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Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2016 Review, Chicago, IL, May 6 & 7, 2016

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My 3rd Ragnarokkr attendance in a row came to a close Saturday night in Chicago.  It was a great time as always.  I got into Chicago Wednesday night after spending some days in Virginia with my Mom and my brother.  Upon arrival and getting my bag and rental car situated, I headed over to the newly reopened Metal Haven Grill for a pre-pre-party.  Cool little place that has some insane original artwork on its walls like the original painting for Savatage’s Hall of the Mountain King, Def Leppard’s On Through the Night, BOC’s Fire of Unknown Original original concept drawing, original KISS embossing plates for Dressed to Kill and a lot of other cool stuff.  Go check them out if you’re ever in Chicago.  From there I met up with Mendoza, Simon, Bob and a couple of other festival pals for a few drinks before heading to Mendoza’s Sugar Shack to sleep.

Upon waking up on Thursday I went to my hotel near the concert venue around 930AM to see if they had a room available and they got me right in. Sweet!  I didn’t sleep well the night before and needed to catch a nap to have some energy for the pre-party at The Mutiny later that evening.  I didn’t get much sleep but it was enough.  I did a late lunch with a friend in town then back to the hotel again.  I caught another quick nap then Rodney and I headed off to the pre-party dinner.  That was pretty tame this year.  From there we went to The Mutiny.  I love this bar.  True dive bar with one of the coolest owners ever.  Ed.  Ed is the man but sadly he told me he’s got cancer and apparently it’s pretty advanced.  He’d lost 85lbs since the last time I saw him but he’s in good spirits.  I spent a lot of time hanging out with him and he remembered me the moment I walked in the door from the previous 2 years.  He said they gave him up to 5 years which is a pretty good prognosis for someone with advanced prostate cancer.  He’s 65ish and that age is a better for having that type of cancer than being younger.  But whatever, he’s a great guy and I’m glad I got some time with him.  As I was leaving the party I gave him a hug and told him I’d see him next year.  Unfortunately none of the festival bands except for Ashbury made it to the party at The Mutiny this year, but it was still fun.  I love those Ashbury guys.  Great band and great people.  More on that later.  I was pretty tired by around 1230AM so Judd and Jennifer (new pals from Houston) and I drove back to the hotel.  I fell asleep pretty quickly.

Friday.  Fest day!  I picked Kelz up from the airport around 1130 and we went back to the hotel.  We went to the famed Ricobene’s for their breaded steak sandwich.  We ordered the small one which easily weighed a pound or more.  I ended up just leaving the bread behind.  Quite tasty though.  Back to the hotel.  Another nap ensued.  Damien Thorne was opening the fest on the main stage at 530 and we got to the venue around 5.  I’ll go through the bands one by one below…good, bad or indifferent.

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Damien Thorne – I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with having only one original member (technically 2, as I didn’t know until meeting them after that the bassist player was on the original demos).  I thought they sounded great.  New singer, Warren Halverson, did a fine job.  They mixed their set up with older and newer stuff and it worked just fine.  Warren gave away a bunch of new CDs and some other merch from the stage and Rock Browz (b) handed me a nice Damien Thorne steel pin.  Great set and really nice guys.  I caught them out back and had Ken and Rob sign The Book.  They bailed quickly though and never came out to meet with fans after their set.  Not sure what was up with that.

Gatekeeper – I missed the first part of their set as I was finishing the Damien Thorne set.  They were finishing North Wolves and then went into a cover of Omen’s Death Rider.  Brilliant.  Jean-Pierre Abboud (ex-Borrowd Time, Funeral Circle) is handling vox for Gatekeeper these days and did a wonderful job as a whole.  It was great to finally see them play.

Killen – I caught maybe 2 songs and got bored out of my skull.  It really seemed like were just going through the motions.

Riot City – Probably the biggest surprise band of the weekend.  These guys from Calgary kicked total ass.  Great vocals, leads, everything.  Good American power metal.  Check out some of their stuff here.  Can’t wait to hear a full length.  Super nice guys as well.

Ignitor – I left during Riot City’s last song to catch my Austin pals do their thing.  The band was in fine form and Jason McMaster was working the crowd like he always does.  They had a lot of fans there and had a special Ragnarokkr only EP available.  Always a pleasure seeing them and good to see them outside of Austin.

