by Matt Johnson
3 Floyds Brewing Company (FFF) and Dark Lord Day (DLD) are two polarizing things to discuss these days. While there are people who are willing to travel from different continents to Munster, Indiana to partake in the festivities of DLD, there are also Chicagoland residents who would rather not endure the experience or support FFF. Personally I can’t fault the DLD enthusiast or detractor, but for me the $30 ticket is more than reasonable for the band lineup that is featured. As my close friend and DLD accomplice put it, “Dark Lord Day: I’m here for the music, not the beer.” Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy FFF’s beer and purchased my Dark Lord allotment of four bottles and the barrel-aged variant that I won the opportunity to spend an additional $50 on.
(If you’re unfamiliar with DLD, the way it works is if you are lucky enough to purchase a $30 admission ticket, it allows you the opportunity to wait in a line to buy an allotment of $15.00 bottles of Dark Lord. If you’re really lucky and your scratch-off ticket says “YES!!!” on it you win the opportunity to spend an additional $50 on a bottle of rare, barrel-aged Dark Lord variant. If you have something to say about that, then I suggest you throw your two cents at the FFF Facebook page which is littered with rants from both sides of the debate. Personally, I like to drink, I like metal and I like to indulge both at DLD as long as the lineup stays strong.
Due to the aforementioned line-waiting extravaganza, I was unable to watch the Witchbanger set. I did like what I heard from the cattle queue I navigated the line, trading cigarettes for beer and food while waiting approximately 40 minutes to spend $110.00 on beer that I‘d carry on my back for another 10 hours I look forward to the opportunity to catch Witchbanger in the Chicago as soon as possible. If you’re interested in both acquiring Dark Lord and catching all the bands at DLD you must get a Group A ticket, which I was lucky enough to score back in 2013. Afterward I was free to indulge my playground at DLD: the stage. Obviously, it’s impossible to be picky when it comes to DLD groups, since getting a ticket alone is akin to winning the Lotto.
I was instantly dumbfounded by the comical amount of space in between the guard rail and stage. I’d estimate the space at 30 to 40 feet, which may be fine for a festival like Lollapalooza, but the stage only attracted 200 people at its most crowded. The beer snobs generally ignore the stage.
The first band I caught, Iron Reagan, was not a band I was planning on missing. Featuring the lyrical musings of Municipal Waste front man Tony Foresta, Iron Reagan never disappoints. With song titles like “Eat Shit and Live”, “Your Kid’s an Asshole” and “I Ripped That Testament a New Asshole” it’s not hard to foresee what you’re going to get from this hardcore/thrash throwback outfit. In between songs about respecting women’s abortion rights and the pitfalls of the debt collection industry, Iron Reagan kept it light, requesting the inebriated crowd display their spirit fingers and participate in “FUCK THE INTERNET” chants (keep in mind at this point it was two in the afternoon). Second in importance only to their ripping set, Iron Reagan planted an important seed in the minds of the crowd: fuck the guardrail.
It didn’t take long for the band to begin protesting the absurd amount of space between their booze-inspired performance and the booze-fueled longhairs getting the metal movement in motion in front of the stage… 40 feet away. Iron Reagan is a band that craves stage divers, circle pits and crowd sing-along opportunities. At one point I observed Mike IX Williams and Jimmy Bower from EYEHATEGOD approach the side of the guard rail near the stage attempting to push it down. By this time the crowd had already launched their own effort to topple it. Security proved to be more than just a guardrail, as the neon-yellow jackets made their presence known by handing out threats of the dreaded heave-ho. Iron Reagan offered a final farewell to the guard rail when the drummer launched his floor tom into the giant unoccupied space that the band coined the “litter box”.
Following Iron Reagan was Brain Tentacles, a saxophone/bass/drum trio featuring Bruce Lemont (Yakuza) and drum legend Dave Witte (Municipal Waste). They played an interesting set of looped saxophone ramblings over varied drum and bass paces including signature Dave Witte blasts. The crowd at large felt restless, and soon the band was egging on drunk hecklers in North Face jackets.
By this point, the beer lines at DLD had reached unacceptable waiting times, so my crew and I opted to buy a case of Gumballhead and stashed it front and center.
Corrections House played next, another avant-garde band featuring Mike IX Williams (EYEHATEGOD), Sanford Parker (Minsk, ex-Nachtmystium), Bruce Lemont (Yakuza, Brain Tentacles) and Scott Kelly (Neurosis). They offered up an abrasive set while wearing matching Corrections House apparel. Unfortunately a band like Corrections House doesn’t offer mass appeal at DLD where the average attendee’s metal knowledge ends at Pantera’s “Walk”, the Metallica “Black Album,” or worse. I hope I have another opportunity to see this band at a smaller venue filled with people interested in watching them.Vulgaari played next and were my second, and last, case of missing a band to wait in a line. This time I spent almost an hour waiting for a cheeseburger that was so shitty that I threw most of it in the garbage despite having built up quite an appetite. I wasn’t able to listen to hear the set due to an over-inebriated young man who insisted on annoying the patience out of me during my time in line. One piece of advice: nobody cares to hear you moan about cutting off your dreadlocks for almost an hour.
In a bad mood and beginning to feel the stumbling effects of drinking all day, I was more than prepared for EYEHATEGOD. If you are not familiar with EYEHATEGOD, well they are a sludge band from New Orleans. They write driving, abrasive anthems about misery, substance abuse, and conflicts with authority (amongst other things that people like myself take great pleasure in closing their eyes and internalizing on a regular basis). Vocalist Mike IX Williams wasted no time instructing the drunk mass of fans to “RIOT” resulting in a several-minute battle between fans and security ultimately won by the crowd. Williams proclaimed “POWER TO THE PEOPLE” after the guardrail bit the dust. For a short period of time, the crowd had unrestricted access to the front of the stage and everything seemed right. If you care to take in the madness yourself and didn’t have the pleasure at DLD, EYEHATEGOD will be performing at Cobra Lounge on June 13th.
The conclusion of EYEHATEGOD and the amateur-hour mosh pit they inspired meant only two things. (1) Most of the attendees were beyond hammered by this point in the evening, and (2) High on Fire was next up to headline. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing High on Fire approximately a dozen times over the years, and they’re fit to be the soundtrack for a medieval battle. I maintain that High on Fire’s 2013 DLD set was possibly the finest set I‘ve ever seen. By the conclusion of High on Fire’s set I was slurring along with the lyrics, remembering the days of pounding shots with Matt Pike a decade ago in St. Louis. High on Fire will be performing at the Empty Bottle on May 30th, May 31st and June 1st.
I tied one on, I embraced the metal and enjoyed every minute of my 30th birthday with good friends and my lovely girlfriend. DLD isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. The lines are terrible, and many of the people are abhorrent drunks, but the music makes it all worth it. Cheers to the bands and FFF for making it happen. Until next time, keep it LOUD.