A389 Hardcore Headmaster Dom Romeo Interviewed

Last month, Decibel spent a few chilly Baltimore days taking in A389’s 10th Anniversary Bash.  That exceptional label has been responsible for lots of great releases, including #9 on our list of 2013’s best, Noisem’s Agony Defined.  The 4-show festival that celebrated the label and its friends was overwhelming in the number of bands that played, the aggression that was exercised, and the volume and quality of the various acts.
Head of label Dom Romeo was over-the-top enthusiastic about the event, and here’s what he had to say about the planning and execution of one of Baltimore’s great 2014 events.

From the outside, the whole weekend seemed to go off perfectly.  Was there any last minute behind-the-scenes work that was necessary to make it all seem easy?

Thanks for the compliment, every year it’s just endless months of planning.  Phone calls on my lunch break at work, hiding from my wife/kids with my laptop in the bathroom.  My wife hates me between October and January when things really get down to the wire, as I’m not a very fun person to be around.

Biggest obstacle was 3000 records showing up before doors Friday that needed to be partially assembled for the bands that were playing.  Luckily I had a great crew of people that were able to come in and help (the dudes from Noisem, their parents and friends).

Once you get to the top of the hill and it’s time to roll, it’s like getting on one of those ‘Krazy Karpets’ I used to get as a kid from Zellers…(maybe it’s a Canadian thing)….  Hang on tight, let it rip and hope you don’t hit a tree on your way down.

How was the process different between booking A389 bands and non-A389 bands?  Any particular difficulties lining up everything necessary to get all the bands to Baltimore and on the stage?

No difference really.  This year the only non-a389 bands were Infest, Power Trip and All Out War all of which are bands I’m already friends with and enjoy musically and as people.  The recipe for the fest has always been the best A389 bands with a few personal favorites dropped in the mix (past years have had DropDead, Lack Of Interest, Despise You etc)  Disclaimer: If any of them wanted to do a record I would in a heartbeat.

But yeah, I’m just a fan of all the bands regardless of label.  I’m not some promoter trying to book bands based on whether or not they will draw huge crowds and make me a pile of money. It’s just an extension of the label’s approach that the band has to be a personal favorite of mine, or people I enjoy being around.

The best part of the bash is that every January around the week of my birthday all of my friends I’ve met over the years around the world are in the same place at the same time for a weekend.  The fest is a great reason for everyone to get together and watch amazing bands.

It was a little challenging getting INTEGRITY to play with the Systems Overload lineup.  It’s something I’ve been working on for almost a decade.  Inching them closer….2014 was the right time I guess.  Same with BLOODLET I work with Scott on his other band JUNIOR BRUCE’s records and constantly harass him as I grew up idolizing his band.   Once both groups of people caved to my outrageous demands it was seriously magical.  Not only from the perspective of seeing these musicians play together again, but to see people who haven’t hung out/been friends in years genuinely enjoy spending time together was a nice touch.


Did you have particular goals for the line up of any particular night (diversity of bands, length of sets, geographic considerations, etc)?

Only goal really is to make a show that runs with no weak spots.  Hopefully older dudes discover younger bands that rule and the younger dudes fall in love with the older bands.  Respect for the past and respect for the future.

Did you make all the arrangements and handle all the details, or does a place like the Soundstage take on any of the work?

Soundstage provided the venue rental and security.  I was really nervous on Friday just because I’m used to working at venues like Sonar, Sidebar and Ottobar where I’ve hung out/performed or even worked at for years.  I didn’t know anything about Baltimore Soundstage other than last year’s MDF hardcore shows happening there, but yeah…I was really happy with how professional and ‘can-do’ their staff was at making sure everything went smoothly.  A1/Top Notch/Would do again.

As far as the fest goes, I handle the majority of the logistics and then the usual suspects did their thing.  Mitch and Brian handled the gear/stage Dan handled the screen-printing and The Baron oversaw the A389 table while Michelle, Jenn and Jay held it down.  Sunny filmed, Kate, Robbie and Sisk shot pics and the Land Of Kush kept us all very full.

How did you get the non-band vendors?

Most of them found me actually.  This was the first year I ever had outside vendors, as the thought never really crossed my mind before.  Our friends set up tables and put ads in zine, not outsiders.  A389 exists in its own universe.

What did you think of how it all went down?  Any one day better than others, or harder?  Did you get to have a good time, or were you working with people through a lot of it?

It couldn’t have been more perfect.  My only regret is not doing the Jack Skellington 2-man style with Bob Deep6 across the stage during Weekend Nachos.  Other than that it was absolutely perfect and I’m seriously contemplating not doing the fest anymore because this one can’t be topped.  I always say that though…so we’ll see.

The featured photo was taken by Kate Frese.