Reflections on Maryland Doom Fest 2019
Special Thank you to JB Matson, all the bands, crew, and staff that make Doom Fest possible every year.
Interviews with Atala, Devil to Pay, Faith in Jane, Spiral Grave, Weed is Weed.
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The Maryland Doom Fest kicked off its fifth year on June 20, 2019 with the SMOD XX, or Stoner Hand of Doom 20th Anniversary Celebration; at Cafe 611, in Frederick, Maryland. The set list was packed with bands who have originally been a part of the original Stoner Hands of Doom festival. Just, the roster for that night alone, was enough to amaze any Doom or heavy music enthusiast; as the night brought out bands like, After The Sun, Freedom Hawk, Weed is Weed, Deer Creek, Devil to Pay, Wasted Theory, Solace, Warhorse, and Doom legends, Earthride. To be honest, this was one of my favorite nights of the weekend long, festival.
The official kick off of The Maryland Doom Fest took place on Friday June 21st, with bands filling the stage at both Café 6ll and Guido’s. False Gods headed things off at Café 611, while Spiral Grave started the night at Guido’s. Friday night was an exceptional night of music, and every band was as good as the last. I truly could not be fair if I left one out, so The Café 611 set was, followed by False Gods; The Druids, Kingsnake, Backwoods Payback, The Age of Truth, Year of The Cobra, Lo-Pan, Pale Divine, and the headliner was Texas based, Mothership. Just the set at Café 611 alone was any Doom Metal fans dream. Next Door at Guido’s following the munch anticipated set of Spiral Grave, ( former Iron Man/ Lord) was Dead Sisters, Benthic Realm, and Clouds Taste Satanic. Mind you this is only the first full night of the festival, and JB has already out done himself, with a lineup which practically tore the roof off.
Make your way into Saturday, and you literally have “Death by Doom” a decadent indulgence for your hearing senses, enough to have any metal head salivating. From 4:30 PM until well after midnight was a stacked line-up, no one could forget.
Café 611 boasted Greenbeard, Eternal Black, Atomic 26, Knoxxville, Forming the Void, Sixes, Atala, Beelzefuzz, Foghound, Apostle of Solitude, and finally the return of Pentagram. Guido’s boasted Crooked Hills, Seasick Gladiator, Thunderchief, Pale Grey Lore, and Electric Age. A line up which literally had you hopping, back and forth across the street, to catch as many bands as you could; between the two venues.
On the final night, JB certainly did not disappoint delivering you a” to die for” night of music, that even if you were a little sore, or a little tired, from all that head banging you had done, weekend long; you were instantly revived by the music. Everyone was ready to rock out for a final night. A hint of melancholy was already in the air, as people knew this was it, and that all too soon they would have to make the return trip home, back to their day jobs or school, or whatever their day to day was. People knew that all too soon, they would have to leave their makeshift metal community, which had been forged there, weekend long, surrounding Café 611, and the “Supe” or Super eight where many had stayed. As JB had described it for “The Doom Saloon” radio show, it really was a big family reunion, and a party in the streets of downtown Frederick. No one truly wanted to leave all that. So for the Last night JB brought out some heavy contenders, and like most, we rocked out with every bit of energy we had left. Sunday night delivered Witchkiss, Shadow Witch, Faith in Jane, Horehound, Thousand Vision Mist, Toke, Kings Destroy, Zed, and the munch awaited, Conan as the headliner for Café 611. Guido’s saw Stone Dust Riders, Wolf Blood, and Temptations Wings.
