Up bright and early for a full day of rock madness as only SXSW can provide, Thursday began with the Buddyhead / Buzzgrinder showcase. I arrived in time to catch the entire set from Toronto, Canada’s stoner / psych masters Quest For Fire. The band played several songs from their self-titled Tee Pee Records debut, lashing out with long, drugged out ambiance, fuzzy riffs, and a general murkiness that sounds all the more interesting at 12:30 in the afternoon. Featuring former members of Deadly Snakes and Cursed, Quest For Fire are no strangers to the road, having toured with the likes of Nebula, Pink Mountaintops, Chylde [see below], and more. The band’s shadowy music fit their stage presence as their lead guitarist and bassist stuck mostly behind the pulled back curtains at Annie’s West. The band joked about the environment of the show, introducing themselves as the “Barroom Bunnies,” before bursting into extended mind bending blasts of sludge and warped guitar effects.
Next up at the showcase were Los Angeles’ up-and-coming psych/pop youngsters Slang Chickens. Having recently acquired their debut album released on Psychedelic Judaism, I was somewhat familiar with their songs, but had no idea what to expect from the live show. I was in for a real treat, as the four piece lit up the sunny patio with their vibrant brand of psychedelic western folk punk. Playing like a twisted pop amalgamation of Sgt. Pepper, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, and a sunny country twang, it was obvious the band were having a great time. Luscious harmonies, scratchy garage rock tone, punk rock enthusiasm, and Beach Boys inspired melodies made Slang Chickens one of my absolute favorite performances of the conference. The band delivered a wide range of instrumentation including acoustic guitar, electric slide, banjo, and harmonica amongst the usual electric guitar, bass, and drums. Playing songs from their debut, highlights included “Tropics” "Black Don't Turn Blue" and “Let’s Microwave”. Their music joyously poured out the patio onto the street, attracting many people walking by to come in and catch their all to short performance.
The stoner rock heavy Converse / Thrasher Magazine / Small Stone Records Day Party at Encore was next on the agenda. The show kicked off with Buffalo, New York’s stoner psych quartet Chylde. These guys are the living embodiment of 70's psychedelic metal. Their look and sound is entirely retro, but make no mistake, these guys can throw down in any time. Heavy entrancing riffs circle around the booming PA system, as bassist Thor Von Johannsen's waist length hair whipped around during intense jam sessions. The band is dedicated to their live performances, constantly touring the country, and it shows. The guys playing is very tight as they warp through the haze of songs from their debut album Now It Can Be Told.
Taking a momentary break from the stoner rock riffage of the afternoon, Austin, TX’s own Magnet School took the stage, performing their signature blend of alternative space rock, post-punk, and shoegaze. Opening with the monstrous builder "Seventensplit" from their Arclight Records debut “Tonight!,” singer/guitarist Michael J Wane shouted out the anthemic chorus, “tonight we drink, tomorrow we battle the evil at hand,” with the excited audience belting out each line with the band. The foursome broke into several other songs from the album, including “XX” "Crush" and “The Ghost of Duane” as well as two brand new songs, an untitled instrumental number that surged with shifting time signatures and wall of sound guitars, and “The Sitch,” the band’s new single to be released on a limited edition white vinyl 7” split with Dallas’ Dead Twins this coming Tuesday. Guitarists Wane and Mark Ford took turns handling vocal duties, as the booming rhythm section of Brandon Tucker and Jason Ferguson provided the structure and backbone to complement the massive layering and soaring guitars.
Outside at Encore, the southern sting of stoner inflicted blues metal was in full force for Boston’s Roadsaw. Looking more like Lynyrd Skynyrd than Black Sabbath, the band chugged with a metal stomp and loose grooving guitar solos that poured from their lead guitarist at any given time. The band reminded me of a combination between the stoner soul vocals of Kyuss' John Garcia and Orange Goblin’s own brand of sludge covered blues metal, as lead singer Riggs melodically hollered out the vocals with all the bad ass stoner charm one could ask for.
