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SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT, VOL. 1: A BOOZE-FUELED FRENZY THRU FOUR DAZE OF SCHLOCK N SHLOLL AT SXSW 2009

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sxsw2009Where to begin? So many debaucherous moments — too many beers, not enough whiskeys, a shit-ton of BBQ, and a helluva lotta MUSIC….yes yes, it was another sleep-deprived week in Austin, Texas, and at the end of it all, it was the best one yet.

My personal journey began with flying in the night before the madness began (so as to avoid a crack-of-dawn travel scenario that would leave me hurting from the get-go), only to be left in the dust by my local friend who decided he’d rather stand on line to get into a party than pick up his boy from NYC as planned….shameless, but at least he paid for my cab and left a roommate behind to babysit my punk ass.

“All right dude,” I said to my absent ‘friend’ on the phone, “just do me a favor and don’t come wake me up in a drunken frenzy at 3am; hopin to get a good night’s sleep before the real party starts tomorrow…”

And what does the little fucker do? Burst into my dismal attic room at 3am and wake me up for no good reason, forcing me to hazily shield my glazed eyes from the imposing light. The episode resulted in tragedy just a few short moments later as my borrowed air mattress inexplicably popped a leak and I heard the unforgiving pfft of escaping air….SHITE!!!!

Thankfully there was a grungy, likely infested mattress (which would promptly get yanked from me the next day to house these guys) sitting in the corner of th’adjacent room; I grumbled thoroughly to myself, chalked the loss of my air mattress up to my host’s bad mojo, and struggled to grasp onto a few short hours of slumber.

The next day brought the arrival of my compatriot in Tejas mosh, the fiery force that is one Vince Neilstein, and jeez was I sure thankful to have a partner in crime with which to hit the scene. After a lengthy wait to pick up the SXSW wristband that would live on me for the next four daze, VN and KW were on the loose!

We hit the streets, got ourselves a BEER (followed by another), and wandered around in search of a great band. Unfortunately, our Austin adventure got off to a noticeably slow start — we heard music coming from everywhere, but no venue or sounds were drawing us in. Our decision to fuel up with a couple jalepeno burgers led us first to my favorite bar in town, the daytime dark haven known as Casino el Camino, where seven or eight years prior, I had a truly excellent chicken sandwich and realized I was actually going to fuck my ex-girlfriend’s boss — but that’s a story for another time.

The excessive wait time for food encouraged us to ramble on to tha Jackalope, where we ran into a nice lil crue of New York metalarati and shared a pitcher with a few of our hometown boyz, inluding MetalSucks’ own Anton OyVey(sky). Whoop whoop.

The first band we actually saw that day was Louisville, Kentucky’s Young Widows, whose chunky, effect-drenched, angular punky set we caught the second half of…definitely rockin, not the most exciting songs in the world, but worth checking out as an opener to a band you really wanna see.

The Bronx were up next, and truth be told, I’ve never been so swayed by these guys…sure, they’re super-tight (which is clearly a feat worth commending), but at the end of the day the tunes are pretty much just straightforward rockers that don’t really add much to the cannon. Lotsa energy and a fun show, but the music itself just doesn’t do it for me, (although I will gladly admit I’m warming up to it quite a bit as time goes on). However, we did see these guys pull off something really special a few hours later (I’ll get to that).

We then hopped over to the Pure Volume House — SXSW is full of corporate-sponsored special wristband or laminate pass entry party “houses” that usually stay open a couple hours past the bars close and give away free products (a few years back when I was still trying to give myself lung cancer, one of the best of these alternative establishments was the American Spirit House, which had free drinks, free food, and free cartons of cigarettes…yeah, it’s scene-y and shameless but it is what it is) — where we caught Northern Ireland’s Fighting With Wire, and this Wingerschmidt was anything but impressed with the group’s yawnful post-pop-punk vibe…decent singer, boring drummer, and a sound that was sooo 2003…

At this point I couldn’t help but wonder — where was the right-out-of-the-gates mega-gem? You know when you first hit a new city or festival or simply start any trip out on the right note (in this kind of environs often via the right band), and the excitement gears you up for something craysee?!? This, that was not.

