My girlfriend and I made our way down a street from the Inner Harbor of Baltimore into what was becoming a seedier and seedier part of town. Walking past a chain-link fenced off section of the road, we stumbled into a dark establishment. It was narrow in size and decorated with inattention and disrepair. We made our way down the short staircase past bathrooms covered with band stickers and a man-sized hole in the wall, as though someone had drunkenly decided to try and exit through it. We bypassed several chairs whose structural integrity seemed questionable at best and made our way to have a seat at the bar. We marveled at the guitar hung up in the window which had been turned into a makeshift lamp after a light had been clamped to its bridge. We decided we needed a drink. This was The Sidebar, and there we met some of the nicest people in Baltimore.
We had come to see A Sound Of Thunder, but realized that we'd have to sit through several openers before we had a chance to see them. I had my reservations about how pleasant an experience that would be. My luck with opening bands is hit and miss. I've discovered some fantastic acts by sheer chance and been pummeled audibly by others who I could have done without knowing. But the opening act at this event, which was called Metal Quest 2, was not at all disappointing. They were (and are) a group by the name of Burning Shadows, a power metal band from Washington D.C. that quickly caught my attention. The galloping rhythms, dual guitar melodies, and the technical proficiency of the drumming captured my respect and interest. Before long I found myself, fist in air, chanting the melody along with vocalist, Tom Davy, telling the story of mythic warriors wielding swords of legend...or something along those lines. Quite simply, they were a great act and had the entire bar excited to listen.
Following this act was a musical experience of an entirely different flavor. Electronic drums, a keytar, and a recorder were just some of the unique characteristics of Cassandra Syndrome, a symphonic/gothic metal band from Maryland. Commanded by frontwoman Irene Jericho, garbed in a Harley Quinn-esque costume, the audience was provided high-octave operatic stage show. While not my particular cup of tea, I was pleasantly surprised by the guest appearance of Darth Lightyear (Buzz Lightyear's evil cousin), who stepped in to play bass on a song.
While A Sound Of Thunder was the organizer of the event, they were not the headliner for the evening. Regardless, they were up next and they were who I came to watch. Having seen them by mere chance opening for Fozzy earlier in the year, I had been completely impressed by their abilities and songwriting. This evening was no exception. Though they played a short set of only about five songs, they ripped through stunning versions of “I Will Not Break”, “The Day I Die” and “Out Of The Darkness”. Chris Haren's drums shook the walls, Jesse Keen's bass playing bordered on funky, Nina Osegueda's voice shattered the glass, and Josh Schwartz's fire-blazing fretboard antics set alight the audiences' t-shirts. However, this might all have been a delusion from the crappy rum and soda I had drank just before their set. The effects of that drink aside, the band put on a thrilling performance full of energy and power. At one moment, Nina announced that she would need the help of a male singer, to which the bassist, Jesse, quickly announced, “Not it!” This kind of light-hearted humor made the band more endearing, though they hardly needed any comedic relief to win over the bar, as all the attendees were well within their spell. As they finished their set, I knew I had to leave, partially because I had an early morning to follow, but also because I knew their set would be hard to top.
As the other bands, Aries and Dethlehem, went on to play after them, I was pleased to have some time to socialize with the bands I had seen play. I struck up conversations with Tom and David of Burning Shadows, as well as Josh and Chris of A Sound Of Thunder, discussing the music scene. After we'd finished our discussions about Immortal, Emperor, Dream Theater, Thin Lizzy, Queensryche, and several other notable heavyweights, I bid the scene adieu. Aside from the drummer's vehicle being sectioned off by a fire truck for about forty-five minutes, what started out as a seedy and suspicious experience ended up becoming a fantastic evening out on the town.
For more images, check out our Facebook page!
All photos are property of Better B#.