Small Stone Records continued the show with another Boston based act, the grunge inspired GOZU. The band stormed into their distorted doom-funk trudge, immediately recalling the sheer power of band’s like Clutch and Soundgarden. Lead singer Marc Gaffney’s voice is reminiscent of the early howl of Chris Cornell, highlighting his vocal abilities as he shifts from low baritone flawlessly into his higher pitched registers with dark haunting beauty and heaviness.
Just outside of the downtown mayhem, Killredrocketrecords, a small independent label based out of Austin were throwing a two day pool party showcase at the Metropolis Apartments, a quaint little complex with a design job straight of your most vivid hallucinations. The buildings were painted as though the entire community was living on mushrooms, in a most awesome and unique way. To further paint the picture, the pool area where the concert was being held contained natural palm trees interspersed with artistic steel ones alongside the pool and elevated patio stage. I arrived just in time to catch the final song of The Fever Dreams’ set, an experimental local Austin band, known for their lengthy songs and penchant to push the progressive envelope.
Monument To No One followed, playing their triumphant mix of early 90’s space rock, indie rock, and some slight progressive tendencies from the rhythm section of Dan Skarbek (drums) and Mike (bass). Lead singer Eli Slate opened with a story about Stephen Malkmus beginning a show amid having to pee, without being able to use the bathroom for the entire set, saying he too would be trying to perform under the same unfortunate circumstances. The band broke into their Built to Spill meets Hum sound in angular waves, playing truly exceptional renditions of songs from their debut album in the way I imagine they were always meant to be heard. The band locked into grooves and extended musical jams with precision and a great deal of technique, shifting between winding guitar segments and wide drifting phased out space distortion. Lead guitarist Steve Anderson broke a string, which Slate used as the perfect opportunity to use the restroom, while the rhythm section rocked out together on an impromptu jam session that served to be a highlight of the performance. With the full band back and ready to deliver, MTNO concluded their set with "Mountaineers" and “Planetary,” a personal favorite of mine.
Killredrocketrecords’ own Bloody Knives is a two piece shoegaze tour-de-force, consisting of two thirds of the former members from The Joy Bus. The band played a blisteringly loud and sonically noisy set of tracks that expanded in the open space of the outdoors. Knowing they were playing again on Friday, I left their set in the middle to secure a spot at Stone Temple Pilots only appearance. As I walked to the car to head back into town, Bloody Knives massive programmed feedback and distortion sounded pristine and crisp from well over 500 feet away. For a full review of their set, check out my recap of Friday’s shows.
Thursday night belonged solely to one band, one of the most iconic bands of our generation, and they wasted no time proving why. Stone Temple Pilots took the stage at the Austin Music Hall to a jam packed audience that grew more excited every with every moment. The band launched into their set with “Vasoline” and didn’t let up till they were finished; playing through classics including “Creep,” “Interstate Love Song,” “Plush,” “Big Empty,” “Sex Type Thing,” “Wicked Garden” and more. The band also performed first glimpses of several songs from their upcoming record, including lead single “Between the Lines,” as well as “Bagman,” “Hickory Dichotomy,” and “Huckleberry Crumble”. The songs fit comfortably in the set amongst the classics, and will be available on the bands new self-titled album due out on May 25th. The DeLeo brothers, Robert and Dean, have an unbelievable connection, as they rip through extended solos on tracks like "Dead and Bloated" and "Sour Girl" with style and grace. Time and time again people have said that lead singer Scott Weiland is looking better and better, and for once, it's true. Weiland hit every single gorgeous melodic note, even embellishing on several songs, all while showcasing his trademark dance moves. If STP weren’t enough excitement already, the band brought out original Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger who joined the band for a performance of “Roadhouse Blues”. The band closed with an anthemic rendition of “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” a song whose chorus seems to speak for the band better than any… “I’m not dead and I’m not for sale / Hold me closer, closer let me go / Let me be, just let me be”.
(photo courtesy of LAWeekly.com)
(photo courtesy of LAWeekly.com)