Heavy thoughts, part 1

The Acacia Strain, Friday night

Black Dahlia Murder headlining Friday

All That Remains headlining Saturday

DragonForce playing Saturday

God Forbid playing Saturday

OK, so @moshfest is over, and we’re sifting through notes and computer files compiled throughout New England Metal and Hardcore Festival 14 to try and figure out exactly what the hell it was that dropped the jaw, blew the mind, melted the face, etc.

Thing is, there is no simple answer. Eighty-five (or so) bands playing extreme, aggressive music across three days could have easily turned into a slog of ear-grating screaming and bowel-rattling double-bass-drum barrages. But Metalfest moved at an exhilarating pace up to a dramatic finale with singer Jesse Leach reuniting with Killswitch Engage. 

Metalfest had its vibe.

Any music festival_ blues, jazz, folk, polka, whatever_ that hopes to be any good has to be more than simply a bunch of bands sprinkled across a few stages. The best fests stoke experiences that go beyond the music, and NEMHF 14 did just that.

 The vibe at Metalfest this year sprung from its sense of place. The Worcester Palladium has been, and always will be, the home of Metalfest. And it is a home because a family lives there. On any given year, Metalfest will have a good representation of Massachusetts bands. And those Massachusetts bands figuratively grew up in The Palladium, either at early editions of Metalfest or at the all-ages shows in the theater’s smaller, upstairs stage.

And keep in mind, this isn’t Boston we’re talking about. The Acacia Strain’s Vincent Bennett pointed out in January when his band opened for Lamb of God at the Paradise that it was only his second or third time in 10 years he performed in Boston.

Boston supports hard rock, and some of the smaller clubs feature metal nights, but extreme music was never really embraced there even as it blossomed and expanded throughout the 1990s and on into today. Pantera’s Boston fans had to head west whenever they wanted to see that band.

When MassConcerts got a hold of The Palladium, John Peters and Scott Lee basically hung a “Metal Welcome Here” sign.

Also happening outside the Boston-proper music scene, a new breed of headbangers took hold in central and western Mass. Metalcore progenitors  Overcast splintered into Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall. All That Remains took shape when Phil Labonte parted ways with Shadows Fall. Bane grew out of Converge. Unearth, The Acacia Strain and Vanna came in successive ways. 

When those bands became big enough to tour, they met other heavy acts rumbling around, and brought home their friends to play at the Palladium. God Forbid, for example, may be from New Jersey, but they are a “Palladium band.”

So this year especially when Masshole bands were heavily featured each of the three nights, the vibe took the shape of a family reunion. Papa Lee presided over the whole thing. Labonte jumped in on Unearth’s set. Brian Fair and Pete Cortese watched from a balcony as their old Overcast mate Mike D’Antonio throttled his bass through Killswitch’s set.

Fans and bands don’t just goto Metalfest; they belong at Metalfest. It’s their place.

More stuff to come