METALSUCKS AT SXSW: THURSDAY REPORT
Metal has always been the unwanted red-headed stepchild at the annual SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas. Back when I was the metal/hardcore DJ at the University of Texas’s student radio station KVRX (’88-’90), metal at SXSW was usually relegated to one showcase at the Backroom, way far away from the hub of activity in downtown Austin.To counter that mentality, my best friend and co-DJ, Ray “Raydog” Seggern used to create our own showcases to spotlight heavier bands not cut from the dying days of glam.
Our biggest success was in 1990 when we threw our own anti-SXSW showcase in a run-down, but still active, Riverside Drive dollar movie theater, seats and all. The show featured Austin bands Zero Tolerance and Dread (featuring future Skrew/16Volt/Daniel Ash bassist Mike Peoples), Arlington thrashers Arcane, and Houstonians Dead Horse. The major coupe from the gig was getting a rep from Metal Blade to come to the show and eventually sign Dead Horse.
Fast forward 18 years to SXSW 2008 – Metal is everywhere!
Of course, now with the increasing popularity of the festival, prices for full-access badges and even single showcase-access wristbands are through the roof. Luckily, the anti-SXSW mentality lives on as evidenced by:
ENSLAVED/NAPALM DEATH/HIGH ON FIRE/MOTORHEAD @ STUBB’S BBQ
Nothing like seeing these bands for free at the spot which was awarded the “Best Live Music Venue” at the Austin Music Awards the night before.
What I am not a fan of waiting in a long-ass line for an hour-and-a-half just to get into the venue — but, what the hell, it was free. The best part of waiting, however, was seeing Tony Nobles, former guitarist for 80’s Austin metal band Skullduggery. I also stumbled across Barney Greenway, singer for Napalm Death, standing outside the venue. He seemed pretty stressed as he told me he had friends in town that could not get inside.
Unfortunately, that wait also meant that the majority of metalheads, including me, missed Enslaved’s set.
We finally made it inside at 1:30 (show was supposed to start at noon) after missing Napalm Death’s intro “Weltschmerz” and the song “Sink Fast, Let Go.” I was able to worm my way up to the front to witness Barney & Co. rip it up. I had not seen Napalm since 1990 and was blown away. The energy that these old fuckers (probably a year or two younger than me) put out is phenomenal as they tore through a short set of material mostly from Smear Campaign.
I always liked the quote from Mike Patton that you can always tell the lead singer from a metal band because he’s the guy who looks like he needs to be put in a straight jacket. Barney is that man. Some of today’s younger bands should watch and learn from him as he works the crowd with his spastic fits, insane energy, and ability to interact with the audience. Shane Embury holds down stage left with his receding mini-Buzz Osbourne ‘fro and lethal deep-end bass sound, while guitarist Mitch Harris pulls double duty shredding and providing back-up vokills.
Napalm Death has greatly expanded their sound since the days when I spun “Scum” on the air, and the added variety makes watching their set even more entertaining. But don’t fear grindkids, we still got “You Suffer,” as well as three more 30-second blasts, er, songs. Of course, if you aren’t clued in, you might have missed out. One fan screamed out “You Suffer” about three songs after they played it. Barney’s retort: “We already played it, mate. You’ve got to pay attention.”
The band closed out their set with a song Barney described as “an anti-fascist tune” by The Dead Kennedys, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Blistering, brilliant, bloody good show, chaps.
While waiting for Napalm to strike their set, a horrible rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name…” blared through the speakers. I thought it was the house sound guy fucking with the P.A., but was shocked to glance up and see one Igor Calavera, better known as the drummer for Sepultura and Cavalera Conspiracy, hovering over a large mixing board up on stage.
Now, I watched Igor’s cell phone DJ disaster here on MetalSucks and I was, shall I say, concerned. Igor spun some harmless techno which got a few of the younger audience members’ panties in a bunch. Such exuberant utterances such as, “You suck, you fuckin’ faggot pussy,” and “stop playing that pussy techno” rang throughout the air. I had to laugh as these dweebs had no idea who was spinning the discs. Igor Cavalera has been making metal since before you douchebags shit green seeds in your poopy diapers.
HIGH ON FIRE
Matt Pike is a badass!
If youve never seen HOF, do yourself a favor and catch them live. I actually prefer the band on stage as opposed to on disc. HOF’s boogie-infused, crushing 70’s flavored metal music lends itself perfectly to a live setting and especially in a blues boogie lovin’ city like Austin.
