Before April, the only festival I’d ever been to was Tuska…three times. It’s expensive, inconvenient, and utterly fantastic every time. When I purchased my NEMHF 3-day pass, I was not expecting or even wanting the festival to be exactly like Tuska. The enormous difference in scale mattered little to me, although admittedly the indoors-ness of the venue did trouble me some (“how can you even HAVE a festival indoors?” -me, during my more naive days). Still, I needed to know what I was missing! Not even a domestic terrorist attack in the area kept me from packing my things, hopping on the train, and heading to Worcester. I learned a lot about the general festival experience in Worcester, but I learned one important thing about myself:
Many of my favorite bands played NEMHF this year — Paganfest and the thrash-oriented Metal Alliance Tour passed through on their way to New York City — but I was still not completely satisfied. The beer was cheap, the men were attractive, the bands mingled freely amongst the crowd, so what on earth was missing?
Yeah, yeah, I know I said that I was fully prepared to attend an indoor festival, but I lied. It wasn’t until I got there that the realities of a closed space hit me, particularly in the nasal area. Festival hygiene is always a mixed bag, but behind closed doors it was much harder to ignore. The second floor was especially miasmic, smelling like an ungodly combination of spilled beer, unwashed armpits, and boiled ass-crack. This did not, however, hinder my ability to enjoy the always-amazing Battlecross.
While I’m not saying that Tuska security is criminally lax, there is just a tad more breathing room there than here. I was turned away from the Palladium entrance because I had a 7-year old camera in my purse that had a zoom feature. You wanna know what happens when I try to zoom in and take pictures of a band in motion in a darkened venue?
I offered to throw away my batteries, and showed security that I didn’t even have my memory card in, but they were not having it. Ah well.
Also, there’s no re-entry past 7. Why not? One never knows. This particular rule did not affect my enjoyment of the festival, but I figured I’d mention it to justify the plural above.
The age spread
Since I’m not new to festivals, I already knew the quintessential “check for alcohol wristband before engaging in flirtation” rule. The wristbands were so few and far between though! At Tuska, the age spread is wider — I saw fans between about 8 and 60 — but most of the people there were within about five years of my age. At NEMHF, most of the attendees appeared to be around high school age. The children are indeed our future and all, and we must respect our elders and all that, but it would have been nice to hang around with more 20-somethings.
Whenever I go to Tuska, I expect there to be at least one night in which all hell breaks loose and I wake up in someone’s hotel room/kitchen/van with little to no recollection of how I got there and a purse full of cigarette innards. (Note: I do not advocate AIMING for this kind of outcome, but if it does happen…roll with it.) NEMHF is just not conducive to abject lunacy, which is probably good considering the average age of the crowd, but left me feeling a little hollow.
I wish I had some crazy NEMHF story to tell you, but I don’t. On the most raucous night of the festival, I braided a man’s beard, “face-mauled” a friend of my host, and ate McDonald’s before falling asleep comfortably at my host’s home, in my designated bed. Yay…?
NEMHF was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t “big ass outdoor free-for-all boozy schmoozy sometimes-smoochy” fun. The focus was squarely on the music, which was surprisingly good — I’d thought that such a small venue would have more trouble keeping the sounds separate, but the Palladium might as well have been two venues in that respect. Put simply, what NEMHF was missing was…well, everything else that makes a festival wonderful. Especially the open air. I’ve smelled THINGS, man.