The final day of one long weekend. I had awoken soar and spent from a long Saturday. It was worthwhile to stay out a bit later to see Sainthood Reps, La Dispute and Regents tear apart the new Holy Mountain venue in Austin. Given the extra hour, I just couldn't make it to Retox, which I'm highly bummed about missing. With a little sleep, I headed back to the park for one final day of glory. Between Fang Island, The Promise Ring, Japandroids and Fucked Up - there was a lot of rock and fun to be had.
I got to the park early to catch what I thought was Fang Island's set moved up, but instead I got to see UME, an Austin based rock outfit that tore up the early afternoon. There's been a lot of buzz about this band not only around town, but nationally as well. There's a noise-garage feel to the three piece that just washes over you. To sum it up bluntly: It's Courtney Love with class and style.
After wandering for water, some friends and I made it front and center for Fang Island, who even in the blistering sun, put on an intense live show, even tossing a free vinyl out to the crowd. Whether or not you feel like Fang Island shifted their sound drastically, added more vocals, personal complaints I've heard, etc. - you still have to love these guys. I don't think Major is a step back, it's just a different spin added to the party mix.
Okay, so I wanted to see A Place to Bury Strangers, but I decided to go hangout with Sainthood Reps and La Dispute before the guys left to hit the road. I walked up on Liturgy, who, I just don't get it. It was awful. Everyone around me thought it was awful. I'm not sure what I was watching. It sounded like a backing track to some dilapidated haunted house ride. Am I missing the praise here?
The guys in La Dispute put on an intense show. I know that I know the guys, so you can spew all over my bias, but it's great to see them getting the recognition they're getting, and I'm excited for their slot on the upcoming Hot Water Music tour. They never disappoint. I hung out a bit afterwards, met Alex Garcia-Rivera of Give Up the Ghost, talked a bit about how it used to be and how it is now, and then I ventured out to watched Japandroids. Unfortunately the bright setting sun was killing a bit of my enjoyment as it was coming down directly behind the black stage, but the set was great nonetheless. It was one of the biggest crowds of the weekend at the black stage as well with just as much dust being stirred up as there was during some of the weekend's more heavier acts.
Long live rock and roll in any form.
So here's the deal. I'll be completely upfront and honest about my actions before The Promise Ring. Maybe it was because we were front and center having to begrudgingly sit through Deerhoof (and before you smirk back, I like Melt-Banana), but my friends and I got pretty hammered. So when The Promise Ring took the stage and opened with "Size of Your Life," it was college again when I discovered the band, and I was again drunk and being emotional about a girl sitting and listening to Wood/Water. If that's not nostalgia, I don't know what is. It was a great time, and an even greater set list to back it up.
I was sobering up during Lagwagon's set. While the band wasn't a major notch in my teenage CD holster like NOFX, New Found Glory, No Use For a Name or The Vandals were, there's something about that sound that brought me back. I think that's a powerful thing when looking back at your timeline of music discovery, that a specific sound can do that to you. It was a set full of laughs and punk rock and for a minute I thought I had to get up at seven the next morning to catch the bus.
I ended my weekend with Fucked Up's phenomenal set. Apparently the band played in Japan the night before, so to have the set they had was mind blowing. This is my fourth time seeing the band, and I'm sad to see them hang it up. Of all of punk rock's frontmen that should be remembered, a lot of praise should be given to Damian Abraham. He gets in that crowd and just gives off the most inviting and positive vibes any I've ever seen out of any punk band. After quite a weekend, this couldn't have been a better way to end it.
Thank you to Transmission Entertainment for having me again this year. This is my Christmas. It never gets old and is always full of surprises.
I have so much to spill out about Saturday, and yet I'm still quite speechless as to what happened that night. I saw Dustin Harkins walking out of the pit caked in sweat and dirt. He's trying to figure out what he just witnessed. Myself? I'm walking away shaking my head, "Holy fuck. Holy fuck. That was unreal. Holy fuck." Reunions can be a time of nostalgia and fun, or sometimes a band comes back and just denounces the last decade of punk rock they helped build. Refused said they wanted to "do it right" this time around, and if you witnessed what I saw Saturday night, or any of the shows earlier this year, you know that's a fucking understatement.
Let me backtrack through the day first, and then I'll ramble about Refused's set more. I got to the park to catch the last few Joyce Manor songs, but I already had a beer in hand and was ready for Red Fang. Yes, during the epic part of "Wires," I did take a couple of shots of whiskey from my buddy's flask. Even though I was beading in sweat from the sun sitting directly over the black stage, I couldn't control my head banging and early afternoon air guitar.
I was front and center with a lot of friends for Braid's set. I missed their club set the night before since I was seeing the Tell All Your Friends tour (no complaining, it was awesome, and I will get to that in this week's 'Consequential Apathy' column). I'm really glad the guys are back, playing the classics and making music again. I wasn't the biggest Hot Water Music fan growing up, so this is my HWM reunion. So many fist pumps while belting out those beautiful choruses.
I was catching up with a friend while Why? was playing, but it sounded great. I'm not sure there's ever been a Why? show I've been to that's been disappointing though…
I caught a couple of Surfer Blood songs. Went well with the early evening weather, but I ended up watching Wyatt Cenac and David Cross right after. Both sets were great, but I thought Cenac was more solid than Cross in the end.
I headed back to the black stage to hangout before Refused's set. Not much knowledge on Seaweed (see, I don't know everything) but with talk going around, I knew I had to catch them. It didn't disappoint. Kind of scratching my head wondering why this band was not part of my teenage years actually. Great set. I caught most of Youth of Today from the stage. Not my style of hardcore, but the band certainly put on an energetic show. While Youth of Today is not only an influence to Refused, the Swedish outfit also toured with Youth of Toady's vocalist, Ray Cappo, other band Shelter. Saturday night, both bands gave shout-outs to the other.
Here's to community.
I'm not a huge Wavves fan, but it wasn't a bad set, a little boring. It was the first time seeing The Sword, and the band was spot on, riff after riff. Again, not a band I frequent, but a solid show. As I scratched my head wondering why Youth of Today wasn't a direct support to the band that owes them praise, I began to question myself. Why couldn't bands like Wavves and The Sword be direct support? It's all punk and metal just their own. Hell, they should have had a DJ before for that matter.
I was standing behind the stage with one of my best friends and Jason Bartell and Marc St. Sauveur of Fang Island watching the band get set-up. What was ironic about the situation was that a punk band who ended in a basement in Virginia was now having their rig set-up by someone else. I think of what they said about having things "perfect." As bands move out of the basements and into bigger audiences, they hire techs and tour managers to make sure things go off more "perfect." They want the way they sound to expand into a spot on performance. As you get bigger in this industry, your expectations grow as well. So again, I was standing there fighting my teenage standards with my elder knowledge.
I could feel this year of nostalgia coming to an end as my mind was racing in anticipation.
I watched the first two songs from behind, witnessing David Sandström just annihilate his kit. I could see so much going on from behind the amps that I pushed my way back out front. For the next hour I was blown away. Saying everything was "perfect" is just being at a loss for words. Hearing "The new beat!" belted out live, the drums on "The Deadly Rhythm," and the chants during "Rather Be Dead," it was all overwhelming. When the violin sample kicked in before "Tannhäuser / Derivè," I felt goosebumps. Vocalist Dennis Lyxzén said many things on stage Saturday night, but there was an admittance to being young and angry, and that through everything, just do something. As the last chants of "Boredom won't get me tonight," rang through the crowd, I've put my formidable teenage years behind me for the moment and now realize that the future can be whatever I want it to.
It's that time of year again. Remember when Ace Ventura says, "SUUPE PER BOWL TIME!" in part of his dialogue? Replace that with "Fun Fun Fun Fest," and that's how I feel about the seventh annual festival here in Austin. This is my Austin City Limits. The festival, albeit for larger acts like last night's RUN DMC reunion and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros closing out Sunday, is not about packing in large acts to sell tickets, Transmission Entertainment has been very vocal about booking who they want to book. Watching Against Me! then a bit of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and then X performing one of punk's staples, Los Angeles, this is about the outer sweet brine of punk, hip-hop, indie and comedies niche audiences - and it works.
We got to the park early to check out Tia Carrera based on Wayne's World alone. (I know, different spelling.) While the gorgeous front woman of Crucial Taunt was not on stage, a three piece, loud jam session was a hell of a way to start the day of heavy acts to follow. I was able to catch Fidlar who impressed me with their sharp style of punk rock. They're not gritty enough for No Idea enthusiast, but have more swagger than the nu-pop punk gambit. Definitely an act many of you on this site should give a listen to. A band that is clearly a sharp, clean cut.
