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Hot Dogs, Beer, and Riffs at the Awesome Fest

March 17, 2009
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It was hard to know what to expect when the Sidebar held something called the Awesome Fest on Saturday—whether it would be any kind of special outdoor springtime event or just a show in the club that happened to go all day. But since it was cool and rainy out, it ended up being the latter, regardless of whether it had been planned otherwise. So it was essentially just a regular Sidebar show, but with 13 bands starting early in the afternoon instead of the usual five or so late at night, and some hot dogs and pulled pork for sale in the back of the club. And when the bill featured little known but ridiculously named acts such as Wild Bonerz and Bukkake Party Tonight, it sounded like a surefire good loud time.

It felt a little odd at first to saddle up to the bar and down a few beers as daylight still peeked in through the window, but we got used to it pretty quick once the loud and rowdy bands kicked in. One pleasant surprise was that an unfamiliar band early in the day, Pfisters, featured a familiar face in singer/guitarist Jason Donnells of the New Flesh. Pfisters isn’t too far off from the New Flesh’s guttural guitar/bass/drums assault, although the supporting players gave the new band a more metal feel.

As it turned out, the incestuous inter-band crossover didn’t begin and end with the New Flesh and Pfister. Awesome Fest played host to a reunion of the band Trash Camp, a quartet that originally ran from 2004-2008 and was playing one more quick little set together for old time’s sake. Once it hit the stage, it became clear that former members of Trash Camp had gone on to play in several of the other bands that played the festival earlier in the day, including the 4th Horseman, the Werewolves, and Pfisters. 4th Horsemen were probably the hardest rocking of the bunch, with a solid rhythm section and wailing vocals that stirred up about as much of a mosh pit as a small room can handle.

But each band displayed its own variation on fast, loud and ugly rock music that seemed to play off of the unique combinations of shared members. As much of a cliché as it is in scenes as small and tightly knit as Baltimore’s for everyone to play in four different bands that all sound similar, there’s something to be said for the sense of community, and the myriad variations on that sound, that can result from that kind of creative environment.

After a few consecutive sets by those heavy inter-related bands, a welcome change of pace came along in the form of the Open Mic Knights. Two goofy, bearded gentleman singing humorously obscene songs, one playing acoustic guitar and the other playing electronic drum pads, the “OMK” as they called themselves, embraced their role as the novelty act on the bill. And as they sang their gleefully disgusting and misogynist lyrics, with catchy sea shanty choruses and surprisingly skillful digital drumming, the Sidebar denizens looked delighted to hear some lighter, sillier fare for a while, before moving onto more hostile noise. By that point, I was ready to fall off my barstool and headed home, but I hung in as long as I could with the Awesome Fest.

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