While there is no doubt this is Pike’s baby, I was thoroughly impressed with drummer Des Kensel. His ability to hold down the chaos while pounding out solid, deep, booming rhythms blew me away. Bassist Joe Preston is the perfect foil to Pike’s virtuosity and stage-prowling showmanship. Preston knows to hold down stage right and let Pike do his thing.
Of course, the entire band was shown up during the first song when Motorhead’s Ian Frasier “Lemmy” Kilmister quickly scooted across the stage. The crowd let out a roar and Pike revealed his gnarled teeth with the goofiest smile when he caught sight of the living legend.
That brief glimpse of rock idolatry inspired Pike and the boys to an ever higher level of playing as they killed on songs such as “Turk,” “Waste of Tiamat,” and “Speedwolf,” the latter which Pike seemed to go into an almost Rosemary’s Baby-like devil-induced trance. The band’s friends from Oakland who were in attendance expressed their enthusiastic approval.
Pike sang the praises of the entire show when he said, in awe, “What a bill. Enslaved, Napalm Death, and Motorhead. I’m stoked.” So were the 1,000 + folks there to cheer HOF on as they closed their set with a double dose of “Rumors of War” and “Devilution.” The crowd went nuts, especially the one fan who had been screaming for “Rumors of War” since the beginning of the set. HOF exited the stage having stoked the crowd’s appetite and getting them jacked up in preparation for…
The last time Motorhead came through Austin was in 2002 at the now-defunct Backroom, with Morbid Angel in tow. The poorly promoted and poorly attended show left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.
Thankfully, Lemmy and company gave Austin another chance.
By the time Motorhead hit the boards, the filled-to-overflowing capacity crowd was ready to welcome the legendary rockers back. Mr. Kilmesiter strutted out onstage bedecked in his black Confederate rebel’s hat, black leather boots with Slayer Seasons of the Abyss-era white eagles with German iron crosses, bolo neck tie, and way too tight black jeans.
Sporting a mahogany wood with carved leaves bass, Lemmy stood across the small stage from guitarist Philip Campbell who resembled an even older, more grizzled Little Steven wearing an Alice Cooper t-shirt. Behind the kit was the prototype for the Muppets’ Animal, Michael “Mikkey Dee” Delaouglou, who looks exactly the same as he did twenty years ago when he played for King Diamond.
The only people in the venue older than the band were the band’s crew members. Of course, they could probably kick everybody’s ass.
Motorhead, especially Lemmy, seemed somewhat disinterested at first, not really acknowledging the crowd. Maybe Lemmy remembered the Backroom debacle, or it could have been the three camerapersons crawling all up the band member’s nostrils for footage.
Eventually, the filmmakers exited the stage and the band seemed to loosen up. By the third song, a pseudo-moshpit erupted, only to subside before it got roiling. Motorhead ran through great songs such as “Metropolis” and “Killers.” Drummer Mickey Dee made fun of the crowd by stifling a fake yawn as everyone was rather subdued between songs. It was definitely not from a lack of appreciation, but rather the now-stifling Texas heat. It’s not often you get to see Motorhead at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon at an outdoor Texas venue.
Former S.O.D./current M.O.D. lead singer Billy Milano stood on the side of the stage to watch guitarist Campbell rip into a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Live Forever.” Campbell played solid leads while knowing that it is always gonna be Lemmy’s show. I liked that Campbell had a beer can holder attached to his mic stand, and also with each new guitar came a new guitar strap with a funny phrase on it from “Welsh Wacker” to “Roger’s Bitch.”
Two things you never do at a Motorhead concert: stage-dive and throw shit. Unfortunately, another douchebag decided it would be HEE-larious to toss a magazine at Lemmy. The perfect hit into Lemmy’s face led to the response, “That was really smart you stupid bastard,” and the spotlighted ridicule of 1,500 pissed off fans.
One song highlight was “Just ‘Cos You Got The Power (That Don’t Mean You Got the Right,” which sounded almost like an even more Stoner-ish version of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.” Another was Lemmy’s shout out to his Brazilian friends in the audience with the song “Going to Brazil.” That song was followed by the classic, but awkwardly titled, “Killed by Death,” with Lemmy sounding like Udo Dirkschneider’s vagabond daddy. Fucking brilliant!
Motorhead then brought out the big guns with “Ace of Spades” with Lemmy screaming, aiming, and firing his bass at the front row of the audience. He definitely mowed down Stubb’s on this day and the victims loved every minute of it.
Having started my conference out with a bang, it was time for me to head across the street to Red 7 to catch one of my favorite bands of all time, Helmet.
TO BE CONTINUED…