After the bloodbath in Paris, see this blog entry, was I really ready to go to LeMans for Fury Fest, the best metal/punk/heavy lineup of the summer for three days of camping and partying with my horns up? Hell yeah!
June 24th, Friday, my friend Rob & I were off, leaving from Paris for an uneventful but safe drive to LeMans once we found the Peripherique (the highway that encircles Paris, and basically the "way out"). Fury Fest was right next to the LeMans raceway at Le Parc Expo du Mans, but although the two sites were next to each other, both were huge and I could not get a decent photo of the racetrack from the site, it was still too distant.
We met friends near the festival entrance & proceeded to set up camp; putting up the tents was the easy part - finding an area where we'd be able to find our tents at night while in any condition, that was a bit trickier. A spot by a light pole was perfect, and the labor was done in minutes, voila!
The festival was set up with three stages, all inside; total band count for the festival is a whopping 96, and as far as I know, the only band who did not make it was Murphy's Law. Most of the bands on earlier in the day are given half hour sets, then 45 minutes to about 25% of the performers, then the headliners get anywhere between one & 1.5 hours to play. The Velvet Stage would be the first one I hit today; Belgium's Leng Tche, featuring the vocalist from Aborted on drums was on at 12:55. The Velvet Stage is the smallest
stage of all three, plenty of room for a couple thousand people, and sounded really good consistently through the weekend. Next I'm off to what they call the Forum Stage; a large domed venue, to check out Swiss band Cataract; hardcore reminiscent of Sparkmarker that's developed into a heavier metalcore sound over the years. The Forum Stage was a disappointment on a couple of levels; the smoke machine was running full blast most of the time in there; which made it difficult to get good photos, and it was also the worst sounding stage in the fest. Relapse recording artists High On Fire were supposed to play at 4:15, but had transportation problems, Justin Broadrick of Godflesh fame's newest project, Jesu was scheduled for 5:25 on the same stage and also had transport problems, so the Velvet Stage was performerless between the hours of 3:45 and 6:45. Meanwhile, Amen, Sick of It All & Arch Enemy, featuring former Carcass guitarist Michael Amott hit the Main Stage, and Walls of Jericho played the Forum. By the time the Velvet Stage fired up again, it was really time to tear into things; 999 had just arrived, got somewhat oriented & hit the stage with a blast. This is a band whose first show was in 1976, and the inventors of explosive power punk are still at it. Nick Cash throwing himself into the crowd from the 4 foot stage, Guy Days not missing a lick, Arturo Bassick not missing a wisecrack; the "Boys In the Gang" still have what it takes. Jesu came skidding in right after 999 & performed an abbreviated set; unfortunate, but it looked for a bit as if there might not be time to fit them in at all on the schedule, so it was better than not having them perform at all. Roderic from Switzerland's Knut was on the drumkit, and although band members said they felt rushed and just "OK" about the set, I was completely riveted - they were sonically overwhelming & heavily textured, a set that needed a nap after witnessing. But NO! The East Coast Show Queen must see more, more, more! Stopping for a couple of crepes and a bottle of water, I was sporting my most recent WFMU t-shirt; and had conversations with a few people about the station. I am sure the ESCUCHE caption on the shirt was even more confounding to the mostly French crowd, but I am always happy to be in the middle of confusion. Speaking of confusion, Fantomas was up next on the Main Stage. Dave Lombardo was not drumming with them, as Slayer is on tour & would be playing here on Sunday night, so the astounding Terry Bozzio filled in on the kit. Using only 36 of his legendary 50+ piece drum kit, he managed to make due. Directly after Fantomas was Jello Biafra performing with the Melvins. Jello moves quite well for a guy whose had his knees busted and who looks lke he's creeping onto the wrong side of middle age; still, he's got the theatrics to hold the crowd's attention & performs well. I was just about to skip out on 'em when they dredged up Holiday In Cambodia - I was literally out the side door and I heard that screeching guitar buildup, and was compelled to go back inside & smile my ass off reliving my punk heritage for three minutes. Italy's Lacuna Coil played on the Forum Stage followed by My Dying Bride; the headliners for that stage-- all the suicidal kids ended up there for the evening. I was back & forth checking out bits of both bands' sets waiting for Earache's sonic waterfall, Cult of Luna, who ended up getting rescheduled much later, and High on Fire who were playing with Joe Preston of Thrones fame on bass on their first tour since he joined the lineup, had been rescheduled to an 11:15 time slot. I'm sure their 7 hour delay made them tired as hell, but they seemed energetic, and Matt Pike (ex-Sleep) was in his usual "I have the best posture of any guitar player on earth" (shown at right) form. These guys are one of the loudest bands I've ever seen, and this is being said after seeing them many many times; they consistently turn up the volume and as much as Sleep was top in the stoner realm, High on Fire is victorious in the arena of sheer heaviness. Anthrax rounded off the evening on the Main Stage featuring their "Among the Living" lineup & presumably playing lots of material from that era. I have to admit here that I missed them; I had a LOT of socializing to do & I have seen Anthrax probably 35 times spanning from the Dan Lilker/Neil Turbin days, so don't even think about giving me shit for missing Anthrax, OK? I was never a huge Belladonna fan, even though I am in the video for "Indians". Harumph. That's french for fuck off, I think. I gotta get to bed.
