Disturbed returns to Baltimore 4-1-16

The 2016 summer concert season could not have started in a better way. Ever since Chicago based metal band Disturbed announced a new album in July of 2015, show announcements quickly followed. Disturbed was joined by veteran rockers Nonpoint on a nineteen city tour across the U.S. Playing to sold out crowds in some of America’s most intimate venues, they proved that even with a five year hiatus, fans are still Down With The Sickness. The April 1st stop of the tour in Maryland at the Baltimore Soundstage started promptly at 8pm with Nonpoint taking the stage. With heavy riffs, flying dreads and steady beats, the members of Nonpoint wasted no time getting right to the heart of why Baltimore music fans were there, to throw up the horns and rock out.  The Florida rockers only played a forty minute set but they covered a lot of material from their seventeen year career including new music from their upcoming ninth studio album, their cover of Phil Collins debut single In The Air Tonight, and the hit single Bullet With a Name from their 2005 album To The Pain.

Disturbed took the stage at 9 with a warm “My Brothers, My Sisters, My Blood” from David Draiman followed by the screams and chants of the hot and sweaty fans in attendance. The rest of the night was a welcome blast from the past. One thing could be said about the bands hiatus– it definitely seemed to help bring them to a different place. Guitarist Dan Donegan and Bassist John Moyer were as tight as ever crushing the strings. Drummer Mike Wengren had an absolutely amazing drum set ups. Sitting on a four foot tall riser and surrounded by a cymbal cage, it was almost too big for the stage and did not leave much room for the other members to move around. But it helped add to the intimate feel of the show by keeping  the drummer closer to the crowd instead of hiding in the shadows of the wings. But the most impressive part of the night was David’s voice. It hasn’t sounded this strong since the Pop Sux tour in 2002.  The set list for the night read like a greatest hits album, with only two songs off of their most recent work “ Immortalize”:  The Light, and an amazing acoustic rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence.  The set finished with a ten minute medley of songs which, in Draiman’s words, “inspired us through our career.”  The medly included Nine Inch Nails- Closer, U2- Still Haven’t Found, The Who- Baba O’Riley, and Rage Against The Machine- Killing in the Name Of(with Elias from NonPoint). The “one more song” chant started almost immediately and it did not take long for the guys to answer the call, returning to the stage with Draiman asking “if everyone was still breathing?” before the opening riff to “Voices”.  The crowd was relentlessly swaying, throwing their fists in the air and showing appreciation to the band by singing along to every word. But all good things must come to an end, and Disturbed addressed this point. David addressed the crowd with another “ My Brothers, My Sisters, My Blood”, and went on to say “we will be back, you have all been infected and we love you. Can you feel that, that sickness rising, are you down?”,  as the iconic chugging of guitar strings in drop C# tuning rang out for “Down with the Sickness.”

Walking out of the Baltimore Soundstage, all conversations were about how amazing the show was. In an era of smart phones and internet, the public has instant access to music and has developed a need for instant gratification; as a result, five years is a long time to not be in the public eye in the music industry. Today’s flash in the pan quickly becomes yesterday’s forgotten leftovers.  Fortunately, this is not the case with Disturbed.  The band still holds the attention and adoration of many generations of hard rocking fans.  Rock isn’t dead; it just needed a break.

For the latest tour dates and news about the band make sure to check out: http://www.disturbed1.com/immortalized/na?ref=

Mac Sabbath at Baltimore Soundstage


My first exposure to Mac Sabbath was not like many other bands. But then again, Mac Sabbath is not like any other band I’ve ever even seen before. Like many, I first saw Mac Sabbath in the viral YouTube video of their Iron Man parody entitled Frying Pan, a performance that was, well, “different”, which is certainly what Mac Sabbath aims to be: part Shock Rock, part Wierd Al, part sarcastic comedy show, a touch of magic show.

