By Sam Sessa, The Baltimore Sun
10:05 AM EDT, May 26, 2011
Earlier this month, Maryland Deathfest was looking, well, nearly dead itself.
Sonar, the downtown club which has hosted the annual weekend-long celebration of underground metal for years, closed suddenly, leaving the festival without a home.
Co-founders Evan Harting and Ryan Taylor scrambled to find a new venue for the festival.
"We were panicking," Harting said.
But then, a week later, Sonar reopened, and the ninth annual Deathfest was back on for this weekend as originally planned.
Spanning four days, the festival — perhaps the biggest of its kind in the country — features more than 60 bands performing on multiple stages, inside and outside the club. About 3,500 people attended last year's event, according to Harting.
"There are other events like Ozzfest that are more mainstream, but for the underground metal community, I think this is the main one," Harting said.
At this year's Deathfest, the two stages set up outside Sonar will face one another, and bands will play staggered sets there so the music doesn't overlap.
Still, the street will likely be swamped with metal fans.
Some of this year's headliners include Coroner, Neurosis, Nuclear Assault and Doom.
As a rule, no bands are allowed to play Maryland Deathfest more than three times, Harting said.
"There are so many bands out there that, after three times, it gets a little monotonous," Harting said. "And there are so many bands that deserve a chance to play."
The festival began several years ago at the now-defunct South Baltimore club the Thunderdome. It was originally intended to last one day, but ended up stretching to three.
Harting and Taylor haven't looked back since.
In fact, Harting is already planning for next year, which will be the festival's 10th anniversary. It just so happens to fall in 2012 — the year of the end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar.
"We want to make the 10th anniversary a memorable one," Harting said.
"I think it would be funny to have the Deathfest be completely insane — the Apocalypse Edition, if you will."
Maryland Deathfest runs through Sunday at Sonar, 407 E. Saratoga St. Ticket prices vary. Go to marylanddeathfest.com.
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