Saying Goodbye with The Wrecking Ball

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by David Feltman, Photos by Epic Photography Atlanta

The second annual Wrecking Ball was a memorial service honoring the passing of the Masquerade. Not one of those dour Presbyterian services, but a raucous New Orleans-style affairs. Grim reapers and punk effigies duct taped to wrecking balls adorned the sidewalks and venue. The courtyard was lined with vendors offering t-shirts, corn dogs and “Free Shit Haircuts.” Long dead bands resurrected to eulogize the memories of the dearly departing venue.

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This year’s lineup was packed with more than 60 bands, including several presumably last chance reunion and farewell shows. Even with bands in such close proximity, it was possible to migrate from stage to stage every 15 minutes and still not be able to see every performance. If at any point there was a gap between bands on your “must-see” headliner list, you could always be rewarded by poking your head in the Hell or Purgatory stage. Someone somewhere was always playing and they were always worth a few minutes of your attention.

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Many bands traced their history across the entire festival. Taking the stage after Rainer Maria, The Promise Ring’s Davey von Bohlen recalled that the band had opened for The Promise Ring’s first show. “Perhaps we’ll have to get Samuel or Texas is the Reason if we do this again,” said von Bohlen. Later that evening von Bohlen played again with his current band, Maritime. Hardcore band Give Up the Ghost performed under its original name, American Nightmare, and band member Wesley Eisold trotted out his solo act Cold Cave. Anthony Civarelli brought both of his occasionally reunited punk acts, Gorilla Biscuits and CIV, to Wrecking Ball and his band mate in both bands, Walter Schreifels, played a headliner slot with his other, other, other band Quicksand.

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The Wrecking Ball boasted less a lineup than a community. The bands were like old high school friends brought together for a wake, paying respects and making small talk in the hallway. Bands that hadn’t played in 15 years were back and playing with the same groups they were playing with before they disbanded. These bands were fans of each other and they were as excited to watch the other sets as the rest of the audience. Drug Church expressed excitement about seeing Piebald and jokingly asked the crowd if they should play “When Life Gives You Lemons and Venetian Blinds” or “You’re Part of it” before launching into a cover of “American Hearts.” Motion City Soundtrack lead singer Justin Pierre sat just off stage to watch The Promise Ring and after his own band’s farewell performance said, “I haven’t seen Dinosaur Jr. in 25 years. I can’t wait to see them again.”

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The festival was overflowing with attendees. Event security sat at the entrances of Heaven and Hell carefully monitoring and regulating the number of people at each stage. Some of the bigger names like Hey Mercedes and Piebald that didn’t make it to the outdoor stages drew lines that wrapped around the block. With the smaller indoor stages supporting capacity crowds and hardcore acts like Trapped Under Ice and Gorilla Biscuits rousing fans to attack the stage, the Masquerade was definitely showing its age. The floor in Heaven felt rickety and rumbled under the stress of punks plummeting from the stage to the floor in acrobatic bounds. Pushing past crowds on the narrow, shaky stairwell, it became apparent that it was time to say goodbye to the venue.

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Quicksand was the perfect closing act for the event. The band’s low-end punch sent vibrations through everyone near the stage, shaking their innards. The set could be heard for miles and people in the condos the next block over sat on their balconies to listen. It was enough to revitalize the sun burnt and exhausted crowd and give them enough energy to make it to their Ubers waiting outside. The Masquerade will be reborn at its new location and Wrecking Ball will be there again next year. But for dedicated music fans in the area, this was still a goodbye to a landmark venue and a concert experience they will long remember.

Sumerian Records packs the Masquerade on their 10 Year Tour

Review by Daniel Karasek, Photos by Shaun’s Krisher (Photo gallery at the bottom)

May 19, 2006 – Atlanta, Georgia

The air was heavy with metal as the Masquerade filled with rockers ready for a night to remember. Outside, smokers gathered to regale each other with stories since their last meeting. Inside, the crowd started to fill heaven and bunch up around the stage. Merch vendors were hustling shirts and posters, selling out of their stock before the first band took the stage. The entirety of Masquerade was in motion for another great night at the venue that Nick Folio, the drummer for Bad Omens, called “his favorite venue in Atlanta because it’s legendary.” Sumerian Records had the spotlight with their 10 Year Tour featuring five of their signed artists including Bad Omens, ERRA, After The Burial, Upon A Burning Body, and Born of Osiris. Props to Sumerian for putting together one killer lineup that fans clearly approved of since the show was sold out.

