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Spirit Caravan, King Parrot and Pilgrim Said Good Bye To Tired SXSW Attendees

Saturday, March 14, the roads seem quiet compared to the previous night. Part of this was due to my moving back to Red River Street and away from Dirty Sixth. Everybody seemed tired, and as a publicist opined to me, Thursday morning's crash on Red River casted bad mojo onto the festivities. Whatever the cause, there was no 1001 person to flood a capacity venue.

Not did I notice a dip in attendance, everybody seemed lethargic. Iron Reagan front man told the crowd he was happy this was their last performance. Not exactly an enthusiastic statement, but I think most people were in agreement. All the bands on the night's bill played in the venue's semi-enclosed outdoor location. Inside, people conversed over a cold brew, played pool, enjoyed the venue's incredible jukebox or bought merch.

Although Spirit Caravan was billed as headliner, the show did not contain a stoner-doom theme. However, it seemed that way with Pilgrim opening and Spirit Caravan closing the concert. Due to the extended length of their songs, Pilgrim played a seemingly short set. They opened with the intro from their sophomore Metal Blade release "II: Void Worship." This segued into the Silver Screen diabolic rhythms of the next track " Master's Chamber."

We visited the merch table to purchase a couple Spirit Caravan shirts. While inside, we heard the down-tempo churnings of Vaporizer. Keyboards accompanied their doom metal movements. However, the band shifted its speed and headed into death/grind territory, ala Pig Destroyer-eque pig squeals, as I entered the outdoor stage. I liked the group's variety, but it felt as if I were witnessing two bands. I'm still on the fence about Vaporizer.

I missed Lazer/Wulf perform at the American Icon Records show at Beerland on Tuesday, so I was curious to see what this group is all about. Just two years in the making, the band seems mature as musicians, artists and performers. Singer Bryan Aiken pranced around the stage like a clown to the band's opening circus romp, one that made me think of Mr. Bungle. The Athens, Georgia natives were an eccentric sort. Descriptive tags such as "technical," "progressive" and "experimental" come to mind when describing their sound. The tight play between bassist, Sean Peiffe and drummer Brad Rice was of considerable note. Kick ass drummers was one of the night's themes, as you'll see when I discuss Henry Vasquez of Spirit Caravan.

Vattnet Viskar took the stage around 10:30. This was their second consecutive year playing SXSW. The band came to Austin supporting its "Sky Swallower" album released by Century Media last September. Samples, fast, sustained-note guitar picking and pedal effects swamped the band in ambience. The ambience was often of a sideways, post-metal swagger, that moved guitarist, Chris Alfieri, to posture towards the speakers.

King Parrot received the best slot of the night. They played around 11:20 to the biggest and most active crowd of the night. We heard a little about the Australian band from a group of ladies also from the Land Down Under. Vocalist Youngy possessed a deranged, screaming pitch not unlike Corporate Death of Macabre. One lyric, "heave-ho," led me to assume the band has their own take on "pirate metal," but further research makes me think otherwise. King Parrot was a pleasant surprise to this year's festival. They were another band I was glad to discover.

As noted at the beginning of the article, Iron Reagan's crowd was lethargic compared to the previous night. Although the amount of bodies had thinned as had the enthusiasm, Iron Reagan still brought it hard and heavy. Once again, the band concluded with their crossover rendition of Cannibal Corpse's "Skull Full of Maggots."

Spirit Caravan conveyed a dissimilar mood from the previous three bands, so in terms of moshing one would not expect to see much crowd movement (tell that to the shithead who broke my leans-turning pinkie during Saint Vitus three years ago!). Head banging, fist pumping, singing and air guitaring were the order of the day, and many of the same fans who were active during Pilgrim's set. Wino sang with smooth aggression, kicking the air when a certain riff caught him the right way. Dave Sherman and Henry Vasquez mastered the beat. I enjoyed the melodic refrain and pedal effects heard on the tracks plucked from their "Jug Fulla Sun" and "Elusive Truth" albums. Vasquez's hit the skins with a splendid gusto.

Other than the auto atrocity, SXSW lived up to its expectations, good and bad. I often found myself straightening as tight as possible when there wasn't an inch between me and the next person. I made new friends, discovered new bands while consorting with familiar faces from in an out of town. One of the drawbacks to this year's festival I heard from many lips was the lack of headliners. Even though Spirit Caravan isn't as popular as Clutch, High On Fire or other bands of this ilk, the group put on a top notch performance, at a level one would expect from this legendary stoner-doom lineup.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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