Prepare the Ground Day Two Was a Cacophony of Epic Proportions

Baby G and the Phoenix, June 1

Orchid, Tomb Mold, The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Tunic, Shrewd

Photo: Stephen McGill

BY Marko DjurdjićPublished Jun 2, 2024

Day two of Prepare the Ground necessitated some travel. With dozens of bands over four venues, sticking around at just one was a (meta)physical impossibility. Between Baby G and the Phoenix, the sets came fast and furious (much like that film series!), and there was more than enough "explosive," "guttural," and/or "screaming" to go around.

Shrewd kicked off the day with their blazing, bratty brand of riffy, gang-vocaled metallipunk. Even at 2:00 p.m., it was energy personified, with lead singer Kezia screeching, screaming and stomp-dancing through the set while the band thrashed around her. Driving and confrontational, it was the perfect way to kick off day two. They have an album coming out at the end of June, so absolutely check it out.

Tunic's punky, angular take on noise rock also recalls the best of post-hardcore. There's even some shoegaze-y swirl peppered in there for good measure. It's heady and weird in the best possible way, all contorted riffs, furious downstrokes and pounding drums, with melodies that hide behind cascading walls of noise. They launched into their relentless set (replete with songs from their very excellent 2023 release Wrong Dream) without a word, intent on sending the twitchy wrecking ball that is their sound barrelling through the audience. They succeeded in deafening fashion (the atonal is strong with this one).

And then, on to the Phoenix…

The secret, day-of announced band of the day, The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die brought their prog-inflected emo to the Phoenix, a surprise addition and a very welcome one. The band played a number of new, unreleased songs, and it's undeniably some of their heaviest material yet, matching the vibe of the festival perfectly. Part of the set was eerie and ethereal; part of it was entirely possessed. And let's be real, how do you not get a lil' emotional when you hear "January 10th, 2014" live? It absolutely soars.

Over the last few years, Tomb Mold's sometimes brutal, sometimes proggy-jazz (or is that jazzy-prog?) take on death metal has resulted in some of the genre's best, most forward-thinking albums. Their playing and compositional acumen are intimidating to say the least, and by this point, this writer's undying love for the band has been proven time and time again. Clad in jerseys and walking out to the monumental strains of "Roundball Rock" (iykyk), it becomes clear that, while the band may take their music seriously, they also love having fun (in death metal? Shocking!). While the set leaned heavily on last year's absolutely perfect The Enduring Spirit, including set opener (and forever highlight) "Will of Whispers," the band also graciously dipped into their back catalogue, playing interstellar grotesqueries from Manor of Infinite Forms and Planetary Clairvoyance. Some tool in the balcony tried booing, but the crowd, and the band, quickly drowned him out. Tomb Mold are a beast, a force of nature, a collective demi-god. Bow down, mortal, you know not how to riff.

Orchid took the stage at the Phoenix to an uproarious welcome soundtracked by the dissonant strains of Ligeti. For this show, tickets were also sold individually (the power of demand), and the packed audience exploded the minute the band launched into their chaotic set. It was positively unhinged, with bodies flying every which way and people screaming their little hearts out. After their "warm up" secret set on Friday at the Baby G, the band was flying high, ripping through songs from across their discography and whipping the ecstatic crowd into a delirious frenzy. It was rapturous, with very little respite from the frantic, cacophonous onslaught. It was so loud, so feedback-laden that it became transcendental, an ascension through piercing, aural pain…needless to say, it fucking rocked!

The crowd screamed, danced and clapped along (there was a shocking lack of phones throughout), but while we were having a great time, it was clear the band was too. During "Lights Out," the crowd sang the entire intro without vocalist Jayson Green's help, while "New Jersey Vs. Valhalla," "Tigers" ("I love the kids that know Adorno / And snub their nose at kids who don't"…sigh…same) and "Epilogue of a Car Crash" were just…I mean, what are we even talking about here, it's Orchid! After a 22-year absence, you'd think they'd have skipped a beat, but no chance: this is a band that knows how to deliver on a very delayed promise. Thank you, Orchid: tonight, we most certainly danced. We'll see about that revolution tomorrow.

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