Maryland Deathfest 2018 has come and gone. By all accounts, this was a particularly great year, but I wouldn’t know, because I wasn’t there.
Oh, I was there. I made the drive up Thursday night after work, then went home and came back up for Saturday’s Ram's Head shows.
And there were highlights. Sets by Mantar and Bolzer were awesome. I got to see what Frost looks like when he’s not bleeding out of his neck. I met a few folks I’d only known online. I even (literally) bumped into Goatwhore’s Ben Falgoust in a bar, and he could not have possibly been more good natured about it.
But I totally wasn’t “there” this year.
I was exhausted both nights, and my back was killing me. But more perplexingly, I just found myself wanting to be somewhere else almost the entre time.
This is totally out of the ordinary. I look forward to MDF all year long. Time and budget typically only allow for one-day’s attendance, but I always make the most of it.
In fact, a therapist (….yes, a therapist….) once told me that this annual pilgrimage is one of the healthier things I do each year. She talks about how “refreshed and present” I seem to be when I describe the day, and how clearly I need to make more time like this to reconnect with music, and performance, and with other people.
So much of this benefit is just the therapeutic value of being around the metal community for the day.
I sometimes half-jokingly refer to metal fans as “my people,” but that’s not quite accurate. Sure, I like metal. I love metal. But these aren’t really *my* people. “Metal” is not exactly my lifestyle, and my knowledge of the various subgenres is quite shallow compared to other fans. The truth is, I’m totally *not* part of the metal tribe.
That's why, so many years, I barely speak to anyone all day at Deathfest. But it’s still comforting to be among the fans. Watching them in the company of one another. Seeing them take on amusing tourist activities in Baltimore. And, of course watching the exuberance of it all as the festival gets underway.
There’s something profoundly joyful about being in their presence each year. I don’t think I know anyone in my day to day life who likes metal, so even if these aren’t “my people,” it always feels fun and safe to be among them.
And yet….I just wasn’t feeling it this year.
And yes, I was tired. Yes, my back has been hurting for weeks. And, yes, I’m stressed about work. But it was more than that.
An awful lot has changed the past few years. I’ve lost a little motivation to be social, to pound drinks, to stay out late. To go to shows, even.
I often just prefer to be home. Sometimes, I just like it better when I’m here when the kid goes down. When I know that my chores are done. When my wife knows that I’m here and holding up my end of the bargain.
All of this shuts the door on certain options, but it doesn’t really represent the sacrifice you might assume. This really is the life I want.
But, you know, MDF is still this thing my wife (and my therapist) encourages me to do each year, so this year,I had the bright idea to tie it all together with the family. We decided to get a hotel room and spend the day together on Saturday. I’d then go to the fest Saturday night, then we’d all spend the day together on Sunday.
It didn’t exactly go as planned. We got off to a really late start, then a thunderstorm left us stranded at a Barnes and Noble for much longer than we expected.
When the storm broke, my wife encouraged me to go to the festival before it got any later, but I suddenly didn’t want to. My daughter was having a blast with the books, and I was having fun riding that out with them. Plus, it killed me to know that the afternoon was winding into the evening, and that the two of them were probably going to be sequestered to the hotel room after the storm inevitably returned.
And even though I eventually made the jump, I really just wanted to be with my wife and daughter. Even through that excellent Bolzer set. Even during the weird opening moments of Master’s Hammer. Even though I knew I had twitter friends somewhere at the fest that I should be connecting with. (And, honestly....I really wanted to see them, even though I didn't make the effort. I still can't exactly recon that).
Halfway through Satyricon, I just knew I was done. So I tossed a half finished beer and went back to the hotel.
And that was the end of Maryland Deathfest for me.
The next morning, we grabbed coffee and ate breakfast on a park bench in Fells Point. We strolled around the neighbothood, checking out record shops and toy stores, and I eventully dropped a crushingly exorbitant entrance fee for the Baltimore Science Museum.
Raining, Um, Blood Again
And that’s when another thunderstorm came through….stronger and much more persistant than anything we’d experienced the day previous.
We got drenched getting back to the car, and made a dying cry to save the weekend by hitting up an oyster bar in Federal Hill for a family meal. Without going into details, the food that afternoon turned out to be decidedly beneath Baltimore's generally high standard.
And to cap it off, I somehow received a goddamned parking ticket in the midst of that deluge. (God bless the meter maid who had to stand in the storm and write that one out).
I had tried to forge out a better experience for all of us, but it wasn’t meant to be. We never really found our gear that day, or the weekend. For all the effort and good intentions, I ended up dropping a ton of cash, eating a disappointing meal, and enduring the bummer of peeling a wet ticket from my windshield.
Heading Out to the Highway
Here's the funny thing though: as we motored out of Baltimore, it didn’t really matter.
I spent the whole weekend trying - and failing - to re-establish some poorly-defined connection with "my people"....to assert
some claim to my identity. To hitch myself to a tribe where I would belong.
And all the while, "my people" were here in the car with me. Soaking wet. Low on funds. A little disappointed.
But happy together.
These are my people. And I'll never go looking for them anywhere else.