The start of today made clear how much of an impact SXSW has on the city and it’s capacity of handling people. Since I’m staying at a friend’s place a few miles outside of the city, I depend on motorized transport to get into the downtown area. Cycling there would mean suicide. Downtown is amazing for bicycles, but everything on the other side of the freeway is a single ticket towards a certain death. My friend, who was playing a show, was supposed to pick me after he went downtown that morning to drop his gear of. Never made it back due to extreme traffic at 1 pm already. We called a cab around 1 pm and waited to 2.30, but no cabs came, due to maximum capacity. Decided to take a bus. Could get in, but the bus was extremely filled and every stop ahead had shitload of people. I’m not saying the city suffers under SXSW, but I can imagine that most locals will be glad it’s almost over again.
So, after 3,5 hours, we finally made it to Waterloo records, where the mighty Howlin’ Rain was scheduled to present some of their new songs. For those who don’t know Howlin Rain, they are a ’70 rockband with (ex)members of Nebula, Earthless, Saviours and more, and they are the best band around in this genre, I think. They sound somewhat reminiscent to Comets On Fire here and there, but les savant-garde, and more Allman Brothers/The Band-influences. They had an amazing sound and there are all extremely skilled musicians. But no virtuosa if not necessary. Great swing, great fuzz and an amazing singer/lead guitarist. And always a pleasure to hang out with their bass player Cyrus, who stayed a couple of days at my place during Roadburn festival, some years ago. One of the best shows of the festival so far.
After that, local blues hero Gary Clark Jr. was on, but this was a bit too much straight forward smooth blues for me. The parking lot at Waterloo was filling up rapidly with people wanting to see The Cult. They were scheduled to present some new songs as well and after starting 45 minutes late (it’s and always will be The Cult, they just go on late, regardless of anything), they played a pretty solid set of 4 new and 2 old songs, of course ending their set with “She Sells Sanctuary”. Ian Astbury is still on of the best power rock vocalists there is, and Billy Duffy has such a recognizable guitar sound, you could hear from the first note on, you are dealing with professionals here.
Great to see that all these (bigger and smaller) bands do the free day shows at Waterloo. It gives a lot of people the opportunity to see them. All the bands playing the Waterloo parking lot are there to promote their new album, that is for sale at Waterloo after the show and can be signed by band members after purchase. Good business model, works for everybody.
So, because of delays, evening was falling again and I wanted to go to the Stage on Sixth, to see Purling Hiss play the patio stage there. However, what I didn’t know, was that Jack White was scheduled to play the indoor stage (750 capacity I guess) that evening around midnight. So when I came over to the venue, there was a really long queue for people wanting to see Jack White (it was 8 pm, they were early), and I couldn’t get in. It’s once more a logistic decision that I don’t understand. One venue, two stages, and the big stage congesting the logistics for the smaller one, so nobody could see the bands on the patio stage. And this venue has a backdoor for the patio, so you could easily do it with separate entrances and serve both crowds, bands and showcasing labels way better this way.
Rescheduled, and decided to go to The Scoot-Inn, where Brooklyn Vegan had a showcase. Cycled alongside The Spotify house on East 4th. It’s insane how much money they must have put into that. They took a nice wooden house, the size of half a block, painted it green and white, and are throwing showcases there all week. After The Scoot-Inn, Canadian band KEN Mode was on, but I didn’t really like them, so I went back downtown to see punk rock hero Dave Smalley play a semi-acoustic solo show at a fancy hotel bar on Congress. When I came in, he was playing The Wild Rover and Whiskey In The Jar (he’s of Irish descent) and he was telling a lot of nice anecdotes about the DYS/Down By Law-years. He also played some DBL songs like Independence Day and Heroes and Hooligans. Once more, aging punk rockers proof to be the coolest.
Back to Scoot-In again to see All Pigs Must Die, an all-star metal band with (ex) members of The Hope Conspiracy and Converge. They play an awesome mix of Entombed-like metal with power violence drums and black metal atmospherical midtempo atmospheres. I was really impressed, and the stage presence was really intense, crowd was going mental, and this was the best metal show I’ve seen this festival for sure. Coming over to Europe soon, I hope. Funny to see all the violent dancers flickflacking and kickboxing through the moshpit, by the way. Bunch of monkeys..
Decided to stay at the Scoot-In the rest of the evening. Ringworm was up next. They are a metal/hardcoreband from Cleveland, and with their groundbreaking mid ’90’s album “The Promise” they defined the dark metal core genre and sound, where many modern bands are influenced by nowadays. I saw ‘m once or twice in the ’90’s, and it was fun to see ‘m again now. The Human Furnace (their singers nickname) is the most evil metal midget around and some of their songs really stood the test of time, but I couldn’t help thinking they sounded a little outdated.. especially after contemporary powerhouse All Pigs Must Die. But it was a good show, and I enjoyed it.
Last but not least, Black Breath was one. And they showed everybody who’s boss in the genre of dark metallic sludge/hardcore (although competition is fierce with All Pigs Must Die). Enormous amounts of guitar-amps and speakercabs, and a overal sound that basically crushes you to small bits. Fucking heavy, intense and insanely tight band, with great songs, nice Entombed-esque guitarthemes serving some of the best underground metal on the planet now. Can’t wait to see ‘m at Roadburn next month. Great way to end the evening. Hitched a ride back to my friend’s house, and went to bed. Despite a rough start, it was a great day once again.