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Bad Omens, hailing from the City of Angels, kicked off the evening with the spunk surpassing their maturity as a band. It’s amazing that they have only been signed with Sumerian since spring of 2015 and yet have the presence of a seasoned act. When they played their debut single “Glass Houses” the crowd was entranced by the power behind the jam with moshing and general mayhem spreading around like wildfire. Overall, Bad Omens is an act to keep your eye on.

Next up was ERRA, an act from Birmingham that takes pride in their intense live performances. Before they even took the stage, the crowd was hyped to see their performance, with one rocker, Daniel, remarking that “ERRA is dope.” Those three words hardly did ERRA justice. Their performance displayed their professionalism and talent that their fans adore. Their sound stood apart from Bad Omen, not in any better way, but as a different flavor of metal to mix up the night. ERRA really put their heart and soul into their performance to give their fans a genuine, polished set. ERRA is definitely an act not to miss next time they are in town.

_DSC6707As the middle act of the night, After The Burial kept the night going strong. The quintet from Minnesota boasts unparalleled, eight-stringed riffs and killer chord progressions that were definitely apparent in their performance. In the midst of their shredding, After The Burial took a moment to talk about their recent album Dig Deep that almost was canned when tragedy struck the band with the death of their founding rhythm guitarist Justin Lowe. However, the band said that they “put the pieces back together” and “reached down inside themselves” to finish the album, hence its title. They then followed up with “Aspiration” as a thank you to their fans for all of their support. It’s not often you see a band push through such tragedy and stay unified in their direction. Props to After The Burial for being an overall class act that won’t let anything hinder bringing their music to the world.

Following After The Burial was Upon A Burning Body, a five piece metal and hardcore hybrid from San Antonio. After paying their dues and taking strides in the underground, self-promotion scene, Upon A Burning Body has now taken the national spotlight as a full time touring band. Their set at Masquerade rocked the floorboards not only with the music, but also with the crowd matching Upon A Burning Body’s energy. There were circle pits for days during their entire set, from “Red Razor Wrists” to their closing songs “Texas Blood Money” and “Intermission.” The potential of this band seems limitless as they break ground as a defined, refined new voice in the metal scene.

Closing out the night was the trendsetting band Born of Osiris. Before their set even began, their merch booth was sold out of merchandise. Hailing from Chicago, this six-piece act exceeded the reputation they have for their critically acclaimed sound. They played both old and new songs, including “The Other Half of Me” from their new album Soul Sphere as well as “Follow the Signs” from their second album Discovery. Although the crowd seemed wiped after raging for After The Burial, the energy somehow, by the grace of Cthulhu, came back almost twofold. The moshing continued with the crowd showing their love for Born of Osiris. Props to Born of Osiris for being able to keep the night pumped, even though they played after four solid metal acts. Born of Osiris proved once again that they can hold the banner as a game changer in the metal scene. Definitely should catch them next time they visit.

Overall, the Sumerian Records 10 Year Tour killed it. The Masquerade was so lit I’m surprised it didn’t catch fire. It’s good to see the iconic venue hold up to its reputation despite it being on the verge of shutting its doors and moving to a new location. You should catch a show at the Masquerade before it’s too late.

Tickets for the remaining dates on the Sumerian Records 10 Year Tour are available at the website.



 

Napalm Death takes a Death March through Atlanta’s Masquerade April 10

On April 10, Napalm Death and the Melvins came to the Masquerade, co-headlining the Savage Imperial Death March Tour.  They’re all still at the top of their game, and packing in shows.  They’re doing 35 shows in 42 days, blazing through 22 states and 3 Canadian provinces. I’m tired just describing it, but this is par for the course for these two bands, each with their own reputation for playing long, intense sets and not taking many days off. The Melvins set a world record by traveling around the USA, playing all 50 states plus Washington DC in 51 days in 2012 (they released a DVD of this tour, made up entirely of mobile phone footage crowd-sourced from their fans! You can find it here).

