December 13, 2007

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Fighting words
Death metal bands say it’s a struggle for respect
By Alec O’Meara aomeara@hippopress.com

New England Horrorcore, a Seacoast-area promotional business, is looking to bring a rock/hip-hop/hardcore concert to Milly’s Tavern at 500 Commercial St. in January, but promoter Thor Boutwell has already decided that it will be his last event at the venue.

“I just don’t want to deal with what I’ve had to deal with,” Boutwell said. “Ever since I showed them the flier, I’ve been dealing with nothing but roadblocks.”

Boutwell’s flier featured three photos of bands that will be playing in his “When Worlds Collide” concert, currently scheduled for Jan. 5. To his dismay, Boutwell said that he was asked to put up extra money for security when he delivered the flier to the tavern.

“I didn’t even have KillF*** listed on the flier yet, or that I wanted it to be 18 and up,” said Boutwell, who claimed that after he showed Milly’s management the flier he wanted to put up for the concert, the tavern asked for several additional requirements, including additional security, higher sell through, and a written understanding that there would be no mosh pit or indoor fighting during the concert.

Local death metal band Life at Zero also felt that their style of music was getting a raw deal at Milly’s. Zero front man Mike Ware specifically referred to a concert earlier in the year where he felt the sound man at the concert was disrespectful to the bands playing and that the band was treated differently because of the content of their songs.

“It’s OK to write about shooting people, but if you write about something more colorful, then people get upset,” said Ware while rehearsing with band mates last week. The band was putting finishing touches on two of its newer original songs, “Vaginal Mastication” and “30 Feet of Fetus.”

Zero band mate and guitarist Andy, who declined to give his last name, said that Life at Zero disagreed with the “pay to play” philosophy that some clubs, including Milly’s, implemented. Andy said that he understood the business philosophy but he disagreed with it. Both Ware and Andy agreed that the media’s marginalization of death metal made it difficult to promote their band.

Milly’s manager Isaac Denham agreed that after seeing the flier for the When Worlds Collide concert, he asked Boutwell to pay for in-house security. Denham said the flier included photos of multiple bands and that many of the images suggested themes of anger and violence. One of the band members was flipping off the camera in one photo. Another was in full face paint similar to the Insane Clown Posse, and another appeared to be punching the cameraman in the face.

“I looked at the flier and, I mean, these guys were at least trying to look as violent as they possibly can. We felt asking for security was justified,” said Denham. “We aren’t running a fight club here.”

Denham added that the “Worlds” concert was not being asked to put up more than any other concert that would require security, start at 8 p.m., and aim for 18 and over would be asked for.

Denham said that in the year and a half he worked at Milly’s as manager, there had yet to be a concert that was canceled due to content. He said that bands that were booked at the club were expected to bring in approximately 100 paying customers, and as long as the requirement was met, the show would be invited back. He added that Life at Zero was one such band. Zero had booked a three-show series with other bands at Milly’s, but at the second show, Denham said, not only was turnout well below expectations, but regular customers were driven out of the club by the band’s heavy sound.

“What happened with the second show is that they drove off all of our customers and that they didn’t bring anyone in,” Dunham said.

After Zero’s third booking was canceled, two other acts were brought in for the evening, Denham said. Attendence was stronger for the replacements, which featured a more subdued, mainstream sound, than it was for either of the Zero events, Denham said.

As the promoter of the “When Worlds Collide” concert, Boutwell primarily listens to Horrorcore music, which he describes as the hip-hop equivalent of death metal. Growing up, he used to be a fan of violent gangsta rap in the vein of Ice-T, but he eventually moved on to “stuff that was more violent.” The Insane Clown Posse fit the bill for a while, but they too now lack the level of cruelty he’s looking for.

“I listen to stuff that emulates that but takes it farther,” Boutwell said. “ICP has been moving away from that lately.”

Despite conceding that the tone of the music is intentionally violent for the purposes of shock value, Boutwell feels that to conclude that the fans of the music are also violent is unfair and disrespectful. He added that he had not had similar problems at other businesses, though a request to do a hardcore concert at the Amber Room was declined on policy grounds. Boutwell also said that he had another band that he had wanted to bring to the Milly’s concert but decided against it after hearing the band “had a beef” with Crimson Bile.

Crimson Bile, one of the bands featured in the upcoming “Worlds” concert, released an album that tells the story of two serial killers on an urban murder spree.

“I love what these guys are doing; It’s funny as hell! I think it’s great,” said Boutwell, who added that while he enjoys music that features strong violence, he draws the line at racial insensitivity.

“No white power stuff,” he said. “I’d never knowingly promote an act that said that sort of thing.”

Boutwell said that he wanted the concert to be open to 18-year-olds because many of the artists in the band are 21 and under.

Both Boutwell and Denham say that despite their mutual reservations, the show will go on. Denham added, however, that if audience members start getting as violent as the music, the show will be cut short.

“If a show begins at 8 p.m. and a fight breaks out at 8:15 then the show is over at 8:15. The lights go up and the show is over,” said Denham.

When Worlds Collide will feature six acts: Bile, Akel Dama, Lot 54, Nobody Cares, S.G. Horror, and KillF*** (band name censored for print).


When Worlds Collide
When: Saturday, Jan. 5
Where: Milly’s Tavern, 500 Commercial St. in Manchester
Tickets: $8
More info: www.millystavern.com. .