On Friday we posted Part 1 of Jay Gorania’s SXSW report. Here is the second part now, covering all of the shows he saw on Friday and Saturday.
Making our way back to Headhunters via yet another foreign cabbie who took us a longer route than necessary (I’m not being a bigot, we just happened to deal with several swindler cabbies who just happened to be foreign), we made it on time to catch the entire Profound Lore/20 Buck Spin showcase.
Headhunters’ main stage at the front of the bar housed a hip hop showcase this evening, with the metallic noise taking place in the back stage that was a cozy area that had the feel of a basement show. However there’s a second story overlooking the “stage.” Above the stage were several large-sized colored, demonic Aztec…Mayan…some kind of ancient central or South American figures behind some toy skulls. Standing on the second floor or on the stairwell of this outdoor backstage, I could also see hordes of people filling and roaming the streets. Pouring in and out of bars, venues, tattoo shops and restaurants, they looked like ants shuffling through the underground chambers of their lair.
It was the perfect setting to zone out to the dark, crashing doom of Dark Castle. However enjoyable it was at the time, they represent a case where style won out over substance. It was overly simple, predictable and slow.
Looking down from the second floor, I caught the blank glance of one of my hotel roomies, Victor, who like many people enjoys well-structured music that has a more clearly defined purpose. Dark Castle’s music is nebulous. It’s an acquired taste.
Coffinworm took over with tempo that actually fluctuated, slowly moving along with a depressive sensibility, and picking up steam as a more hateful feel became prominent. Like fat Santa sliding down your chimney, style and substance fit snugly for the blackened sludge band. The songwriting was satisfying, and their demeanor and performance was appropriately bleak.
Appropriately, since both grind bands play short sets, local band Hatred Surge and Toronto’s The Endless Blockade split and shared one regular set time. Aptly named, Hatred Surge exploded out of the gates with a vicious set, and a female vocalist who kept screaming directly in my face.
While their drummer looked like a madman and bashed the smithereens out of his set, his behavior was off-putting at the tail end of their set. Once he began dismantling his drum kit due to the fact that he broke all of his sticks, someone from Coffinworm hollered at him to keep playing because they had sticks he could use. He screamed at them, saying he needed them immediately. Not a classy or appreciative move, by any means. He did manage to get some sticks to properly close out their set, though.
The Endless Blockade took over with an electronic-noise enhanced set that was a bit more varied, and was arguably even more unrelenting. Their singer constantly confronted the crowd, moving as deep into the sweaty mass as he could. Keep in mind, there wasn’t much floor space to work with, and there was no stage. Just like a basement show, they were sandwiched next to the crowd who was standing on the same floor. Even this guy felt the need to constantly engage with me, running directly into me at least five times.
Why does everyone always pick on me?
One of the standout bands of SXSW, Salome slowed things down and increased the evil factor with their infectious, trippy blackened doom. Frontwoman Kat’s robust, passionate screams sound utterly demonic, counterpointed nicely with her low death metal growl, but the band’s muscle and movement rests upon the thunderous drumming of Aaron Deal.
Dressed up as evil rodents playing with gear marked up with pentagrams, Rhode Island’s White Mice consist of a knob-turner, a bassist and a drummer. The vocals were sufficiently caustic to match the chaotic music, that’s thankfully audible compared to their well-written yet piss-poorly produced Ganjahovahdose release. In terms of performance, and visual aesthetics, they were thoroughly entertaining and amusing. If their drummer isn’t on crack, I’m not sure how he’s developed the stamina for his busy blasting and frequent fills. Even if someone’s not into grind/noise, they are, if anything, a sight to behold.
This showcase was abundant with incredible bands, and while yours truly has been impressed with Yakuza on record, I just couldn’t get into it live. It was either a little bit boring, or I simply wasn’t in the mood for their experimental jazzy metal at the time.
Around this time I was seated next to a table where a well-known A&R guy was relaxing. He was approached by a drummer who respectfully and professionally introduced himself and extended a promotional CD (I’m sure this kind of thing never happens to A&R guys). But the gent kept yip yapping far too long, and he never let go of the initial handshake throughout the duration of this interaction. Was he going to kiss him, or kick his ass? I’m no expert, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that approach isn’t the best way to go about impressing an A&R guy.