“We have been talking about doing a tour like this for a long time, so we are thrilled it’s finally happening,” says Napalm Death bass player Shane Embury in an interview with Loudwire. “Having been long time fans and friends of the Melvins we are very happy to be embarking on this six-week tour of musical madness with them and Melt Banana. Expect the unexpected!”

There were a lot of old school metal fans out that night. Both the Melvins and Napalm Death have been touring since the early 80s (I just did a quick calculation and the combined touring experience of the bands on this billing is 90 years!).

Melt-Banana, a Japanese duo whose style is best described as “Noise/Punk/Something Not of this Earth/Seriously, What is That,” joins them on tour. Melt-Banana has been a cult sensation for more than twenty years, primarily in the United States and UK.  It helps that their songs are in English.  They formed in 1992, and were signed within 6 months when they gained the attention of legendary producer Steve Albini. They’ve had a drummer and bass player previously, but have functioned as a tight, efficient duo for most of their career.  Guitarist Ichirou Agata is known for his ability to draw “non-guitar sounds” from his guitar.  He does this with his unusual playing style, using pick scrapes, odd harmonics, and feedback as well multiple synths, distortions and other effects spread across two pedalboards onstage.  Yasuko Onuki matches his frenetic style with her own, and she drives the backbeat using a wireless MIDI controller in one hand as she sings into her mic in the other. The crowd was digging it.  Melt-Banana closed their set by saying “instead of playing 3 long songs, we will play 6 short ones,” and proceeded to play six spastic musical vignettes, each no more than 90 seconds long, like the musical equivalent of a bento box.

The Melvins played next, and the crowd was ready to start moshing. These guys are classic metal and are still drawing new, younger fans. King Buzzo, the lead singer and guitarist played a cool aluminum guitar that gave a distinct edge to his sound, and an explanation for his name. The Melvins took their time and ran through hits from their entire 30-year career.  You can only pack so much into a 90 minute set, though.  King Buzzo prowled the stage in a wizard’s robe decorated with eyeballs, while drummer Dale Crover and bassist Steven McDonald helpfully wore shirts which read “Drums” and “Bass” in glitter.  The Melvins got their start back in 1983, and have cultivated an underground following of influential artists.  Maybe you don’t like the Melvins, but many of your favorite rockers sure do.  Their sludgy sound laid the seeds for Seattle’s grunge rock scene.  Progressive metal bands like Tool and Mastodon also consider the Melvins an important influence.  They produced a high intensity set that demonstrated what a finely tuned gigging machine they’ve become.  There was a sizeable mosh pit and crowd surfers bobbed on the surface to fall into the photo pit.  

Napalm Death closed the night. Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne adds, “Napalm Death sounds like a gorilla on LSD firing a machine gun… and I mean that in a good way. We’re happy to be heading out with the ultimate grindcore pioneers.”  Sometimes a band doesn’t sound like their name.  Napalm Death is not that band. While none of the original members from 1983 are still in the band, the current lineup had all found their place in the band by 1991.  It’s crazy to think you might start a band with your friends, everyone with whom you started that band leaves at some point, and that band is still going strong a quarter-century after the fact.  One thing that has not changed over the years is the absolute face-flapping loudness and intensity of this band. Grindcore came into existence because these guys birthed it.  Their live shows are equally intense.  Napalm Death blasted through their set, from the first downbeat to the last dissonant feedback.  For a full 80 minutes, vocalist Mark Greenway ran from one end of the stage to the other, from the drum riser into the photo pit to goad the audience, and then back to the drum riser. The audience met his energy in kind, and it was hard to find a place in the room untouched by the chaos in motion. Apex Predator – Easy Meat is their 15th and most recent release.
The Savage Imperial Death March tour continues through May 8, and you can see the rest of the dates here.