RPM Fest 2019 – August 30 – September 1, 2019 – Millers Falls Rod and Gun Club, Montague, MASaturday, 1st February 2020
Photo credit: Alex Lindsay
Day 3 – Sunday, Sept. 1
Opening up the final day of the festival was DNZL, winners of the RPM Fest Battle of the Bands judge vote. The band’s abrasive hardcore punk sound was a fitting way to get the blood flowing and the adrenaline pumping. The fast tempos and hefty breakdowns got heads banging and bodies moving early and often, serving as the perfect alarm clock to jolt you out of hangover mode and prepare you for one final full day of rock, punk and metal.
Connecticut rockers Entierro had the honor of kicking off the Cherry Rail Farm Stage performances on the final day of the festival. Normally a four-piece with a double-axe attack, Entierro was a man down at RPM, employing only one guitar, but the band soldiered on and still delivered a heavy, energetic performance. The band is one of the tightest I’ve seen, combining everything from traditional metal to hardcore, with elements of NWOBHM, thrash and doom mixed in. Loads of groove and heavy riffs assaulted the audience and I can only imagine what the band could have delivered at full strength.
The next band I caught was another true highlight of the festival. Sticking out like a sore thumb on the lineup in the best way possible, as the only band with brass instrumentation at the fest, PWRUP’s punk meets hardcore meets ska up-tempo sound, complete with three-part vocal harmonies, made for an extremely catchy, fun performance. This was the third day of the festival and the third performance for Brian Westbrook, after playing with Lich King and Virus of Ideals on the previous two days. The band combines the bright, upbeat trombone blasts of ska with heavy riffing and melodic vocals. Making the performance all the more memorable was all the Brian face cutouts being waved around throughout the audience. The moment was reminiscent of last year’s Jeopardy performance when all the band members wore Brian face T-shirts, which they changed into mid-set.
My Missing Half
After PWRUP, I made it over to the Ginger Libation Stage to catch the end of My Missing Half, who were pounding the audience with melodic death metal. I was only able to hear the last couple of songs, but slicing riffs, pummeling drumming and harsh vocals were on full display. The band’s sound possesses equal parts melody and aggression, and there was plenty of each from what I was able to catch. It was also great to see Epicenter guitarist Ryan Burke join the band on stage to throw down on a couple of songs.
Progressive grunge metal quintet Travel Amygdala was the next band to play the Cherry Rail Farm Stage. I had been aware of the band for quite a while, but this was my first time seeing them and they definitely left an impression. With a sound firmly rooted in the mid to late ’90s, the band incorporates elements of everything from grunge to nu metal to thrash to progressive rock. The band creates big soundscapes backed by hammering riffs, thick bass lines and pummeling drums that are heavy to be sure but also incorporate enough of a psychedelic atmosphere to take the listener on a journey. Influences range from Pink Floyd, Alice in Chains and Primus to Korn and System of a Down, to name a few, elements of which are present throughout the band’s sound, however they’re woven in a way to create something unique.
Next up were Vermont party thrashers Jeopardy, who were playing The Enthusiast Stage under the pavilion. With songs that average between 2 and 3 minutes in length, the band’s thrash-meets-crossover hybrid gets in and out, wasting no time in inducing circle pits and plenty of headbanging. The alternate-picked riffs accompanied by gang vocal chorus shouts are tailor-made for beer drinking and moshing, so it’s no wonder why the band was invited back to thrash RPM Fest for the second year in a row.
After the thrash assault from Jeopardy, it was time to head back to the Cherry Rail Farm Stage to see Leather Lung. Ever since seeing the stoner metal quartet deliver one of the most energy-packed performances of Stoned to Death II, I had been looking forward to seeing Leather Lung again. The majority of RPM Fest attendees must have had the same thought because it wasn’t long before the crowd filled in for Leather Lung, who yet again unleashed a heavy, high-energy performance. The band’s influences range from sludge to outlaw country and delta blues, so the songs are varied but the performance is full of power and attitude. The set, one of the highlights of the fest, flew by in a haze of smoke and a cascade of sludgy riffs.
Problem With Dragons
The stoner vibes continued underneath the tent at the Ginger Libation Stage with Problem With Dragons. The trio from Easthampton, Mass., plays a mix of stoner, grunge and rock all blended together and blasted at the audience in the form of fuzzed-out riffs, hefty groove and concussive drumming. The band, which received an enthusiastic response from the crowd, was firing on all cylinders with plenty of new material to air live having just released their second album. The band closed out their set in striking fashion with “Moon Ritual” from the new album, complete with a woman clad in body paint who danced about the stage before being doused in blood.
It was about this time I decided to take a break, but I did so by grabbing a seat on one of the benches in the pavilion, which was being torn apart by Crimespree. The unabashed punk band from Plymouth County, Mass., played fast, loud, raw and in your face. Full of energy and attitude, the pavilion was the perfect place to be for a fast-paced, balls-to-the-wall punk rock show, and Crimespree more than delivered the goods. The band’s influences include Good Riddance, Bad Brains, Pour Habit, NOFX and Career Suicide, with the music containing elements of both hardcore and thrash.
The performance was one of my favorites of the festival, as I had one of those moments of being pleasantly surprised by discovering a killer band I knew nothing about beforehand. However, it was bittersweet because as it turns out, this performance was the band’s last. Not only was the band ending, but they also didn’t have any merch available because, according to the vocalist, their bassist, who was not present for the show, had it all and ran off with it. I’m glad I got to see the band at least once before they called it quits. Their EP, “Guilty by Disassociation,” is still available for listening on the band’s bandcamp page. Definitely check it out!
