Hard Features


The road to ruin…that’s what I would call this trip, which would take us, roughly, 250 miles from home. It all began on Friday night at two in the morning…that’s when we hit the road. It was a five hour drive to Tune Town Arena in Titusville, Pennsylvania, where eleven different bands were waiting to take care of business in a big fuckin’ way on this 21st day of July. The sun was burning bright in the sky when we arrived. During the few hours of standing around waiting for the show to begin, I spent most of my time talking to people from Inside Out Music of Pittsburgh. They gave me some CD’s to check out, some of which are reviewed elsewhere on this web page. Anyway, I can’t remember how long the conversation lasted. But, eventually, the show got started and the beer started to flow.

First up was Undone (Altoona, Pa.). They took their time getting things started. They wanted to let the people know that the show was about to start and they waited for the crowd to come down from the camp area. They seemed to be less than enthusiastic about starting first and, in a sense, I could understand where they’re coming from. They’ve gotta be the band to get the crowd down to the stage, they’re the ones who have to play to a mostly sober audience. I got the sense that Undone was new to the scene. Having no prior experience with this band, they did do some songs that I remembered were “Why” and “Life Of Pain.” There was also a drum solo, the only one of the day as far as I remember. Also, as my memory serves me, it was during the Undone performance when I first noticed the female in the mosh pit, which was only a few people in the beginning. She was thrashin’ around to the point where her pants kept falling down…don’t get too excited though because she was wearing a bikini underneath her clothes. Bummer, huh?

Slapjaw (Scranton, Pa.) was up next and they went for the throat from the word go. The vocalist was tearin’ around the stage like a ragin’ bull and the guitarist…this guy was a show all by himself. He was playing like he was up all night drinkin’ coffee and when he finally got his time on the stage, someone wrapped a high voltage wire around him. They put on a totally awesome set and I’m looking forward to seeing this band again in the near future.

“Ain’t no fuckin’ around…we’re definitely metal!” That’s what the bassist/vocalist of Hollow Point (Lewistown, Pa.) proudly proclaimed and I would be quick to agree with him. It was clear to me that this was a band that listened to artists like Venom and Slayer. They looked, sounded and acted metal. The mosh pit was going strong and people were really getting into this band. Sadly, none of their music has been recorded yet, at least in terms of stuff that’s available to the public. I was bummed out about that because this was a band that I wanted to hear more of. If they happen to come around to my area, you can be sure that I’ll be the first in line to check ’em out. I was really impressed with their set…raw aggression at its head bangin’ best.

Stepdown (Altoona, Pa.) got the crowd going with their intense style of metal, punk and hardcore. It was obvious that there were a few people in the crowd who knew this band as I saw a few people, most of which crowded the stage, singing along with the band. I was begining to catch a buzz by this time. So, I was really feeling a bit more loose. The one thing I remember was their guitar player…he had the same stage vibe that Stepjaw’s guitar player has. He also looked like someone zapped him with a high voltage wire. Very cool, indeed!

By the time AFN (Pittsburgh, Pa.) took the stage, I was feeling a bit run down. A combination of the heat, the beer and pure exhaustion finally put me in my place and I had to head back to the van and sleep for a little bit. Having been awake for four of the five hours we were on the road, I needed some rest if I was to make it through the rest of the day. I did manage to catch two of their songs before going off to la la land and I would have to agree with the description in the program that was handed to me, which said that AFN has an eclectic approach to the hard rock/nu-metal scene.

Millkweed (Cincinnati, OH.) is a heavy metal groove core band and they made their time on stage count. They threw beer and CD’s into the audience and, yeah, they were rather aggressive. But, it was clear that they were having the time of their lives on stage…they were really enjoying themselves, which was cool to see. They got off to a slow start because they requested more from the drum/guitar monitor, not really sure which it was. They waited a bit and finally said, “Fuck it…let’s get this shit started” and they tore into their set. I’m not sure if their sound problems were fixed or not, but, from where I was standing, they sounded pretty good. A few songs into their set, they had to slow it down a bit because the mosh pit was getting rather violent and it looked as though it went from having a good time to someone who was about to get their ass kicked. They actually stopped at one point, when it seemed like the mosh pit action was just about to cross that “it’s no longer fun and games” line. A moment or two later, they were back in action and the pit was back to normal.

Lower GI took the stage, assaulting the audience with their own brand of hardcore music. Although, I do have to admit, the vocalist looked more like a punk singer. But, he was all metal as was the rest of the band. I remember them doing a song called “Jesus Freak” and I remember the vocalist saying he forgot to bring their CD’s to the show. So, no one was able to take a little bit of Lower GI home with them. There was also a beachball being bounced around through the crowd and when the ball landed a few feet away from me, I went to give it a swift kick and ended up falling on my ass and, from the stage, the vocalist yells, “Dude, I saw that…that was sweet!” Ain’t nothing like being embarrassed in front of a crowd of drunk people…all in the name of rock ‘n’ roll! Luckily, a few minutes later, someone else fell on their ass in the same fashion. So, I didn’t feel too bad about it. I thought it was rather funny. At least it wasn’t me this time! I also remember the Lower GI set because of the three beautiful women who were on stage dancing to the music. I don’t think I talked to these girls, who would appear later on in the evening during Mushroomhead’s set. But, they were really cool.

This is what rock ‘n’ roll should be all about. Good music, a lot of beer and plenty of good lookin’ women. So, by the time Stem took the stage with their own sonic blast of aggressive hardcore, I was really into what was going on. By this point in the show, you had the feeling that you were at a major concert event. The last thing I really remember was…I was standing there, getting into the music when, from behind, I felt this tap on my shoulder. It was the vocalist from Slapjaw who, in a gesture of kindness, offered me a drink. Not one to shy away from free beer, I gladly accepted. The only problem was, it wasn’t beer…it was Ukon Jack. Being the beer guy that I am, this was a total shock to my system and there was no doubt in my mind that I was now officially drunk.

Self Inflicted took the stage next and this is not a band you want to experience when you’re wasted because they’ll take full advantage of that and just blow you away. This is a band that boldly/proudly states that they’re one of the most intense bands that you will ever witness and, let me tell you, I’ll be the first person to agree with them. Sometime during this event, I was handed a pre-release copy of their ten-song CD, “Blank,” and, let me tell you, this disc is amazing. As I described it in an earlier review, “It’s fast, heavy, loud…pure sonic fury!” Now that I’m familiar with their music, I’m hoping I have the opportunity to see them live again.

Dragon Fire was up next and they were the only band on this bill that I was familiar with. I’ve seen them live before, but tonight, there was something different about them. They were tighter than I have ever seen them before, they were more solid. They were “on” this evening. They performed like the rest of their lives would depend on this one single show…it was an amazing sight to witness. They tore through an all original set, with the exception of Green Jelly’s “Three Little Pigs,” which is always a crowd pleaser. Speaking of pleasing the crowd, they also worked hard to pump up the audience for the next and final act of the evening…Mushroomhead!

I’ll tell you one thing…I have seen some very entertaining acts in my time. But, Mushroomhead takes the cake. Not only did they put on a very exciting stage show, they did so with a power and aggression that caught the audience’s attention and held it for the rest of the evening. Watchin’ this band in action, well, it was almost like they had you hypnotized. You couldn’t help but stand there in awe as the band tore through their set and simply crushed in the night sky. Mushroomhead is a band that is truly worthy of world domination and, one thing’s for sure…if they accomplish that goal, the metal world will never be the same again. I highly suggest checking this band out.

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