After catching a bit of Mustard Pimp, I thought I was running behind to see Torche, but ended up seeing the tail end of Kvelertak. Swedish metal that sounds like it was put together in the swamps of the South. Torche was next, and didn't disappoint. It's a shame this band isn't bigger. Tight rock and roll with amazing signatures and lush tones. Torche is great on record, and even I admit I should give the band more spins once and a while, but seeing them live is something else, and reminder of the word "underrated."
I'm not sure what I can say about Cursive that I haven't already. Each time I see them, their songs bloom new life. If you've never seen Cursive, go see them. If you've already seen Cursive, still go see them again. I caught the tail end of Napalm Death, but it didn't come close to the poise, technicality and intensity of Converge. It's a band that gives their all, and Jacob Bannon controls the crowd every time I see them. There is a reason Converge has earned their legacy, and if you've seen them live in any capacity, you know why.
I caught a few Tomahawk songs, but headed to meet up with Dustin Harkins and we met up with my other friend who was catching the end of El Ten Eleven. Then, out of nowhere, Val Kilmer, either acting in Doors-esque flashback of drunken swagger or just plain drunk, performed with The Black Lips as a special performance, which was just a filming for the upcoming Terrance Malick project. Entertaining, but the worst Refused reunion set ever.
I ended up missing Earth, which I'm still sitting here bumming about, but I did catch Against Me!. Tight, loud, abrasive and one of the biggest crowds of the day (even more so than the headliner X). Laura Jane Grace's voice towers over the Black Stage attendees, and really shows Against Me!'s music will not slow down anytime soon. My friend wanted to catch Bun B, so we left the set a few songs early and ended up catching the end of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Here's the thing, this is not my cup of tea by a long shot, but for a live show, it was pretty damn good. I didn't stick around for Bun B and headed to X.
I will say this about X's set. Considering how old the band is and the time when Los Angeles came out, they still rocked out those songs and vocalist Exene Cervenk had a ton of energy. The album and performance still held up after all these years. For those who saw Against Me! directly before, I hope you stayed around to see where the blend of punk rock, blues and rockabilly blended to create one of punk's most heralded records.
I will say this about the RUN DMC performance: it was shorter than expected, but still a blast. I got emotional twice last night. Once when Exene Cervenk gave a shoutout to not only Austin, but New Orleans as well, and when it was announced by Rev Run that it was Jam Master Jay's kids on stage spinning the ones and twos. The group played all the hits, everyone had a blast, I even danced a bit to "Tricky," and all and all it was a great time.
The air is dry and it's not quite cold, but it's warm enough, and with this much people, no matter where you stand, there's a lukewarm vibe in the air. There are those here for some supreme elitist vanguard and some anticipating being floored. Half the room is sober, while the other half, myself included, are very much under the influence. All of a sudden, it washes over you. The building of the strings' quick frequencies and rising low ends. For two hours, you stare at a moving picture with focused musicians sitting in front of the visuals. They gain speed and grace and power into individual twelve minute grueling processes that exert forces of intensity, felt in anguish, afterthought and dreams of hope that pass through much of the crowd. The crowd not pushing through me to get somewhere out of focus, but the ones in awe stood still, slightly leaning in intrigue.
I stood there, leaned against the folded up benches underneath the staircase. It's a straight line to the stage. It's cornered, but the mix stage left is directed in front of me like a megaphone to the face. Again, there's a violent wash. Each song a new stream of conscious. I thought about the past, the anxiety about the future. I thought about the bridges burnt. I stood in a venue next to old friends I hadn't seen in some time. But time is relative and it passes. You think about the pockets of life. Your adolescent lack of responsibility through your rebellious teenage years and then learning more in the rapid time it takes you to go from drinking illegally to legally responsible for your own worth both physically and mentally. The friends on the couch next to you in one phrase of years, and the ones next to you in the next few phrases in the overall composition. Empty bottles, forgotten numbers, new friendships and a new day to experience each one when you get to open your eyes from rest. There's just as much beauty in the minor keys as their are in it's more vibrant counterpart. The truth is, I don't sleep much anymore.
After the burn of a cigarette, applause and the segue into the next climb of the mountain, I thought about the power music has without words. Words to interpret. The shifting of meaning in a line that means something completely else. There's a manipulation of a feeling through each movement of the hands, the quiet, loud, quiet, overbearing shift that channels grand opera house symphonies through tubes and more conventional and familiar instruments. There's a difference between sitting down to learn how to play a specific song and just sitting with your instrument trying to blossom and wither the music and motions inside your head and through your nerves. Words may not yet come, but in time, your lips are a steady hum and another frequency.
As those minor chords began to tower into a dark sentiment, I couldn't help but think of failure being the step before knowledge. The dark before the dawn. The anxiety of your next move and how its rush can build a small plant of hope. We live in a time of a cut throat society of survival. There's a good amount of ideas, but many rushed in the face "first-dom" culture we now socially live in, with cases of intellectual theft growing in numbers. Ideas where financial gain is a must, and social, educational and healthy priorities take a back seat. Twenty eight minutes, hours, days, months, years later and we live in times of InSecurity.
Music is a form of escapism. Like a good book or movie, it has the power to make us think past its intended mark. Interpretation will always be king. The thoughts we carry because of music is what's important, it's what gives music its truest and purest form of value. We're sanctioned by it. What we miss as critics and diehards alike is that we put the emphasis in judging the piece of art and not what the piece of art does to us as a stimulate. On the surface, there are a few records in my collection that the most highbrow bone in my body would scoff at, but there's a story as to why I still own a copy of it at a time where most would believe physical media has no real value.
I thought about all of this. As I sobered up during the final minutes of one of my favorite songs - and trying to take in what I just experienced - I was overwhelmed. There has been so much on my mind lately, that it all kind of came together in this sort of nuance of musical yoga and meditation. Back in the day a piece of candy was a tenth the price you pay for it today. Comics were a dime, and not part of some hoarders collection on a reality show. People sent postcards and traveled to see friends....now we have the automation of digital telegram at the precise moment we want to connect a feeling of laughter, pain, uncertainty, anxiousness and joy. We can see and hear each other in opposite rooms, across miles of wiring - without travel! We have the power to build a thriving empire of ideas, but nothing grand comes without adventure...
...or at least a Micheal Bay budget in the figures of say a Bad Boys 3.
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Austin, TX. October 3, 2012
The scariest thing for me as a writer and critic is wondering how I'll feel next week, next month or five, ten, twenty years down the line about music. Will I still be amazed by what's to come or combing each week trying to find what it was that lit a spark to my senses? Like trying to fight off a hormonal, shifting taste through the years - some things at certain points in our lives will stick longer than others. The thing is, you never know what that one thing is going to be until you're standing, slightly intoxicate with about a couple of hundred of other people your age and your state of mind singing along to a song that feels like you heard it the other day on the drive from high school, or through your ear phones late at night trying to find one simple answer of solace to the world collapsing around you. (read: You're grounded, you had a rough day at school, that love you so cherish just isn't working out, and more superficial "young people" problems.)
Certain songs will forever hold a moment to something, and even if that feeling can never happen twice (because that moment when everything clicks like a soundtrack is more perfect than we realize when said moment happens), it subconsciously stays with us and files under a cerebral iTunes. They are the songs we won't hear for a few months - or even a few years - and we're still be able to belt out every line like we heard it only an hour before, reminding ourselves that you don't want to live in the past, but also don't ever want to let it go either. This sort of attachment is the pink elephant in the room causing all our battles of subjectivity among which album is better in a band's catalog or which song do we still find as a piece of perfection throughout the years of competition amongst every new minute of new, exciting waves of music.
The Where's the Band? Tour is something special to a lot of readers on this site. It's a congregation of a lot of songwriters we hold closest in our catalog when we were at the age that we sometimes scoff at now. A lot of the songs from the songwriters that make up the tour may even still hold water years later - and if they do, that's an unspoken accomplishment more to the songwriters themselves than to us individually. Matt Pryor, Anthony Renari and Chris Conley have quite a back catalog with their respective bands. As attendees were shouting out their favorites, there's a clear line drawn that not one album holds more water than the other. Sure, some our more favorable, but I think another test of longevity is having a catalog that's room for argument for your fans. It shows you can progress and not only keep fans throughout the years, but peek interest in newer ones as the years go on. Didn't like your last album? It doesn't matter that much, as long as they're still interested in what comes next from you. As I was sitting having a late night feast with Evan Weiss and our friends from Pswingset and Paper Moons, the arguments we were having over back catalogs of now defunct acts only proves my point. Defunct or active - the fact that you're even still brought up and discussed means something.
