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SXSW 2014: Spirit Caravan

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Andy O’Connor

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 16, 2014

This SXSW felt more draining than SXSWs past – even without the Mohawk tragedy, the fact that music officially started on Tuesday (and that’s not taking the Interactive parties into consideration!) extended the week more than one would think. The fest needed an out-of-the-park closer, and it got one with reunited Maryland doom metal trio Spirit Caravan’s performance at the Red Eye Fly, as part of the Tone Deaf Touring showcase.

After disbanding in 2002, the group is once again making the case for the timelessness of Maryland doom, and the group is steeped in history. Guitarist and vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich is arguably the state’s most well-known metal figure, having played in esteemed groups like Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, and The Hidden Hand. Bassist Dave Sherman sings for Earthride, another long-standing and respected Maryland band, and also one covered by Hank Williams III. Drummer Gary Isom has played in Pentagram, one of the most notorious bands from the area in no small part due to vocalist Bobby Liebling’s songwriting prowess and drug addiction. Isom quit right before the tour, so they brought in Saint Vitus’ current drummer, Dallas native Henry Vasquez.

Doom metal is all about low tones, and Spirit Caravan benefitted from a sound system that more than accommodated such. Wino’s tone couldn’t have been clearer or heavier, whether he was playing a new custom guitar or a beat-up Strat with a new neck. His voice hasn’t changed in the decades he’s been going at it, except that maybe it sounds closer to his actual age. In his playing and singing, you can hear the staph infections and the broke days and thrown vases from tumultuous relationships, but most of all, you hear the healing that comes from releasing all of this.

This project dropped the biker tropes of The Obsessed and the gloominess of Saint Vitus, and is instead more of a restoration from ills. Aftet this week, we all needed some of that. Wino can play a mean slide guitar too, and when he gets on a juicy riff, he lets that riff ride. Spirit Caravan sounded like old buddies playing with a youthful outlook, rare for bands of their status. Players knew each other well, but not well enough so things sounded too familiar. For some reason, Vasquez had a habit of throwing drum sticks into the crowd for no reason, but it wasn’t much concern. Spirit Caravan played until 2:05, and everyone wanted them to play longer, except the club not looking to rack up fines. People wanted MORE music after 2:00 on the last day of SXSW. If that doesn’t speak to how great Spirit Caravan were, nothing will.