So when I recently went to see Mac Sabbath at the Baltimore SoundStage, I somewhat had an idea what to expect: a metal show where performers dress as evil Mickey D’s characters & perform parodies of Black Sabbath covers with a fast-food theme. I wondered if such an act was worthy of headliner status, or if it was nothing more than just a silly YouTube gimmick.

The frontman is a sadistic coked-up clown in red, white & yellow called “Ronald Osbourne”. The axe is played by “Slayer McCheese” who has huge tusks protruding from between his beef patty.  “Grimalice” performs bass somehow with giant purple fuzzy hands and “Cat Burglar” is the drumming hybrid of Hamburglar and KISS’s Peter Chriss.

The infamous YouTube video no longer does justice to Mac Sabbath. Filmed when the band was perhaps less experienced in performing live, thier music quality was rather poor. Nowadays when performing live, Mac Sabbath indeed have greatly improved their sound–in particular Slayer McCheese who’s guitar solos were impressive copies of the great Tony Iommi himself.

Ronald Osbourne does a fine job as a frontman, not necessarily as a melodic singer but certainly as a performer. Before thinking that’s an insult, consider it is also descriptive of his legendary inspiration. Moments between songs are filled with Ronald speaking to the crowd with humor, such as saying how other imaginary parody bands “Cinnabon-Jovi” & “KFC/DC” will tour with them. Or how the mighty never-to-be-mentioned-by-name fast food giant hasn’t sued them…yet!  They play to the audience with showmanship & showed appreciation to their fans by meeting them right after the performance for pictures and autographs.

All the Black Sabbath covers come with twisted names & themes of greasy processed food, excessive consumerism or working that fryer. Iron Man is now Frying Pan. Sweet Leaf is now Sweet Beef. Electric Funeral is now Organic Funeral. Paranoid is now Pair Of Buns.

Despite the jovial humor, Mac Sabbath takes their show seriously with thier creative costumes and stage props. Ronald Osbourne refreshes his throat during instrumental breaks with water from ketchup & mustard squeeze bottles. Cooking utensils are used as percussion instruments. There’s also an escape from a straight jacket and magically producing a 7-foot long giant drinking straw from the crotch of Ronald’s jumpsuit.

Mac Sabbath will probably never be in the big letters on those posters advertising Rock In Rio or Wacken. But if you love the sound of classic Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, you have a twisted sense-of-humor or if you still carry angst from those days working the lunch rush then check out a Mac Sabbath show. They are much like eating a 10-piece Chicken McNuggets: You have no idea where they come from, but they really ain’t half bad!

–T.M. Iman

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Local Artist Showcase at the Baltimore Soundstage

Author: Debbie Biewer

The Baltimore local scene is alive and well, with a strong following of all ages. Venues like Baltimore Soundstage are working hard to promote local music, including both quality cover bands and original artists. While Baltimore may not compare to the 90’s Seattle music scene (in that it hasn’t created its own movement of music just yet), it steadily and consistently supports local artists and provides opportunities to connect to audiences, promotors and more.

A great example is the October 10th event, organized by 24-7 Entertainment, at Baltimore Soundstage. Described as “Baltimore Music Day”, the line-up included This September, The Goons, Bridge to Divide, Fatally Yours, Inhaler, Push, and Black Angel Down. Billed as an all-ages show, it rang true—the audience included fans from high school into retirement. Happy Hour and Drink Specials were advertised but was clearly not the draw for the crowd—attention was focused on the music rather than the bar. Baltimore Soundstage gave up precious Saturday night primetime to host this event, demonstrating the venue’s commitment to local artists and their fans.

Throughout the night, the bands brought a variety of musical influence and stage presence to the crowd. The event gave them an opportunity to present completely original music to a crowd that may not be familiar with their work. Some fans came and went, clearly there to support their favorite bands, but a core group stayed for the 7+ hour event. From the comments overheard throughout the crowd, every band acquired new fans that night.

