By Andy O’Connor
If you were able to get in – the will call line was absurd – the Black Stage had plenty of pre-Priest goodies. None could match the unrelenting presence of the metal legends, but many bands did well just by doing their own thing.
Arkansas doom magicians Pallbearer are probably not used to playing in the afternoon, but they didn’t let sunlight wilt them. "Worlds Apart" was mesmerizing to those in witness, and agonizingly teased those still waiting in line. Touring and acclaim have not worn down the band – they were tighter than ever. For a doom band, they sounded great in an outdoor setting, not letting the expanse compromise their majesty. Have faith they will sound even better at Elysium tonight.
Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine followed soon after, bringing a completely different tone. Biafra is most famous for his political spoken word and his work with Bay Area punk band Dead Kennedys. He’s never been shy with his opinions, and yesterday was no exception. He dissed Alex Jones, Barack Obama (a.k.a. "Barackstar O’Bummer"), Governor Rick Perry and Governor-elect Greg Abbott, among others. One has to wonder if he’s not just preaching to the converted and to those thinking "can this guy stop lecturing us so we can get drunk during Amon Amarth?" He encouraged the crowd to challenge people they know about their political views…which is true, but how many will actually go out and do that? It was weird hearing him talk about the Parental Advisory label controversy to a bunch of kids born in the 90s. Even so, the kids go for the classics: the Dead Kennedys songs "California Uber Alles" and "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," the latter of which he dedicated to the Tea Party. The hardcore fury of Biafra’s youth peaked again here, and even in his 50s, he’s not any less mad than he used to be.
Amon Amarth brought another radical shift, foregoing any political activism in favor of a Viking death metal party. This may seem like a contradiction, but next to Judas Priest, they got the most hands clapping on the Black Stage. Flanked by glorious banners of Viking battles, Amon Amarth are the sort of band that should be playing a bigger stage like this more often. They know their formula, they’ve got the presence, and they stuck to it all. No, there wasn’t a Viking ship, but the seas were still storming. Death From Above 1979 were the last band before the Metal Gods dawned upon the crowd, and while it was nowhere near as chaotic as their SXSW appearance at Beauty Bar (now Holy Mountain), which caused a riot, they could have used a little of that restlessness. The bass-and-drum dance-punk duo bobbed their heads and bounced around, but their absence showed. Connection was something they needed a little more of. It did come together more during their set, especially during "Romantic Rights." They weren’t loud enough, and except for Judas Priest, no band was loud enough.