My day started, slightly hangover, with a trip to The Scoot Inn venue at the east side. Scoot In is a really cool shed with a roofed stage on the parking lot, and a huge-ass skateramp besides it. Thrasher Magazine and Converse a throwing a couple of free day parties there. My friend Steve Dolemancino, who used to work for TeePee records is marketing manager of Converse nowadays, and hand-picked a lot of cool bands for the show. Today’s line-up is insane: Cro-Mags, Saviours, Nachtmystium, but above all, legendary and notorious punk band FEAR are playing.
Bumped into a lot of friends at the venue, the guys from Saviours and Nachtmystium, and some other types I haven’t seen in quite a while. It was a really mixed crowed, young kids and old punks rocking out together. It’s heartwarming to see 10-year-old kids in Cro-Mags t-shirts on the shoulder of their heavily tattooed punk rock dad, singing along together or skating the ramp together. A lot of shows at SXSW are 21 up, but this is an all age show, and I think that’s a good thing. You see people like John Joseph, singer of the Cro-Mags, taking time to talk to these youngsters, explaining them what he stands for, giving them autographs and taking pictures, and the fathers of these young kids watching with a big smile on their face. Great initiative of Converse and Thrasher to throw a party like this.
Band wise, the quality of the program fluctuated from boring to insane, and from yawning to goosebumps. First band I saw was Whirr, a young stoner/shoegaze/metal band, reminding me a bit of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, but 10 times as heavy. Nice, but not great. Modern Life Is War is a kind of hardcore/metal band, but they bored the shit out of me. Too much of a forced image. Next up, Saviours. Always good, always delivering, and always in a good mood. Heavy, pounding riff rock with classic heavy metal (twin)guitar leads. Kick Ass. After Saviours, time for the legendary Cro-Mags. The all-star line-up of the band is already something special. Of course John Joseph on vocals, Graig Ahead (Sick Of It All) on bass, AJ Novello (Leeway) on guitar and Mackie (Fun Lovin’ Criminals) on drums. They kicked of with the Clockwork Orange intro, and just hearing it makes me shiver and gives me goosebumps. Then “We Gotta Know” kicked in, followed relentlessly with World Peace and Show You No Mercy. Crowd went insane. Headwalks, stagedives, skateboards in the moshpit. It was a madhouse. They played a short and tight set with some Bad Brains songs and Leeway songs aswell. Great!
Next up, and from a completely different musical tradition, was the psychedelic black metal band Nachtmystium. Just found out that a buddy of mine, Will Lindsay, who used to play in Wolves In The Throne Room, is playing bass with them. Always nice to see him, great guy. Nachtmystium played a kick-ass, but really noisy and harsh sounding set. What striked me was that the attendance wasn’t that high. The indoor room was filled to the roof during Saviours, but during Nachtmystium, there were maybe 70 people there. In Europe, this would definitely be the other way around.
“This song goes out to everybody that has ever the misfortune of being in New York City”. “All I want is MORE BEER!” ,“Aaaaaaaaaaaai Love Living in the City”. One two three four, One two three four, One two three four! Just a couple of FEAR intro’s. These old punk rockers were headlining the Thrasher party, and it was amazing. Notorious loudmouth Lee Ving looked like an old Chinese Restaurant owner, combined with a biker image, and he was funny as hell. Rude, politically outspoken, and obnoxious. Just the way it should be. They played a short set of about 40 minutes, and all the hits were played. The crowd was rowdy, throwing beer, pogoing and seeing old punk rockers going mental is alway cool. Perfect way to end this afternoon.
After a bite to eat and some coffee, the evening program was on. I had a big schedule of about 25 shows, so a busy night ahead. Met up with Frank Satink of Goomah/Ev’Hands early in the evening, we both wanted to see the Mirel Wagner show at Red 7, but there was a queue of about 50 meters, and apparently, it was a private party by Sony. This annoyed a lot of people. Just don’t put the show in the schedule if you are not allowed to get in, I’d say.. Next up was the Sacred Bones showcase at Elysium. They had six bands playing. First up was Wyland Miles, guitarist for The Fresh & Onlys, doing his own music. It was quite ok, sounded a bit British/romantic ‘80’s poppy, but I wasn’t that impressed. Thee Oh Sees were up at Red 7, but after queuing for another 15 minutes, I came into an almost empty venue (why the queue, people?) and saw a band called Static Jigs, which were boring. Red 7 has another stage as well, but no Thee Oh Sees there too, some band called Roll The Tanks played and they weren’t interesting at all. It’s a general thing that annoys me during SXSW. The total lack of information in the venues. No info about line-up changes, no schedules inside, no signing to the different rooms in a building. The service level is pretty low here. Not a good thing.
