Paganfest 2 Comes To New York City
Band Photo: Primordial (?)
On Monday May 4th, 2009 I went to the Blender Theater at Gramercy in New York City to see Paganfest 2, which featured Korpiklaani, Primordial, Moonsorrow, Blackguard, and Swashbuckle. The venue featured movie theater style seating in the back and a comparably small general admission area. The crowd had already packed in well as the first band took the stage.
The first band to take the stage was the pirate metal band, Swashbuckle. I didn’t know what to expect from the New Jersey based Trio. The band was dressed as pirates and had placed plastic palm trees on the ends of the stage. Swashbuckle’s drummer, “Captain Crashride” had a pirate flag extending from his kick drum. The singer, who goes by the name “Admiral Nobeard,” took on a whole pirate persona during the set. The band created a fun atmosphere. The level of crowd interaction was incredible from an up and coming act such as this. Their music was fast paced and they had the stage presence to back it up. They got the chanting along to a few songs, which the crowd already knew. It was very natural and not forced upon the crowd by the band. Their music was very thrashy with a hint of death metal. For three members, their sound and energy was huge. They played a song called, “Drink up,” which the crowd really got into pounding their fists and shouting “yo ho” during the chorus.
Montreal’s Blackguard took the stage next. The band put up banners in front of their guitar cabs. I didn’t see the need for this, as it took way too long to get the banners set up. Either way the band also had a lot of energy and good stage presence. On the other hand, the music felt like a mix of Children of Band and folk metal, which felt a bit weird, as the styles weren’t blended together well. I felt that certain sections were written for a specific genre and would abruptly change to a different genre. At one point the guitarist from Swashbuckle, Commodore RedRum, came on stage to film a video of the crowd moshing in a circle pit. Sadly, it seemed the crowd didn’t respond too well to the idea, as only a few people got involved. At another point the singer asked the crowd to sing along to a song, the crowd’s response was weak and the singer, Paul "Paul Ablaze" Zinay, mentioned that they could do better and eventually gave up on encouraging the fans. Despite these pitfalls, the band was really tight and enjoyable, but not enough for me to want to see them headline a show or buy any of their music.
Finland’s Moonsorrow entered the stage covered in blood, well, not real blood, but you get the idea. It looked awesome. Their music had much more energy than what I heard from samples online, which sounded more like a blend of doom and symphonic black metal. Their music wasn’t fast, like the past two bands, but Moonsorrow had this darker groove that I connected with. The music would overlap elements of dark doom metal to black metal on top of their primarily folk metal sound. Unlike the previous act, this band made smooth transitions between the styles. The vocals would mainly be black metal screams, but in addition each member would sing. I didn’t understand a word the band said, but loved every minute of it. This wasn’t really because I couldn’t hear them or the tonal quality, but because I don’t speak Finnish. Probably the first band I’ve seen that sang exclusively in another language that I really enjoyed. Moonsorrow performed the following epic songs:
2. Kylan Paassa
Ireland’s Primordial took the stage next. As the singer, Alan A Nemtheanga, came out in corpse paint, I thought to myself, “This should be interesting.” The singer was on stage with his arms raised, as the band was silent and the lights darkened during the intro to their song, “Empire Falls.” As soon as he started singing he moved around so much that it was hard to photograph him. His singing style was a blend of singing, screaming, growls, and rasp into one unique sound. It’s hard to explain without hearing it live, but think of a cross between Sentenced singer, Ville Laihiala, and Rob Halford with a hint of a blackened death metal style. On the songs I heard online, some of which were played at the show, I felt less of the Halford intensity that he demonstrated live. It was a weird blend that really worked well together. The music was very dark and driving, which felt like a blend of the previous few bands. The band’s stage presence was by far the most active and energetic of the bands so far. The band’s pummeling set list was as follows:
1. Empire Falls
2. Gods To The Godless
3. As Rome Burns
4. Sons of the Morrigan
5. The Coffin ships
6. Heathen Tribes
Finland’s Korpiklaani took the stage next with the most unique line up of the night, consisting of a drummer, two guitarists, bassist, accordion player, and a violinist, which helped make them the most enjoyable act. On top of the singer’s mic stand they put a large bone prop that covered the stand. The costumes worn by the band were interesting, as there was no real ‘uniform’ amongst the band. The lead singer/guitarist, Jonne Järvelä, was dressed in a Native American like elfish outfit. The other guitarist, Kalle "Cane" Savijärvi, wore a leather pants and a leather vest, in typical metal fashion, over a brown shirt with laced buttons. The bassist, Jarkko Aaltonen, wore leather pants and a button down black shirt. The accordion player, Juho Kauppinen, wore something similar to the bassist. On the other hand, the violinist, Jaakko "Hittavainen" Lemmetty, wore a vest over a white button down shirt with jeans and a black hat. I felt that there was a sort of elfish theme going on, while also being metal and formal, which created a bit of contrast. Though, how they dressed didn’t matter in the end because when they started playing their songs they were a lot of fun, which separated Korpiklaani from the opening acts. I wouldn’t say they had a ton of energy, but they didn’t need it. The band interacted with the crowd well, their music is fun and the singer would start dancing in place. The singer would do hand gestures to the crowd and encourage them to sing along. Korpiklaani is definitely a band meant to be seen live over CD. Their set list was as follows:
01. Journey Man
03. Cottages & Saunas
05. Tuli Kokko
08. Paljon On Koskessa Kivia
09. Wodden Pints
10. Happy Little Boozer
11. Hunting Song
12. Beer Beer
13. Let’s drink
14. Eramaan Arjyt
16. Il Lea Voibmi
Overall, it was great to be reminded what a great show is supposed to be like: great performances, great stage presence, and fun bands that can interact with the crowd. I enjoyed every band better live than on their recordings I had heard previous to the show. The venue had good sound, though sometimes I found the vocals got buried in the mix for certain acts. There were also some technical difficulties with the guitars, but it sounded like some bad cables that were replaced before a few of the bands came on stage. I will definitely go to Paganfest next year regardless if I don’t know any of the bands because I know I’ll have a good time. I recommend this festival to those of us who prefer a fun band to one that just plays awesome music and goes through the motions live.
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