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Skinny Puppy Enthralled Fans At Fun Fun Fun Nites Show

Photo of Converge

Band Photo: Converge (?)

2015 marked the ten-year anniversary of Austin’s favorite variety festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest. As with past years the festival hosted multiple color-coded stages of genres including rap, indie rock, electronic and comedy. Also, skate ramps and a wrestling ring were on hand. Games were placed throughout Auditorium Shores park to maximize the element of fun. This being Metalunderground.com, though, these following reports will focus on the Black Stage where punk and metal took place.

The forecast called for rain on the first day so many of the attendees were dressed for the weather. Fortunately, it only drizzled. Nothing was the first band I took in on the Black Stage. The Philly-based act released “Guilty of Everything” in 2014 via Relapse Records. They had a nineties alternative sound that fit well with many of the artists at FFF this year. Their guitar sound was noisy, too, which they’ve been branded as a noise rock outfit (another 90s-ism). They sounded good but didn’t do much to keep my interest.

Mutoid Man was a different a story. The band consisting of members of Cave In (Stephen Brodsky, vocals and guitar) and Converge (drummer Ben Koller) were energetic, technical and filled with hooks. Brodsky cracked jokes between songs and hyped up his band mates. Brodsky’s finger tapping was most impressive. The band played fest and aggressive, but were streamlined and progressive. Mutoid Man is not a well-known name in the metal universe, but they’re definitely a band to watch out for. Look for their EP “Helium Head” and most recent full-length “Bleeder.”

Dwarves was part of the many great hardcore punk acts to grace the Black Stage over the weekend. Where other hardcore bands sing about unity and overcoming obstacles Dwarves are all about sex, drugs and rock and roll. This scum punk band has the most perverse lyrics this side of GG Allin, although not as confrontation as Allin was, having the guitarist’s cod piece thrust into your eyes could be considered ocular assault. Yes, their guitarist wears a studded cod piece, which along with a pro wrestling mask and spiked gauntlet were his only articles of clothing. His ass shined in the mid-afternoon gloom. With bald head and long goatee, bassist Rex Everything was a familiar face. His birth name is Nick Oliveri and he is a stoner rock legend, having played with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss and Mondo Generator. It was a thrill watching him manipulate his bass. Singer Blag Dahlia tore through the group’s seminal 1990 release “Blood Guts & Pussy” in about fifteen minutes, playing such bluntly titled songs as “Let’s Fuck” and “Motherfucker.” Dahlia said the fest wouldn’t let him play only that album, so they did some shitty B-sides. Don’t let the obscenities and freak-show antics rule your only perception of this band because their music was fun and catchy.

Babes in Toyland were another nineties flashback band. The group disbanded in 2001 and reunited in 2014. Their 1992 album “Fontelle” received some commercial success including the song “Bruise Violet,” which found the dim-witted comments of “Beavis and Butthead.” They also played on Lollapalooza in 1993. Being an all-female act, the group inspired the riot grrrl movement, although they never cared to associate themselves with the movement. Their look and sound was befitting to the decade of the 90s. Their bassist, Clara Salyer (who is not the original) wore a stripped shirt with a button-up sweater and plaid skirts. Singer/guitarist Kat Bjelland looked much different from their videos with brown hair instead of blonde and noticeable aging. The sound was definitely grunge oriented with an emphasis on mid-paced grooves. Bjelland put on a good performance opting between being cute and aggressive.

Converge drummer Ben Koller pulled double duty today having slammed the skins for Mutoid Man earlier in the day. Koller was the anchor in Converge’s mathematical precision. He set all the time changes. Although they don’t identify with the term “math metal,” the band certainly played complexly timed songs. Converge is far from being a typical hardcore band. The group sprinkles their compositions with metal, thrash and grind. They’ve been described as a bunch of hardcore kids playing Slayer riffs. They were one of the more energetic bands of the weekend and spurned a few pits. In addition to playing guitar in Converge, Kurt Ballou is known was a first rate producer. In this case, he produced audio chaos.

Drive Like Jehu played next on the Black Stage, but I directed my attention to the Orange Stage to see classic rock outfit Cheap Trick. Formed in the early seventies, Cheap Trick has become one of America’s great rock acts. They have a day named after them in their home state of Illinois and were nominated for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. The group played bluesy rock anthems with plenty of solos via Rick Nielson. Nielson even brought out his custom made five-neck Hamer guitar. How does someone play a five-necked guitar? I don’t know, but he did it effortlessly. Near the end of the set, the band brought out their hits like “Surrender” and “I Want You To Want Me.” The chorus “Your Mommy's all right. Your Daddy's all right” from “Surrender” brought to mind the scene in “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” where Mike Damone was trying to sell Cheap Tricks tickets and he sang this chorus.

Fun Fun Fun Fest not only took place at Auditorium Shores park, the festival spread across town into indoor venues. Instead of staying for prog rock heroes Coheed And Cambria, I left the venue to make sure I didn’t miss any of the Skinny Puppy show at ACL Live (The Moody Theater). I’ve covered shows by Slayer and Alice Cooper for Metalunderground.com at this venue. The seating and lighting are top notch at The Moody Theater, which would prove perfect for an industrial show. Two-person electronic mavens Youth Code, the opening act for Skinny Puppy on their “Down the SocioPath Tour,” seemed a fitting act to join the great Skinny Puppy. They played melodic coldwave, powerful electronics, and even hardcore. Sara Taylor’s processed voice exuded attitude and her boyfriend, the man behind the knobs, Ryan George produced soundscapes that were both dance able and lamentable.

Skinny Puppy doesn’t have a guitar-oriented industrial sound like Ministry, but there is plenty of darkness in their music for extreme music fans to enjoy. Jeffrey Dahmer was one of those fans. The words demented and grotesque describe their performance. Decked in all black with black dreads and a gas mask, their guitarist took the stage in total darkness. A light shot a beam across the stage instead of into the audience, which illuminated the masked and hooded front man Ogre. A person wearing a bull mask with glowing red eyes affixed needles all over Ogre’s body. Blood dripped down his body. He would remove a syringe and squirt his own blood on his face and body. Brutal. Images of war and other blights filled the movie screen in the back. The beats, the lights and ogre’s psychotic vocals instilled a trance-like state upon its fans. The beats made people move but I was enthralled by the synth. Their synth gives the group this murderous atmosphere. From the clear sound to the theatrics, Skinny Puppy showed why they are innovators of the electro-industrial movement and why they still matter today.

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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