Philadelphia, I love you! I just need to start out with that sentiment, because honestly, that was what was in my throat the entire weekend that I was down in Philly for Decibel’s Second Annual Metal and Beer Festival. I heard all the stories and the awesomeness that was last year with SLEEP and everything that came with it. I definitely had a case of FOMO, really bad. So I bused it down to Philly on a semi-spring feeling Friday and prepared for the good times to roll. Sadly due to work, I had to miss the pre-fest party show, with Midnight. Devastating, but you can’t win em all, or even some in this life. Anyway, the fest would more than deliver, and all those good feelings were gonna last from the second I got off the bus at Independence Hall until I left to go home on Monday.
As for the bands, it was stacked. Saturday highlights for me included Spirit Adrift opening with a devastating performance. I really dig where they are going and will see them every time without fail when they play near me. Evoken was excellent as well. And a nice change from band to band, style to style. There were definitely hardcore heads in the house there just to see Integrity and smash people. Lots of fun and the best I have seen the band in ages. Pallbearer, long time Decibel favorites were just crushing, and they performed a new song! Their new album is going to be huge, man.
Monster Magnet was so good live, that it was almost redic to have another band follow them, even if that band was At The Gates. Playing their hits and cuts from their new album Mindfucker (Napalm Records) frontman Dave Wyndorf brain-sexed the crowd into rock n roll submission. They were phenomenal performers, the entire band, but Dave is the linchpin. Go see this band live or you will regret it forever.
At The Gates, of course not to be outdone, performed the best set I have ever seen from them. Songs new and ancient were played equally, making the set an almost history of the band, track by track. They sounded fierce and pumped me up even more for their new album.
The fest is unique in that it is so small, not too many bands, one stage, not too many people with limited tickets; it just feels really special. Like a private experience just for the beer-loving metal fan. Even though those impulses are catered too, there is a lot to enjoy at the fest for the non-drinker too. I was on doctor’s orders to curb my drinking so I kept it to a few carefully chosen cups per day that I really loved. The top ones for me and my taste buds included: Three Floyds (IN), TRVE (CO), Burial (NC) and Hoof Hearted (OH), Weyerbacher (PA), Yards Brewing (PA), Adroit Theory (VA), Left Hand Brewing, (CA), Wayfinder (OR), Jester King (TX), Brash Brewing (TX), Strangeways (VA) and Local Option (IL).
As for the metal, many sub-genres finest bands were represented so there was something for everyone, for sure. Of course, there were fans who were there only to see their favorites, and that is only natural. But my hunch is the average fan today, influenced partially by Decibel’s long penchant for diverse coverage and other outside forces such as record labels are less specialized than ever, or even Spotify, many fans enjoyed a cross section of the bands. I did! This is also why fest sponsor Gimmie Radio is beginning to take off. Check em out and thank me later.
The Fillmore venue is great. This was my third time here and I may start just coming down here for some tours when I can. Easily one of my top ten venues in the country to enjoy a metal show. Great sound (although not if you are right in front of the PA kids) and lighting, as well as a great staff and food options. I would have liked the house lighting guy to chill a little and be more subdued all weekend, but that is my standing grip at every show. On top of that, the lobby and common areas of the fest were packed with record labels and vendors hawking their merch to hungry heshers and hesherettes. I got some cool rare patches and vinyl for myself, but yeah people were leaving with armloads of stuff, not counting the bands who also sold their wares too.
The Sunday bill was also great. My favorite band of the day was Repulsion, totally selling their April Fools joke on the crowd, by opening with a faithful version of ‘Breaking The Law’ by Judas Priest. They announced they were doing an all 80s metal covers set and played just enough of ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ by Scorpions to convince me. They got me! After the laughter died down, they jammed their brutal back catalog, which I loved. They seemed to have the most fun of any band on stage all weekend too. Greatness.
Other highlight bands from Sunday were Summerlands and their heavy metal, some moody weirdness from Spectral Voice, All Hell and of course, great sets from Mayhem and Carcass. I feel like Mayhem suffered from too much lighting that the band was clearly pissed about it. When they complained openly, the next song had even more light, pinks and purples galore in a “hold my beer” moment for the evilest band ever. Still, it did not deter them. Carcass was killer too and Jeff Walker warmed up the crowd with a ton of jokes and banter, as he does.
All in all, The Decibel Metal and Beer Festival was exceptional and I hope it continues in 2019.
WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES
PHOTOS BY HILLARIE JASON