GUEST POST BY MICHAEL BYRNE. This was written for a lifestyle magazine, but it didn’t end up running so I figured I would share it here. Words by Michael, photos by me. Very soon after posting this I will also post my “my favorite shots from Whartscape” post, too!
This was it: the very last Whartscape after five oven-hot years in downtown Baltimore celebrating weird, â€œweird,â€ and occasional masturbation, but far more pure awesome underground donâ€™t-give-a-fuck music via the all growed up warehouse nuts of Wham City. Thereâ€™ve been five of these things, growing (mostly) every year, but this was my third. And best. And loudest. And, holy sweet damn, the hottest. I mean, last Saturday night in a warehouse listening to one of the planetâ€™s best ever hardcore bands, it was even too hot to drink a beer.
Why was this the best? The short answers are Universal Order of Armageddon (see above) and Arab On Radar, both reunited after being presumed dead for 16 and 8 years, respectively. The Oxes were back, performing in the midst of a light rail thruway. Bmore rappers Get Em Mamis made the boys and girls hearts turn to sauce. Squealcore unit Ponytail gave whatâ€™s rumored to be its last ever show. And thatâ€™s not even talking about who knows how many awesome smaller Baltimore bands that you donâ€™t even know about because you donâ€™t live here.
Sunday almost got trashed totally by a quick moving and brutal storm, shredding at least one of the outdoor parking lot stage canopies. But the Whammers and their legion of volunteers (crew of volunteers?) had it moved in like an hour indoors to air conditioning and the amazing feel-it-in-your-bones sound system of the mammoth Sonar club, who’d basically just said â€œsureâ€ and scrambled up a bunch of bartenders and a door guy. Bummer it got shut down after some metalcore twerp in another room pulled a fire alarm.
Yeah, there was art-shock stuff and even some neon. (Ear Pwr needs to stop, now, please.) And maybe this is what you think of when you think of Baltimore, some paradise of Casio-toting neutrinos with shitty attitudes about people that donâ€™t have _that_ on vinyl or maybe know how to and enjoy playing guitar. Nah, youâ€™ve got it wrong. Thereâ€™s so much here and those shitty neutrinos are really only like three dudes that canâ€™t get laid.
Howâ€™s DJ Dog Dick on one side making splattertronic noise crunk, cave creature Hollywood making guitar war, Dan Deacon himself with full live ensemble making avant-garde future-pop dance music. I could go on. And on. So I will just a little below, with some help from Baltimoreâ€™s finest photog, Josh Sisk.
This crew is called Gravebangers and a bystander remembers it as “a bunch of people in shock makeup, with inverted crosses, screaming like banshees in between songs. The songs were. . . not rapping but not exactly singing. And about a variety of things including Alex Proyas’ Dark City.â€ I missed it, alas. Figure its at least 100 degrees in that room.
When Arab On Radar came on stage, my superfan buddy Dave and I were sitting down sort of in the back, taking it easy because it was around 100 degrees and the breeze wasnâ€™t helping much. Now, Dave is a pretty shy computer hacker kind of guy and heâ€™d resigned to sitting and enjoying the noise-rock deity do its thing from afar. But I swear, it was like watching a junky staring down a bag of rock. Finally, thank god, he went for it and charged down into the mass throng of kids and oldsters and its suffocating pit–and I didnâ€™t see him again that night.
After the thunderstorm came through, bands got split between the warehouse stages and Sonar. Health got sent to the warehouse stages because (I imagine) Health just makes more sense there with the more avant and party and whathaveyou stuff. Anyhow, apparently they had a hissy fit and insisted in playing the â€œreal club,â€ thus shortening Beach Houseâ€™s set time. Whatever.
Iâ€™d really like to like â€˜em but honestly this kind of shit feels like avant-garde-slash-noise art cherry-picking. Theyâ€™re like the Radiohead of the underground DIY scene. Theyâ€™re too slick and come off as cheap.
I feel like a amateur but Iâ€™d never seen Lightning Bolt before. Black Pus, once, last year–but not the pair together. What can I say? I couldnâ€™t stop watching Brian Chippendale drum. Itâ€™s like. . . like, dunno, watching a gunfighter shoot off the Sheriffâ€™s badge, and then watch him shoot the buttons off every jacket in town in one mean loud go of it.
Their racket sounds ecstatic and dynamic, and actual songs or movements come together making Lightning Bolt-the-experience actually have some sonic purpose. Apparently, they also stopped playing on the floor which is a really good thing because Josh barely got into and out of the pit with his body and camera in reasonable shape. Thanks buddy.
This is the former folk songwriter Jana Hunterâ€™s new lo-fi rock band, and they are fucking great. Gritty atmosphere, melodies that work like Xanax straight to the spine, and that voice. Oh my, that voice, a sort of androgynous beautiful to make Antony cock an ear, at least. Buy Lower Densâ€™ new record, right now–itâ€™s called Twin Hand Movement.
Le sigh, Iâ€™m now blushing.
Dave Nada used to play in hardcore bands around here back when. Then he started making Baltimore club music, like new-school heavy party jams using, like, Twisted Sister samples. Now, heâ€™s in a duo with Matt Nordstrom making all-in heavy-as-lead party house music for every cool dance label around.
Iâ€™m 30-years-old and grew up between Detroit and Colorado. I dunno if thatâ€™s an excuse for being 16 years late to the Universal Order of Armageddon hardcore doomsday party but, no matter, I witnessed the first reunion of the Maryland force-of-nature since disbanding in 2004. What can I say? I canâ€™t imagine it being any more intense back then. I thought blood was about to burst out of Colin Sevenâ€™s neck and itâ€™d hose off the room only to evaporate in blood steam and weâ€™d be thrashing around a warehouse sauna of the Most Real. From now on when I see guitarist Tonie Joy lurking around Baltimore, Iâ€™m going to have to do a little bow or something. Again: I had no idea.
This reunion happened in New York too. Sucks if you missed it.
Sick Weapons are apparently breaking up and thatâ€™s a bummer. Theyâ€™re one of the finest punk bands to come from this city in who knows how long, and Ellie is best frontwoman you might never have the privilege of thrashing around a mosh pit to. Theyâ€™ve got a first and last record coming out on Reptilian very soon and you should at least hunt it down.
Celebration used to be a pretty big deal in indieland, all palling around with TV On the Radio back in the day. Now, they stick close to home, release music according to the tarot, exist as all-around awesome hippies, and play these incredible shows of gut-soul meets spirit-rock. Their songs are this mix of joy, nostalgia, and wanting a thing back that maybe you just canâ€™t have. Celebration’s new songs are all free, so go here now: celebrationelectrictarot.com. Anyhow, their setlist was all-new last weekend and they were great. I hope all those songs are on that site soon.
Dan Deacon isnâ€™t the only person that made this happen, but heâ€™s the main one. Hereâ€™s a couple of kids dancing down an aisle in the crowd at his performance.