SXSW metal scene report: Thrasher Death Match, Trash Talk and more
By Andy O’Connor
Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 15, 2014
Thrasher Death Match was once again the place to be for metalheads and punks during SXSW on Friday. Dallas thrash unit Power Trip were a little late getting on stage – but you try being on time the Friday of SXSW with a smile on your face. The exhaustion was starting to set in for everyone, performer and attendee alike. Vocalist Riley Gale was holding a PBS mic for some of the set, in tribute to the PBS reporter that moshed during their set at Pitchfork’s Show No Mercy showcase at Mohawk on Tuesday. They had several shows that day, and while the wear was showing a little bit, “Crossbreaker” sounded no less vicious. Los Angeles’ Obliterations (who, again, are not the Norwegian death metal band Obliteration) gave the crowd no quarter at double the speed, blitzing through songs that sounded like Ron Asheton sending Iggy Pop to a k-hole from beyond the grave. Singer Sam James Velde, who organizes The Power of the Riff festival in Los Angeles, said during the set that “every piece of life feels like an SNL skit.” Even if some elements surrounding heavy music are comical, Obliterations were dead serious about tell subtlety to take a hike.
The highlight of the day, easily, was Trash Talk’s last minute show in the Beerland patio. Where they play, trouble’s not far behind. At least two people jumped off the roof of the patio, including one particularly eager kid in a Crudos shirt. Plenty of people crowed surfed despite the sidewalk of Red River not quite in the same league as Red 7 or North Door. Once again, vocalist Lee Spielman’s charisma was super-charged. People lifted him up without question, and he got a big circle pit going around a bike rack. The sound was muffled, but that’s not why a crowd was present. Of course, the cops showed up, including the chief himself, Art Acevedo. Guess he wanted a signed copy of Awake? Spielman pleaded with the cops to play one more song, which was not granted, but he – and the audience – knew that if a police presence wasn’t exactly a goal, it was definitely anticipated. A bunch of punk kids don’t present the threat a drunk driver does, but one can’t be surprised that the police weren’t lenient, especially given Wednesday night’s incident. His plead came off as just an act.
Punk ruled the evening with the Chaos in Tejas showcase. Last year’s showcase featured Power Trip, powerviolence touring machine Iron Lung, Bay Area rapper Antwon, Tampa dream-pop-punks Merchandise, and the Queen Diva of Bounce Big Freedia. This year wasn’t as diverse, instead more focused on Chaos head Timmy Hefner’s modern punk picks. Tony Molina has been a fixture in the Bay Area hardcore scene, but his solo project sounds like Bob Mould on a Thin Lizzy bender. You get hooked in with the pop edge, you stay for the searing solos straight out of Johnny the Fox. He’s also mentioned Weezer as an influence, and there’s a little of that in those songs too. Three guitarists, including Molina, might have been a little excessive, but they were piercing and clear. Hefner’s always had a soft side for punk’s more melodic wing, having put local heroes The Marked Men and Brooklyn-by-way-of-Denton band Parquet Courts on previous editions of Chaos. He also knows who’s making waves in the world of loud and fast. Arizona volume obsessives Destruction Unit started with their heavy garage-psych that eventually turned into freeform noise. They jammed and jammed, and it felt like a cleansing of the brain. Perfect P, one of the most talked about bands at SXSW, also played the Chaos showcase. If you heard their sets was loud and short, well, this one was too. The night before, after a late night bridge show, they threw a bass off the river. No such tossing happened here. Official showcases don’t bring out the energetic kids that day parties do, and while there were dedicated fans in the front for both, most of the crowd just looked in subtle approval. There’s a reason day parties are more fun.