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Friday, March 28, 2014

Moving the Earth Festival

The Windup Space
Baltimore, Maryland USA
March 22, 2014

Last weekend the second annual Moving the Earth Festival took place at The Windup Space in Baltimore, Maryland.  Heavy Planet was on hand for night one of this two day affair, and we got to soak in the grooves and get sloppy with some of the finest riff slingers the East coast has to offer.  In the words of festival organizer, Sixty Watt Shaman/Foghound drummer, and all around cool guy Chuck Dukehart III, the event was created to be a "celebration of all things heavy."  Based on the ringing in my ears, the pounding in my temples, and the puddle of drool on my pillow the following morning, I'm fairly certain his vision was realized.  

Passage Between
Moving their set from the scheduled start time of 8:00 to 7:15 in order to make room in the lineup for fellow Baltimore locals Asthma Castle (who were originally scheduled to play on Sunday), didn't seem to bother Passage Between…other than maybe they just screamed a little louder.  Brewing with sheer intensity, the trio served as a mighty appetizer for the early arrivers as they wrapped sludgy rhythms in raw throated roars that were certain to turn the heads of a few innocent passersby strolling down Baltimore's North Avenue.  Throat shredding duties were shared by guitarist Cole Crick and bassist Cameron Smith as drummer Joseph Bradshaw worked over the drum kit, which was to be used by all of the evening's performers.  A brief, yet brutal introduction of what was yet to come; Passage Between did their goddamned best to make the festival's namesake a reality.

Asthma Castle
The stage at The Windup Space is not a large one, and after witnessing a three piece lay waste to it, the five members of Asthma Castle looked rather…err…cozy.  Sludgy fuzz emanated from the dual guitar attack of Justin Ethem and Cameron Smith (pulling double duty after having played bass with Passage Between), as bassist Jeff Davis and drummer Adam Jarvis (also Misery Index and Pig Destroyer) held down a rhythm that was as solid as a brick shithouse.  Vocalist Matthew Yukna pleaded to the heavens with a hoarse howl as the band segued in and out of stoner rock grooves, suffocating doom and relentless hardcore passages.  Safe to say that necks in the crowd were beginning to noodle and Moving the Earth was hitting its stride.

I'm a big fan of Pittsburgh's Supervoid, having placed their recent LP Filaments at number two on my "best of 2013" list, so I was plenty fired up to catch their set at Moving the Earth.  The cosmic fuzz found on that album carried over perfectly to the stage of The Windup Space on songs like "Ladders," "War Elephant," and "Ride the Snake" and the band even took this opportunity to introduce a couple of new tracks which fit right in alongside the old ones.  The first of these, "Gallows" was a showcase for guitarists Dave Warren and Joe Madia, who manage to interweave their riffs, solos and other such elements with prog-like proficiency throughout Supervoid's textural soundscapes.  Between generous pulls of PBR, vocalist Brian Urban explained that the second new one, titled "Against Sunrise," is "about zombies and shit" before flaunting his impressive vocal range, which manages to evoke everything from Mike Patton to Randy Blythe.  Bassist John Braymer navigated a pedal board every bit as impressive as any of those used by the multitude of guitarists on the evening's bill while drummer Greg Kemper kept the backbone of this intricate beast intact.  Supervoid are a band who are stretching the boundaries of what "stoner rock" can be and that was evident during their set at Moving the Earth.  If you get the opportunity to check them out, you'd do well to take advantage.

Black Manta
This festival had been billed as “the return of Sixty Watt Shaman,” but to be fair, they weren’t the only reunited legends on tap for the evening.  Carrying the “Doom Capital” flag from the genre’s halcyon days, it was evident as soon as Black Manta took the stage that these dudes have like…seen things, man.  Lead vocalist Skull stalked the front of the stage as he glared at the Moving the Earth crowd, his eyes wide with crazy, one fist thrust high in the air, and the other strangling his microphone.  Meanwhile bassist Walter White stood his ground at stage right, thumping away at the fuzzed out tones of the band’s self-described “bomb rock” while guitarist Hillel Halloway grooved out to the left.  Drummer Tommy Carr flailed away at the community drum kit, seemingly doing his part to make sure there would be nothing left of the thing by festival’s end.  For those old enough to remember when Black Manta stood alongside the likes of Earthride, Unorthodox, and Internal Void atop the underground doom scene of the mid-Atlantic, nostalgia reigned supreme during “Days of Yore” from the band’s now classic EP Fuck Them All but Six.  But it was the nodding approval and cheers from the younger contingent that proved the timelessness of these tunes.  Welcome back Black Manta…it’s been too long.


