Photo by Jonathan Arevalo
Gojira‘s North American tour in support of Magma (Roadrunner Records) came to a close with one memorable night of metal at Terminal 5 here in New York City. Continue reading
Choosing the 20th Anniversary of the South By Southwest Conference and Festival as the year to experience the mayhem in Austin, Texas made quite the impression on me. The music and tech (along with film and comedy) conference which once was influential upon the music and entertainment industry may have hit a cross point and I was there to witness it while it happened.
The past decade (give or take a few years…say six to eight years) saw changes within the entire event, as aspiring bands who flock into Austin’s Downtown areas to perform at the various bars along Sixth Street and Red River Avenue were competing against corporate sponsors such as Samsung and Activision, and now Doritos holding their own mini stage featuring Lady Gaga. iTunes held their own festival which featured major artists such as Coldplay, Jay Z and Soundgarden. The purpose of the event became a bit disjointed and the focus towards music slowly shifted away.
Sadly, the 2014 edition’s kicked off earlier in the week with a drunk driver who was involved in a hit and run outside of the Mohawk Bar (also outside of the Vans Stage where Les Claypool, X and ††† (Crosses) were performing), and killed a reported four people while over 25 people were hospitalized, which also drew international press and left a bad taste in many people’s mouth over the incident.
Rock and metal has traditionally been a minimal part of South By Southwest, and this year we managed to find a few bands who were playing throughout the week at a variety of bars and clubs.
The week began with venturing through the tail end of the technology portion of the conference, finding a number of startup music apps from South America, Europe and Asia. Many aspiring tech engineers found their way to Austin to showcase their products, and while some may become household names, it became a bit overwhelming figuring out what everyone was presenting.
This year’s edition also found various rock and metal showcases happening outside of the downtown area, and beyond walking distances as previously advertised. This resulted in us missing Kylesa and the Heavy Metal Parking Lot showcase, which was a huge thumbs down on the event’s part.
The Dirty Dog Bar held a few cool showcases, including the Relapse Showcase featuring Obliterations, Primitive Man, Nothing, Christian Mistress and Windhand, as well as the Metal Injection and Metal Sucks parties throughout the week. A fairly decent sized club, they held one of the few hard rock and metal showcases throughout the week, which immediately attracted fans as well as industry types.
The Metal Sucks party featured East of the Wall and Whores getting the crowd riled up, while Mutoid Man, Iron Reagan and Ringworm drawing much of the attention for their powerful live performances.
Metal and Lace Bar held a variety of rock bands throughout the week, as we found German metalcore outfit We Butter The Bread With Butter terrorizing an intimate crowd, while LA rock outfit Aeges and Brazilian groove-punk-metal outfit Fresno both grinding out riff after riff and showing the crowd how it’s done.
Across the street at Beer Land, a 1 am appearance by Invsn, featuring Dennis Lyzsen formerly of Refused, found their way onto a small stage but appeared larger than life. Musically, Invsn is Lyzsen’s rock band and not as angst fueled as Refused, this band is definitely highly anticipated and worth checking out. This show may have been a last minute booking (much like most performances), but they still won over the crowd.
Over at the Swinghouse Studios showcases (at Rusty’s on 7th Street), it was largely rock and alternative rock bands, with occasional surprises such as Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes doing his solo set and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine performing with the Last Internationale in front of 20 people (?!). While there were surprises throughout the week, such as San Francisco electro-alt-metal band Death Valley High and an appearance by Semi Precious Weapons with a brief appearance by Lady Gaga in the crowd, their club was regularly filled with curious spectators.
But the highlight included a Mapex Drums drum off set with Animals As Leaders drummer Matt Garska and Periphery drummer Matt Helpern doing an impromptu set on the street, as well as both bands playing full sets in front of eager fans who got to see them both on a small stage, with Ben Kenney of Incubus and Dug Pinnick of Kings X witnessing them causing a ruckus.
Crosses played a set at Emos, which the new location is 15 minutes away from the downtown area, which cut into their draw. But the intimate crowd got to see Chino Moreno and gang perform their new album. While Crosses shows his ambient side, they do put on quite a powerful live show and rarely let up.
The weekend ended with catching a few minutes of Brazil’s Eminence, a neo thrash outfit who rarely makes a US appearance, as well as LA power pop/punk outfit The Dollyrots at Headhunters. Yes, the Dollyrots are not a metal band but they throw down as hard as one. Their singer/bassist Kelly Ogden keeps the tempo high and their memorable set list covered much of their latest album Bare Foot and Pregnant, including a highly energetic medley of ‘Da Doo Run Run’ (by the Crystals) and the Ramones ‘I Wanna Be Sedated.’
Yes, South By Southwest is part conference and part Mardi Gras into a two week event. The sad reality is that the focus needs to return to music and less on other things as the true purpose of why it is happening (aside from alcohol consumption and mass partying) is truly lost.