What the Where's the Band? Tour also shows is that gimmicks and rock star behavior are more than through these days. After each person finished, the next one got right up and kept the night going strong. Sometimes there was storytelling and sometimes it was request into song into request and so on. It felt like an intimate open mic night seeing some of your old favorites stripped down back to the point where they wrote the song in their apartment, car or hotel bathroom.
Back to where I started this rant. Being open to the new wave. As the night progressed, the clock kept ticking back, but Evan's set reminded me the importance of moving ahead. For every Saves the Day, New Amsterdams, I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business song that reminds me of the tape deck adapter I used to spin CDs in my old, beat-up car - there's another generation looking for songwriters like Evan and Koji and Christopher Browder (Mansions) to fill the musical spot at that age when it matters the most to them. I think they're doing a good job in filling that position with the same honest songwriting that made me latch on and never let go of the older acts on the Where's the Band? Tour.
Absolutepunk.net has been smeared with nostalgia as of late, and that's not a bad notion in the least. I hope in the long run that it makes a few younger kids want to check out what I grew up on, just as I discovered Botch, Jawbreaker and Mineral as influences on the music I grew up holding close. But as much as we'll never detach ourselves from those moments when everything just seemed to fit into place like the perfect soundtrack, there are still days ahead of us, new music when our idols call it a day and tours like this to remind us that you're never too old to bring back a memory, or start a new one with future releases at unknown points in your life.
My right calf is killing me. It's a reminder that you're never too old to try something stupid. As the years stack up growing a wider ditch between your youthful innocence and your currently held older, pessimistic thought - you always have a tiny itch for "how it was" to some extent. Well, a couple of beers over a couple of hours led me to stage dive during The Chariot's insane set Friday night in Austin. Never too old to fly, but old enough to hurt the next couple of days from hitting the runway with no support. That great leap (the second actually, the first and third time worked out) only set up the nostalgic past that was my weekend seeing old friends both on and off the stage.
Fast forward to the next night. I'm standing behind Cody Bonnette's amp. I can see a sea of a couple of thousand kids. I remember this scene, yet it took place six years prior as I stood on top of a stage back home - the band performing Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest from front to back. A lot has happened in those six years. I watched as my friends' band evolved, was scoffed at in the process of progressing by fans and broke up before their last album even surfaced. I played their "pre-CD release" for Come Now Sleep, and was there the next night for the official release show. I was on stage taking pictures at their unannounced final show back in Baton Rouge. I was at one of their weddings. I've seen them start families and enter some sort of "real world" status. For the most part, As Cities Burn did what a large percentage of bands do - they came in, left a mark, broke-up and some of us still sit around and yearn for what we either witnessed at its most special of moments or missed it all together. (side note: A friend and I were talking this weekend about how we never saw The Bled live on the final tour - or ever.)
It's strange to hear bands talk about an album like Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest now. A lot of us knew it was something special then, and still I see it as one of the last greats in the post-hardcore scene before a lot of the muck we've seen boil over during the second half of the last decade. Some of that muck still thrives. Take the festival for which As Cities Burn had come to play. One stage consisted of watery pop the likes of Tiger Beat with a teen-angst while the other had me hear "Get the fuck up!" well over an unsatisfying limit throughout the day before every breakdown - if you've seen the line-up - that's a lot of breakdowns. Drinking games not worth chasing. Then there was the kid in the neon band shirt mocking As Cities Burn waiting in line to get in. At that moment, I wanted to be that guy, to walk up and go, "Hey man, my bands didn't wear make-up and choreograph their moves - they just did it. So when you grow out of your little phase and discover you've always loved Bjork, but secretly hid it because it wasn't cool enough, you'll think twice about your mockery."
Honestly, how would it fair out years later? TJ Bonnette had not screamed in five years. Cody and Aaron Lunsford were working on other projects, continuing to hone their own skills. Lunsford even commented to me about how hard it was for him to relearn some of his drum parts because his style of playing had grown over the years. Still, even as the first lines of "The Widow" rang out, the crowd embraced whatever was coming off the stage as they loudly sang back the words towards the singular vocal and guitar accompaniment. As the show went on, you could tell that sometimes a line didn't stack up, or a vocal part was missed - that's okay. It's been a while. For a couple of days of practice in a room together, I'd count it up to be quite a success when all was said and done. You could see it in the smiles of the guy's faces. After pacing all day, I could feel the anxiety, that anxious feeling of just getting through it build throughout the day in their body language. As the performance was unfolding in front of me - we (friends, family, longtime fans - some who traveled very far) all embraced it. I screamed a lot of those words - that nostalgia that was rushing back through me. It's the reason I jumped a third time during "Back to Back" Friday night. Sure, I hurt my leg and back, but why not embrace the moment? That's what As Cities Burn did, they embraced the moment they had for one album, and attempted to relive it for what we will say to be the last time in the books.
As much as I can sit here and bash the line-up, the events center filled with Hot Topic trending teens that will more than likely grow out of it once they "get it all out of their system" and especially the amount of bad music my yearly quota met on Saturday - it was all worth it to see something special to me one more time. It was something I witnessed countless times for a number of years with the very people for whom I witnessed it with originally, now standing on stage watching the crowd pump their fist in unison. Again, it goes back to a lot of what I've been talking about this year. As a kid, music is way more fun than when you grow up and become a shell of your former music discovering self. There's no bar set as to "what's good" or the innocent "I like this, will I like this?" running your thoughts and leading to open arms. Back then, you were mostly consuming without a lot of over-thinking and little to no guidance based on your past knowledge - you thrived on ignorant bliss. What's fun to do is to sit down and sift through all of that consumption years later. Like a good friend of mine wrote in his blog a couple of weeks back, "Punk isn't broken. We just get to old to recognize it." Maybe breakdowns-a-dozen are revolutionary, and I just don't see that. Maybe there's a new movement that I'm overlooking because I'm too caught up in the past and wrapped up in what I think I know instead of what I should just simply enjoy. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm right (mostly wrong) like I've always been and just delusional to the fact - that's yet to be determined.
It's not easy to make it in this business. You have two options. You can either jump into the new mix, sell a couple of thousand records and prepare to get back to the grind like the rest of us blokes a couple of years after the dream dies, or you can at least attempt to make a mark so endearing that your initial longevity as a band means less than the value that your mark left behind which holds strong generation to generation. Rites of Spring had one record. Refused had only two proper. Further Seems Forever's first record is the only one a lot of people even care about. (ed. note: I like How to Start a Fire pretty equally.) The point is that those records made an impact felt for some time now, and many didn't even get it the first time or the moment wasn't around long enough, so we all sit and whine about making it happen again. As music consumers and enthusiasts, we sometimes miss the boat and piss and moan about it later. Know why we missed the boat, because we weren't open to it to begin with. There are probably more people who want to see Jawbreaker's Dear You performed in its entirety than 24 Hour Revenge Therapy - but I could be wrong.
Not only as a friend, as a fan, I was there every moment I could to support the guys. I even sacrificed writing something for the band in the journalism department to work on their final bio for Tooth and Nail for Hell or High Water. While many of you won't be able to do that for your favorite bands on that kind of level - there's so much more you can do: buy a record, t-shirt and most importantly - go to a show and go as far as bringing a friend with you. I'm not saying your heroes will live forever though. I thought As Cities Burn would live for longer than they did, but they didn't. While reunions have been popping up all across the board these past couple of years, it doesn't mean it'll happen for every band, or in such a way that you can even make the travel to see them.
When that moment happens, and it brings together a part of your life that you'll never forget and is always tucked somewhere special - enjoy it. Don't overly think of how good a song or album may be or can be, just enjoy it. It's not going to be perfect (maybe it will for some, who knows) and it surely won't be exactly how you remember it. As long as that moment is as fun and as close to the past memory as possible, that's what counts. One day you kids will wake up like me, trying to survive this real world thing, limping around at your part-time job because you decided to relive the moment a little too long after you should have done it to begin with. Music is a universal attachment mechanism many of us use to package memories for better or for worse. Just like your favorite artists should make their mark when they can, you should also do your part in handing down its moment of ancestry. Sometimes we can relive it, but it'll never be as genuinely close to its first occurrence. The best we can hope for with reunions is that it comes close. Saturday night came pretty damn close to the mark, and I'm more than grateful I got to witness it.
