- Ticket at the door to Rythmden fest = $35
- Gas money, both ways = $20
- Chicken tenders, king size fries, medium Mt. Dew at Burger King = $4.23
- Seeing Shai Hulud, Converge, With Honor, Modern Life Is War, the Banner, the Red Chord, and Darkest Hour all in a day = The most ridiculous show of my life.
There's two bands that I attribute my getting into hardcore to, and only two. The first was Skycamefalling; the second was Shai Hulud. After seeing Skycamefalling's last set ever at Hellfest `03, the prospect of seeing a Shai Hulud reunion had me pumped 8 ways until Sunday.
Rhythemden Fest was essentially set up as Hellfest used to be. Three stages, three venues, but all in the same interconnected complex. The largest stage was the Chance, which was essentially a seatless ampitheater, with a large area in front of the stage, then two higher levels behind it, and a massive, multi-layered upper tier. The L-shaped room known as the Loft was upstairs, with a decent size stage, and then Club Crannell is downstairs, boasting the smallest stage tucked back into the corner of the relatively tiny room. Bands' set times didn't usually overlap more than 10 or 15 minutes, but there was always somebody playing, so at any given time, the 2000+ that were in attendance were shuffling from stage to stage.
The Imagine started things off for me in The Loft, with their brand of music that sounds remarkably like Underoath. It wasn't anything exceptional, but kids were digging it and limbs were immediately flying. After purposely staying the hell away from Fight Paris, and catching a bit of sets from Nora, Zombie Apocalypse, the Banner, and the Distance, I had yet to be really impressed. They were all tight bands and fairly entertaining, but it wasn't until 5 o'clock when With Honor took the stage in the Loft that things really hit the fan.
I looked at the back wall of The Loft -- "Maximum Occupancy: 250." Now, if I had to venture a guess, I'd say there was easily 600 people in this place. There was no way in hell anybody could move even an inch. You could have lost your virginity in that room and never even noticed. After about 10 minutes of setup, the insanity began. There was a mad push to the stage as the Connecticut natives launched into their brand of melodic hardcore. Playing a great mix of new and old tunes, With Honor held the crowd in the palms of their hands, as singer Todd McKay tried his damnedest to get every kid in that venue involved. What was most surprising was how good of a reaction the new songs got. As the opening chords of "Like Trumpets" were played, it seemed the pile-ons nearly reached the ceiling, and stage divers were coming from every which way. The gang vocals were supplied by everyone in reach of the microphone, and it was truly an amazing thing to step back for a song and see 500+ kids singing along to every single word. As tired as I was after that set, and after catching a nice foot in the face, I made my way down to Modern Life Is War. I knew With Honor was going to be crazy, but nothing could have possibly prepared me for what I was about to experience. I parked myself right in front for the set, and without saying a word, they immediately launched into fan favorite "D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S." You would have thought a bomb went off in the back of Club Crannel, because every single kid in that place bum rushed the stage, screaming along to the words. Being a small kid, I couldn't hold off the 50 kids trying to get on the stage, so I got on to the stage and watched from the side, completely mesmerized by what I was seeing. Within 30 seconds, I couldn't even see the singer under the wave of people crowded around. Kids were climbing on pipes and speakers in hopes to get to the stage, and it's a wonder the band was able to continue playing, but they relished in the madness they were creating. The pile-ons and sing-alongs were the type you only hear about, but never actually see, and the singer had to climb on top of the stacks just to be able to do the songs, but that didn't stop anybody from rushing the stage to sing along. After playing a great amount of early stuff and the best songs from the new album, Including "By The Sea" and "John and Jimmy," the set was over and everyone could breath again.
That was the last I'd see of Crannell or the Loft, because the next four bands on the Chance stage were worth admission alone. The Red Chord and Darkest Hour both played terrific sets, but I couldn't help but anticipate Shai Hulud. After some technical difficulties, they launched right into "A Profound Hatred of Man," and kids went absolutely nuts. There was no signs of rust as the seminal hardcore band ripped through a 45-minute set, playing seemingly everything kids wanted to hear. What really impressed me was what kind of command on the crowd Geert had, and this only heightened when everyone heard "NO CONTACT" resonate through the speakers, meaning it was time for "My Heart Bleeds the Darkest Blood." Kids swarmed the stage in droves, screaming along then flipping off the stage from every single direction you looked at. It was madness. Like With Honor, and like Modern Life, they played a diverse array of their songs, even touching on their very first EP for some classic Hulud. I couldn't asked for more from a band who I owe quite the debt of gratitude to, and I hope that wasn't the last chance I'll get to see them.
Last on the bill for the night, but certainly not to be forgotten, were Converge. Like a man possessed by Satan himself, Jake Bannon moved about the stage with reckless abandon and screamed like it's the last day he'll ever have a voice, while the bassist and guitarist, perfectly in sync, thrashed wildly about. Their blistering, punishing metallic riffs and Bannon's trademark screech have never sounded better, as they played a little something from each of their albums, but concentrating most on Jane Doe and You Fail Me. "Homewrecker," "Concubine," "The Lowest Common Denominator," "You Fail Me," "Eagles Become Vultures," and "Hell to Pay" were all represented, ending things with "The Saddest Day." But what was most impressive about the set wasn't the song selection, but how in tune with his music Bannon is. Every step, arm motion, jerk and thrash perfectly coalesced with the music; he really is the consummate showman, and I've never seen them play better.
Yes, I realize this was absurdly long, but to tell you the truth I could have gone on a hell of a lot longer than I did, and a show of this magnitude deserves every syllable.