Sunday, May 4, 2014

Paganfest V Concert Impressions

What a night that was. Five bands, a whole lot of folk, and a whole lot of energy. I was worried at first given the size of the lineup that the concert would drag on, but it was over before I knew it. The opening bands (everyone except Turisas and Korpiklaani) only played a handful of songs before leaving the stage. There were a couple of bands I would have liked to see a bit more from but it kept things interesting.

The first band was Winterhymn from Cincinnati, Ohio. Having traveled the least, they were a great opener, despite the fact that they were playing for less than half of what would be the final audience. I'm guessing it's because the doors opened at 6 that there was a pittance of a crowd. Regardless, they played a solid set which included an awesome cover of the Skyrim theme. The violin was even audible! Surprisingly, every single band that came out with a violin actually had it loud enough to hear. I don't think I've ever seen that at a folk metal concert. Winterhymn was the only band I didn't listen to before this concert but they're definitely worth checking out.

Varg: big German guys.
Next up was Varg from Germany. The first time I saw them a bit over a year ago, I was blown away. This time however was more of the same. They haven't released any new music since I last saw them and they didn't add anything to their live show. The setlist consisted of all their more popular songs (Guten Tag, Was Nicht Darf, etc.) along with a slightly different selection compared to last time. Unfortunately, Varg is one of those bands where the majority of their songs played live sound very similar. They could have played anything with the Varg style and it would have sounded the same. That being said, the show was still solid and if I hadn't have seen them before, I probably would have been swept off my feet like the first time. The only weird thing though; no bass player! Apparently he left the band sometime last year and they just never filled the gap.

Chthonic, complete with cool lighting and a light-up bass.
When I first saw the lineup for this tour, I was really surprised and excited to see Chthonic there. I honestly never thought I'd see the Taiwanese band on Canadian shores. They were also missing a member in their keyboardist. As far as I know, he is still in the band but it's unfortunate because he has the coolest costume. Either way, the band came out and gave a good taste of Asian metal. They had all their signatures: the erhu, the light-up bass, and the awesome vocals.

Freddy Lim with his signature erhu
From what I could make out (the vocals were a little quiet compared to the rest of the instruments), they performed a mix of English and non-English lyrics. In between songs, the vocalist mentioned how great it was that bands from all these countries were coming together to play metal for all of us. I agree with him. Almost every band on this tour comes from a very different background, but we all unite under the banner of folk metal and a good time. If you ever have the chance to see Chthonic in concert, please do. I'm not sure if they'll even ever come back to North America.

Turisas vocalist Mathias Nygård with his awesome jacket.
Chthonic finished around 8 which gave the headlining bands plenty of time to set up. The stage was decked in Turisas colours, red and black everywhere. Turisas plays great music, but apart from that I don't think they're very creative. There was the strange naming of their most recent album and now their signature appears to be three red lines on a black background. They played a good amount of songs from Turisas2013 (but no Into the Free, dammit) mixed with their old classics. I'm glad that the vocalist tried to connect with us by giving little speeches between songs but I couldn't hear a damn word he was saying. Everything else about their performance was pretty good. If you've seen Turisas perform, then you've seen Turisas perform, I don't really have anything else to say. This was also the point where the crowd really got into it. Let me just say that the crowd was a bit more pushy than usual and it kind of made the show a bit worse of an experience than it could have been.

One half of Korpiklaani.
The headlining Korpiklaani was oddly the only band without any sort of facepaint. There were even two different bands on this tour with black and red all over their faces. But Korpiklaani likes to keep it traditional. The same can be said about their live performance. They knew that the majority of the crowd was there to see them and as such they just played music. There were hardly any words between songs and most of the song names weren't even announced beforehand. It was definitely a bit of a shift from Turisas setting up each and every song, but this entire concert was a constantly shifting whirlwind of music. As with the other bands, there wasn't anything overly special about Korpiklaani's performance. It was solid and they played most of the songs anyone would expect and that's about it. The band sure had fun though. I don't think any of the members stood in place for more than a few seconds, constantly dancing around the stage. There were even a few members of the audience that joined the stage and helped sing the chorus of a song before jumping off. Security was surprisingly lenient since they only came out if someone really overstayed their welcome on stage. The last thing to mention would be the crowd. If they were pushy during Turisas, then they were downright violent during Korpiklaani. I couldn't stand in one spot for more than a few seconds without being pushed around until I relocated to behind the mosh pit. I could say the same about the first time I saw Korpiklaani, but then it was because of people dancing around and having a good time. This time it was people literally pushing the front of the audience against the stage repeatedly. I'm sure there's other ways to enjoy a concert, such as the guy who started a 30+-person rowing party in the middle of the mosh pit. In any case, I was thoroughly soaked in other people's sweat by the end of the night.

The other half of Korpiklaani.
So that was Paganfest America V. All in all a very solid show, if not anything special. All of the bands gave it their all in the short time they had on stage. Even the semi-local opening band was great and definitely deserves further research. It was my second time seeing every band expect Chthonic and I'd go see any of them for a third next time they're in town.

-Zombie Viking

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