Misfits, Flag, Subhumans Bring Punk/Hardcore Roots To Austin.
Misfits, Flag (an assemble of Black Flag's earliest cast) and Subhumans certainly need no introduction to the punk world. The legacy passed down by these artists not only changed the landscape of punk, but music in general. Even though Jerry Only sang Glenn Danzig's parts and Keith Morris was in charge of songs later made famous by Henry Rollins, fans still shouted the words and slammed in manic appreciation. With the exception of Misfits, who played a club show as part of the FFF Nites attraction, the Black stage--the stage I primarily report--focused on punk rock. Day two of my first FFF experience in 2011 operated with a similar punk roots bands The Damned and Negative Approach.
This is a short history of the Black Stage, the place for heavy, dark and angry music. Because Metalunderground.com is a metal publication, I've set my gaze to the black stage the last three years. When the Black Stage doesn't offer something of interest to me or MU's fans, I venture into other areas of the festival. I saw people playing video games, drawing on massive murals, wrestlers grapple in a ring and bikers and skaters flying around a half-pipe. I managed to find a way into the Yellow Stage to hear Patton Oswalt tell hilarious yarns about how much Nickleback and Creed suck and confess to an experience with a hooker that didn't quite go as the madam of the night expected. I hope the Yellow Stage gets an upgrade from tent to stage in future FFF outings as press was locked out of seeing star comedians Craig T. Robinson and Tenacious D on the second day.
While the activities of FFF '13 were mostly the same, FFF ramped up the Nites version in a SXSW-type fashion with artists converging into clubs around the city. Since my assistant and I chose to hit both the parks and the clubs, we entered the park late in the day. We missed the popular hardcore sounds of Ceremony, which left Quicksand on the radar--the second-to-last-artist of the night on the Black Stage.
Quicksand has a sound often described as "post-hardcore" or "alternative metal" and has been compared to Fugazi and Helmet. The group made major waves in the early nineties touring with major names such as Anthrax, White Zombie, Rage Against the Machine and Warped Tour. It disbanded twice and made its latest reemergence in 2012. I recognized the name, so I figured this group was worth checking out. This year the photo pit was divided by a platform, which guitarist/vocalist Walter Schreifels, and most other acts, used to energize the crowd. For all the energy and hype surrounding Quicksand, their mid-paced rumbles quickly lost my attention.
My interest never waned during Flag. I made sure to find a spot right up front to photograph this historic performance, which meant being smashed into the barricade, but it was worth it. Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson, and Dez Cadena with Stephen Egerton were not only early members of Black Flag, these members have also starred in bands such as Off, Descendents (who also played FFF '13) and Circle Jerks. Founding guitarist, Greg Ginn kept the name Black Flag, but the majority of fans I spoke with said the version on stage was much better.
Guitarist Chuck Dukowski wore an outfit better suite for Ska, red pants, red fisherman's hat and red-and-white checkered shirt. He didn't give off an impression that a freight train was ready to plow through Auditorium shores, but the music spoke for itself. Chuck combined his guitar with Dez to create a wall of sound that was raw and primal. The dreadlocked Keith Morris serenaded the crowd with pure anger, frustration and a bit of sarcastic humor. Rabid fans shouted words about "Revenge, "Depression," and police brutality "Police Story" and the infectious lyrics of "Gimme Gimme Gimme."
We left for the bus near the end of Flag's set, headed for downtown to catch UK anarchist punks, Subhumans at Mohawk club. The speed, anger, groove and political ideas contained in the Subhuman's back catalogue make them one of the UK's greatest punk artists.
Speaking of back catalogs, the UK act was billed to perform the entire "Cradle to the Grave" album. I'm not sure if this happened at the Nite show because usually bands perform an album from beginning to end in chronological order. This was not the case, as the group led its pit-whirling fans in classic material such as "Rats," "Business Men," "Animal" and "This is Not an Advert." When not dancing between songs or rapid-fire shooting lyrics, front man, Dick Lucas pointed out the wrongs of our society such as perfume companies testing their products on animals. The Mohawk hosted one of the better performances of the weekend, one we couldn't pass up on the second day at the park.
"If you want to scream, scream with me" yelled Jerry Only as the Misfits played "Hybrid Moments." There were plenty of fiends screaming in Elysium's pack crowd. The electro-industrial-goth club was so full that a line ran around the block. We sat in quiet peacefulness across the street at Valhalla, waiting for a moment to enter. Laser lights, comfy seating, televisions projecting the band's performance and the cleanest club on Red River always makes for a good show at the club, although it seemed much too small for this particular one.
I last saw the Misfits in '99 when Michael Graves fronted the group. Much has changed since then. Jerry Only took over vocal duties and has grabbed punk rock hall of famers such as Marky Ramone into the fold. Tonight, Dez Cadena took the place of Jerry's brother, Doyle (read about his performance with Danzig at FFF 2011) , on guitar. Cadena's ghoulish green face paint gave him a different persona than his earlier showing with Flag. The Crimson Ghost adorned the bass drums of Eric "Chupacabra" Arce. Misfits have always been one of the more visual bands in punk and the stage was received a major upgrade of materials since the last time I saw them. Only's mic stand was constructed from a skeleton and the Crimson Ghost glowed in the center of fake-stone pillars.
Stage props were the highlight of Misfits' set. I suppose that doesn't hold true for a first-timer, but having listened to Danzig and Graves on the mic, Jerry Only didn't quite make the cut, not to mention they had bad sound. Only's and Cadena's harmonizing during songs such as "20 Eyes" worked well. The crowd seemed to know every lyric including more recent material. Their set offered choice cuts from throughout their career including Michael Graves-led classic "Dig Up Her Bones," "American Psycho" and the doom-trodden "The Abominable Doctor Phibes." "Vampira," "Horror Biz," "She" and "Static Age" were just a few of the Danzig-era tunes belted out by the band. Singings songs about famous monsters and Ed Wood characters was fun, it's always fun, but I can't see dishing out the cash to see a group containing only one original member.
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