Salvacion – I’d seen them before a couple of years ago in Richmond opening for Satan.  While I like the singer’s voice, they don’t do anything for me.  I also can’t watch their drummer.  Dude can’t keep his tongue in his mouth.  The band also seems lyrically challenged.  Having songs like Epic Beer Run isn’t going to win me over…ever.  The did two covers, UFO’s Doctor Doctor and Riot’s Swords and Tequila.  The Riot cover wasn’t good.

War Cry – Chicago natives War Cry played their first show in 25 years on Friday.  I wasn’t that familiar with them but thought they sounded pretty good.  I give nothing but high respect to their singer, though.  Rich Rozek has Parkinson’s Disease and it’s obvious that it’s pretty advanced.  But he rocked the set and came out to meet everyone afterwards.  I got him to sign The Book as well.  He thought it was cool and asked for information on how to get a copy.  He also gave me a copy of their CD.  Sweet guy.

Chalice – This was another band that I wasn’t too familiar with going in…and I left their set not wanting to get more familiar with them.

Ambush – Everybody has been all abuzz about these Swedes and I had only checked out a song or two on YouTube prior to the festival.  Add them to the list of newer Swedish power metal bands that I can’t care about.  zzzzzzz

Ashbury – I love Ashbury, both as a band and as people.  Rob and Randy Davis are 2 of the nicest guys you’d ever meet and I’m glad to see them getting success 30+ years after the release of their debut album, Endless Skies.  Ashbury isn’t a metal band but fit perfectly on the metal festivals that they have been playing the last few years.  When I first saw them in Ventura last year, it was amazing to see the metal crowd singing every word to the Endless Skies album.  Same thing happened in Chicago.  They were tight and added a third guitarist which sounded great for their live show.  Their cover of BOC’s Don’t Fear the Reaper was killer.  The whole band is just awesome and I can’t tout the brilliance of Endless Skies enough.  They also debuted a new song, He Played a Good Guitar, which was really good but from what I understand from Rob Davis, they will be changing the name of the song. ;)

Jag Panzer – I don’t dislike Jag Panzer but I never got too into them.  They were the closer for the night.  I owned an original copy of Ample Destruction and Thane to the Throne on CD, but just never explored deeper into them.  Let me tell you this, they hit the stage and leveled Reggie’s that night.  I was completely floored by Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin’s vocal performance.  That guy was hitting notes that just blew my mind.  They crowd was very into it as well.  It was a pleasure to see and meet them afterwards.  When I met Harry after the show to have him sign The Book, I mentioned that I had Chris Cronk’s signature on the Jag Panzer page as well. He said, “Sad that he passed away.” I laughed and said, “Chris will be disappointed to know he’s dead!” Harry apologized and said, “damn, I guess I meant someone else. Tell him hello!”  It was pretty funny.

 

After the quick goodbyes outside, we walked back to the hotel.  After sitting there for a bit, Kelz and I decided that we needed some snacks and water so we hopped in the car and found a 7-11, loaded up on trash food and waters and went back to the hotel.  Around 5AM the fire alarm went off.  That sucked.  We got up, went outside and 5 minutes later the fire crew waved us back in.  The alarm went off several more times for the next hour in short spurts.

After waking up Saturday, we walked over to a Chinese place and got some great food and went back to the hotel.  Nap time again.  Fuck, I’m getting old.  haha.

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Earlier start time for bands on Saturday and we were sort of rushed to get there on time but made it.

Midnight Chaser – What a way to open the main stage!  This Pittsburgh 4-piece laid down a great set of metal.  I had already checked them out prior to the fest and really liked what I had heard.  They were great all the way around.  I picked up their CD and a shirt.  Can’t wait to hear more material and to see them live again.

White Magician – Boring.  Sloppy.  Trash talked Ashbury’s BOC cover while playing a shitty version of Transmaniacon MC.  Fuck em.

Impaler – I always liked If We Had Brains We’d Be Dangerous and It Won’t Die and looked forward to seeing them live.  They still have originals Bill Lindsay and Court Hawley and I got to meet both of them before they went on.  Solid dudes and signed The Book.  They are a true shock rock metal band and everyone was in full makeup.  It was awesome.  Bill worked the crowd and the crowd was very into their set.  There was some fake blood, a beautiful girl getting her intestines ripped out and then taking a hard knee from Bill.  She’s one tough girl because she didn’t really flinch much.  They were so much fun to see live and I was smiling ear to ear through their whole set.

