WASHINGTON – While most people spent Memorial Day weekend camping, swimming and grilling, thousands of heavy metal fans descended on Baltimore for the 10th annual Maryland Deathfest.
For the uninitiated, that means corpse paint, leather and tons of tattoos.
The four-day fest is the biggest of its kind in North America, and drew more than 60 bands from the U.S., Latin America, Asia and Scandinavia. Hordes of the faithful occupied hotels nearby, filling otherwise wholesome establishments like Holiday Inn and Best Western with sweat and grime.
Some described the scene at Sonar – in the heart of downtown Charm City – as “dirty,” while others called it “catharsis” (as screaming can often be). Call it what you will, Deathfest is not for the faint of heart.
But it is for people who appreciate a good show.
With names like Electric Wizard, Neurosis, Morbid Angel and Napalm Death, these musicians are as theatrical as any Richard Wagner opera.
Horna and Sargeist, both from Finland, performed in stifling heat while decked out in black and white makeup and heavy, hooded robes. Ghoul showered their fans with chicken blood. Suffocation took time out of their set to thank veterans and remind concertgoers that Memorial Day weekend is about honoring fallen soldiers.
And the crowd was as diverse as the performers.
In the parking lot just outside Sonar, bodybuilder types mingled with pierced crust-punks, who mingled with music writers, who mingled with black-clad parents escorting their kids to the face painting stand. Dogs roamed freely, panting and smiling in the unrelenting sun. Couples held hands and took naps on the grass.
No matter the purpose, Deathfest has become an institution within a growing genre. Fans from all over the world make the trek every year to see their favorite bands in full regalia, and to let everyone know metal is here to stay.
Check out photos from Maryland Deathfest in the gallery above.