Identity. It's what separates your brand from everyone else. There are so many festivals every year that host the same bands and the same line-up to pull in tickets and expensive beer. That's not to say their acts aren't justified, but the thing that should bring you in is the chance to see something no one else is going to see that year. There is a reason Fun Fun Fun Fest is my favorite festival to attend - I know what I'm getting into is special. While the festival has grown to host some big name acts (some who have played the larger festival circuits years earlier), the intimacy of the festival is worth noting in its identity. Crowds aren't ridiculous, stages are set to a sort of "genre specific" line-up and even with a barricade, you feel close. Sure, there's always going to be some minor problems and climate issues, but what festival doesn't have those. This is certainly the biggest year for the festival, but they still have proved there's something special in the vein of Pitchfork or FYF. My third year in a row, and I will be returning next year because I have confidence each year will be a blast. I look forward to SXSW because the amount of friends in the industry I get to see at one time. I look forward more to Fun Fun Fun Fest because the amount of amazing music stacked in a similar three day execution.
Saturday's Fun Fun Fun Fest looked like a scene from a Southern version of Mad Max filled with crust punks, hipsters, cops and every style under the sun wearing bandanas. Due to the lack of moisture from this summer and a cold front moving in this weekend, the wind kept the open sky's Sun cooler, but it also stirred up the ground for many of us attendees. Considering Friday's Danzig debacle, it didn't put many in a good mood, but most of us - myself included - made sure to make the best of it. I tied my LSU 'chief up in anticipation of the "Game of Field Goals" and walked around looking like I was ready for the pit most of the day.
After starting my day with a couple of songs form Austin's Thieves, I sat down for an interview with Cave In for a project I'm working on and then headed to Touche Amore. (side story: I was suffering three straight days of lack of sleep, during the interview, I reached back to grab my water bottle and lost balance out of the crappy chair I was sitting on and fell straight over. *facepalm*) I caught the last couple of songs as Jeremy Bohlm acceded the stage and screamed out the final words of the band's set without a mic - trying to shout over an even louder crowd shouting back in unison. It proved that Touche Amore is not only one of the best up and coming hardcore bands, they're also the biggest one at the moment.
B L A C K I E was moved to from the blue stage to the black stage on Saturday, and was a quite a show right before seeing Deathgrips. The Houston based rapper came out donning only his boxers and screamed his way through one of the most interesting sets of the weekend. It was like if hip-hop and harsh noise had this ridiculous love child. Then Deathgrips took the stage and was as good as I would have expected it to be. Finally seeing Zach Hill's drumming in person was amazing. Hill is the real deal, and his beats sat behind the fury and energy of MC Ride and it was awesome to be right up front for it.
After some lunch, I caught the end of The Joy Formidable's set, and it was the walk-up surprise of the weekend. It was powerful and the band's sound filled out from the stage all the way to the back of the hill where I was standing waiting for tUnE-yArDs - completely lush and full. The next time they're in town, I'm going to go catch the full show.
tUnE-yArDs released one of my favorite albums this year, considering I wasn't a big fan of Merrill Garbus' last album under the moniker. Out in the height of Saturday's sun, with the wind finally calming down and the dust settling for a bit, Garbus stole my heart with perfect rhythm. The set had a few minor sound difficulties toward the beginning, but once those were resolved, the set was strong - and I'm happy it ended with "My Country," one of my favorite songs this year.
Now that I had quite a smile on my face, I was ready to grow it even bigger and add a few laughs. I headed to catch Turquoise Jeep. For those of you scratching your heads about this, just watch this. Now, a joke's a joke and I'm sure I should have been watching some other more "hip and important" band, but Turquoise Jeep was one of the best sets of the weekend. They didn't just come out and half-ass it. The group put on a show worthy of any real hip-hop act. In fact, I'm selling them short by even saying that.
I caught the end of Paint It Black's powerful set. Dan Yemin was intense, as he stood against the barricade while swarms of people were shouting along with him with an intense pit going on behind them. With acts such as Ceremony and Trash Talk proving how powerful hardcore can be once again, Paint it Black showed they can still be as powerful ten years later.
I ended my Saturday in loud fashion. One of my most anticipated acts of the weekend, I finally got to see Cave In, and it didn't disappoint. I went as far as getting close and not wearing my earplugs. (How badass, right?) The band tore through mostly White Silence's heavy hitters - a complaint that could be heard after the set from some kids standing next to me - but they still killed it and lived up to my expectations. White Silence sits second to Until Your Heart Stops personally and is one of my favorite albums this year. Color me thankful for being able to see those songs live since Cave In doesn't tour so much.
I didn't know what to expect from Hot Snakes, besides the fact that I heard they crank it up to eleven. The angular punk band (reminiscent of a louder Gang of Four) drove their guitars through their entire catalog and did not disappoint the crowd or myself. Hot Snakes' hooks were (and always have been) subtle and layered under their grander garage sound coming from the stage. I'm glad I got a chance to see the show.
I caught about 30 minutes of Spoon's set. Great performance and even better choices of songs. After seeing Cave In back-to-back with Hot Snakes, it just didn't hold my attention (which is saying a lot, because I love Spoon). I headed downtown to meet up with Pianos Become the Teeth to head to an aftershow. After finishing watching the "game of the century," we headed to Red 7 for Boris, Tera Melos and Russian Circles.
I think I should leave my thoughts on Boris to what my friend said to me: "I really like this. This is the best thrash I've heard in some time." Boris brings the heavy, and being as it was only my second time seeing them, they still held my attention and kept me rocking my head back and forth throughout their set. I still haven't sat down with the my advance of New Album yet, but I'm sure it'll be as heavy as the back catalog the packed venue was waiting for on Saturday night.
It was the first time seeing Tera Melos as a three piece, and they made it work. I also love the fact that the guys not only mix their sets up, but they also change-up the execution of each song every time I see them play. Tera Melos is one of the most interesting bands out there right now on tape, but they're even more interesting and fun to follow live. One of my favorite acts to catch every time.
Russian Circles melted my face yet again. Albeit, it was the same set from the night before, but it goes to show just how good the band is seeing live. Like I said in Friday's review, this is the strongest I've seen them yet and will definitely be catching them every time they come through.
After becoming deaf and rocking hard through the night, it was time for some sleep and quite a Sunday ahead….
Sunday's forecast called for rain. After the dust storm of the day before, I would willingly let it pour down upon me. Plus, how cool would it be if Slayer started shredding in the pouring down rain to end the weekend! But alas, only a slight shower (if you can even call it that) happened all day. In an unfortunate turn of events though, the day started with Pianos Become the Teeth getting their van broken into at my apartment complex while they were staying with me for the weekend. Luckily none of their gear or merch was stolen and just replaceable electronics (except a camera Michael York's grandfather passed down to him), so please support the guys and go see them while they're out on tour with Touche Amore and Seahaven right now.
I happened to get that news while starting my day with Lemuria. A good set and a band worth checking out, but nothing really grabbed me otherwise. Up next Le Butcherettes took to the stage (Omar Rodriguez Lopez playing bass) and got the energy flowing in me. Every time I see Teresa Suaréz (Teri Gender Bender), I melt. While the set Sunday was the tamest I've ever seen her, she still brought a lot of energy and turned a lot of heads in the way she exorcises feelings buried in her music. Le Butcherettes is a band that you have to experience beyond headphones and car stereos.
After lunch, I caught Ceremony's amazing set. I don't listen to Ceremony on a regular basis, but I like what they've done and as the second time seeing them this year, I will say this: bands like Ceremony are necessary in hardcore. There is a force, a way about the band - this charisma - that you don't see in a lot of hardcore today. There's this anger but at the same time it's very playful and inclusive to whoever is around. There's not enough good things I can say about a Ceremony set. Just go see this band if you get the chance.
After an interview with Russian Circles, I went and caught my friend Doug Mellard perform on the yellow stage. One of Mellard's things for the day was stage-diving and crowdsurfing while he told one-liners. It was pretty funny, and some of his new jokes were gold. If you get a chance to check out his stand-up - even online - do it.
After that it was time for the man himself: TedLeo! If there's a person in the "punk" scene (for which I think he even transcends that in some way) that never disappoints me in the swagger of his stage show, his tweets and thoughts on rock and roll and politics and just one of those guys you wish was your cool uncle - it's this guy. All day, tweets were coming in from the festival and Leo supposedly had a surprise for everyone. After an already great set, Leo made one more Danzig joke and walked off stage to change into the Dark Lord himself. The band gave the crowd what they had come for on Friday night: The Misfits. Though it wasn't the real thing, it may have been better, and the best performance of the weekend. Leo was even modest about his surprise set on twitter saying that they played those songs because they loved those songs. Bravo Ted. Bravo.
