If a pirate's life is the life for you, then last night you should've found your way to the back of an abandoned business park to swig rum, raise your cutlass, and bang your head with the small army of metalheads at this year's Pirate Fest. Yes, Pirate Fest–a tour in celebration of all things "Arrr" came to The Music Hall in Anaheim. Headlined by Scottish pirate metal masters, Alestorm, the show brought a deluge bands including The Dread Crew of Oddwood, the 8-bit dance metal of Rainbowdragoneyes and the relentless thrash of Concrete Sledge.
Considering that the tour bus of the fest's world-renowned headliners looked like the size of a pirate ship next to the side of the building they were playing in, it definitely appeared these guys were not fucking around on this US excursion. And seeing them on an intimate stage with the sights and sound (and smells) of a pirate gathering was a great way to end the week. And let's face it, any opportunity to throw on an eyepatch and throw down at a metal show is an opportunity we're willing to take.
If this small, unexpected venue (a music school/recording studio by day) managed to nail one thing right off the bat, it was capturing the ripe funk of a clipper ship full of sweaty dudes. Deep into their set, Alestorm front man Christopher Bowes even dedicated "That Famous Old Spice'd" to the faithful crowd of costumed swashbucklers and longhaired metal heads.
With a salty grit in the back of his throat, he shouted "Make some noise if you have bad personal heygine!" His call out was affirmed as dozens of pirates raised their fists and shouted to the ceiling. Before diving into the song, Bowes lifted his arm and shoved the head of one lucky front row fan into his hairy armpit as more fans followed suit.
Getting lost in the band's thwacking bass drum stomp underneath chugging guitars and Bowe's searing keytar lines is almost as good as being transported back to the 1700s. At one point, blasts of cloudy CO2 billowed into our faces like mighty waves. And songs like "Wenches and Mead," "Drink" and "Nancy Tavern Wench" stayed plenty true to pirate values of debauchery, violence and sin. And despite the mysterious lack of moshing in the crowd, plenty of fans (some with parrots on their shoulders) threw their arms around each other chanting the lyrics as the band raged till about midnight.
Before Alestorm took the stage, the audience received a great pirate primer courtesy of the Dredcrew of Oddwood. Though YouTube footage of their Middle-Earth inspired tune "They're Taking the Hobbit to Isengard" is considered their Internet calling card, the band's set was definitely steered more towards the high seas. They are also the band that seemed to have their reasearch of pirate instruments down pat as the five-piece busted out everything from the accordion and the mandolin to the freakin' tin whistle.
It all coalesced into a arrr-worthy set of songs that included the rowdy call-and response chorus of "When I Sailed," the jig worthy "Airship of Doom" and the comedically punk-inspired "Binge and Purge" from their album, aptly titled Heavy Mahaogany (a sound so old-school it pre-dates heavy metal). Amazingly the crowd was respectful enough to avoid pillaging the entire venue by night's end–likely saving energy for whatever neighborhood bar they managed to stumble into after the show.