Campsite night one. I don't know why I thought I'd sleep well, or at all... Hmm, let's make an equation out of this. Say you and twelve thousand friends are going camping... yeah. I think the equation is throwing up in the woods right about now. Well thank god the main language here is french, eventually the sound of it became white noise to me instead of pissing me off by understanding drunken assholes in the next tent (although I did hear choruses of Misfits and Anthrax songs being sung in english). For this I am grateful. Eventually I made it to sleep, but not before making a few field recordings. It sounded like the aural equivalent of the stadium wave, the death metal campsite wave. Somewhere between the lungs of Tom G. Warrior, a faucet running full blast and a belching french Cookie Monster, the "wave" went on and on sporadically for hours and was really hilarious. It could be heard "approaching" from half a mile away. I giggled through half the night then realized if I didn't get some sleep I'd be really screwed up for the rest of the weekend, so in went the earplugs and I eventually dropped off.
Saturday morning had a couple of great bands early on, who I was forced to miss as I opted for sleep and then a nice hefty breakfast. 100 Demons, Kruger & The Old Dead Tree had been on my list, but I simply couldn't do it. I was beginning to feel the signs of a grueling weekend, and it was still early as far as the fest went. The first band I saw was the metalcore of East Germany's Maroon, It was packed by 1:40 at the Velvet Stage for their tight, furious performance. A set by Cephalic Carnage from Colorado (guitarist Zac pictured at right) was the next Main Stage event; they were supporting their new album, "Anomalies" on Relapse, I think their best to date. Following on that stage was the hardcore 1-2-3 punch of H2O, Terror, then Madball; I opted for ZAO and New York's Immolation and a rest to recharge my camera batteries. I have to inject here that the weather this particular weekend was HOT. Really fucking hot. The inside venues didn't help even though they had large open doorways. The only venue that wasn't a sweaty nightmare to be inside was the Forum Stage - it did have the crappiest acoustics, but at least breathing was not a problem inside. For the entire three days, I believe I sweated every minute of each day, and no, it was not pretty - but at least everyone was in the same boat; there were a couple of stations with hoses out & you could drench yourself if you wanted - the lines for the hoses were often longer than the lines for food (not for beer, though). At least all the stages were connected by sidewalks, not dirt, so it took a bit of creativity to get yourself covered with sweat AND dirt. Alright then, enough of a breather, my camera battery is now charged. Murphy's Law was a no show on the Velvet Stage; at the time no one knew why, as the guys in Bleeding Through had played with them the day before & nothing seemed wrong when both bands headed toward LeMans. The Business were scheduled directly after the Murphy's Law slot & pretty much hit the stage on schedule. Dissection took the main stage at 6pm; lead vocalist/guitarist Jon Nodtveldt (left) calling their style "anti-cosmic metal of death"... one of the originators of the blacker tributaries of death metal, I could care less what they want to call it; they had their very metal backdrop (no pitchforks, though) and fed the audience a diet of brutal thrashing rhythms & structured choruses. Now I'm off to the Forum Stage, this time to see Dark Tranquillity(right); one of the originators of the now too often imitated "Gothenburg Sound," I saw a large percentage of their meticulous set - all from the photo pit & was so stoked that I could hang there I had to race over to the Main Stage so I wouldn't miss any of Mille Petrozza and the mighty Kreator kicking the shit out of the Fury Fest crowd. I've seen Kreator about a million times over the years & Mille has one of the more vicious & easily identified voices in the history of metal. They keep it heavy & pretty damn true to form; which is AOK with me and the salivating crowd, for sure. The Fury Fest featured a giant cooperative area that housed the "Extreme Market", some tattooing & piercing stalls, as well as a large press center for interviews in semi-private cubicles. A lot of the bands had their own merch booths, as did the fest selling it's t-shirts & posters (some from last year that were designed by Derek Hess), local retailers, as well as Conspiracy Records and Relapse. I got to meet Australian illustrator/designer Seldon Hunt in the market area; he's done artwork for Sunn O))), Isis, and the cover for Neurosis' "A Sun That Never Sets", among other works-- check out his mind boggling pieces on his website. There was also a huge bonfire on the grounds; lit every night; now that's something you want - drunks