Wulfhook – I listened to a couple of songs but nothing really caught my ear at all.  They were solid, though.

Lethal – After leaving Wulhook I went downstairs to meet Lethal before their set to get them to sign The Book.  Only Tom Mallicoat and bassist Glen Cook were down with newer guitarist Chris Brown (great guy!).  For whatever reason, Mallicoat was acting like a total choad to me.  Chris was cool and Glen was super nice, but Mallicoat was giving me the third degree about printing press history (?), Mark Twain and some other random nonsense.  He just seemed out of his head.  He started busting my balls about the book and I said, “Hey, if you don’t want to sign it, no worries.  I’m a Lethal fan but whatever.”  He proceeds to call me a liar and then asks how much I was going to sell the book for.  hahaha.  Whut?  I calmly explained the labor of love I have with that book and how it’ll never be for sale.  He then signed it, offered a handshake that lasted for a good minute before letting go.  It was a completely surreal experience and one that I’d just as soon not have with him again.  I met the other guys later in the evening and they were all total nice guys and apologized for his behavior.  No worries.  Everyone’s got their thing and I don’t think there was any malicious intent on his part.  When they hit the stage, they were GREAT.  Vocals and everything were on point but Tom’s behavior was just outlandish to say the least.  Flipping off the crowd, talking shit to them, etc.  Oh well.  Was good to see them live finally.

Old Wolf – Holy shit.  This power metal quintet from Kentucky totally kicked my ass.  Plain and simple.  They’ve got a demo out and I recommend it.  Their singer has a great voice and range, but when he speaks, you can totally tell he’s from Kentucky.  haha.  Great guys all around.

Spellcaster – I caught their last couple of songs.  I’ve got their 2014 S/T CD but it didn’t do much for me.  They were solid, though.  I should probably give their latest a listen.

Winterhawk – They’re a band that I feel that I should love, but I don’t.  I don’t hate them either but their stuff leaves me a little flat.  Their main guitarist is a beast though.  I only caught their last 2.5 songs.

Ordained Fate – I didn’t listen to them prior to the fest but I enjoyed the 4 songs I heard from this reunited band.  Only the two female guitarists are original.  Vocals, riffs, leads all sounded good.

Satan’s Host – I bought the reissue CD of Metal From Hell a few years back and thought it was good, but not great.  Seeing it live was quite different.  Harry Conklin put on another vocal performance that made me just shake my head in awe of his range.  Patrick Evil was the only other original member in the band on guitar.  Nice dude and solid player.  It was an enjoyable set.

Hexenhammer – Missed it completely waiting for Leather to come on.

Leather – I love Chastain’s albums with Leather on vocals and I love Leather as a person.  We first connected 2 years ago when my old band played Ragnarokkr and she was an emcee of the fest.  She’s a kind soul and I couldn’t wait to see her live finally after all these years.  I saw her when we were eating dinner prior to her set and got a huge hug.  As Satan’s Host finished, Kelz and I made our way to the front and secured our spots dead center.  Game on.  They played a short but killer set and Leather sounded great playing a mix of Chastain and Leather songs.  Her backing band consisted of Jim Dofka (Screamer), David Harbour (Chastain, King Diamond) and Brian Harris.  Brian’s brother Michael Harris was originally announced as the guitarist but I guess that didn’t pan out.  Leather’s voice sounded great and she’s very engaging on stage.  I just loved it but wanted more.  MORE!

Medieval Steel – Never really go into them and only listened to a couple of songs.  Very solid and the crowd was certainly on board.

Tygers of Pan Tang – Tygers was the fest headliner.  I’ve only owned Crazy Nights and Spellbound but can’t really consider myself a fan.  While they’re an integral part of the NWOBHM, I prefer the more aggressive and melodic stuff.  That being said, they were really damn good for the brief time I watched them.  My knees and back were shot and I spent much of their set in the other room giving them a rest.  Getting to hang out and have drinks with Robb Weir and the band the night before was pretty sweet.

Also great getting to see my good friends in Night Demon and Visigoth.

So some quick goodbyes on the sidewalk and back to the hotel we went.  Kelz had a 7AM flight which he almost missed because his alarm never went off.  Luckily I snored myself awake and saw light coming through the window and yelled at him.  He made it.

