GIG REVIEW: BERSERKER MUSIC FEST 2018 Live at the Crofoot in Pontiac, MI
Berserker Music Fest at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac provided a full evening of non-stop extreme music for the masses on Friday, September 28th. The show features three stages with the bigger drawing bands taking to the main stage, while two other rooms gave fans the opportunity to discover their new favorite band or sample something outside of their usual predilection.
The show kicked off with actor/comedian Brian Posehn acting as master of ceremonies for a drawing to give away a Dean guitar. Fans who arrived before 6:30 could put their name in the drawing for the guitar. On stage for the drawing was Berserker founder and Child Bite vocalist Shawn Knight and Phil Anselmo whose band Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals were set to close out the Berserker Music Fest. Phil did a little jamming the guitar before they pulled a name and one lucky fan received his brand new Dean.
The Berserker Music Fest has always done a lot to support local artists and in particular they have been partnering with local craft beer makers. This year’s festival included a VIP option which included a ticket, enamel pin, and screen printed poster, and craft beer. Local breweries Fillmore 13 Brewery, Exferimentation Brewing Co., Cognition Brewing Company, Dark Horse Brewing Co., Batch Brewing Company, and Cellarmen’s each had a selection of craft beer which VIP’s could receive a sample in their super cool souvenir stein. Batch Brewing, Cognition, Cellarmen’s, and Fillmore 13 went the extra mile to craft beers specifically for Berserker Music Fest. All of these beers tasted great and paired well with the massive tunes at Berserker.
The name Shock Narcotic conjures up a conundrum. Will this be electrically charged music to numb the senses or is this a life threatening event with a psychoactive breath of the opiate? The music from this new band formed from members of Child Bite, Battlecross, Old Gods, and Shitlife certainly will bend your mind. However, you will find no peace or restful sleep in their jackhammering assault to the senses. If anything Shock Narcotic is about being awake and alive. Their performance lit up the Berserker stage with a brilliant phosphorus flame.
Next up on the main stage was King Parrot. These fun loving Australians came out and slapped everyone in the face with a huge wet slobbering beer soaked kiss of hardcore. Raging with unbridled enthusiasm and a sly grin that seemed to say “Good day mate…you fucking cunt”, King Parrot made a lot of new friends. They dashed off a rapid fire set with tunes from their latest ‘Ugly Produce’ album including the opener “Entrapment”. Their performance at Berserker was definitely one of the many highlights.
The beauty of Berserker is that you are exposed to music outside the boundaries of metal, punk, hardcore, or avant-garde. The rich syncopated rhythms and guitar forward attack of Bloodiest’s performance at first suggested metal. Yet, the vocals and bass work lean back into a trippy psychedelic blend of rock without the hippy nonsense. The sensation of being a reed struggling for its footing in the blasting swell of flood waters is how I felt as I listened to the undulating sounds of Bloodiest.
Remember when punk met rock and we had grunge? Remember when it was raw, unfiltered, and full of excellent probiotics? If you do, then try Slob. They packed in a room full of people and gave them all a swift kick in the ass. Their music felt alive and full of piss and vinegar. It doesn’t give a flying fuck about what you want. Slob wanted to rock out loud and proud, and that is just what they did.
It has been a while since hometown thrash titans Battlecross have played in Michigan. The legion of Battlecross fans were in force as evidenced by a quick scan of the crowd. The band wasted no time whipping up the mosh pit with battle hymns starting with their first album ‘Pursuit of Honor’ and working forward to the crushing epic ‘Rise to Power’. Vocalist Kyle Gunther brought out his son as a special guest which met with a roar of approval from the audience. Kyle explained the band has been focusing on their families recently, but will be getting back on the road. Let’s hope these guys have some brutal new music for us in the coming months.
One of the oddest moments of the evening was walking into the Pike Room at the Crofoot to find a man in outfit covered in leaves. Leafman (as I will call him) sat in a small white chair with a small white table eating a salad. Leafman opened a bottle of champagne and shared it with a couple of fans. This all occurred while the band was setting up behind him. Leafman pushed his chair to the back of the room and all hell broke loose as The Armed unloaded. The lead singer launched into the crowd to instigate movement. The salad went flying in a lettuce and oil dressing mosh pit. The small white table lost a leg as The Armed hurled hardcore goodness into the crowd. It was one of the most fun events at Berserker.
