Barge to Hell: Day One
After two nights of partying with my fellow Barge to Hell shipmates we were ready to board the ship and experience “The World’s Most Extreme Metal Cruise”. Arriving at the Port of Miami just after noon, people were already being herded through various security checks to get to the registration desk. And of course before entering the building people were finishing up various beverages.
Boarding went very smoothly although a little slowly. At this point you could already be rubbing shoulder with various band members as they were going through the same procedure and location as the ship guests. First it was through the TSA check point and then the registration desk to obtain your Barge to Hell passcard. The card gained you entry to your room and it was your “charge card” for drinks. If you go on one of these cruises, make a mental note of how much you are charging on card; this card is very convenient but it is a little frightening to hear some people from years before saying they racked up almost $1000 in alcohol on the cruise.
After dropping off various gear and luggage in the room, it was time to explore. The pool deck was cordoned off as the crews were working on building the stage.
Once I found the locations of the Chorus Line Theater and the Spectrum Lounge, the two indoor stages, it was time to have a drink and get some food. The buffet dining room was already full of fans and bands taking advantage of various styles of food. Before setting sail and the first band could play, a mandatory muster drill was conducted. After that it was just a matter of hanging out and waiting for Exodus to take the stage at 5:30pm.
There was only a slight delay in the start of Exodus’ set, unlike the pool deck stage which ended up not being completed and ready until two and half hours after Sodom was initially scheduled to play. Exodus kicked off the first metal cruise, 70000 Tons of Metal in 2011 and their full throttle thrash was the perfect choice to start off the Barge to Hell. The theater was packed from the floor and up the two tiers of seats with people who wanted to catch the first show of the cruise. The ship left the Port during the set but it didn’t seem like many people left to watch the departure from Miami.
After Exodus, the endless running around began. Between each band on a specific stage there was a one hour break to tear down and set up for the next act. In the meantime fans could go to one of the other stages – at this time their only choice was the Spectrum Lounge – and catch another band. The Chorus Line Theater and the pool deck always had bands alternating time slots but the Spectrum’s shows were at the same time as one of the other stages and so fans had to pick and choose.
Soilwork played a crushing set in the Chorus Line Theater to a pretty large crowd.
When Enslaved took the stage in the Theater it was packed yet again. Enslaved was flawless on stage. They played a few new tunes in this set and would treat fans to a completely different choice of songs in a few days.
Sodom was supposed to play the pool deck after Enslaved but a quick check on the progress of the stage showed that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. I took this break to go have dinner with a fellow photographer and get back down to the Theater before Behemoth was up.
Behemoth was a favorite for many people on the Barge. Watching both their sets from beginning to end it was easy to see why. Nergal is a commanding frontman and the intensity and power he brought to the stage spread triumphant energy throughout the venue. When Nergal proclaims, “It feels good to be alive!” before Conquer All the audience immediately responds. The entire band played impeccably, demonstrating excellent musicianship and showmanship.
At 12:30 a.m. Sodom was finally up on the pool deck stage. The floor in front of the stage slowly filled up during the first few songs of the set as fans made their way up from the Theater. Even as the first band on the outdoor stage the sound was pretty great for a windy night on the ship. Sodom of course never disappoints and the German thrashers tore through a superb selection of songs.
Grindcore supergroup, Lock Up were the last band to play in the Theater. The set was extreme and fast, exactly what you would expect from a group made up members from bands like Napalm Death and At The Gates.
Paradise Lost on the pool deck was bit lackluster. Although it was after 2 a.m. before the band started. A small crowd showed up to watch the set.
No announcements were given whether the last band on the pool deck would play. I had gone to have some tea with friends while Paradise Lost were playing as none of us could really get into the set. Luckily we stayed around long enough to hear a sound check happening and rushed back out to catch Krisiun.
Krisiun’s set ended at 5 a.m. and not a lot of people were able to survive to this early hour, but those that did caught a killer set by the band. I think it was for Krisiun that I first really noticed bands in the crowd, like members of Grave and Havok. Krisiun had insane precision and the energy they were able to bring after the long day was commendable.
Although I was pretty pumped after Krisiun’s set, I did the responsible thing and went to bed as I had promised someone I would join them in the gym in the morning. Some people were troopers and went off to the Karaoke lounge.