After recharging while taking in Crimespree’s set, I headed back to the Cherry Rail Farm Stage for a potent dose of thrash metal, courtesy of Long Island’s Extinction A.D. I had seen the band once before, when they were on tour with Havok. It was a small club in Rhode Island and all I remember is wrecking my neck while headbanging incessantly at the front of the stage for the duration of their set. Bringing a modern approach to ’80s thrash, the band’s sound is big, heavy and intense. Razor-sharp riffs collide with rumbling bass and machine-gun drums, as vocalist Rick Jimenez barks behind the mic when not running across the stage, encouraging the audience to go all out and give it their all. Another worthy addition to the RPM Fest stages.
Post-rock quartet HarborLights was another one of those surprising, happy discoveries. I was passing through the pavilion on my way to the Ginger Libation Stage to check out Creeping Death, when I just had to stop and take in what I was hearing. Unlike most of the lineup of the fest, this was a droning, melancholy sound, drenched with emotion yet still heavy while retaining plenty of melody. The haunting melodies washed over me and I ended up staying through the end of the band’s performance. A performance that was memorable, if brief, and another one of my favorites of the fest. I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the hallmarks of this festival is the amazing amount of quality music you will discover alongside your favorites.
The post-rock breather provided by HarborLights between the metallic thrash of Extinction A.D. and the hardcore-infused death metal of Creeping Death was just what I needed before diving headlong back into the chaos at the Ginger Libation Stage. Creeping Death was a last-minute addition to the festival and while I missed the first half of their performance due to being mesmerized by HarborLights, I was glad to have caught the last four songs from Creeping Death, who laid waste to everything in their path. Meaty, Swedish death buzz-saw guitars combined with pulse-pounding double-bass drums and guttural vocals to steamroll those who weren’t already swallowed up in the churning circle pit. I hope to catch a full set from this band sooner rather than later. Not only do the RPM Fest organizers find a replacement for one of the bands that had to drop off last minute, but it’s a kick-ass addition that only heightens the brutality. A job well done!
One of the more varied bands to grace the stages of RMP Fest this year was Long Island, N.Y., rock ’n’ rollers Moon Tooth. Although I had heard of the band leading up to the festival, I was not at all familiar with them. Add another pleasantly surprised experience to the list, as Moon Tooth unleashed an intense performance featuring an amalgamation of sounds and styles, including but not limited to progressive metal, rock and even blues at times, which had the crowd in a frenzy.
Similar to the all-out chaos of the Gwell-O set, all manner of paraphernalia was flying through air, including a wide array of glow sticks alongside the countless pool noodles and variety of inflatables. In one of the more intense set closers I’ve ever seen, vocalist John Carbone jumped off the stage, ran into the middle of the pit and proceeded to pound the ground fervently before actually ripping up chunks of grass and dirt and eating it.
Formed by Todd Evans after serving as Beefcake the Mighty in GWAR, Mobile Deathcamp has been decimating stages for quite a while, so it was probably only a matter of time before they were invited to do the same at RPM Fest. The trio wasted no time, employing chunky riffs, blazing tempos and a gargantuan sound to whip the audience into a whirlwind of hair, beer and pounding fists. Mobile Deathcamp closed out the Ginger Libation Stage under the tent with a powerful, short but sweet, straight to the point set that wrecked more than a few necks. The set went by in the blink of an eye, and after finally getting to see what the band is all about, I can’t wait to take in a full headlining performance.
With barely any time to catch my breath, I headed back to the Cherry Rail Farm Stage for the final time of RPM 2019. One band left. One performance to go. The crowning achievement. The masterstroke. The coup de grâce. Inter Arma. The Richmond, Va., band closed out the festival in absolutely brutal fashion, turning in one of the heaviest performances I’ve ever seen. Yet again, this was another band I was largely unfamiliar with prior to the fest, but holy shit did Inter Arma leave an impression! I’m not sure words can do justice to just how utterly bone-crunching and soul-crushing the performance was. Lurching along with slow-building rhythms, concussive playing and ultra-thick riffs, Inter Arma obliterated the audience with power and precision. There was a range of emotions in the audience, from pure adrenaline to maximum excitement to even being reduced to tears. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a crater revealed beneath the stage when it was taken down and put away.
Rendered speechless by the destruction of Inter Arma, my friends and I attempted to gather our thoughts and put into words what we had all just witnessed. Last year’s RPM Fest closing headliner was Acid Witch, one of my favorite bands, but seeing what Inter Arma unleashed at RPM 2019 went beyond anything experienced during the 2018 edition, and I even heard some festival veterans who have attended every year say Inter Arma’s set was the best performance in the history of RPM.
I eventually made my way back to the pavilion to recover and observe the setup for the live recording of the Promotörhead Podcast. I won’t say much else here, leaving you to listen for yourself to the drunken shenanigans, rambling nonsense and impromptu singing that ensued. The recording of the podcast is another tradition of the festival that began last year and continued this year. Featuring most, if not all, of the people responsible for RPM Fest, plus a few random guests, it was a fitting way to close out the festival.
There really isn’t much else to say, other than RPM Fest is an event that every fan of heavy music in New England (and beyond, for that matter) needs to experience. The festival grows in popularity every year and I can’t wait to see the heights it reaches. It’s only getting started, my friends. Make sure you’re a part of the journey by attending next year’s edition. I guarantee you’ll want to return every year.
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