I caught about half of Del the Funky Homosapien's set. It might have been the best hip-hop set I saw all weekend, though my friend said Childish Gambino was amazing - I was at Cave In. I then headed over to see HUM. Next to Cave In, this was highly anticipated. Though the band didn't play "Isle of the Cheetah" (my favorite HUM track), they were still loud, lush and beautiful against the cloudy sky and backdrop of downtown. There could be no other perfect mood to see what I saw that night. Though I may never get a chance to see the band again, the set well met my expectations.
I got to catch the last 30 minutes of Henry Rollins' stand-up. I was bummed I didn't get to meet him all weekend, but his set was both inspiring and hilarious. To me, Rollins is the epitome of how you should always take the open-mindedness of punk rock with you and never close off your sense of humor that only will grow with it. I ended up missing Trash Talk which bummed me out (the new EP is killer), but Slayer was all I expected it to be. It was theatrical. It was loud. It was fast. It was angry. God bless the dad that had his kid on his shoulders holding out the devil horns! Father of the year!
Til next year...
all photos courtesy of Sara Strick
Ted Leo and the Pharmacist
Ted Leo and his band performing some Misfits songs to make up for Friday night
Idols are not infallible. They can die like the rest of us. Danzig did just that for a lot of people Friday night as the headliner on the Black Stage of this year's Fun Fun Fun Fest. Set to perform the "Danzig Legacy" set (containing equal amounts his solo career, Samhain and Misfits songs with guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein), the act bombed hard. 45 minutes late, horrible performance and bottles and booing heard all around. I didn't witness any of this, but my social network feeds and complaints through Fun Fun Fun Fest's Facebook page said enough.
I'm getting ahead of myself here. I started the day seeing Defeater play to a decent size crowd for how early their time slot was on the first day. Early or not, the band didn't disappoint in the least. Empty Days and Sleepless Nights is one of the hardcore albums you have to hear this year, and cuts from Travels sounded just as fresh if not more powerful.
After taking care of some business and getting some food, I went to see Doomriders. In the heat of the mid-afternoon sun, the band impressed me by somehow being brutally loud, yet finely intricate in their playing and sound. A lot of times a band can be forceful with the wall of frequency coming from the stage, but you don't hear the delicacy and subtly of the playing. Doomriders won me over with pulling that feat off.
I watched some of Black Milk's set (band was great, MC not so much) and a bit of jam from Ocote Soul Sound to mix my day of music up. Then a friend asked me to participate in one of his comedy acts on the Yellow Stage and I graciously/hesitantly accepted the offer. If you were there, yes, that was me on stage trying to keep my composure. After two years, this year I was finally part of the festival. The New Movement comedy improv is a great place in Austin, and a regular show to see when you can make it out.
I watched a bit of The Thermals (they were okay), and then Ty Segall caught my attention with some heavy licks and gritty vocals. Black Joe Lewis was impressive as always with the big band and Joe Lewis' incredible guitar playing. Thee Oh Sees was a nice surprise while waiting for Russian Circles. The band are a crazy monster of sound and rock. So much happening at once, you get lost in it - in a good way.
Russian Circles took to the stage right as the sun was setting and it couldn't have been any more perfect. Beginning with some earlier cuts, right as it went to dusk, the band brought out one of the tightest shows I've ever seen them play. Absolutely heavy and engaging, my neck is soar from so much headbanging. To think the guys played the stage mid-afternoon two years ago, they proved they were more than worthy to fill their later time slot this year. Can't wait to see them again tonight.
I'm not the biggest diehard Murder City Devils fan. I know their music. I know their worth. Seeing them plow through a ferocious set struck that same chord in the back of my head: respect your elders, some of them can still put on a better show than you years later. The grimey guitar licks, the haunting keys and punk swagger of Spencer Moody was more than enough to "end" my evening.
Instead of being disappointed by Danzig, I waited for Public Enemy. Only got to see two songs, and the vocals were really hard to hear in the mix, but definitely not hugely disappointing. The band still brought a lot of energy and the crowd fed off of it.
I left early to see Pianos Become the Teeth and Touche Amore at an aftershow. Pianos were great. I kept thinking they exhibit a lot of what you saw in later Funeral Diner records (the post-builds, energy, tight knit song-writing as opposed to the chaotic screamo style of some). The place went absolute ape-shit when Touche Amore came on. For the entire set kids were climbing and screaming on top of each other. It looks as though the band aren't going anywhere for a while, and it was great to see the show without a barricade between them like I will see today.
I've talked in the past about longevity, but I don't think I've ever really expanded on that idea beyond, "Well, this band has put out so many albums and are still around and blah blah blah..." just sounding like a completely uneducated douche. After seeing Thursday and Thrice this year, longevity means something more to me. I've touched on it with what I said about Thursday, and I have some words about Thrice's tour coming this week (but that has more to do with progression and time), I want to focus on what individual reasons make a band last and never dry up when everything is always not in their favor.
Starting the night was Transit's thirty minute set riding high off the release of their new album. It's not that I didn't like Listen and Forgive (the lyrics are great and the hooks and progression was great) but the production gloss killed it a bit for me. Needless to say, that gloss doesn't shine live and the songs' grittier live versions were definitely more favorable. This is a band that has a lot ahead of them if they can keep up the pace.
I Am the Avalanche's set was bold. This bout of longevity is interesting in itself for this band. The next step after The Movielife's already herald existence in the hardcore scene, Vinnie Caruana can pick-up an acoustic guitar or front an even heavier version of his past and still has the ability to continue to move forward through shitty labels issues and even tougher - keeping up attention with the passing of time when other bands are holding the revolving spotlight. Great set that definitely brought the mosh for many.
On the night of Through Being Cool's 12th year anniversary, Saves the Day continued to show that nothing can kill the band: labels, member changes, pissed off fans that are stuck in the past. Beginning the night from their anniversary record, "All-Star Me" had this bitter old asshole singing loud and pumping his fist in the air. Seeing "Daybreak" live made a thought snap like a twig in my head - Chris Conley has always had a knack for just writing the worst feelings and burying them under some of the best pop-rock music around. The band is tighter than ever and looked like they have a couple of more years in them. The excitement of the 10th anniversary of Daybreak will be amazing to see one day.
I will admit that I've never been a Bayside fan. I think the band and their music is great, and to see the shit they have had to overcome over the years and still push on is incredible. I saw the band on the Take Action Tour earlier this year and it was one of the best sets I've seen from a band I'm not into. That speaks something in itself. I had a discussion with my friend the other day about Bayside fans though, and how into Bayside they are. The band has some of the most dedicated fans around. I think that has more than anything to do with how they can continue ticking against the industry elements that drag so many down. Seeing three people outside the bus after the show singing their heart out to get the band to come sign and autograph says it all.
With the elements of the ever changing music industry, the one thing bands need to rely on is being humble in having those diehard fans. I've been thinking the last few days if there are other elements, and I'm sure I can make a laundry list of them, but instead I'm going to leave it at that. If you want to see your favorite bands thrive - continue doing what you're doing and support the hell out of them. That's something in this industry that's never going to change - their passion given back through your own.
Occupy Wall Street has become an infectious thing as it has left New York City and traveled to other bigger cities in the United States. Austin is no exception as protestors are stationed both at City Hall and the Capitol, both located downtown just blocks from each other. There is no shortage of people in attendance either. It's a tough time for our generation, like the counter revolution of the '60s, enough people have had enough. No matter how you feel about the subject of protest (I myself see it as a noble cause, but always believe you can do more damage on the inside - it's just how you manipulate and conceal intentions by outsmarting the elders), this is a time where no one is really sure of sufficient way of changing what they are aware is wrong. At our darkest moments of clout, we at least put ourselves out there in some sort of process to move forward. I'm not saying waking up on the steps of a building is going to turn a leaf the next day for an already fucked up system, but once the media grabs a hold of it - people will notice. I wonder how different the counter revolution of the '50s-'60s-'70s would have been with social media for that matter. Do we educate ourselves by talking with these people, or are we just following random posts through a network - whether it's big media or social - I think when emotions tie-in, either side can seem like bullshit propaganda and ruin any sort of positive progress.
The first time I met and talked with Kevin Devine, I had read up on a lot of what he had to say in previous interviews and read lyric after lyric. Aside from what I deemed his songs on life, death and love - he also seemed to have something to say about the political agenda. Of course when I confronted Devine with a question about a conscious agenda, he immediately laughed it off. After talking with Devine tonight and over the last few years, I can see why - there's no agenda in observation. That's what Devine does best as a songwriter, he's able to pen his observations in some of the best songwriting that I think still goes unappreciated by some - but not by many. Devine's approach is in the way he talks to you or a group of people. It's in his laughs and jokes on stage and in his lyrics of finding a certain peace and understanding. Devine's been on the road for seven weeks, and as someone who continues to never let up, I think his travel plays a big part.
