Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012: The Sword, Red Fang, Brutal Truth Accept the Metal Command on Day Two
Red Fang drew my attention first during day two. Contrary to their name, Red Fang’s bite energized rather than paralyzed the crowd. Although they came from the land of fog and towering trees of Oregon, their riffs were the size of Texas and filled with a gritty quality not unlike the festival’s dusty, trodden paths. Their catchy rhythms, guitar solos and drum fills grabbed the modestly sized audience and injected groove into their stoned bones. With prior SXSW appearances, Red Fang has become a well-recognized force in Austin’s festival circuit. Make sure to check these guys out on their touring supporting the “Murder the Mountains” album.
Brutal Truth took the Black Stage next. I missed the first part of their set while trying to score an interview with Red Fang, but soaked in the rest of the band’s grinding malevolence. Lead growler, Kevin Sharp donned his regular garb—Panama hat, which seemed fitting for Austin’s history of cowboys and cattle ranches. His barefoot movements around the stage were like a karateka in a dojo. Legendary bassist Danny Lilker slapped his base with blinding speed and joined Sharp in a chorus of growls and screams unmatched in ferocity by any “Sound(s) of the Animal Kingdom.” Brutal Truth’s blast-beating intensity and punk rock mosh-ability were ideal for the fest’s mixed crowd of punks and metal heads.
The Spits are a fairly new band in terms of punk rock. The group didn’t clear their throats and hurl throat fluids at mohawks and mullets until the year 2000, although their sound seems culled from late ‘70s punkers such as The Ramones and Misfits. Wearing black robes depicting occult symbols, their theatrical imagery and keyboards was a far cry from the usual, stripped down punk aesthetic. Don’t let their appearance fool you, though, they played sloppy, garage punk. Fans gleefully sang each chorus line without shielding their faces from brown mouth-projectiles.
The Riverboat Gamblers constantly play Austin, so few stood wondering “who the hell is this band?” The Dallas-based band’s web site describes them as punk rock. Playing a modernized version of punk with many odes to the pop version of this musical style, their fashion and musical style shared little with The Spits. Some of The Riverboat Gambler’s riffs were heavy, while others exhibited a poppy fluffiness. The group’s singer moved vigorously around the stage, jumping around and emotively singing every note. The group’s lyrics partially made up for his voice, but The Riverboat Gamblers are not a band I’ll pursue.
After the above barrage of metal and punk rock artillery, I walked to the far end of the park to take in some comedy. David Cross of “Arrested Development,” “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret,” and many other movies and television shows headlined the Yellow Stage. He spun astute observations of Austin, including the facial hair and tattoos of our hipsters. He also told hilarious stories on such topics as colonics and anal sex. This scribe learned the hard way that some comedians don’t welcome crowd banter, while others do (read my next FFF report).
I blame my “heckling” on applying concert etiquette to comedy. I found myself back in familiar territory at 8pm yelling “The Sword!” The Sword has become one of the best selling new metal bands in America. Their recent album “Apocryphon” (read the review) charted as high as #17 on Billboard. In terms of selling records and touring, The Sword is not a local band, but it is in terms of geography. When The Sword plays a hometown show, expect a massive gathering.
With a kaleidoscopic explosion of light and psychedelic back drop, the band played a set heavy in new material but not forsaking its classics. The Sword didn’t run around the stage like prior punk bands; instead, they stood in place and jammed out—banging their heads and commanding their instruments. Just like Red Fang earlier, many of their rhythms possessed the groove to make your body move. Take the chugging riffs of Metallica and add the stoner reflexes of Black Sabbath and you’ll get a small piece of The Sword. This was definitely the best performance I’ve witnessed by these local heroes.
Refused resembles The Riverboat Gamblers because one genre tag doesn’t do the band justice. While the hardcore tag isn’t disputable, the group adheres to neither the early ‘80s nor the late ‘90s-present definition of the term. Their sound encapsulated both terms, while also relating an ounce of industrial metal. The modern hardcore breakdown was present, but not overbearing, complete with buzzing guitars and screaming vocals.
Refused started in the early ’90 and split in 1998, so taking the stage for the first time in fourteen years meant a special performance. The singer took an aggressive stance, riding the top of a pa like a ship captain braving white waves, and swung his microphone with hardcore zeal. Refused possesses a sound and stage show compatible with today’s hard music fan. This need not be said considering their YouTube video “New Noise” from their “The Shape of Punk to Come” album received over 2,000,000 hits.
Day two was longer, less stressful and offered more music than day one. Although I’m more familiar with day one’s groups, the bands on day two, including new discoveries, fill most of the day with excitement. Check back in soon to Metal Underground.com to read about day three.
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