SXSW REPORT: VVEREVVOLF GREHV, COLISUEM, MUNICIPAL WASTE, GENGHIS TRON, HIGH ON FIRE
After a nice long, hot shower and a little grub it was time to head back downtown. The nightcap for my full Day One of metal would be…
VVEREVVOLF GREHV/COLISEUM/GENGHIS TRON/MUNICIPAL WASTE/HIGH ON FIRE @ EMO’S ANNEX, Thursday, March 14, 9:00 P.M. – 2:00 A.M.
Yes, I’m sure you see the name Emo’s up there. Don’t fret. Emo’s in Austin is a longstanding hardcore/punk/metal institution that has existed long before the incredibly pussified musical genre that co-opted its name emerged. In fact, the venue is so revered that it did not limit itself to only two stages this year – it had its usual indoor stage, a smaller lounge stage, and a third stage across the street on the corner of the infamous Sixth Street in a giant tent called Emo’s Annex.
I showed up around 8:45 p.m., paid $13 to get in (…to hell with SXSW badges!), missed opening act Mala Suerte, and grabbed a makeshift seat close to the temporary stage. While listening to some guy hit on a chick by saying he “smoked out” with Enslaved, I was curious to see one man setting up gear on stage. That man was…
…aka Dapose from the electronic band The Faint. I had never heard VG’s music before, but had read an interesting interview with him in my favorite metal magazine Decibel, as well as a pretty scathing review in a latter issue. I was not sure what to expect.
I’ll simply state it right up front – Vverevvolf Grehv kicks much ass! This was, by far, the biggest surprise for me at this year’s SXSW. As a longtime fan of industrial music (and former manager of 16Volt) and a relative newcomer to one-man DAT/Death projects such as Bloodsoaked, I figured it would be right up my alley. Indeed it was.
It was kind of funny to watch this set. Dapose took center stage with his trusty DAT to his right. The crowd, however, was not sure what was up. They stayed at least fifteen feet away from the stage, not sure what to make of VG. One of the people checking him out was former Headbangers’ Ball host and Hatebreed lead singer, Jamey Jasta, who was nodding his head approvingly.
Of course, the head nodding was rather difficult at times as VG’s songs are cut from a non-syncopated poly-rhythmic cloth. In other words, good luck trying to latch onto a beat and blissfully headbang. This is Watchtower / Cryptopsy / Throbbing Gristle-land we’re talking about here, folks.
To keep the flow going, VG used his DAT to playback segues between songs that recalled Godflesh’s Streetcleaner days.
As each song kicked into gear, Dapose would inch forward on his tippy-toes. He was frenetic, chaotic, but somehow always in control. As he violently strummed his guitar, the DAT machine would wobble back and forth as if the whole contraption would come crashing down any minute. Dapose later told me that his set consisted of “Audio Processor,” “Linking Life & Death in a Continuous Experience,” and “Emancipation of Dissonance.”
Super nice guy, great musician, and again, the biggest and best surprise for me at SXSW 2008.
Again, another band I am not very familiar with. In fact, I had no idea I was sitting right next to bassist Mike Pascal. We started talking about the Napalm Death show earlier that day. He wanted to see it, but his band arrived in Austin after that show started. He did say he was planning on catching them back in his hometown of Louisville later in the year. We then reminisced about Napalm Death’s Scum on vinyl and acted like a couple of record snobs.
The three-piece took the stage with a high-profile metal celebrity crowd in attendance: Jamey Jasta, Matt Pike from High on Fire, the guys from Municipal Waste, Dapose from Vverevvolf Grehv, and Mookie Singerman from Genghis Tron.
Lead singer/guitarist Ryan Patterson is an interesting presence. He seems larger than life in physical stature – tall, slightly heavy-set, bald with a goatee and seemingly menacing eyes. When he spoke to the crowd though, he seemed more like a man on a mission – to expose the hypocrisies of the world and make a better place for us all.
One example was his introduction for the song “Profetas,” which he described as “a song about kids with guns in their back pockets” who will “kill you for looking at them the wrong way.” He added, “We need to find out why they carry them and how we can stop it.” Patterson also spoke about the lack of health care for millions of Americans.
But don’t think it was all gloom and doom as he added, “This is a hell of a life,” referring to being able to play music. He looked over to the side of the stage at Matt Pike and declared “It’s guys like High on Fire that keep us inspired and keep us going.”
This salutation inspired Pike to come toward the front of the stage amongst the crowd and stand directly in front of the singer. As the band tore into another scorcher, Pike began flailing around furiously and grabbing the floor monitor and violently shaking it. One Emo’s security guy flipped out, ran onto the stage, and pried it away from Pike, all the while yelling at the leader of the night’s headliner. I stood next to the stage as the security guard came off to talk to his fellow security personnel. They were letting him know who Pike was, but they weren’t too impressed. “That’s the lead singer for High on Fire. He’s fucking retarded!” So much for Austin’s PC reputation.
In addition to Patterson’s stellar frontman skills, I thoroughly enjoyed the aforementioned bassist Mike Pascal and his hair-thrashing moves and also got a kick out of drummer Chris Maggio’s intensity and how he would jump off his drum stool throughout each song.