Up next was Brooklyn-based “black metal” act Liturgy. After seeing their hipster bastardization of a style I love, I want to shoot myself. There’s no shortage of talent on hand (their tall drummer has some of the quickest blasts I’ve ever seen), and the repetitive melodic runs somewhat reminiscent of Wolves In The Throne Room isn’t altogether bad, but what they produce is not black metal, in terms of spirit, at all. One doesn’t have to be a church burning asshole to create evil or dark music, but it is supposed to come from a place of honestly. Listen to some Obituary some time, boys. Take some notes. Or better yet, breakup. Please.
Rounding out the evening was Chicago’s The Atlas Moth, who, if they can be labeled post metal, standout from the batch of copy cats (in truth, their style is a convergence of post metal, doom, sludge and psychedelic music). Their songwriting abilities are lurking beneath the surface, and I’m sure their best days are ahead of them, but the music couldn’t keep my attention throughout their set. Live, I was disappointed that frontman Stavros’ high-end screams weren’t as vicious or loud as they are on record.
On our final day, we were psyched to get out early to attend a half-day long, 30-band showcase. The major drawback was that it took place at an apartment complex sufficiently outside the 6th Street/downtown area. We arrived to a minimal turnout, not surprising since the gig was held outdoors and the weather was atypically frigid. What was surprising, however, was that the organizers didn’t pull the stage to the bar-sized indoor room that was five feet away. Apparently they did later, though, when comrade Ogle and I had already left.
But we were there long enough to run inside the sauna building to warm up. It was bizarre to be warming up in a sauna to avoid the cold weather in Austin, Texas. No, it was ridiculous. The show should have been inside from the get-go considering the almost non-existent turnout.
We were there long enough to barely hear Shreveport, Louisiana’s Power Pellut, a southern sludge band with Neurosis/Unsane-styled vocals that’s undeniably heavy indoors. But in this setting, hindered further with the noisy wind, their mammoth riffs sounded like a singer/songwriter was strumming his acoustic really hard.
Our way back to 6th was an adventure. To no avail, I tried paying people 20 bucks to give us a lift. Phone calls to cab companies were either met with busy signals, or they wouldn’t drive to the complex, for some reason. Someone living at the complex suggested that we take the bus. I sighed out of frustration because we were wasting our time. The girl tore into me. “You think you’re too good for the bus?!?”
What a wonderful day!
Well, I suppose we lowered our standards since there weren’t any limos around. We hopped on the bus, arriving at 6th seemingly years later. The entire “12-hour, 30-band showcase!” wasted about 3 hours, but we warmed up with some Saki bombs and good sushi before arriving at Encore for some more southern metal.
I was running out of steam at this point of SXSW, so I only checked out Rwake’s first few songs. They’re not bad, but they’re not great. From this critic’s point of view, other than boasting singer C.T.’s hearty scream, they don’t offer anything salient enough to keep coming back for more.
After recharging my batteries, I marched right up front for Weedeater. If Black Sabbath was southern fried and on crack, you’d have Weedeater. Live, frontman “Dixie” Dave Collins behaves and sings akin to madman Steve Austin, similarly swallowing the mic like a snake lunging at its prey. It was groovy, hateful southern metal at its finest.
It’s certainly is quite impressive that they’re currently on tour, considering that earlier this year Collins shot off one of his big toes while cleaning his shotgun. Appropriately, the tour was named the Nine Toe Tour.
Though my sleep was interrupted due to drunken roomie Victor smacking my face with a pillow, I somehow managed to get up alright, and we drove five and a half hours home to Midland, Texas, where Ryan Ogle had to fly out of the state from the next morning.
Before crashing at a Midland hotel, we headed to a redneck biker bar known for their hangover remedies. We filled ourselves with fine sirloin and fully-dressed baked potatoes, and washed it down with massive jugs of first-class Bloody Mary mixes. But Midland greeted me like it always does. With a slap in the face.
A 40-something lady who was sky-high on liquid X started hitting on us and touching us. She almost began touching our food. To brush her off, I told her she couldn’t sit next to us because my (fictitious) girlfriend was joining us. After seeing that we were joined by a guy friend, she came back and let me have it. “You’re gay. Y’all aren’t gay, but you’re gay. I have nothing against gay people, but why are y’all hanging out with him? He’s gay! You’re gay!” And it went on, and on, and on…
Oh, I love you, too, Midland.