Thankfully, we pounded a free energy drink at the show and our already-tired bums cranked up into high voltage for the riotous run of bands that was about to follow:

After hearing a bit of Jucifer, whose uneven sound alternates between ear bleeding and hushed beauty (not my cup of tea but certainly different than most of what’s out there so props), we hustled off to see Mariachi El Bronx, which is apparently a very rare occurance — the members of The Bronx (+1 mo homeboy from the barrio) decked out in Mehikkan Mariachi gear playing as a full mariachi band!! Those in the know may have heard the mariachi album that the band recorded in tandem with their last rocker; those who haven’t heard can check out a tune and a half from the set we saw right here. This was by far the best set of the day thus far, and I can confidently say that The Bronx may have a burgeoning side career as a frickin mariachi band.

Up next was the always robust and riotous Valient Thorr, whose onstage shennanigans I have written about before in detail. This band (currently kicking asses on the road with the almighty Early Man most assuredly brings cock-rock with a vengeance, has a good time every time, and you will too. During the set, the crowd kept getting more and more riled up, and watching the powder keg all set to ignite, I just couldn’t resist — when you see the makings of a mosh pit and a bunch of folks who are clearly ready to throw down but don’t want to cast the first stone, well…then you’re sort of obligated, right?? So yeah, I pushed some motherfucker into another and thus a well-deserved mosh pit was borne. Not an angry beat-up-yr-grandma kind of party, but rather a beer-swillin, whoopin ho-down that simply included some extra-physical contact.

Of course I welcome the moments in life when I feel justified to throw beer up in the air on a group of people (including myself), and despite an extra energy drink exploding in my bag and waking up my spare drawers n socks, this was a fucking hallelujah of a party, and got everyone goin aplenty.

You know what I’m talkin bout?!?

Where else could you go from there except to see moremoremore music? At this point my feetsies (and earsies) were hurtin a leel, so I opted to break away from the Metallurgists and go catch a precious seat for Maserati — one of my fave NYC pocket drummers (formerly of !!! and still of the seriously wicked and SSTGST alum Turing Machine) layin thick grooves under spacey delay-heavy melodic lines…my feet, ass, and ears were thankful for the choice, and I felt ready for more distortion n feedback to close the first night.

Which brings me to the real powerhaus of the day, Seattle’s These Arms Are Snakes. Now I’ve seen these guys a couple times before, so I sort of knew what to expect, but lemme tell you — this band has gotten better and better over the years, and I suspect the copious
amounts of alcohol helped, but this set rocked my fucking pants off. Figuratively. The tunes sounded as alive as ever (even the really old ones), the band was Catholic School vagine-tight, and holy crap, frontman Steve Snell’s onstage / on-top-of-the-bass-cabinet / hanging-from-the-rafters-over-the-bar antics were once again legendary. I swear I saw that guy almost fall down a couple flights of stairs at SXSW a few years prior when he was hanging over a stairwell banister and some tiny girl thankfully grabbed his shirt and pulled him off before he dropped all the way down to fracture city. Dude just launched right back into the song as if nothing happened. Now that’s a rock star.

Vince had never seen TAAS before (and was even more sleep-deprived and drunker than I), and he kept turning to me to verbally fellate the drummer (“He’s sooo goood…..just has such a distinctive style…) — I totally agreed, but really didn’t want
baby Neilstein vomits dancing on my shoulder, so as a precautionary measure I focused on downing my several remaining drinks (Austin closes at 2am, and I had to sneak in a few more to achieve maximum swill-osity). Needless to say, we were both floored by the band, and strongly encourage all of you mofos to check em out
live (not to mention the impressive back catalog — a couple really excellent albums on there).

VN was about to drop, so after a couple of overpriced sausages (a welcome change for a couple of native New Yorkers from the extremely overpriced and under-tasty pizza), he took the long walk home whilst I headed off to join MetalSucks Maniac Toxteth O’Grady at a local house party.

As I ascended the porch and was promptly handed a blunt, I thanked Jeebus for this awesome hang in this awesome city, at this rockin festival, with a solid handful of new friendz.

MORE TO CUM…

-KW

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