are attracted to fire just like moths to flame; it didn't seem like a good idea, but worked out just fine- I don't think there were any injuries, and it was pretty cool to hang around for a bit. Now it's time to get to the frenzied end of the day; the last handful of bands; the dilemma - how to juggle them all? International Noise Conspiracy on the Forum Stage, Turbonegro on the Main Stage, Enslaved at the Velvet Stage; the next round: Exploited, Harley's War, Megadeth and Neurosis. My head was spinning; had to make some tough decisions; but there was no way I was going to miss Enslaved (left) or Neurosis, so my schedule revolved around those two bands, and I popped in on the others. Enslaved's latest LP "Isa" received a Norwegian Grammy; they've probably been around for 15 years or so, and are a band that are not content to stick to one formula of metal, or a lackluster performance. Their set was quite a feat; a packed house with very little room to breathe; I swear they were sweating buckets from the second they took the stage. Turbonegro got great reviews; I timed that one pretty badly, and got into the venue after the deed was done, but snagged a $4 bill they had apparently shot into the audience along with a couple of hundred pounds of confetti. If you've never seen Neurosis (Steve Von Till pictured right) before, you should make it your life's goal to see them live before you die. The onstage spectacle that is this group of artists is more than a performance, it affects every part of you (not always good if you need to go to the bathroom), but truly is an experience as opposed to a viewing. At the end of the night I caught a portion of Megadeth's set, but I was pretty let down. I'm not sure if it's the ravages of time on Dave Mustaine; they weren't bad, but I kept on hearing more of an Axl Rose whine in his voice than the gruff voice I'd listened to in my youth. Several friends remarked that the only thing that was mixed well was Mustaine's guitar; a distracting element in the final performance of the evening.
But my night did not stop here, far from it! Tonight at the campsite someone got hold of a couple of shopping carts & proceeded to compete in the French version of Jackass ALL night - directly next to my tent. Do I sound like an old lady when I complain about things like this? I'm not really complaining, but when someone lands on you when you are attempting to relax but you can't see who they are because there is tent material between you & them, well, it's not the kind of anonymous sex one might fantasize as exciting. When the person who lands on your tent is completely stinking drunk & is so comatose they cannot be moved, it does get funnier, but still not the place to be if you want to sleep. I had to check out the chicken shopping cart races for a little bit after that series of events, made some more recordings, and then relied on my trusty earplugs to get me through until morning. NOTE: the guy who fell on the tent was still on a corner of it when we got up in the morning. ROCK!
Anti-Flag was the first band I caught in my morning stupor (it was1pm, but that's still pretty damn early after last night's hijinks); they woke me up with their strong set of pop punk brashness. Mastodon (guitarist Bill Kelliher pictured below right) was next also on the Main stage; the boys from Atlanta and I had a tearful reunion - check out their live set when they played WFMU a number of years back. They pretty much stunned and brutalized the festival crowd with their thunderous set; the crowd response was phenomenal. Highlight here: Neurosis' Scott Kelly singing guest vocals on "Aqua Dementia" from Leviathan, their most recent record, that he does the original vocal track on. I couldn't get great pix because I was on the side of the stage instead of in front of the band & the crowd was too big to maneuver through to get front row shots, so I happily sat on the side dreaming of cooler weather to headbang to. US Bombs played the Forum Stage followed by 25 Ta Life & then Denmark's Illdisposed on the Velvet Stage. I made a quick jump over to catch two songs by Soilwork on the Main Stage, followed by In Flames and Obituary; and in between the two, Poland's manacing Behemoth played on the Velvet Stage; the first of three makeup bands performing this weekend. I caught Napalm Death on the Forum Stage; they launched into a powerful nonstop set including music from the span of their releases. Napalm Death (Shane Embury pictured below) is a band that always seems to be conscious of what the fans want to hear - not just what record they are pushing at the moment, and over the years they have mixed it up well. Vocalist Barney "I am liquid" Greenway took an unscheduled break on the drum riser due to heat exhaustion. I spoke with guitarist Mitch Harris after their set & Barney was alright after getting his bearings - dehydration can be nasty.
