of what will hopefully become a new rite of spring.
Municipal Waste brought another one of their consistently magnetic performances, all set to the backdrop of a cartoon Trump blasting his brains out. Agoraphobic Nosebleed took the Saturday night headline, and, much like my experience seeing Deafheaven recently, it was sweet getting to watch their dedicated fanbase lose their shit in response. The whole dual vocalist shtick always gives me vibes of metalcore VFW shows back in ’09, but hey, Agoraphobic is unapologetically doing their thing. While far from my brand of metal, Immolation got shit moving as well, all while exuding an earnest love for their craft.
One slight miss was Khemmis. Decibel seems to really believe in them, but it’s going to have to be a no for me, dog. They’re clearly all talented lads on their own, but it doesn’t all quite melt down into something tasty. Think of when you order an iced caramel macchiato and there’s three weird layers of espresso, milk, and syrup. You try to stir it, but it’s like oil and water. Khemmis operates under the same principle – you’ve got homeboy on a flying v, the fifth member of Deafheaven on bass, and a clean vocalist whose tone gives off more of a rock feel. I’m all for having diverse influences, but they need to be coherently woven together. I need that clear point of view to hold on to, plain and simple, and I just couldn’t detect one.
A resounding hit was, hands down, Panopticon. Operating on the other end of the spectrum from Khemmis, Panopticon, consisting of one-manner Austin Lunn and equally brilliant sessionists, is a champion of voice. I get it, although I struggle to put the “it” into words. After returning home, I consulted with my sister about the matter. She was lucky enough to witness Panopticon’s first ever set at Migration Fest 2016, so she had a particularly insightful take. It’s folk metal through a uniquely American lens – traditional instrumentation with heavy interludes, all performed so seamlessly in between samples of union speeches and Native American chants that it’s almost impossible to believe that Lunn has been conducting Panopticon live for less than a year. By offering social commentary that all of us in the 99% can relate to regardless of our intersection of identities, Panopticon reminds us that our roots should be honored and not forgotten.
And hell, I sure haven’t forgotten mine. When I was a gal of 17, I once unbuttoned my pants, popped a squat, and attempted to unleash 40 ounces of Hurricane onto the Philly streets. Suffice it to say, as just a wee nug, I didn’t know to pop it far enough and, well, I just ended up pissing all over myself. But I grew older, sharpened my skills, and just last week, after a very long drive to Brooklyn, I squatted over a plastic tumbler in the backseat of my car and successfully took a venti leak – my composure remaining graceful even as my cup ranneth over. I took this lifetime achievement back to Phil-a-delphia and got a shot at redemption as I braced myself for the most monumental pisses of them all – Cemetery Piss.
A blackened cultivation of just about every great era of metal, CP is a beauty in the rough of Baltimore who’s, deservedly, garnered recognition from the broader metal circuit. After their Sunday night set, vocalist Adam Savage and guitarist Dirck Ober (ex-Crypt of Raix) were kind enough to take some time out to speak with DIAG. True to Smalltimore form, Adam and I coincidentally discovered that we’re neighbors and his partner runs the hair shop where I get my mane Elvira-ed. As fellow crusty crabs adrift in a sea of Cheesesteak filling, we bonded over beer, fests on fests, and, of course, their warm, wet guise.
So what has Cemetery Piss been up to?
A: Last week we were out for four days. We played in Cleveland with Horrible Earth and then we were at Berserker Fest in Pontiac, Michigan outside of Detroit, which was fucking amazing. It was so fun. That fest is really great. Sean and Veronica did a really good job of putting it all together. Saw some great bands.
Did you catch Mike IX’s big return to the stage?
A: Yes, Mike IX was great. Eyehategod — probably my ninth time seeing them but they were as good as ever. Dale Crover from the Melvins did a surprise.
D: Oh, that’s right! That was crazy.