I had a late afternoon flight so Brett Bretterson (not his real name) and I hit Portillo’s before heading to the airport.  Always delicious.

It was a great fest and great seeing friends from fests past, meeting new folks and just the overall vibe of the event.  If all works out, I’ll be playing ti again next year.  I’ll definitely be in attendance again.  See you there!

To see all of the setlists, click here.

Click pics to enlarge.

Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2015 Concert Review, Chicago, IL, May 1 & 2, 2015

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posteruseWow.  What another great weekend in Chicago.  This was my second year attending this festival and it was a lot of fun, albeit tiring.

Like last year, Kelz flew in from NC and met me at the airport on Thursday.  Local friends Rodney and Brent also flew along and we all rode together to the hotel.  We chilled out for a bit at the hotel then headed over to a pizza place to meet with some fest regulars prior to the pre-party.  I wasn’t so into my pizza but the Peroni on tap was right on.  After eating we headed over to a great dive called The Mutiny and rocked out some great old metal.  There were a few merch vendors as well.  I was pretty worn out and so were Chris and Rodney so we headed back to the hotel.  We had a long day ahead.

Early Friday consisted of going to Portillo’s for lunch and inhaling their incredible Italian beef sandwich.  So incredibly awesome.  Afterwards I napped.  I wanted to get to Reggie’s for the fest as the doors were opening, mainly to catch Satan’s Hallow in which a good friend plays guitar.  They’re a newer band and have only released 2 songs, but those songs are great.  They were great!  I really love Mandy’s vocal delivery and the riffs are good.  New pal, Poncho, was filling in on bass and was absolutely badass.  I see good things ahead for this band.

Twisted Tower Dire was up next and I had last seen them in 1999 with the old singer.  Their power metal set was solid and they now share singer and a guitarist with Walpyrgus.

Cleveland’s Vatican came on next and I caught most of their set.  Vince and company laid it down playing most of their Metalmorphosis re-release.  They were fun to watch and their singer has some serious pipes.  Added bonus getting those guys added to The Book!

With the fest having two stages, bands overlap and during Vatican’s set, Hessian started on the smaller stage and I wanted to catch a little of their set.  While they were solid, they weren’t my thing.

Back to the main stage for my friends, Dantesco.  I met them in Puerto Rico last year and was excited to see them.  They were great.  Powerful, heavy and Erico’s vocals were right on point.  The crowd dug them a lot.

Back to the smaller stage for Kantation which featured Martin Debourge who fronted a more recent version of Damien Thorne.  His vocals sounded great and the band was solid.  Martin’s a good dude.

Salem’s Wych was up next and their set was a little loose.  This was their first show since the 80s.  Pretty legendary though.

I saw just a little of Beyond Fallen but wanted to catch Q5 on the main stage.  They sounded really good.  They were one of the biggest surprises to me.  I had listened to them back in the old days but it didn’t catch on with me.  I got to meet them in the green room before the show and they were super cool.  Three original members got added to The Book.

I caught most of Ostrogoth’s set and they were pretty good.  Their drummer is the only original member left and he’s an awesome guy.  I caught a little bit of Iron Finger and they were ok, solid, but not my thing.

Then…LIEGE LORD.  I’ve been a fan since randomly buying Burn to My Touch based on having an album cover by Ioannis (Fates Warning, Warlord, Obsession).  Let’s make no mistake about it, I prefer the Andy Michaud era.  Master Control never did anything for me but I was still stoked to see them live.  They were another band I got to meet prior to them hitting the stage and they were all cool dudes.  When showing Joe Comeau The Book, he said, “Ah cool.  I have one of these” and continued to tell me a story about the promo shoot that the photo (see below) was taken from.  Only original member, Tony Truglio, was also very nice.  They opened with 2 from Master Control then Dark Take from Freedom’s Rise.  Cast Out from Burn to My Touch was next and it sounded awesome.  The band was tight and the crowd was loving it.  They rolled through Rainbow’s Kill The King, a couple more from Master then went into Speed of Sound.  I nearly lost my shit on that one.  One of my favorites from Burn.  Their whole set was good and I was so glad I finally got to see them.  Then back to the hotel for the typical late night jibber jabber and sleep.