OK time to breathe here for a minute; the sun was unforgiving at this hour of the day & I had my own heat issues, having to cut short watching Obituary, which was personally a big drag for me, as their sound is just so trademark of what really became the meat of the metal scene years ago, but I had to rest as there was still a lot of the day to go. Sunn O))) unfortunately had major technical problems on the Velvet Stage and truncated their performance pretty much after one song... I saw Stephen O'Malley before their set & he was sporting a pair of clogs - nice to see in an ocean of black boots! Next on the Forum Stage was Switzerland's Samael (vocalist/guitarist Vorphalack,right), delivering their unique brand of heavy atmospheric textures ala Pitchshifter or Laibach, but not turning their backs on the dark and defiant elements that put them on the map years ago. "Reign of Light," their latest release, is full of sonic changes, but to describe the individual elements is a disservice to the band; the overall focus of their music is the real kicker here; each of their records is like a different story but apparently no book is closed, and each shows structural variation and a need to go forward, often rare in their genre. Check out the Baphomet guitar pick I snagged from their amazing set in the photo album section accompanying this blog along with about a million other pix from the festival. No, it's not a George Lucas movie, it's Dimmu Borgir on the Main Stage. Black metal gone soundtracky, and makeup band #2 of this sweatfest. They deliver a precision based set; their work getting more symphonic and decorated with harmonic spaces with every release. Sometimes it's hard for such sterile sounds to go over well live; they are right on that edge...sometimes boring, sometimes explosive. Our NJ brothers the Misfits performed on the Forum Stage next; the third of the makeup bands, but not in the same category musically as the other two, the Misfits are probably the most covered punk band ever. Jerry, Dez and Robo gave the enthusiastic crowd a good workout of Misfits & songs from the Black Flag catalog also. I'll finish my coverage of the Forum Stage here (coverage -oh, I feel like Lois Lane!), but the show's nearly over. Pennywise finished off that stage with their 2nd tier level of popcore; tight, fast, and done before you knew it... I didn't; I did not stay for much of their set - hell, they overlapped with Slayer AND Amon Amarth, that would be a cardinal sin. But let me go in order now on the other stages; we can't forget the mighty Motorhead on the Main Stage. Lemmy is probably the most tenacious figure in metal today, yesterday, and tomorrow. I watched the set from the side of the stage atop the cases & gear boxes, with Jerry Only & Robo to my side; a decent perch although somewhat obstructed visually. With a catalog like theirs to back them up, Motorhead could do no wrong. Their newest record, "Inferno," is one of their best in years and their set included a few from it; at least I didn't have to cringe when Lemmy would announce a new song, as I have in the past during let's say, their mediocre period. Anyway, you can't top a diet of Ace of Spades and Overkill and some of the new ones, and that's what the audience consumed - rabidly. What else is there to say? I'll tell you; Amon Amarth. The Swedes slugged through their brand of viking metal; the massive Johann Hegg at the helm, bringing the Velvet Stage down to a rumbling close, and after that, well, all that is left for the weekend is Slayer. Slayer. Slay-errrr. No matter where I have seen them, it's always the same - a Slayer crowd is SCARY. You get the feeling that someone could get killed for no reason, well, the reason would be Slayer. The pits are vicious, the screams are bloody & it's pretty frightening, as it should be; after all, Angel of Death, Dead Skin Mask, South of Heaven & Raining Blood are all creepy titles, performed live they're ferocious and a deadly weapon in their own right. The crowd ate it up, cheered until they were hoarse and screamed for more. As the smoke cleared I was surprised there were not more casualties. But most everyone managed to get themselves out of the stage area in one piece, and back to the beer stands for one last go-round. In my opinion, the FuryFest was a resounding success; I know there were difficulties, but with any endeavor of that magnitude, things are going to happen, for the most part things ran as well as could be expected; the worst part was the heat which was unforseen by everyone; 95 degrees for three days straight is enough to test anyone's mettle. I can't end with a cheesy phrase like that; thanks to everyone who helped my adventure along the way, Rob, Charles-Henri, Andy, Digby, Caf, Tank, Hans, Matt & Blythe, members of Mastodon, Neurosis, Samael, and the Misfits. Here's a parting shot from the campsite on Sunday morning; that's not the guy that fell on our tent the night before, but as we walked by it was evident that this fella was definitely down for the count. Note pieces of shopping cart among the beer bottles in the foreground. Check out the rest of the photo coverage in the accompanying photo album! 'Til the next show!