I know I'm repeating myself, but Devine has this complete polarizing effect that radiates in his live show - whether it's how he can quiet the crowd with just him and his guitar, or how he lets it all out with a talented band behind him - it just connects in a way that a singer-songwriter should with an audience, a fan or even someone just there for a show. I'm not sure if I noticed it until the other night, or it's always been there and it finally hit me after seeing Devine so many times, but the guy just seems natural on stage. I see so many artists a month and over the course of the year that just seem nervous: "What's the response going to be?" or "I hope we sound good," and "I can't hear myself in the monitor," and so on. Devine has a confidence in his set that resonates the most. It's in how he presents each song as an act with witty monologue in between. Again, he seems like a man with so many questions, but always up for at least discussing answers whether he's right or wrong.
The support for the night displayed both of Devine's live shows - his acoustic urgency and full band swagger. It was my first time seeing The Rocketboys in over a year or so, and it's like they never had the 10 months of writing between them at all. As of now, the band is writing as a trio and they're writing separately instead of together with their new material and hope to have something put together for next year. Even with a fill-in drummer and guitar player, their sound still filled the inside room of Emo's and exhausted the band's lush sound. The guys don't intend on slowing down, but their not looking to be a quick flash in the pan either. We'll all have to stay tuned to see what happens in 2012 for them, but I have high hopes. I caught most of An Horse's set before talking a bit with Devine and some friends. For a duo, their sound carries with duel vocals and furry. Live, the band sound even more lush than on Walls studio sound as Kate Cooper wails out in the songs' choruses. A pretty solid act for this leg of the tour.
It's certainly hard times lately. I myself haven't had the best couple of months behind me, but it's about keeping your head up in it all. For whatever reason, between the people camping blocks away at City Hall or the fact that I have less than nine dollars in my bank account for a couple of days or stress about all the work I have to put out this week and get finished up - it all just went away watching Devine's set.
"Ballgame" was a soothing end to the night, but not before the anguish of "Brother's Blood." I'm not even sure why I keep coming back to see Devine play, why I get excited to just talk with him about politics or music or (for what I didn't bring up) how bad the Jets are doing - but maybe it's because every time we talk, or I hear a new song or read another interview - he always has something insightful to say. There are people (friends in this industry even) that talk with confidence and there are some that talk in an uneasy nature and both seem like they're trying to follow themselves instead of what the conversation has to offer them. Every time Devine has something to say, it's a careful confidence. We're always growing toward a "better," and the only way to stay relevant and genuine is to straddle that line made up of such confidence but a humble undertone. He's a rare personality in a community of sharks, scholars, business and the all encompassed fear that seems to plague my thoughts on a daily basis talking with artists large and small. For that, I will continue to keep in touch with a spirit like Devine, and I hope he continues to do well because of the mentality I see in him.
When Fugazi came onto the scene around the tail end of the '80's, they redefined punk rock onto a pedestal many will never be able to sit above. It turned a lot of heads for kids seeking progressive music from what they thought it was or could be. It was a band that for many, and still many of my friends years later, that defined not only how talented and forward thinking genres can be, but how reaching outside the box and being honest as a musician will make you sit atop the rest for a long time. "Legacy" is a word that over 80% of bands today will never reach. Possibly 90%.
That's a fact.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Fugazi had that much influence on me as a listener when I was young. It was a band I didn't discover until college and even begin to understand, analyze and realize the true worth until the last few years of my life. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the band I'm about to look back on will ever reach that level of broad influence, because time is yet to show us that. But picking up Progress by the RX Bandits for me was like others discovering Repeater. With each release and live show, I watched the RX Bandits just stride when getting better and better and give birth to some of the best music that will forever stick with me and be passed down. It goes without saying that missing the band's Hoodwinked set of Fugazi covers at this year's Bamboozle will be regrettable for years to come. A tiny itch in the back of my mind.
A little over a year ago today, I was sitting in the back of the Rx Bandits' tour bus on the second night of their summer tour. What was about to take place was an interview between Matt Embree and I. This was not the first interview I had conducted with Embree, but it would be my last to this day. The interview was a tough one to swallow, but it was at times inspirational. But in the moment, it was downright devastating. After forty minutes of quite an interview, I was left a bit hollow. Why? I was essentially told that the future of the RX Bandits was undetermined and on shaky ground.
Earlier this year, we were told of the band's decision to go on indefinite hiatus.
After seeing the guys plow through one of the most phenomenal sets I've ever seen from them, I was told that the general expectancies of albums and tours are definitely "on hiatus," but to say there's no "future for the band" is putting an unsolicited nail in the coffin. That night, the band chronologically brought the audience and I through album by album cuts (the set of the night consisting of the first two songs and the last of each record with others thrown in here and there), and one by one I realized not only why I stuck with the band for as long as I have been a fan, but it was an audible sense of the truest form of "progress" that hasn't been cheaply bastardized by the general mainstream of shitty journalist like myself trying to define a band moving forward with their "art."
For me, seeing the RX Bandits (and anticipation in the weeks and month leading up to the show) is about my headway into what I can subjectively call amazing music. Not only that, the RX Bandits was the first show I was ever snuck into (though Joe Troy's appendix was to explode that night in Baton Rouge, so Embree played a solo set) and the first big band I interviewed for my high school newspaper. I vaguely remember the four or five shitty questions I had for them, but it still dwells on my mind to this day. Even after that, I've had my share of interviews with the band, and each time the words and views out of their mouths express how the band built art upon exploration of not only other art, but first hand experiences - and as seen in the final tour's openers - their closest friends.
Bringing on Maps and Atlases and Zechs Marquise (and opening for a few nights, and the one I caught in particular, Happy Body Slow Brain) really shows that talent will follow and feed off of talent. Zechs' upcoming record shows them harnessing their skills and getting to the point better, stronger and tighter just like each time I've see them in the last few years. What's not to love about Maps and Atlases' precise playing, and the awe of how careless, yet flawless they make it look to the naked eye. Even after the show, Embree and Dave Davison sat out front of the venue jamming soul and blues classics between each other in front of a small audience that stayed. There is the common thread of grand influence that flows both inwardly between the bands and their outside influences.
Then there's the guy who packed his car and was following the entire tour, looking for a place to crash each night among fans. There's a showmanship of community among not only the bands, but the fans who appreciate the music themselves.
Here's just what some of our users had to say about the band's impact:
I understand that some of you reading this will probably just see it as a fanboy editorial and that's completely fine, because after writing, rewriting and coming back to this for a month now, it really was meant to be an honest farewell. Maybe it's not the RX Bandits in particular for you, but imagine if that one band that you held so personal in your collection just called it a day, how would that make you feel? This was that band for me. I've been talking a lot this past year about nostalgia and looking back at personal influence, maybe you're too young to get it now or have yet to experience this feeling, that's okay. Maybe that band broke up the other day, or will be destined to break up five years from now as you reflect back on 15 to 20 years down the line. Very few artists these days will hold a candle forever, and with the saturation of the market only swelling due to the Web when faced with a parallel constant touring schedule competition as well, you can't expect your heroes to last forever. Having these guys lay down their instruments for a while (but not completely when considering their equally talented current other projects) is really my first taste of bitter acceptance of the aforementioned point.
There have been so many reunions in the past two years alone, I've lost count - and for some of them - kind of lost interest. If in five, ten, thirty years the guys decide to get back together to create music as a unit of architects working on another well structured piece, I will be waiting as anxiously as I did when I learned of their departure. If this is the end, then I'd say they left a pretty solid catalog behind. If this is just a break, then I'll be one of the first in anticipating the return of easily one of the best, sometimes underrated and all around progressive bands to have existed.
I've been spouting off about nostalgia and such for well over a year now. In a way, it kind of makes me feel old. I finally feel "dated" for the first time in my life. Not only in a sense of "When I was your age," but also looking back on all the bands I've still missed before my time of consumption as well as a few bands I missed during that portion of my time when I was really adhering to new music. What's great about a decade passing is there's some sort of adequate timeline to judge your idols against what came after and those that influenced them before. When you're in the moment, like most of the younger users right now, you have no judgement besides "This music speaks to me. I don't care what you think!" As much as I can have my bitter opinion against yours, you should always strive to have that attitude. When ten years comes creeping up on you, and you have that moment to reflect back, I can only advise you this: take it, be judgmental and see who really stuck with you over the years. Which albums still give you chills? Which artists that changed the way you looked at music are continuing to change the way you look at music? These are the important questions to ask yourself among all the subjectivity that we continue to war over.
