Tour Diary: Jucifer Plays Maryland Deathfest, Meet Obituary
If Jucifer are known for one thing, it's volume. The alt-metal two-piece hauls walls of amps all over the world to create its sludgy mix of hard rock and metal. The group's new album, Throned in Blood (Nomadic Fortress), is out now. Here, guitarist and vocalist Amber Valentine shares her tour diary from a Portuguese metal fest.
I grew up a poor li’l country girl in the sticks in Georgia. And after I left my parents’ rural abode (the first fucking second I could!), I was a poor li’l waitressing musician until I became a poor li’l nomadic professional musician. Which probably sounds like a dream life... and which is indeed the life I chose, worked hard for and love. But which does not afford me any opportunities to see other bands’ tours.
I never got to go to many shows growing up. And for the past 10 years of homelessness a.k.a. constant touring, the only time I get to see bands is when they play the same place on the same day that we do. So festivals are incomparably awesome.
Maryland Deathfest has become legendary, and for the last several years, friends and fans’ve been telling us we needed to play it. So this year we did, and we loved it! Even though we could only set up a part of our wall of amps (because of only having 15 minutes in the schedule for setup and teardown), we strategized to get as many up and running as we could. And it was just enough to bring the thunder.
My only regret was that we didn’t have a crazy frontperson to interact with the crowd... Almost all the other bands had someone who was just a vocalist, and it really made me notice that I’m tied to a mic stand. Me and Edgar go balls-out while we play, but there’s a limit to what you can do when you’re actually playing the instruments! Unless you wanna give up the music for showmanship, which we don’t. But we had a great response anyway, and we really enjoyed playing for the crowd.
It was packed out for us even though the Chasm was on an outside stage at the same time, which was super rewarding. We knew going into it that some metalheads only know us from album videos that don’t sound like us live at all, so there was a chance they’d skip our set. Stoked that they gave it a chance. And honestly, if you like sludge and doom with grind, black, and thrash tendencies... there’s no reason not to like us. Unless you’re scared of bands that take chances and cross boundaries. Or girls. Which isn’t very fucking metal of you is it? [Laughs]
It was awesome walking around before our set and having fans from countries we haven’t toured yet come talk to us. Playing was extra special knowing that those guys were out there finally seeing us, thanks to MDF providing a weekend worth coughing up plane tickets for.
And, personally, I was in band-watching heaven. The only thing that sucked was missing Thursday and Friday. We had just played with Birdflesh in Portugal, and I would’ve loved to see them again... I’ve also wanted to see General Surgery forever, and was really hoping to catch Watain—even though I saw them at Hellfest a couple years back, I’d see them once a month if I could.
But the lineup of our day was great. It was cool to see Howl kick it off, and Sulaco, both of whom I’d never seen. I really like Fuck the Facts and hadn’t seen them since we toured together, so I was looking forward to seeing them. I was busting my ass, pre-wiring amps and staging cabs during their set, so I didn’t get to really watch them which sucked. But they sounded great! Same for Ingrowing and Obliteration... good sets that I could listen to but not really look at. The big bummer of that day’s schedule was that Total Fucking Destruction played immediately before us on a different stage, which meant we totally missed them because that was when we were putting our shit into place beside our own stage.
After we played was Impaled, which ruled. Then I watched Blood Duster. Then skipped outside for Melechesh, Repulsion, and Autopsy, which by that point I needed to sit down for... hot and hungry! But they sounded great. Back inside for Deceased, who kept me grinning and headbanging. Then there was Portal, which was just what the doctor ordered…if he was a vaguely Satanic, vaguely Catholic witch doctor. The visuals of their show were awesome, and their sound was perfect for me in my state of utter exhaustion and delirium. Kind of like taking caffeine with painkillers. The only flaw in their performance was my own concern for their welfare inside those hoods and robes... It was hot as demon taint in that club and I couldn’t keep my mind off how hard it must be for them to breathe! Especially the drummer. But have no fear: I saw them leave the stage alive.
Sometime during those last couple of bands we ran into Colin Marston, who we know from having Dysrhythmia tour with us back in the day. It was really cool to catch up with him and find out him and Kevin [Hufnagel] are playing in Gorguts! (Hey, we’re gypsies, we don’t keep up with news very well.) So that was another reason to be sorry about missing Friday’s bands.
Ended the night by loading out. Because we have so much gear, we couldn’t have done it while the fans were still inside the fence. We had rented a little U-Haul which turned out to be the best decision ever. Word to all bands driving to future MDFs: don’t bring a tourbus. There is nooooo close parking for big things!
So we and a couple of stalwart friends humped the gear out and put it in the truck. Drove to D.C., where our own vehicle was. Slept not nearly enough, got up, packed the gear out of the U-Haul and back into our own trailer. Returned the U-Haul, borrowed a car from a gracious relative, and hauled ass back to MDF just in time for Eyehategod. They were really cool to see again for the first time since we played together in like, 1996 or something. Sweet! The afternoon sun was almost as heavy as the band, but the crowd outside (including us) was in a good mood seeing EHG back in action.
Next was a tag-team of stages for Black Breath, Pestilence, Pentagram, and Entombed. I’m loving this shit! Talked with Converge for a minute, our first time meeting outside the interwebs. Then watched their riveting set. I don’t think anybody sweat more than Jacob Bannon during the entire festival, and he’s a skinny dude with no hair. Total commitment from those guys.
It sucked that I had to miss part of their show to see one of my old-school heroes, but... Obitu-fucking-ary!!! Who sounded amazing and were kind enough to let us take cheesy fan photos with ’em. I told Trevor Peres how long I’ve been loving them and he kissed my hand. While I was wearing my Obituary necklace. Swoon. (I am a total fucking dork.)
Amber with Obituary's John Tardy
Edgar with Obituary's Don Tardy
Somehow between all these bands we also got to hang out with the posse from Handshake, Inc, which is responsible for all kinds of great film stuff including the latest Jucifer video, “Contempt” (which does sound like us live) and an awesome, Woodstock-style documentary of last year’s Maryland Deathfest, MDF: The Movie. Look out for these Canadians/ennes, they are crazy talented! And we had some quality, if zoned-out and moronic, hang time with our friends Jay and Curran.
Last but not least I finally saw Magrudergrind, who I’ve been digging for a few years. Stellar shit. I got to talk to [guitarist] R.J. for quite awhile afterward, plotting some kind of team destruction of the universe. Or at least the D.C. metro area. Prepare to meet thy makers...
Speaking of which, we left MDF for the first leg of an East Coast jaunt with our friends Gloominous Doom along for the ride. We made a loop from D.C. down to Charlotte and back, which was hot, fast, and fun. (Just like your mom.) That tour resumes in Philadelphia and GD’ll be with us until we cross the border into Canada. Have you ever seen a man play cowbell on his prosthetic leg? Well, that’s the icing on the delectable cake of death metal and reggae that is Gloominous Doom.