I went to Hotel Vegas, where the Hardly Art showcase was on, with great bands like Xray Eyeballs and Jacuzzi Boys. I went to see Shimmering Stars, but they were boring and totally uninspired. Decided to go to Barbarella to see Sleepover, but they haven’t even built up when they were supposed to start playing. My carefully prepared schedule was now definitely fucked. Not a great way to start the evening. I went back to Elysium for Amen Dunes, a psych pop trio on Sacred Bones records. The Elysium is quite a big venue, holds about 400 people and I think it was a bit too big for Sacred Bones. Attendance was quite good, about 200 people for the show, but I think I prefer a bit smaller room fort his. Another thing that popped to mind is that if you throw a showcase for your label, you should make a party out of it. Sacred Bones programmed 5 bands, but didn’t do much about the venue. No banners, bu an ugly venue-logo beamed behind the stage. Ideas like a presenter, an in between bands DJ, a nice info- and merchbooth, that would make the showcase much better. But, generally speaking, the bands were all good, and that’s the most important thing. Amen Dunes played a nice show, getting louder and more intense while the set progressed. And his vocals are really good.
Next up was Bleached at the Beauty Bar patio, which, after 10 minutes of queuing to get in the venue, was apparently full, so another 10 minutes to waste. Information, people. Inform your public! Decided to go back to Red 7, where Lee Fields & The Expressions were supposed to be on at 11. Came in just prior to 1, only to see that Thee Oh Sees were in the middle of their set. Schedule wise, this was of course another fuck-up, but I got the chance to see Thee Oh Sees which was the upside of it. They were great, energetically, two-drummer outfit, great stage presence. Enjoyed every minute of it, together with Willem van Zeeland of VPRO’s 3voor12, who had an amazing time as well.
We decided to wait for Lee Fields, and after a 30 minute change-over, they started. You know you are seeing a professional band, when the first note they hit, is already the right note. Everything was balanced, sound was amazing, and Lee’s stage entrance was highly anticipated. But, to be honest, after 3 or 4 songs, I did get a little bored. It sounded really retro and all, but I could’t pay attention much longer. I think that retro-soul wise, I really prefer Charles Bradly over Lee Fields.
I went to see Crocodiles after that, at The Stage on Sixth venue. A young, wavy pop punk band from England. They were ok, but they couldn’t capture my attention, so I decided to cycle to Hotel Vegas again, where K-Holes played. And boy, that was the right decision. K-Holes are a No Wave punk band, looking like a bunch of ‘80’s goth/pop musicians in black, with an excentric blond singer as frontwomen. They played an energetic set of loud No Wave with great saxophone leads, and awesome bass playing. Together with Thee Oh Sees, the best band of the evening.
Back to Elysium to see Psychic Ills, which were ok, but nothing special going on, so decided to go see High On Fire presenting some new songs from their upcoming album. Once again, they didn’t pay any attention to the schedule, so High On Fire started 45 minutes late. The sound was horrible, and I decided to leave after one song. High On Fire is absolutely one of my favorite bands ever, but this was just not good. I’ll give m another chance though. Oh, and Matt Pike was not looking healthy at all. He had a beer belly the size of a beachball. Hope he’s doing ok..
Time for the last two bands of today which were Night Beats at Buffalo Billiards (huge room for a noise/garage trio, attendance of 25 people in a room for 500, show was great, band amazing and awkward) and closing act was The Men at the Sacred Bones showcase again. I saw a rather uninspired show by them in Rotterdam a while back, but this was kick-ass. Their new album is more poppy, and the crowd was singing along, pogoing and stage diving. They even did an encore. Great way to end the evening.
Picture from Thee Oh Sees @ ATP Minehead by Erik Luyten