At the beginning of the month, I had the privilege to be a guest to go see the Taking Back Sunday/Thursday tour in Houston on the Fourth. Besides having a great night enjoying music and not pandering to every detail of "how well the band was performing," it was really about watching two bands that will always be part of my childhood, and one opener that still excels after discovering the band at their EP release show years ago. There's not enough praise I can talk up when it comes to Colour Revolt. From the first time I saw them, to how each record continues to change course yet still continues to captivate with its blend of raw emotion and executed delicacies, Colour Revolt are one of those bands that are held special to more people than you know and without ever getting some sort of larger recognition. It's a shame, because no matter when I see them, they never disappoint in their live show. No matter how big the room I've seen these guys in, their aura always has a way to fill it and turn quite a few silent until applause.
But Colour Revolt came into my life a few years later, and the two big names of the evening were engrained in my blood since I was sixteen and was at that age of simply eating up new music like it was a bottle of Flintstones vitamins and I was on a binge. Thursday was that band for me when it came to the hardcore genre. Before that I had heard and enjoyed essential albums like The Shape of Punk to Come and Relationship of Command, but Full Collapse was a whole other personal level that isn't detachable to this day. On the band's sixth album, this year's No Devolcion, they have simply reminded many of us how far not only the band have pushed themselves in the truest sense of the word "progression" over the years, but that a quieter and more aural feeling can be just as intense as any heavy guitar riff hammocking under a cathartic scream. With cuts mostly from their new album, the band are just as impacting months after doing a run that reminded us why we fell in love with the band's presence in the first place.
While Thursday has mostly kept a steady fan base throughout the years, it's also always been the same five people (sans the pre-Waiting departure of Bill Henderson and the later inclusion of Andrew Everding soon after Full Collapse) and you wonder what it would have been like if the same stayed true of Taking Back Sunday. Even through all the muck, bad relationships and reunions, the last few years that was Taking Back Sunday still has its memorable moments - you can't deny that. There's some great tunes, and there's some not so great ones - that's music! Music certainly thrives on a natural flow not only in what is processed out, it also has to be experienced among the creative outlet. Watching the "newly reformed" original line-up gave me that feeling. No matter how you feel about the band's self-titled as a product judged against your high expectations (or low ones depending), it certainly feels like the most natural sounding record since the beginning. I felt that standing on stage as well. These were men - years later - reflecting not only on their past few years (the band taking part in Straylight Run's "Existentialism on Prom Night" and Nolan of course singing parts not his own from absence), but they were happy in the present moment as well. That's what shined through the most.
What's mainly been rolling around in my head over the past month (and after seeing the current indefinite hiatus of one of my absolute favorite bands of all time that sits a few notches above the aforementioned) is how some of our most cherished bands exhibit the worst behavior in us (see also: the Glassjaw fiasco of the last few years). We're so passionate about holding onto that special something, that there's a bit of feeling in us that makes us become so judgmental. Most older people will tell you that their favorite bands never made the same record twice. For me, that's easily true. At some point when your musical tastes shift, you start to become a crank about how it used to be and how band X sounds like a refurbished version of your favorite band. What I've yet to understand though is that moment when band Z is no longer a rip off, but reminds you why you fell in love with your favorite bands.
Nostalgia will hit us when we least expect it, but it's a net we always seem to fall in that's triggered by an event most notably associated with a past experience acting as your reference of deja vu. I can hear losing my first love in Beneath Medicine Tree, my parents' divorce in Full Collapse, the best times in my senior year of high school in Through Being Cool, moving to Austin in Mean Everything to Nothing, and even further back, I remember my mother playing records while she cleaned the house on Saturday morning anytime I spin Magical Mystery Tour and Led Zeppelin's II. All those feelings have been rushing back to me in the last year, and I think its surely because enough time has passed. Standing on that stage a few weeks ago seeing two bands I not only grew up with - but grew up with - made me feel that sudden rush of nostalgia to the head.
No matter how fleeting your memories will eventually get, it should eventually lead you to finding the bands that influenced your best kept collections, or appreciating a band you once wrote off years down the line. The Taking Back Sunday/Thursday tour has a lot of different meanings to a variety of people. Some of us saw the headliners in small clubs or practice spaces on the weekend, and some of us are thankfully witnessing two bands that keep pushing themselves years later to refine their sound. 2011 has been a great year for music, but we've yet to see what the next ten years will offer us as a whole. I still think we have yet to see if the next generation has picked up on our influences yet. I think 2021 will be quite interesting to reflect back on. I'll be 35. Wow! Maybe they'll have those mini-Pizza Hut pizzas like in Back to the Future II.
Chaos in Tejas is now a week behind us Austinites and the crust of the punk and hardcore stage divers are all back working our crappy 9 to 5's. If there's one thing I was reminded of this weekend, it was the power of music to bring people together. People from different backgrounds, incomes, lifestyles, haircuts and musical taste all came together for the "spirit of."
It's not exactly The Gathering of the Juggalos, but I would say there was a bit more substance going on this weekend.
I'm very glad I ended the weekend of great shows seeing Fucked Up. A long way South from their home country, I saw Fucked Up for the first time two years ago at Fun Fun Fun Fest and they blew my mind. I hadn't seen a "punk" show like that in Iwouldthink ever up to that point. Even at a smaller venue like Mohawk this past Sunday, the band still commanded the crowd - and vocalist Damien Abraham was NOT part of the band, he was part of that crowd. Only for the last song and an encore, Abraham was on the stage. Other than that, he was being fed his mic and chord, throwing kids on his shoulders and hugging everyone who reached out for the frontman's grizzly stature. Though many will see Fucked Up's new album, David Comes to Life, as a crowning achievement in its ability to turn forward thinking punk into a playbill (and it's pulled off quite successfully), Abraham's interactive actions help set his band on another level all together.
Now, I know most D.I.Y. settings don't involve a barricade or a high stage, and that most of Chaos in Tejas and your local house shows are quite interactive. If you haven't seen the video of The Chariot playing a house in Australia, well, you need to. The fact stands that Fucked Up are not the only band to interact with their audience, but they are one of the few bands that can do it well. In a scene that's usually synonymous with aggression and anger, Fucked Up's set seemed the most on the Haight-Ashbury side of punk rock. That's not to say there were daisies being handed out instead of shoving and stage diving, but there's certainly a more caring and fun vibe to all the malice that's exerted at most shows.
As Abraham told a story about how Chaos in Tejas was the first time he ever took off his shirt and felt comfortable, it made me want to do the same. In fact, some much heavier kids DID take their shirts off during the vocalist's speech. At that moment I realized that among all the critical spewing I as a writer will do during my time as one (or at least until someone shuts me up), I remembered why I fell in love with punk rock in the first place: my attraction to being part of something positive in the face of so much negative. Now, I'm sure the same thing can be said about most styles of music lumped in a particular genre, but I'm speaking specifically about the general idea of community (there's that fucking word again - I promise I'll stop using it after this blog - or at least try to) and why punk rock attracted so many misfits to try something new (and sometimes not even something new, just authentically different) and make it a mass alternative to certain norms and criticisms.
It's a different time now. I'm not speaking specifically about my views on eyeliner and "that same fucking riff for the eighth time in this song but at a slower tempo" critique. I just feel like for the past few years the idea of punk has been packaged and sold like any sort of commercial movement. It's no longer this thing for some, but it's this look for everyone. While making something like the ideals and community of punk open to whoever - because being narrow-minded never got anyone anywhere - we also have to evaluate what others can turn it into and be aware of manipulation and false stereotypes.
What is punk to me? Well, seeing Damien Abraham pick up a kid, give him a fake pile driver and then hug him before chanting a chorus together…yeah, that's a good start.
In such a crummy time for everything but music, it was nice to see a lot of smiles on a lot of faces this weekend. Remember, the Ramones just "wanted to do" a lot of stuff. So let's keep up that spirit of that good time.
I'm not sure how I wanted to separate in entries/words/pointless dribble about some of the last 48 hours of my life. Well, I worked hungover for about five of them and slept about four, but most of my time was spent seeing some of the most insane shit this year. The most insane was seeing The Dillinger Escape Plan demolish a crowd of about 300 people in the same place where hipsters tore down gates and were sprayed (ironically?) with pepper spray in the great riot of South by Bullshit 2011. So how crazy was it that in the midst of one of the countries biggest punk and hardcore festivals, everything went off without a policeman on horseback…
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Cut to earlier Saturday evening, and I'm standing in one of the longest lines I've ever waited in to get into Austin Music Hall. The Deftones (skate punk somehow lumped into the nu-metal category) were about to headline a sold out crowd with Dillinger and the beautiful Le Butcherettes as openers.