Saturday, Kelz and I went to a taqueria and had some awesome food.  Afterwards we drove over to Cabrini-Green, the site that the TV show Good Times was based on.  That used to be a very rough area.  “The projects”.  Now it’s all condos and heavily gentrified.  Was hoping for some sort of historical monument to JJ and the family but it was nowhere to be found.

Saturday’s show started a little earlier at 4:30 and got started with Kentucky’s Savage Master.  They were solid but not completely my thing.  There’s a buzz about them and I think it’s mainly because of the scantily clad singer.  I’m not much of a fan of her vocal delivery and I think she could work on her stage presence a little.  The rest of the band is dressed in black hoods and the whole thing reminded me of the band Bitch being backed up by The Mentors.  I think a little tweaking could get their live show more exciting.  Nice folks, though.

Crumble came on the small stage and I caught a little of it.  By “a little” I mean less than one song.

Züül was up next on the main stage and the singer announced that it was their last show ever.  I had seen them a time or two before in Austin and enjoyed them.  They sounded good in Chicago as well but the singer seemed to be having a few vocal issues.  He was lacking some of the power he normally has.  Still sounded good.

Skelator was up next and delivered their sword-wielding metal the masses that were really just starting to roll in.  They sounded great but I only caught about half of their set as I needed to catch Moros Nyx on the small stage.

Moros Nyx has the drummer for Satan’s Hallow on bass.  This was their first show and they did a great job.  Looking forward to more from these guys.  Their drummer is a bad ass.

Back to the big room for the return of Skullview.  I’ve always liked their debut quite a bit and it was good seeing them finally.  Especially good to finally meet their guitarist, Dean.  We’ve known each other from online forums for a long time.  Their singer has an enormous range, but antics I saw before and after the show pretty much let me know that I can’t care to see him again.  I stayed for half of the set and went back to the small stage.

Hrom was up next and they were powerful with yet another singer with a great high range.  Nice kids, too.

I went back to the main room to catch a little of Chicago’s reunited Aftermath.  They were good straight up thrash and super nice guys.

I went back to the small room and waited for Walpyrgus to come on.  This band features members of Twisted Tower Dire as mentioned above.  They put on a great set.  Would like to see them again.

As soon as they were done I rushed back over to catch High Spirits.  I really enjoy this band.  Good, straight up hard rock and I really like Chris’ vocal delivery.  “Without Zuul, there would be be no High Spirits,” Chris said.  He’s good at working the crowd too.  When I saw them in San Antonio, he was on bass but had a full backing band for this show.

I caught a little of Coven 13 but it wasn’t my thing.

Coming up next…ATTACKER!  Another band I’ve loved since their debut, Battle At Helms Deep.  That album rules.  I’ve no problem admitting that I didn’t care much for the follow up, Second Coming.  But no matter.  I was finally getting to see them live.  They opened with The Hermit from their debut and the crowd went nuts.  The band was tight and most recent singer, Bobby Lucas, sounded great.  Original drummer, Mike Sabatini, and guitarist, Pat Marinelli were great as well as the rest of the band.  Their set was great and very tight.

Wretch played the small stage and they were another band who was solid, but I didn’t get to see enough to really form an opinion.  We were so hungry we went next door to grab a burger.

Upon returning, The Rods were already playing the main stage.  I’ve seen them before and I am 0.0% a fan of them.  Their brand of hard rock just never caught on with me.

Nuclear Assault was on next, but again, I’m not really a fan.  I had met and seen them live in 2003 in Norfolk, VA and got Dan and John to sign The Book.  Glenn signed in the green room earlier that evening.  The room was packed and there was a big pit going.  I saw about 1.5 songs and retreated to the small room where all bands had finished for the night.  Kelz and I got to sit and hang out with Sabatini and just talk about stuff.  We talked with him for a long time and he was very cordial.  “Playing festivals like this is great, but we all have jobs.”  It was great hanging out with him and the rest of the band.

What a great night and fun festival.  After Nuclear Assault, we were all dog tired and went out to the street to say goodbyes to all of our friends.  I hope they continue to get quality bands for next future fests.  My band, Eternal Champion, was originally slated to play but had to back out a few months ago.  Warlord was also originally booked but backed out.  That was a crushing blow for me.

Click here to see the setlists from the festival.

Mouse over or click photos to see captions.

Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2015 Update

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Plain and simple, this is the best true metal festival in the USA.  The list of bands so far for the 2015 festival is killer.  It’s already nearly sold out, so if you plan on going, get your tickets now.  This will be Warlord’s first ever USA show!  This also marks the return of my band, Eternal Champion, to Chicago to play the main stage this year.  Other highlights for me will be Attacker and High Spirits.  If you haven’t heard them yet, you’re doing yourself a real disservice.  Great straight up hard rock/metal.

ragna15

Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2014 in Review

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Holy crap!  What an incredible weekend I just had in Chicago April 3-6 at the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2014 fest.  I was planning to attend the show this year but then my band, Eternal Champion, got added to the bill, so that made it a double bonus.  Having Riot V, Grim Reaper and Picture on the bill was enough to get me out of town.  My best friend of 30+ years, Kelz, got the OK from his wife and we started making plans to meet up there.

I got there Thursday afternoon and was greeted at the hotel by Bob B, one of the festival organizers, and David B who had just traveled from Australia for the fest.  They were waiting on some other folks who were on their way in before we headed off to go get some food.  I checked in, freshened up a little, met the rest of the group and off we went in a few different vehicles to grub.  I took Jeremy and Jamie from Heaven and Hell Records with me and also my buddy Dustin who’s drumming for Night Demon now.  I’ve known him for about 3 or 4 years from when his former band, New Liberty, would come through Austin.  I was pretty excited to see him and to share the bill with his band.  Good kid, good drummer.

We went to a place called Marcello’s Father and Son Pizza.  I ordered calamari and a small pizza with Italian beef and green peppers on it…and no, not Chicago style.  I’m a thin crust guy.  I did try a piece of Dustin’s Chicago style and it was good, just not my thing.  Mine was great as was the squid.  Plus they had Peroni on tap.  mmmmmmmmm…Peroni.  We left dinner and went to a cool little bar called The Mutiny.  There were a few venders set up there selling shirts, patches, records, books and CDs.  I kind of went overboard on patches.  I need a new vest to put them on.  My night there was great.  I got introduced to one of Bob’s friends, Mike and his girl Dahlia.  Such awesome folks.  Mike’s got ties to the San Antonio area and it was great getting to know the two of them a bit.  Classic metal was being played the whole night and it was quite incredible having 30+ people singing Running Wild and Warlock songs in unison.  The bar itself was great.  Just an old dive bar that loves metal and punk.  The guys from Riot V showed up later and we all partied down.  Don Van Stavern and I talked for quite a while as we have a lot of Texans in common.  Mike Flynt was hanging with us for a bit, such a super nice guy.  It was getting late and the long day was wearing on me, so I gathered my group and we headed back to the hotel.  Everyone was a bit wiped out plus we needed our strength for the opening of the fest.

One of my favorite things about The Mutiny was meeting the group of guys from Mexico.  Many of them didn’t speak English and it felt good to be able to speak Spanish with those guys.  I think they appreciated as well.

Friday morning came too early and I needed to pick up Kelz at the airport.  Mitchfest!  We went to the hotel, got him situated then went into downtown to get some food.  We ended up at Portillo’s and got the Italian beef sandwich.  I’m pretty sure they put crack in that thing.  It was tasty.  We went back to the hotel after that and chilled out for a little bit.  Now remember, we’ve known each other for over 30 years, so there’s always a ton of smack talk between us.  Tons of abuse.  Mama jokes galore.  At the hotel, we got our gear together for the night.  Him with CD covers galore and me with The Book.  I had purchased a canvas shoulder bag to carry that in and to house whatever swag I bought.

This fest has 2 stages and I’ll run through the main stage bands first.

MetalUSAfer was the “secret opener” at on the main stage at 5:30.  They weren’t my thing.  I think one or some of the guys from this band are in High Spirits who I haven’t checked out yet.

Chicago’s legendary Amulance came on next and just rocked the place.  While I felt that they should have been on later, the fest apparently has a “policy” of putting locals on early, no matter how big they were.  They were awesome and just super nice guys.  Singer Rick Baez made it a point to sign stuff for everyone after the show and wanted pics with the fans for himself.  Super cool.  Guitarist Bob and bassist Chuck were all super cool.

Night Demon is a SoCal 3 piece that now features my buddy Dustin on drums.  Awesome guys and they played a great set.  I recommend them!

