Season after season, pop music increasingly overwhelms us. Venues keep sprouting. Unknowns swarm their stages. It gets a bit dizzying.
Deep breath, Washington. There are plenty of sonic security blankets to swaddle yourself in this spring, many of which will grace Verizon Center. A reunited Fleetwood Mac breezes through town on April 9, Bon Jovi hosts a singalong on Feb. 10, and there will be two nights of feel-great pop music from American everygirl Taylor Swift, May 11-12.
Feeling better? Good. Now go fetch your earplugs and your courage because live music can still be ear-splitting, terrifying and life affirming — and the spring concert season offers plenty of opportunities for that, too.
The volume is expected to spike in late May during the 11th annual Maryland Deathfest, a four-day heavy metal festival that brings artists and fans from all over the planet to the sweaty mosh pits of Baltimore. This year’s festival will be split between the Baltimore Soundstage and the venue formerly known as Sonar, May 23-26.
The lineup is the juiciest in years. California stoner-metal originators Sleep are one of many sub-genre pioneers expected to appear — a few of which got their start along the Washington beltway.
Northern Virginia’s Pentagram and Montgomery County’s the Obsessed, two veteran bands that helped define the slow-motion brutality of doom metal will give fans an opportunity to genuflect.
Other regional acts will give them an opportunity to flail. Magrudergrind and Pig Destroyer, both specialists in the high-speed, high-precision metal dialect known as grindcore, are expected to eclipse the violence and efficiency of a food processor. (The last time I saw Pig Destroyer, guitarist Scott Hull was testing out his amp before the show. It was so loud, the crowd actually ducked down in alarm, as if the sound might cause injury.)
But that raises a question: Are guitars the best instruments for sonic extremism in 2013? At the dawn of metal, electric axes and towering amplifiers were among the most ear-blistering technology on the market. That’s not true anymore, as evidenced by the noisier corners of electronic dance music, or EDM.
Jeff Abel, the Canadian producer and DJ who makes muscular dubstep as Excision, is a case in point. His music is aimed toward the dance floor, but it sounds more like a fire hose blasting digital testosterone. He’ll christen the souped-up sound system at Echostage when the sprawling Northeast D.C. venue reopens its doors after renovations on March 23.
If you’d prefer your baptism in volume to have a little more melody, David Guetta headlines Echostage on March 30. He’s helped pen tunes for the likes of the Black Eyed Peas and Rihanna, so expect a touchier-feelier version of loud. Just as sweet is the music of Avicii, the Swedish wunderkind whose club tracks are all thunderous bubble and fizz. He performs the D.C. Armory on Feb. 1.
Canada. France. Sweden. Notice a trend, here? The world of EDM is plenty global. Meantime, this year’s Deathfest boasts bands from 15 countries, including Norway, Australia, Japan and the Philippines.
George Clinton’s prophecy of one nation under a groove sure seems quaint. Today, we’re one planet, dancing in a tide of rising decibels.