This event was definitely not one-size-fits-all. Each band brought a different focus, different level of energy, and unique lyrics with a rocking sound. Baltimore band Push played in-your-face rock to a mellow crowd. Head nods and tapping feet kept rhythm as Push opened with the four-count “Do What You Want”, flaunting a slow Metallica or Alice Cooper influence. Geo DeCampo’s vocals offered an interesting sound, but there were not a lot of surprises in the set—the music was steady and consistent. The band is working on a new album, which is intended for release in 2016.

Bridge to Divide, a band originally from Westminster, threw a metal sound into the mix. Shifting, unpredictable Tool-like rhythms supported a rock sound that had an interesting complexity. Vocals and melody brought to mind Metallica meets Pink Floyd with a Dream Theatre twist. “What Side Are You On” excited the audience as Elliott Levy generated a rolling drum pedal and Dave Costello belted out a growl. Their website, https://www.reverbnation.com/bridgetodivide, lists additional dates around Baltimore and Washington. Find them if you like an old-school metal sound!

Inhaler took the stage with a clear message: Heavy Rock, period. With a contrasting nice-guy smile, Shawn Singer crouched at the edge of the stage and snarled at the audience, belting out songs with a bad-ass voice and an occasional scream that filled the intimate venue. The fan favorite, “Apocalypse and Acid Trips” started slowly, and then built to a driving rhythm like a train rolling through Baltimore. Inhaler ended their set with a classic rock-and-roll song that sent the audience into a head-banging frenzy as they tried to keep up with the shifting speeds of the song. For more information, find them at http://www.inhalermusic.com/.

Baltimore band Black Angel Down rounded out the night perfectly—even their sound check was fun. Funky beats and bouncing steps propelled their music into the audience and even out the front door. The band’s energy was palpable, and although the fans were mellow, they were completely attentive and connected to the music. Black Angel Down brought a professional sound and an air of experience that elevated the playing field—their comfort level on stage glowed brightly. As they sang the lyrics “You’ll See the Better Part of Me”, it was clear they brought the better part of the night with them. Throughout the metal explosion was a woven thread of R&B that distinguished them from the others. One song opened with a hint of Guns & Roses but then turned a path and became a journey of their own. Nokio’s Orioles cap and glasses gave the misleading impression of a calm and quiet nerd, but as he belted out lyrics shouting “Do you know who the FUCK I AM?” he owned the audience and established a rock presence that had every person in the venue watching him intently. The synchronized four-part harmony matched perfectly with the lyrics and rhythms, and the audience kept time head banging, with devil horns in the air. Energy accelerated towards the end of their set. Ripping guitar solos and clashing cymbals electrified the air, while Nokio moved so smoothly, he proved he would be a worthy contestant on Dancing With The Stars. Black Angel Down have had success touring beyond the Baltimore-Washington area and can be found opening large shows such as Shindig Festival 2015. For more dates, find them at http://www.blackangeldown.com/.

Closing the night, This September switched gears and brought forth a Bob Marley/Lenny Kravitz influenced sound. Clean, silent rhythm breaks punctuated their reggae sound, and band members sporting dreadlocks and a knit panda-bear beanie played to the crowd with ease. The music seemed to come from within and be a way of life for these guys rather than something that required effort to produce. On lead guitar, Mike McCulloch never cracked a smile, picked out notes as though it was simple, then eased into a fantastic guitar riff that was worth attending the event for. Bassist Sam Philipp moved with the music, slowing as it slowed, ending the evening with clean beats matched perfectly with Jeremy Fleming’s drum rhythms. It was a good way to come down from the heightened frenzy of the metal—to smooth easily into a Jamaican sound and into a satisfied, fulfilled trance. Though the band identifies themselves as alternative rock, they have a wonderful reggae influence and deserve attention. Find them at http://thisseptember.bandcamp.com/.