Wasted Theory
The American flag draped over one of Wasted Theory’s amplifiers just seemed to enhance the dirty, southern swagger buried in the Delaware band’s heavy grooves.  Vocalist/guitarist Larry Jackson Jr. strained every vein in his neck as he pushed his gravelly voice right to the edge.  Meanwhile, he and guitarist Dave McMahon, who just joined the band a few months back, traded licks like sparring partners as Wasted Theory plowed through a set of all new material from their upcoming full length Death and Taxes (due May 2014).  Not to be outdone, Jonathan Charles rumbled the guts of everyone in attendance with his four string, while drummer Brendan Burns twirled his sticks, held them over his head in an upside down cross, and generally beat the shit out of the skins for the entirety of the band’s 40 minute set.  I caught Wasted Theory just under a year ago when they came through Washington DC and to take nothing away from that performance, I am amazed at how much they’ve grown.  After what I saw in Baltimore last weekend, I can’t wait to get my hands on that new record. 

Quite simply, Philadelphia’s Kingsnake get better every time I see them.  With one foot planted firmly in rhythm and blues and the other resting on a stratum of stoner rock, the band displays a smooth confidence onstage and if it weren’t for the reunion of the legendary Sixty Watt Shaman to follow, they would have made worthy headliners for the Moving the Earth Festival.  The dual guitars of Brian Merritt and Bill Jenkins combined heaviness with improvisation, and when Jenkins added his gruff, whiskey drenched vocals, songs like “Fang of the Cobra” from the band’s excellent 2013 LP One Eyed King of the Blind sounded both monumental and boogielicious.  The rhythm section of Matt Kahn on bass and Matt Farnan on drums was fluid…almost jazz-like…and when the band broke into the sing-a-long chorus of “Mountain Girl” it felt like The Windup Space had been magically transformed into a 1970’s arena rock show.  It’s obvious at this point that Kingsnake are on their way up.


Sixty Watt Shaman  
Finally, after so much buildup and anticipation, it was time to put any rumors, expectations, and past memories to rest…it was time to revive the legendary Sixty Watt Shaman.  After more than a decade apart, vocalist/guitarist Dan Soren, bassist Reverend Jim Forrester and drummer Chuck Dukehart III were joined by new guitarist Todd Ingram as they brought their southern fried, stoner rock back to the stage.  The band collectively disposed of any lingering anxieties by diving right into “Cactus Mexicali” from their 1998 debut Ultra Electric and as they transitioned into “Southern Gentleman” (also from Ultra Electric), you could almost see the rust fall away and the confidence begin to grow.

Reverend Jim Forrester seemed to enjoy every second of the band’s set as he roamed the stage like a raving maniac, thumping out the rhythm to a suite of songs from Sixty Watt’s classic Seed of Decades album.  By contrast, Todd Ingram stoically stood his ground as he seemingly concentrated on winning over the Sixty Watt faithful by nailing each and every lead, riff, and rhythm.  Right behind them, Chuck Dukehart III gave the Moving the Earth drum kit its final bout of punishment for the evening, occasionally looking over his shoulder to sing backing vocals on songs like “Fear Death by Water,” or to crack jokes about the band’s fog machine…”hey look, I’m on fire.”  And when he wasn’t playing rhythm guitar, Dan Soren occasionally picked up a tambourine as he wailed into his microphone, or mined the depths of his signature baritone.  The band was tight, the crowd was electric, and by the time Sixty Watt closed out their set with the epic “Red Colony,” it was pretty damn evident that this revival was complete.


Sixty Watt Shaman Setlist:
Cactus Mexicali
Southern Gentleman
Seed of Decades
Fear Death by Water
Poor Robert Henry
New Trip
Stone’s Throw Away
Whiskey Neck
Pull the Strings
Red Colony

Check out more pictures from the show below:

Passage Between:

Asthma Castle:


Black Manta:

Wasted Theory: 


Sixty Watt Shaman:

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