Having returned home for only just a few days, my son, who came to be known Jr. Doom, during the festival, and I, both were ready to return for round two. For us, we have been to many music festivals. Having started his concert going debut at only age six, and by now at aged eleven, Tom was a bit of a veteran concert goer, for his young age. It was no surprise that we both shared the same observation. The incredible, four day lineup, of music, was undoubtedly the most talent we had ever seen jammed into one weekend, and we have both seen some incredible shows. However, what truly made this festival special was the people, both in and out of bands. Often times the metal music community speaks of comradery, and supporting the scene, but you may not always see it at every festival. You saw that sense of community full force in Frederick, the bands supported each other, JB and crew did an amazing job, and the fans all became like one big family. Within just the second night many people knew us by name, the atmosphere at Café 611 rivaled the atmosphere of the old sitcom, “Cheers” mixed with a Doom Metal feel. Just like the “Cheers” theme proclaimed, “Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came…” This was exactly the vibe of the festival.
Each night from the moment we walked in Tom received fist bumps, high fives, and everyone spoke to us. The man at the door knew us without showing a ticket, no wrist band or RFID chip was ever needed. The wait staff at Café 611 always had a smile for Tom, and took care of us quickly and efficiently. JB and Uncle Fezzy were always looking in to make sure Tom was having a good time. The Newsome family adopted Tom as one of their own, and he often spent time rocking out with Lonnie, and his sons. Many bands took the time to speak to Tom about their music, and to give him patches, pins, or stickers. Tommy Stewart of Black Doomba Records took the time to show us every single album, talk to us about what he does in the record industry, and to inspire Tom with his own personal story. He also received a very cool “Horns High or Die” shirt which is precisely Tom. If you have ever seen Tom front of stage and rocking out, his horns are always flying.
In fact Tom made his way with me in toe, many a set to the front of the stage. There, on the first night Gary Isom got the Jr. Doom alter ego started, by handing Tom a Weed is Weed patch, at the end of their set. I instantly caught the gleam in Tom’s eye as the lightbulb went off, so to speak. From that point on I had to go to the local Frederick JcPenny’s store, and buy Tom a Dickies shirt, to make a battle jacket, before the next night’s show. He started collecting patches the entire weekend, and the nickname I gave him, just stuck. Tom was the youngest patron of the festival for that year, and everyone doted on him, and made him feel incredibly special, like he was a rock star, himself. Which in turn, Dave Sherman, Maryland’s own Doom Metal/ Weed Rock legend himself noticed Tom at the corner of the stage, rocking out with all his might. Sherman invited Tom up on stage, and he said, “Hello” to the crowd in Dave’s microphone. I was a bit awe struck, and as a radio personality for 106.6 The Blast, I would die to Dave on my show, of course Tom is way “cooler” than mom will ever be. It was one of our high points of the weekend. By the way, as a call to any photographer, if anyone has a quality photo of this moment I would pay to have it.
Anyone who has been to the Maryland Doom Fest seems to return each year, as their yearly patronage, and having been to Doom Fest this year, I can see why. Jr. Doom and I will be making it our yearly mom and son adventure, for sure. If you want incredible music, and you want to feel totally immersed in a music scene; if you want that personal touch from the artists that play, where everyone takes the time, and is more than happy to share with you what they do, and if you want to be able to afford what you are eating, and drinking, and make lasting friendships, that go beyond the festival itself, than this is your festival. There is not one major music festival which can compare to the experience you will find here. It’s one of those things where I want to tell everyone I know about it, and yet one of those hidden secrets that I want to safeguard, because let’s face it there is something sacred here. It might seem kind of funny linking the word sacred and Doom Metal, but there is no doubt magic and heart in downtown Frederick, centered right there at Café 611.
The credit truly goes to JB Matson and his dedicated staff. JB is truly all heart, defying what outsiders may consider metal heads to be like, going beyond tattoos, or piercings, or loud music, or the color black, there may be no more loving a soul than JB. You feel that vibe at Doom Fest and in the passion that he has for this music and all that he does. It comes as no surprise that this festival got its start from fundraisers, that JB did for people in the metal community, who needed it. Coming up he is putting fundraisers together for Greg Serio, on August 31, 2019, and Deanne FirkinGood on September 14, 2019; both at Café 611. So please come out, listen to some killer tunes, and support. If you love good music, and you are looking for something real, you will find it here!
Rockin with jr. doom
Taking my son to his first Doom Fest