But the surprise of the evening came from the third band, hailing from Annapolis: The Goons. This was the band that startled the crowd; this was the band to watch closely. Comprised of five young men, it was hard not to call them “kids”, because in fact that’s what they are. On vocals, Nick bopped along to “A Flat Box” with a funky, strong bass-line that was reminiscent of Brian Setzer, sliding across the stage with impeccable rhythm and powerful presence. The band’s second song, “Test the Waters”, began with a slow swinging rhythm and then moved into a pounding, Doors-like sound, then back again. “Gas Love Child” had a completely different feel. Nick insisted the crowd came closer and put their hands in the air, waking up the venue and starting a spark of energy. Playing good old rock-and-roll, all five band members seemed to just want to have a good time, and it showed. A sense of humor came through in the rock-rap lyrics and the crowd responded. On occasion, the singer was so into the music that he flailed around the stage, needing far more space to express himself than the stage had to offer. Vocals were not always perfect, and needed polish to become more precise, but it didn’t matter. What the band lacked in discipline, they made up in spirit. During “Revival”, the music bounced from rock to rockabilly to classic and back again, and the five guys gave it all they had, despite the fact that there was not yet a full crowd. On guitar, Jacob and Paul complement each other well, and on drums, Nick kept the band moving with driving, clear rhythms. Closing their set with “Who Ate My Cookies”, Nick displayed an Eddie-Vedder-like passion as he sang, and the band’s performance would have fit right in with a Woodstock crowd—earnest, fun, good-spirited, and unwilling to be boxed into only one genre. They didn’t seem to take themselves very seriously—but, perhaps, they should.

After their set, we were able to talk with The Goons. We found them fun, frisky, and fully unaware of their impact and how good their original music is. They appeared to be doing it because they loved it, without trying too hard to build it into something more. If this is the case, it will be a shame, because this band, especially as writers, have a lot of potential.

Interestingly, the band writes the music first and then fits in the lyrics. Each song is so different, and each sound brings to mind a different genre, so we asked them what they consider to be influential. Their responses were as vast as the different sounds they offer. Favorite bands include Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Radiohead and Hendrix. On bass, Mike infuses John Bonham rhythms into his writing, and the team describes their songs as a “metamorphosis of all our styles and personalities.” The James Brown R&B is evident, but the swing music sound is even more pronounced even though the band doesn’t list that as an influence. Though they have only played a total of 15 shows, they were a crowd favorite at Baltimore Soundstage—but they don’t seem to know it yet. Founded in 2013, the group of friends decided to try out for their high school Battle of the Bands. With only one month to practice together, they won second place and decided they were hooked. They began writing original music and expanded their set list quickly. One goal was to play a different kind of rock. Though they love metal, they found that it is often negative, or frustrated. They decided to create a kind of metal that was “more energetic than angry”—and they appear to be on the right track. With positive energy and positive vibes, they band rocks the audience but leaves them with a good taste in their mouths. So we thought maybe they need to be better understood, and asked, “If you could tell the world anything about your band, what would you say?” In response, they said “that we’re just a couple of goons”, “we’re working toward the next level”, and “we want world peace”. Ranging from a desire for humor to a desire to change things for good, these guys simply don’t take themselves too seriously. But take note: this is the band to watch. Here’s hoping they keep going toward the next level, and bring that post-high-school energy along with them!

A common theme among several of the bands was a lack of utilization of social media opportunities. Face book pages were sparse, lacked frequent posts, and failed to display the value of original music created by the band. A suggestion to all: use what you have! At the event, as crowd members found a band interesting, they immediately went to their Facebook pages to find out more. If information was not there, the fans began to lose interest. If information was robust, the fans “liked” the page and signed up to learn more. This is a great opportunity to build a stronger following—don’t miss out!

For the fans: visit Baltimore Soundstage, attend a local music show, and open your mind. You will find hidden gems and surprises that are well worth it. Mingle with the bands before and after the show, post a review on their social media pages, and support them. They will be the globally successful bands of tomorrow!


*Unfortunately, rush-hour traffic jams prevented a review of Fatally Yours, but we look forward to seeing them soon at another local music event.