A: And Fuck You Pay Me were amazing. So yeah, we also did Pittsburgh and some Baltimore stuff, and now we’re here doing Decibel Metal & Beer Fest and it’s been incredible. The venue is great and the sound’s great and everyone is sounding awesome.
Are y’all craft beer fans? Obligatory question.
D: I used to be. My old neighbors used to have an every two week beer-making system until my whole basement got full of fucking beer. We had different yeasts going on for different beer strains we were making. I don’t drink anymore, though. But Adam has been having some.
A: Yeah, that Megadeth beer was pretty amazing. It was sort of like the headliner beer for the weekend and it was spectacular. It’s sort of light and kind of citrusy. It seems like it’s a variation on La Fin Du Monde.
So are you guys excited to see Sleep later?
A: Absolutely, love Sleep. I’ve only gotten to see them once at Deathfest.
D: I saw them in Philly once before. I think it was one of the first times they played after getting back together, actually. Where was it? Fuck, I can’t remember. But it was one of their first reunion shows. It was awesome. They played stuff from Holy Mountain and a whole bunch of Dopesmoker. They played forever but it didn’t feel like it. Of course, I was high as hell.
A: They were one of those bands you never thought you’d get to see, but then you see them, and it’s totally amazing. And in a nice place with great sound, it’s going to be really cool. Everyone seems really excited. I saw they had a, like, two hour merch line.
D: It’s really going to be the perfect sound for it, like, reverberating through your whole body.
What other Baltimore bands are you stoked about right now?
A: Well, we’ve got our friends in Putrisect.
D: Just played Pittsburgh with them.
A: Oh, and Corpse Light. I feel like people from outside of Baltimore are starting to find out about them. They’re really awesome. They just got a new guitar player, Shane, who has been taking photos of us, and they played some new songs the other night opening for Junius and I thought it was fucking great. I think they’re going to be really good really soon and just blow up.
What’s your take on the Maryland Deathfest lineup this year? I know it’s going to be a different kind of setup (for more on this topic, check out the June issue of Decibel).
D: I mean, I’ll definitely kind of miss the outdoor drunken mess under the highway, but I don’t know.
A: When it was inside of the Sonar complex, I feel like it was a lot easier to fill out that space. But the Edison lot is very big, and I think it became a little bit too much. I’m pretty stoked for it to be all inside again. It feels better when everything is kind of packed in. If there’s too much room, I feel like it loses a little bit of that communal vibe that everyone loved about it. When you see these shows and you turn around and you’re surrounded by people you know and don’t know and everyone is just fucking in it together, that’s great, and I feel like I was losing that a little bit with the outdoor stuff. I think it’s a good move and it’s going to be great. With just Soundstage and Rams Head there’s going to be less time spent traveling, too.
D: No more debauched parking lot breaks, though.
A moment of silence for the memory of getting frozen margarita and asphalt soot all over our farmer’s tans
I know we were talking about Housecore Horrorfest earlier. I heard some whispers about Housecore Dallas this year. Is there any chance Cemetery Piss will be playing?
A: Nobody’s talked to us about it, but I’d love to. I’ve been to Housecore to manage Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Super fun. Seeing King Diamond in San Antonio was mindblowing. But we definitely want to do more one-off fest things. We’d love to get on the West Coast. We’ve been talking about trying to go to Mexico or something like that.
I feel like people are really drawn to your name. Or at least I am, anyway. How did you guys come up with it?
A: It came from this dumb little movie my friend and I made one night a long time ago. One of my friends who was in it and I thought it was a good name, so we started a band that was called Cemetery Piss. It was, in our minds, like a Khanate worship band, and that was the idea. That band never played any shows; never did anything.
D: But I made this tape and I just remembered him talking about that name. I don’t even remember what he said about it. I just remembered that name and thinking that’s so “fuck you” — let’s use it.
A: So I was just like yeah, let’s use the name. These other guys in the original band didn’t care. So, I kept it, and I’m glad that I did.