It’s a sunny Spring day, and metalheads from all over the Northeast are scattered across Main Street in Worcester, Mass, waiting to cram inside the Palladium Theater. This can only mean one thing: it’s time for the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. The 12th annual two- day, all things metal festival kicked off this past Friday (April 23) with headliners Mastodon bringing along their Spring package tour mates Between The Buried And Me, Baroness and Valient Thorr along for the ride. The day could basically be broken down into the following: sludge and prog metal ruled the main stage while hardcore reigned supreme on the second stage. Check out some highlights from the 1st day of the festival down below.
– Though the day started at noon, the main stage activities didn’t start till 3 pm. This was mainly due to Mastodon’s sound check. However, even with sheets hanging in front of the downstairs merch tables to block people’s view from the stage, fans who showed up early enough could hear (and even possibly snag a peek through the sides) of the first day’s headliners onstage going through sound check. Nice little treat to get you pumped up for the rest of the day.
– While the sound check was one of the coolest moments of the day, Mastodon also caused the most awkward moment of the night. Throughout the band’s set, Brent Hinds was having sound difficulties with both the guitar and mic. By the last song, a disgruntled Hinds left the stage half way through, leaving the rest of band to finish “Capillarian Crest” on their own. Then, after five minutes of playing the “will they come out to do an encore or not” game, the band reappeared onstage. Before going into one more song, Troy Sanders proclaimed that “life just happens.” While the band redeemed themselves with their performance of “Blood and Thunder,” the tension during the set still left things a bit awkward. It should be noted though that earlier in the day, Hinds was seen walking around the upstairs merch tables with a sling around his arm. One roadie I talked to said that he had a pretty bad shoulder, but nothing to be worried about.
– After The Burial guitarists Justin Lowe and Trent Hafdahl were rocking out with matching bright green and orange eight string Ibanez guitars during their afternoon set on the main stage. While I debated whether or not it looked tacky at first, in the end the matching guitars looked pretty cool.
– During their set, Fall Of Troy started playing Slayer’s “Angel Of Death”, only to disappoint fans by stopping up to the intro before going into their own song. In fact, the tease left some (including my friend who just so happened to be wearing his Reign In Blood shirt) pissed off. Oh well, can’t please everyone.
– Psychedelic thrash rockers Valient Thorr provided the most bizarre yet entertaining set of the night, with singer Valient Himself asking “You know what I’m saying?!” after each bizarre comment he made. However, if most of the audience was like me, we all had no clue what the hell he was saying. “Put your hands up … point them to Rob cause he can read palms!” he proclaimed at one point. And that was just one of the weird things the southern frontman who shares a striking resemblance to Zach Galifianakis said while strutting the stage like an 80’s work out video instructor.
– Seeing fans jump on stage and trying to sing along with second stage bands like Grave Maker and Mongoloids was enough to make showing up earlier to the festival worth it. Only at the NEMHF can you witness hardcore karaoke.
– Though the packed crowd upstairs made it hard to see, Earth Crisis provided one of the most bizarre appearances of the day as Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley, filling in behind the kit for the band’s Spring tour, performed with the band during their set on the second stage. We’ll give you a second to let that sink in – a member of Fall Out Boy performed at the NEMHF.
– One of the cool things about attending the two-day festival is that there’s a 99% chance that in addition to meeting bands performing on the bill, you will also bump into a few metal bands not on the bill who just showed up to watch. Ex-God Forbid guitarist Dallas Coyle and Unearth drummer Derek Kerswill were spotted amongst the crowd on day one.
– Though the day was filled with great performances, Baroness and Between The Buried And Me were my top favorites of day one. Baroness proved that they can make any type of audience love them, whether it be at the NEMHF or at Coachella (which they had performed at a week prior). While the day was mixed with sludge metal and hardcore, Between The Buried And Me’s progressive death metal performance stood out for me the most.