Here is a short story. A long time back a young kid growing up in a small hamlet by the Himalayas had chanced upon some guitar/music magazine with Marty Friedman on the cover, on the very same day he had first listened to the opening solo of “Hangar 18”. An article in the magazine had mentioned that Marty Friedman had grown up in a city called Laurel in a certain state called Maryland in the US. The name of this nondescript city of Laurel in a state called Maryland stuck in his head, maybe it was due to the magical solos in “Rust in Piece”. The kid developed into a fan of Megadeth eventually. He had also heard of a city called Baltimore that was in a book of the Tarzan series. When he moved to Maryland from a remote corner in Asia to pursue his studies he had no real clue of how close Maryland was to Washington DC or Baltimore for that matter. And little did he know that one day he was going to cover a show by the man himself Marty Friedman in a venue located in the heart of Baltimore. The boy of course is none other than me.
Megadeth has been my favorite thrash metal band, since I discovered them at the age of 20! At the cost of sounding like a very old guy I must mention in my defense that back in the days before the internet, western music reached the developing world quite late. As an example, disco was huge in the late eighties and early nineties in the Asian subcontinent! Can you imagine that? I regretted not being able to attend the Baltimore show of the Inferno tour, and out of nowhere appeared this Wall of Sound tour. I was not sure if I would be able to attend this show until the very last moment. Thank you very much painkillers! Believe me, they do a phenomenal job of subsiding the pain associated with wisdom teeth extractions. Attending this show came with a lot of emotions and is a very personal story to me. Hence, contrary to my usual style of dedicating individual section of a review for each band, I will let this be a potpourri of personal emotions that I felt at the show.
In the past I have attended multiple shows featuring instrumental bands, but never covered an entire evening with a lineup of exclusively instrumental bands. Maybe it is because I have failed miserably in every single one of my attempts at learning to strum the very basic cords of the guitar. My Sunday night at Baltimore Soundstage suddenly turned bright as a sunny day as soon as I saw the barrier protecting the photo pit. The Fine Constant, a very fine progressive band from Wisconsin led by Sarah Longfield, with soothing and melodic guitar work paved the way for the evening. I admire the very measured and polite interaction of Sarah and the band with the crowd. What a pleasant way to start an evening, I do hope to see great things from Sarah and her cohort in future.
Scale the Summit, a band that had undergone a massive lineup change last year, leaving a whirlpool of controversy in its wake, with Chris Lechtford left as the sole founding member of the band, were the next to take the stage. They were impeccable, with a little faster tempo overall in the guitar work compared to The Fine Constant.
The guitar work of Marty Friedman was the crescendo the night deserved, with intertwined passages of highly aggressive and very mellow riffs. The best part was the unpredictability in which the pieces were arranges together. I have no doubt that twenty years back Marty Friedman’s riffs would have led to mosh pit riots in the crowd. This evening was not about moshing around, it was a night to soak in the sheer musical brilliance exhibited by all the bands. The onstage theatrics were reserved for Mary Friedman, Kiyoshi and Jordan Ziff. Marty Friedman said something like “…this is home and it feels like it..” This is not surprising, after all most native Marylanders north of the Capital Beltway relate to Baltimore more than they do with Washington DC. Maryland is my second home on this earth, and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to review one of the prodigal sons of Maryland in Baltimore. May the future bring many more tours of such amazing lineups of instrumental bands. I really enjoy having an instrumental band in a lineup, as I have mentioned in my earlier reviews of Caspian, This Will Destroy You etc. Alas, I can’t think of another all instrumental tour announced for this fall thus far. Regretfully, I must say that much of the metal fans in the area failed this amazing lineup of bands, the venue was less than half full even with Marty Friedman on his guitar in full cry. Secretly I was hoping that he would launch in to the opening solo of “Hangar 18”, but that was not to be. Marty Friedman was certainly the highlight of the night, as one would expect from a show featuring a master guitarist, but the guitar work of Sarah Longfield and the moody ambience generated by her work left an indelible mark on my mind. The tickets for this tour are very affordable, and if you want a less intense night of excellent in instrumental rock and metal music this is a show that is hard to beat. Check out this tour if you get a chance!