Read Midwest Hell Fest Wrapup-Day 1 here.
Despite intermittent sleep, I wake up feeling fairly well rested. If memory serves correctly, I’m somewhere deep within the confines of enemy territory—Wisconsin. Sports rivalries aside, I’m happy to be here. For one, there’s a punk festival happening a couple blocks away, and secondly, there is cold pizza and bread sticks for breakfast within arm’s reach. Memory of how the food got here and why it's for the most part untouched is somewhat foggy. I snack while watching two movies on Showtime—the Ice Cube and Bow Wow classic, Lottery Ticket and the second installment of the Scooby Doo franchise. After spending an inordinate amount of time wondering whatever happened to Freddy Prince Jr. I decide to drag myself from bed. I set about to accomplish the first mission of the day—preserving the rest of the pizza and breadsticks. Seeing as how there is no fridge in this room, my initial thought is that this could prove to be difficult. If there was a microwave I wouldn’t care about leaving it out because I could just cook the crap out of it when I was hungry. Thankfully it's cold as balls in Wisconsin. My brilliant plan is to set it all in an open window, thus keeping the likelihood of dysentery at bay. Because, there is like, no way I am not eating all of this pizza and breadsticks by the time I leave here. Problem solved, I head out for the second day of Midwest Hell Fest.
I arrive at Tanner’s around 3pm to find that I have already missed a couple bands. Typical. The crowd is sparse but the band on stage has a captive audience. Hellcrusher is standard d-beat with gruff vocals. It’s a perfect way to start the day. It appears the drummer from Warton is one of the guitar players. The other one is from Pyroklast. I’m starting to sense a theme here. However, these guys are far better than either of those bands. And even though the singer resembles a patch-punk version of the kid from Gummo, he has a great voice for this. Sounds kind of like Warcollapse or Seitan.
I run into Aaron Gallows again and we decide now is as good a time as any to get a beer. Somehow the price has gone up fifty cents since last night but is still priced reasonably enough that it warrants purchasing a whole pitcher rather than singles.
It’s unclear to me if Chicago,IL's Krang have a new singer or are down to just one since the last time I’ve seen them. Either way, they are missing the female voice they used to have. At the start of the set the current guy spews something incomprehensible about “ancient religions,” then pulls a lighter out of his pocket and proceeds to put the flame to a bible. Aaron and I look at each other with equal parts disbelief and enthusiasm—we can’t help but laugh at the sheer stupidity. Not that we are at all offended by the burning of a bible (no doubt stolen from the hotel) but duh, we are indoors. Have we not learned anything from the Great White-Rhode Island disaster? We immediately map out routes to the nearest exits…just in case. Seriously though, burning ANY book is a sign of ignorance. Instead of making an actual statement about the expiration dates of old-world religions, this guy’s act of burning The Bible exposes him as a juvenile idiot, thus making it hard to take anything he says seriously. I have to admit; aside from the multitude of annoying things guy is doing (wearing poorly applied eye makeup, dancing around in his underwear, putting our lives in danger, etc.), Krang plays a highly enslaving style of black metal-infected crust—similar to that of Martyrdod. They call their old singer Hannah (now of Securicor, I believe) to the stage to sing one. When she’s done, the bass player says “Please come back Hannah. We reeeally miss you.” I have a feeling he reeeally means it.
Cog Dis, as they are affectionately referred to back home in Minneapolis, are raging as usual. The song intros are laughable but not in an off-putting way. For example, “This one is about how we are all going to die for our actions.” Or, “I hate all Christians. Fuck them!” And my personal favorite, “This one is dedicated to all those people that drop out of this shit (punk). That shit is fucked!” Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves amidst the metal-thrash-punk chaos provided by this trio of crusty gents. Ditch the corny song intros, and Cog Dis has the potential to be one of the more popular acts of this scene.
Finally, there is a female presence at this fest. When Streetwalker hit the stage, I see two girls look at each other and say, in unison, “Fuck yeah!” Then plow, arm in arm, into the pit. This is blackout grind with a dual female-male vocal attack—reminiscent of fellow Seattalites, Skarp. I’m quite impressed.