Diamond Rexx was up next and I’ve always loved their album Land of the Damned, even if it was a bit cheesy.  They came on with their original lineup and played a mix of old and newer stuff.  They did alright.  I got to meet the guitarist and bassist who both signed The Book.  The singer didn’t stick around after their set unfortunately.  Oh well.

Canada’s Axxion came on next and their mulleted singer delivered soaring vocals over top of great riffs and drumming.  While they were trying a little too hard to be an 80s retro metal band, they did a good job at it and I’d like to see them again.

The Skull features original Trouble members Eric Wagner, Ron Holzner, Jeff Olson along with Lothar Kellar and Matt Goldsborough who was recently in Pentagram.  They were there to play their new new demos which sounded fine.  I had walked out for a minute to get some air when all of a Sudden I hear Trouble’s The Tempter being played live.  I think I may have knocked over a few people trying to get back in there.  The also played Assassin and End of my Daze.  They sounded great and seeing Matt on guitar was a nice bonus.  I had met him when Pentagram last came to town and he’s a cool guy.  Catching up after their set was great.

Picture came up next and played a damn solid set.  I’m not a huge fan but it was great to see some Euro legends on the stage and for their 2 original members to sign The Book.

Finally came Riot V, the version of the band touring after Mark Reale’s death (RIP).  I’ll just say this.  They ruled.  While having Bobby Jarzombek on drums would have been cooler, the touring drummer did a fine job and Mike Flynt did a wonderful job on guitar.  The new singer is no slouch either.  They were the perfect ending to an awesome night on the main stage.

As far as the second stage bands on the first night, none of them really stood out but I did stop in briefly to see NC’s Dogbane and Dark Design.  I can’t say I’m much of a fan but they were both solid.  To be honest I didn’t see any of the other bands on the second stage as the main stage that night was so ass kickingly good.

After Riot V, we went back to the hotel to pass out and to get some energy stored up for the next days sightseeing and festivities.  We bounced around Chicago a little bit but I didn’t want to get too crazy that day as my band, Eternal Champion, was slated to play at 8PM on the second stage.

I started on the main stage again with Salt Lake City’s Visigoth who just got up there and slayed the crowd.  The singer had trouble talking but was able to power through vocally.  The whole band was killer.  Can’t wait to see them again.

Austin-based Witches Mark came on next and played a solid set.  They’re goods pals of my band and it was cool to have another Texas band representing at the festival.

Because we had to play, I didn’t see Axemaster or Crowhaven but did pop in to see Black Death Resurrected, which was just OK.  I was never a fan.  I did meet Sickie Spacek after the show but didn’t have the book with me that night.

I also missed Argus as I was getting my gear situated after we played.  However, I did catch Mexico’s Voltax and those kids are kick ass!  High energy power metal and a singer with pipes of gold.  Amazing seeing him hit those insane high notes.

Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper closed out the night on the main stage and feature Nick Bowcott on guitar for the first time in about 25 years.  They played an incredible set and I’m so glad that I got to see them live finally and to meet Steve and Nick.  Steve’s voice sound great.

Now on to the second stage.  To be honest, I didn’t much pay attention to anything going on as I was getting mentally and physically psyched up for our slot.  One of the show promoters kept telling me about the hype surrounding us and that a lot of folks were excited to see us.  That being said, Midnight Hellion came on right before us and played an enjoyable set.

Next up was Eternal Champion.  Us.  This was only our third show since our inception in December 2012.  My local pal loaned us a sword.  During Midnight Hellion’s set, I could see a lot of people filing in presumably to get a spot in there to see us.  We get on stage, set up, tune up, get introduced and blasted through our 30 minute set like a hot knife through butter.  I think because of the adrenaline rush and the reactions from the crowd, I don’t really remember much about the set we played other than it was too fast.  Not surprising really, as we don’t rehearse as much as I’d like since some of us don’t live nearby.  But we make it work.  The crowd went nuts between every song and at the end.  It was sheer madness and some of the most fun I’ve had playing live.

I didn’t really catch anyone else on the second stage.

I just want to say that this little festival is the perfect size as far as the venue and crowd size go.  The promoters treated us like gold and I hope we’re able to come back next year and play the main stage.  I met some awesome people in Chicago and look forward to going back to just hang out.  Also, Leather Leone of Chastain fame was an MC for the show and I got to speak with her several times over those 2 days.  She was awesome.  Very sweet and funny.

Great times!