"Swooning" is probably the correct word to describe my glare during Teresa Suaréz's (Teri Gender Bender) empowering set. It's like Janis Joplin pulled the devil from inside herself and formed the relentlessly barking front woman. Only backdropped to the chaos of drummer Gabe Serbian (The Locust) and bassist Jonathan Hischke, Le Butcherettes' set the mood for a very aggressive evening ahead. Even with all that instrumental skill, Teri's vocals still sit front and center and command the entire performance, even as she leaves the mic for the crowd, it's just as domineering in presence as it holds attention to the entire 1000+ attendees in the giant warehouse.
Climbing, jumping, swinging cabs around and enough strobe to kill an epileptic in a matter of seconds, the Dillinger Escape Plan didn't give a damn if it was a huge concert hall or a 500 cap room, they brought it. Now, that's only comparative to the band's second show that night. So, for more words on that, and not to flush out my feelings too soon here, we'll move on to the night's headliner.
There's been some talk over the past few weeks among the users and I about "lasting" or "holding up" over time. Bands will come and go (and even as overheard from some Chaos in Tejas patrons this weekend, sometimes reunions don't live up to the hype), but it's really just about grasping some sort of longevity. Even though the Deftones did gain notoriety during the era of nu-metal, there's a polar difference between the anticipation of last year's Diamond Eyes and this year's Gold Cobra. Deftones can still make deafening thrash rock that bridges the sonic gap between melodic crescendoing and heart racing thrill. The band's live show only expands on that sound. Unfortunately, I had to cut out before the end of the band's set, missing my favorite song by the guys. But I headed for Beauty Bar before things got too crazy over there for Dillinger's second show of the night.
Opening up for the Dillinger Escape Plan was Ceremony, who in 30 minutes made me feel like I was part of an archaic live '80s hardcore video. Bridging the lines between hardcore and glam, vocalist Ross Farrar is an absolute mad man for the entire set. Between climbing speakers, moving lighting as he sees fit, climbing over the barricaded fence for whatever reason and singing through his t-shirt half the time, it's quite an exhausting set to experience. For any fan of hardcore, Ceremony are more than worth checking out.
I can't imagine that Dillinger Escape Plan plays too many small cap venues anymore, but a tent that holds about 300 seems about par for the course of a good time, right? As soon as the band launched into it, attendees lost their shit with them. Not much was contained besides the "muscle" holding the monitors up from being pushed over. Vocalist Greg Puciato climbed everything he could find, holding on to the top of the tent (surprisingly not pulling it down) and stage diving off the main speakers. As there was practically no light besides green dim lit ones from the stage and flashes from the dozen or so cameras, it was a darkened scene of chaos, and was very refreshing. There were bloody faces and enough body heat and sweat to qualify a hardcore sauna of aggression and anguish. For one hour, it felt like 1999 again as the band lit one of their cabs on fire, Puciato standing over it and yelling into the flames before guitarist Ben Weinman put most of it out by smashing his guitar into it. I overheard bassist Liam Wilson apologize for all the kids that "probably got hurt." But you know what, that's the way it was, and the way things are beginning to sort of run again.
At some point, these bands broke out and began to play bigger venues with more rules. Less fun was had. In a sense, punk became safe for the masses. It started to become commercialized in the '80s when no-wave was packaged as pop new wave. It seems today, there's no room for a contemporary G.G. Allin or Iggy Pop. Sure, Bert McCracken puked on stage (and then probably again when he was dating Kelly Osbourne) and we all looked for a brief moment, but who really cares now? Anyone remember Artwork?
Most of you who I've offended with the last few statements probably know or don't know that one of the reasons Dillinger got big was because of their live shows, so the argument of "substance over show" is certainly debatable. But as the show continues to go on, The Dillinger Escape Plan don't even come close to losing substance in their writing (the band's last two records more than prove that alone). Yet, still the subjectivity for the argument of authenticity and gimmicks will probably start after reading this, but I assure you, it was a different time ten years ago and it was an incredibly different time 20 and 30 years ago. There was no money in this scene. To see a band like Dillinger Escape Plan (albeit only one original member left) still completely destroy one hour of my life is unforgettable. Sorry to say, I don't think that happens too much these days. There's too many rules and too many stunts that lack the reckless behavior of living in the moment.
This year I'm attending my first Chaos in Tejas for three of the four nights. For those (including myself) who are unfamiliar with the festival, it's a gathering of punk, hardcore and metal from around the world. There are usually some reunion shows thrown in, as well as classic acts that the most knowledgeable of crust-punks would only know about. Honestly, just looking at the poster, I can pull out a few honorary acts, but it definitely makes me want to dig deeper into history just seeing the looks on some of these kids faces for some of these bands.
As for the history of Chaos, from what I could gather from one of the security guys on hand, the festival originally started in Atlanta as Prank Fest (associated with Prank Records) before moving to Austin under the same Prank Fest moniker. Nothing more than house shows, it switched over into Chaos in Tejas sometime in 2007 and has been going strong ever since under the festival name, and is beginning to include everything from a few indie acts to a few hip-hop ones as well. What's more punk than that?
What continues to draw so many from out of the state in their sewed patches, old school screamo t-shirts and a plethora of tattoos, is the line-up. Thursday night was quite a line-up even if you knew a decent bit about the festival. While it was getting tough-guy crowded for the Cro-Mags over at Emo's, I planted myself at Mohawk to see Converge absolutely knock it out in 30 minutes - and possibly one of the best 30 minutes of music I've ever witnessed. But I'm definitely getting ahead of myself.
The opening Trap Them was a band heavy on rock and aggression. The technicality and brute force of the band's set as it evolved in the dwindling daylight certainly set the mood of the night. By the fourth song, no fucks were given, and vocalist Ryan McKenney broke open his nose/mouth in blood - an opening statement to a weekend that will most likely see more of the same.
After a bold start, Touche Amore took the stage to an even bigger crowd of fans. On the edge of their second full-length release, Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, the band didn't let up (except for technical difficulty with the drums), per usual, when "Cadance" was played, Jeremy Bolm dropped the mic and nothing but a scream-a-long was heard throughout the venue.
Title Fight took the stage to an even bigger crowd. Coming off the success of the more melodic Shed, fans are still sticking by the young band's gritty decor of driven punk music notable to that of Fat Wreck, BYO Records and their current label - Side One Dummy. It sheds a simple light on the fact that no matter how much the "sound of punk" changes over time - emo, screamo, post, pop, hardcore, etc. - there are always going to be kids, outcast and passion from a younger generation searching for answers they're not getting from the likes of the Leave it to Beaver, Pleasantville, "American Dream" society we're all taught to believe in from the beginnings of kindergarten to our first year in debt and middle class squaller.
So after Title Fight left the stage, it was gutted clean, and we all waited patiently for the arrival of Converge. Due to news received earlier that day, we all knew Converge were driving as fast as possible to get to the show before leaving home to take care of personal matters. After ten minutes past the original starting point, we were told the band would play inside - a capacity at least three times smaller than the crowd waiting outside. As some of us quickly made our way inside, we were then told the band would be playing outside again to a shortened set. With a quick set-up and not much of soundcheck, Converge plowed through one of the most powerful sets I've seen a band play ever. In a little over 30 minutes, I've never seen a crowd lose their shit in one act of pent up aggression and fun. (Surprisingly, only only kid got kicked out.) There's not really much I can say that could exceptionally put into words how amazing Kurt Ballou is at his craft. Besides his engineer work, his guitar skills are unholy, unreal and relentless. Sometimes it looks like he's not even trying. Even in Nate Newton's medical state, he still murdered his bass against Ben Koller's drums. What hasn't been said about Jacob Bannon's attitude towards crowds, life, and this scene that Converge has been staple of for almost two decades now. A band that continues to keep both old and new comers to hardcore on their toes in their technical prowess and intensity. It's very hard not to find a hardcore band not influenced by the group, and in the past five years, I've definitely come to more than appreciate everything the band has to offer to the table.
Bands like Converge are necessary to continue what is right in the punk scene: ethics, musical progression, honing of talents and continual support of the word "community." It's about playing down to the bullshit, but welcoming newcomers into something special. Unfortunately I missed the inside bands (very bummed about missing The Menzingers), but I was quite wiped out from work earlier in the day. Festivals like Chaos in Tejas and Fest are necessary. For some it's a family reunion of sorts. Others, it may open their ears to missing links in their back catalog. For me, especially after last night's show, it's about seeing that the ideals of punk - the rawest rooted morals and common threads of angst, will be around from generation to generation for some time.