SXSW Music 2011, Day 1: Dax Riggs, Housecore Showcase and More
Band Photo: Dax Riggs (?)
SXSW Music officially began on Wednesday, March 16th. My schedule was jam-packed and I quicky fell behind on reporting on the days’ events at the conference, which started with an interactive conference on March 11th.
Despite being out late for a show the night before, I decided to head over to the conference center to catch my first music talk: “Welcome to the Music Business - You’re Fucked.” I didn’t have great expectations from the description alone. Once seated, I was hearing great things about the speaker, who turned out to be Martin Atkins, author of “Tour:Smart” and former drummer for Ministry and Killing Joke among others.
His talk was like a stand up comedy routine - the entire audience was laughing frequently from start to finish - yet highly informative as well. He not only dropped the f- bomb dozens of times, but went into detail on how it was used 166 times in his book and how that was scaled back (from like 175). Early on he also told the audience of an accident that has left his penis without feeling. While totally irrelevant, if not inappropriate, this became his staple to interject into scenarios throughout the talk, just like a true comedian would.
Silliness and shock value aside, Mr. Atkins covered a number of ways that artists hurt themselves and then tips on how to be successful in today’s musical landscape. Tips like “don’t be an asshole,” while seemingly unhelpful, certainly rang true and he had entertaining anecdotes to tell in each case. Others were more helpful and he spent a good bit of time talking about how “free is the new black.” He was pretty convincing, but perhaps didn’t stress enough how to leverage free. While practically a necessity these days, free is still a marketing tactic, and bands should be collecting emails and making connections with these free downloads.
After lunch, I headed over to Emo’s to catch Dax Riggs play. Even though his solo music sounds nothing like Acid Bath, traces still shine through in his vocals. He opened up with “I Hear Satan;” not one of my favorites, but a gloomy number that set the atmosphere perfectly. Dax played a mixed set, about half of the material from his latest effort, “Say Goodnight to the World,” as well as previous material. What might have been from his past solo effort, Deadboy & the Elephantmen, or Agents of Oblivion, I could not say, however, but it was all good and heavy on atmosphere. Despite his relatively mellow set, it was great to finally see Dax perform live.
With nothing else in particular to see at Emo’s at the moment, I headed down the street with some folks to check out Turbid North, who recently signed to Ironclad Recordings. Ben of MetalSucks briefly compared them to Skeletonwitch, but what I liked about this band even more is that they could slow things down and go off on a jam once in a while. They definitely preferred the speedier, more extreme end of the spectrum, but with the change ups, they seemed fairly dynamic as well.
I headed back to Emo’s to chat for a while before walking down the street to Headhunter’s to check out Mose Giganticus. The band was playing the small upstairs room with a dozen or so people there to watch. The band didn’t have much room to play, but belted out a few songs in their progressive/alternative heavy style. Their sound is really hard to categorize, but I liked what I heard. Then the trouble began. A circuit was tripped and the mic cut out. They got it fixed and restarted. It blew again before they could finish the song. On the third time, they apologized and called it quits, with five songs left on their set.
I headed back down the street to Emo’s once again to see if anything was going on before heading back to the hotel to ditch my backpack.
I returned to Emo’s later that night for the Housecore Records showcase. I entered just as a band (I think Ponykiller) was finishing up. Skrew was up next. Skrew has been around since the early nineties and if I’m not mistaken, I may have even seen them open for the Genitorturers back in the day (THAT was a show I'll never forget!). These guys played their own style of industrial metal with a touch of the south and sounded pretty good that night, if somewhat forgettable since I didn’t know any of their songs.
haarp took the stage next. They played their own sludgy form of groove metal with some raw, guttural vocals. The most memorable part of their set was vocalist Shaun Emmons wading into the crowd and offering the mic to scream into as well as headbanging with them. His approach was almost confrontational, and he seemed a bit “out of it,” but it was entertaining to watch his crowd interactions nonetheless.
As Warbeast set up, I was literally falling asleep whether sitting or standing. I vowed to make it through their set, as Warbeast (voted “Best Metal Newcomers” by our staff) was one of the top bands I’d set out to see while at SXSW. They finally took the stage and exploded with what I would describe as “dirty Texas thrash.” The band definitely sounded looser than on their studio album, “Krush The Enemy,” and there was a certain grit and unrefined feeling to their authentic 80s-style thrash that you’d be hard pressed to find from Bay-area thrash bands. The raw vocal delivery of Bruce Corbitt (Rigor Mortis), which is a bit rougher than most thrash vocalists, only helped contribute to this sound. This is not a criticism by any means; Warbeast had all the raw energy and thrash riffs one would expect and did not disappoint (but again, I didn’t really know the songs by name).
Nothing could keep me on my feet for another 10 minutes, however, and when Warbeast was done, I headed out satisfied and vowing to catch Arson Anthem another time.
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