The tiny room holding the Vernor’s stage was once again packed with fans ready to enjoy the impetuous sludge of A Deer A Horse. Angular attacking guitars met with bottom-busting low end and thrusting rhythms. I was reminded of bands like The Melvins and Mudhoney. A Deer A Horse gave us a show that screamed of turmoil and disillusion. However, I think I heard a note of hope within the swirling maelstrom.
The progenitors of murder metal, Macabre captivated the crowd with a blast furnace of death. They regaled the audience with tales of Nero who burned Christians alive on “Nero’s Inferno”. The killing and rapes in the small hours by Richard Ramirez on “Nightstalker”. And who doesn’t love the tale of Jeff Dahmer getting a little behind in his work on the song “Scrub A Dub Dub”. Macabre’s violent history lessons and savage metal made for a very entertaining set at Berserker.
Homewrecker moved up from PREserker last year to Berserker this year. This is a good thing as everyone should be listening to the monstrous metal of this band. Homewrecker embraces the sounds of Morbid Angel and Malevolent Creation and smash it into their own crucible of malignant metal. Under the glow of blood red lights, they reeled through several songs off their latest album ‘Hell Is Here Now’ including “Bound by Validation”. The unfettered vehemence of Homewrecker’s music was mesmerizing.
If they released Mad Max set to thrash, Oozing Wound would make for a perfect soundtrack. A runaway train of tumultuous rhythms push unrestrained riffs bleeding raw into the sky. The band is surrounded on the small stage as the audience basks in the radioactive blast wave of music. Faces clench in the release of rage that Oozing Wound has given us. The power of metal music is clear for everyone to see here at Berserker. Oozing Wound allow us to keep our sanity in a world gone mad.
Making Berserker even greater is getting to hear Negative Approach roar throughout the Crofoot. They are one of the most influential hardcore bands and have lost none of their edge. The viciousness of their performance set you back on your heals. Negative Approach held nothing back. It was all in your face and fuck you if you can’t handle it. Seeing John Brannon scowl at the crowd as moshers circled in the pit was priceless.
The cold blue lights cast a strange pallor upon the members of Tombs. Once the blunt force of their music began, the blue lights accentuated the heinous riffs. The beating drums, brutish guitars and bass fueled the sensation of witnessing an unspeakable act. Tombs put on a wonderful performance by giving their music a dark and forbidding atmosphere.
The guys in Child Bite were in their element on the tiny stage just off from the main ballroom. The tight quarters amped up the vibrant urgency of their music. Having the crowd pressed closed gave the appearance of an Appalachian Pentecostal revival complete with speaking in tongues, physical possession, and salvation through snake-handling. Child Bite twitched and thrashed on the stage as they unleashed their spasmodic songs of mystery. We are now all elevated to a higher plane of consciousness through their performance.
The admiration in the room was evident from the moment The Illegals took the stage. When Phil walked up to the mic, it was clear that he and the band appreciated everyone coming out to jam with them at Berserker. Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals kicked things off by going old school with thundering cover of “A New Level” by Pantera. The core power of the original tune was intact, yet the hyper-aggression of the Illegals made this song their own.
The new album entitled ‘Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue’ formed the bulk of the tunes in the Illegals set. The new music sounded tremendous live. The band’s performance was razor sharp. Mike DeLeon tried like mad to remove his head from his shoulders while still playing blasting riffs and leads. Equally animated were Stephen Taylor (guitar) and Walter Howard (bass). They stomped and pounced through “The Ignorant Point” and “Utopian”. Blasting and pummeling throughout while looking completely serene was drummer Joey “Blue” Gonzalez. The man makes crushing the kit look easy.
Phil Anselmo took his voice across the spectrum of screams, roars, and growls. He channeled the ardent frustration within “Little Fucking Heroes” and regurgitated the black hell of “Mixed Lunatic Results”. In between songs, Phil made sure to connect with the audience and thank them for their attendance.
Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals finished up with a collection of Pantera songs. The highlight was having King Parrot vocalist Matt Young on stage for a balls out cover of “I’m Broken”. This song has always been a monster and this version was jaw-dropping. Closing out Berserker with an obliterating performance by Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals made this fifth annual festival unforgettable.
Berserker Music Fest marked its 5th year with an amazing cross-section of extreme music combined with a mini beer festival. Fans received music every minute of the show across three stages at this musical bender. Headline band Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, along with hardcore legends Negative Approach gave exhilarating neck breaking performances. However, this was just a savory sip of the potent potion of music at Berserker V.