Solid performance. I really enjoyed the band’s mixture of southern-influenced rock and late 80’s hardcore and look forward to revisiting their back catalogue.
As I stated earlier, I enjoy a good dose of electronics with my metal meals. Genghis Tron, therefore, boded well for me. Their latest release, Board Up the House, is probably the best example of how to mesh these components together and pull it off with the appropriate mixture of visceral face-melting metal and emotional, trance-inducing electronica.
I briefly chatted with lead singer Mookie Singerman and keyboardist Michael Sochynsky before they set up their intricate four keyboards, one guitar, and six iridescent multi-colored lighting tube floorplan/wire clusterfuck. I mentioned to Mookie how much I enjoy his monthly touring diary in Decibel magazine, especially his story of the anti-Semitic blond groupie.
Mookie, Michael, and guitarist Hamilton Jordan, who was decked out in a black Nachtmystium t-shirt, took their spots on the completely dark stage to the opening click track from the title track off their latest album, Board Up the House. The six funky looking light tubes that graced the backline looked like Roman coliseum pillars – that is until they started to glow an eerie red, then haunted blue.
Mookie’s t-shirt gave those up front a good laugh as is said, “Detroit – Where the weak are killed and eaten.” To the uninitiated, they were about to be consumed by the ferocious Genghis Tron.
Mookie Singerman is a fantastic frontman. He reminds me of an employee of the infamous Austin record store, Waterloo Records, who sings like a completely pissed-off King Diamond.
Genghis Tron enthralled the crowd with their Boards of Canada-influenced atmospherics, a little bit of Plaid thrown in for good measure, and topped off with a little dose of Napalm Death intensity for good measure. The mosh pit, comprised of about fifteen teenage boys, especially warmed up to “Things Don’t Look Good” and “City on the Hill” from their latest record. The pit reached its greatest frenzy, however, when the opening chords for “Chapels,” from their 2006 record Dead Mountain Mouth, rang out.
While I stood up front and watched Genghis Tron, a few descriptives seeped into my brain. Their music reminds me of a Dario Argento film come to life. Not a Goblin score per se, but rather of haunting images of an orange witch being stabbed in the throat, a white wall being spray-painted with garish red blood from a freshly amputated arm, or a pair of eyeballs blinking skittishly due to the rows of sharp pins taped below them. In other words, a colorful, beautiful hell.
The other term that came to mind was “Ecstasy Metal.”
I cannot wait to see these guys again.
I have to admit, I was not expecting to like Municipal Waste. As an old fucker breastfed on the likes of D.R.I., pre-Pepper Keenan C.O.C., Septic Death, S.O.D., Cryptic Slaughter, and Suicidal Tendencies, I could not help but think these guys sounded like mere rip-offs of the classic underappreciated bands of the 80’s that I used to spin.
Needless to say, I was right, but I did not care. Instead of being annoyed, I was happily tossed back into a time machine and reliving the old days at the Ritz Theater on Sixth Street where I would be the only preppy looking dude in the middle of a bunch of skinheads on one side of the venue and long-haired thrashers on the other side. Everyone hated everyone else, but somehow the music brought everyone together. Nowadays, everyone’s all Kumbaya’d and Zolofted with little animosity for one another. Municipal Waste is the perfect soundtrack for the prescription-drugged kids of today – and that is not a disparaging remark!
These guys bring everything – Celtic Frost t-shirts, beer-bonging D ‘n D wizards, a guy crowd-surfing in a plastic trashcan after being tossed from on top of the speaker rack, a lead singer smaller than Ronnie James Dio, a guitarist who loves to make fun of the security staff, and songs about pussy, sharks, and beer.
They had their own version of the Wall of Death, a pisstake on the “industry types” in the crowd, a skull beer bong, another beer bong called “The Inebriator,” and a completely 80’s throwback moshing insanity.
Municipal Waste plowed through several songs including “Sadistic Magician,” “Headbanger Face Rip,” “Beer Pressure,” “The Thrashin’ of the Christ,” and “Nailed Casket.” At times they reminded me of Ride the Lightning-era Metallica, Where Legend Began-era English Dogs, and, of course, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles.
I’m glad I kept an open mind about these guys because I was highly entertained. And isn’t that why we go to these things?
One of the coolest experiences about going to metal shows is seeing old familiar faces you haven’t seen in ages and making new acquaintances along the way. This time was no different as I met a cool guy named Shawn Ocell. We had met briefly earlier in the day at the Helmet gig where he informed me of his band Via Vengeance. Check out his MySpace for some new tunes if you dig the likes of Neurosis, Isis, Mastodon, et al.
HIGH ON FIRE
Well, if you’d made it this far in the review, than you pretty much have an idea what I was feeling on this extremely long day – entertained, amused, sore, and a little cranky. I knew I would not last much longer (much like you right now) so I parked it directly behind drummer Des Kensel and marveled at his skills.
Also, a correction from my earlier High on Fire review as pointed out by MetalSucks reader Jeff Matz – it is he, Jeff Matz, not Joe Preston on bass. My apologies to you, Jeff. Too many bands in one day for me to keep everyone straight.
Alas, I could only last through three songs before I called it a night.
Besides, I needed my rest if I was planning on making it through Black Metal Friday!!
TO BE CONTINUED…