These guys are from Hartford, CT. It’s more Discharge/Amebix-style hardcore punk. Great stuff and I’d love to stick around but there are still six more bands to play before this thing is over. Unfortunately, you have to take a break at some point. I feel bad doing it now, but cold pizza-n-breadsticks and warm beer await my arrival back at the room.
Also, Harold and Kumar are on Comedy Central trying to escape Guantanamo Bay.
In the hallway of the hotel, I meet an extremely intoxicated gentleman from Iowa who is having a hard time finding the ice machine. He must be having a hard time finding his clothes as well because he’s only wearing a pair of tighty-whiteys.
I walk back into Tanner’s as one of the three clean-cut gentlemen onstage announce, “Here’s another hardcore song about stuff that pisses us off.” SFN play a tumultuous hybrid that is equal parts powerviolence, tech metal and tortured-guy doom-n-gloom hardcore. Think Spazz vs. Dillinger Escape Plan vs. His Hero Is Gone in a three-way dance for the title. I’m envisioning the crowd wanting to hate these guys because of their short hair and normie clothes and that in-turn makes me like them even more. “Here’s another fast one.” Perfect. We’ve gone five bands now that didn’t include a member of Wartorn. That’s got to be some sort of record for this fest.
And the streak comes to an end. Ryan, the guitar player from Wartorn also wields his axe for The Parish. This is stoner doom/death metal with songs up around the seven minute mark and hair down around the just-above-the-ass mark. I’ll gladly put my Devil horns in the air. Unfortunately there are some prog-like elements, which will prompt me to lower said Devil horns, returning them to their natural position—under armpits, arms folded across chest. Who’s got the pot, dude?
Post-ambient black metal crust-core form Minneapolis. Those of us that are not pressed up against the stage are showing the first signs of unraveling. It’s unfortunate because these guys are stellar. It’s only 9pm but two days of piercing assaults on the eardrums combined with heavy drinking and poor eating (and for many of us, travel) has culminated in a tidal wave of fatigue. I’m not sure but the atmospheric landscape of “Malevolent Winds” may have actually put some people to sleep on their feet.
Dresden is Wartron’s rhythm section and singer. It’s literally the same band as Wartorn, just with different guys playing guitar—they are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Yawn.
They should have called this thing Wartorn’s Incest Fest.
Also, what’s the deal with fingerless gloves? Seriously.
From Ashes Rise
I have been looking forward to these doom-thrash-punk heavyweights ever since they were announced for this fest, as it has been several years since I last saw them. And despite getting off to a slow start, I am not the least bit disappointed in them. From Ashes Rise have played a number of Scion-sponsored shows in the last year or so, resulting in a fair amount of backlash from the holier-than-thou crowd that once staunchly supported them. Judging by a few of the snarky rumblings amongst the audience, I’d say some of those folks are in attendance this evening. But by the time they tear into “Uniforms” everyone seems to be rollicking regardless. Perhaps all the corporate beer they have ingested has allowed them to let down their anti-fun guard. When From Ashes Rise finishes their set, everyone is screaming for more.
Saira Huff and co. has the honor of closing this thing down. If I’m not mistaken, this is a one-off reunion—they haven’t played together since their last show at another first-time Midwest fest, Distortion Days in their hometown of Minneapolis. A little rusty, but pretty much exactly how I remember them—fast and energetic. For people that haven’t seen them before, Saira’s between-song banter may come off a tad bit abrasive at this point in the weekend. Personally, I love it. I can’t imagine a better way to cap off a couple days of excess than being forced to question my life choices. Once I get home it’s going to be nothing but egg whites, almonds, broccoli and water for this guy. I’ve seen a lot of bands in the last 48 hours and Question just might be the best one. A perfect ending to a great festival.
Perhaps they shut the ventilation system off, because it’s at this point that I smell the faintest bit of that all too familiar odor—“crust stench.” Finally!
It smells like someone emptied a porta-potty inside of a high school wrestling room. Good night.
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