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FFF Fest: Black Stage overview

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Andy O’Connor

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 10, 2013

Now, THIS is how you kick off a festival stage.

Unlocking the Truth are a trio of seventh-graders from Brooklyn who would set up their gear outside of subway stops and shred out. They gained the attention of W. Kamau Bell and were featured on his show “Totally Biased.”

Despite being slotted early on day two at 12:50 p.m., plenty of people came out to see what the buzz was about. Unlocking the Truth are better than most grizzled dudes in their 40s trying to do the same thing, and it’s mainly because of their youthful vigor. Their music wasn’t the most original, but if they’re this good now, who knows what they’ll become once they hit drinking age. It’s always positive to see young kids getting their kicks through their music — it’s a positive outlet, which is the most important thing here. Guitarist Malcom Brickhouse ran into some amp problems, which forced the band to trim their set, but drummer Jarad Dawkins made the most of the down time by riffing with the crowd. This demonstrated a professionalism bands twice or triple their age would kill for.

Judge was more receptive toward staged-divers than Ice-T was, but their set was marred by a lackluster sound that didn’t capture the crunch of their metallic hardcore. FFF banks on reunions, and this was not one of the more successful ones. Retox were another early highlight, their frenzied, tense punk giving quite the gut punch following Unlocking the Truth. Vocalist Justin Pearson is also in the Locust, who are also playing the festival, but Retox serves as a more accessible entry point into his work. Melt Banana’s spastic attack proved they’re among Japan’s rock elite alongside Boris and Acid Mothers Temple. White Lung weren’t worn out by their performance the previous night at Mohawk — in fact, they took to their afternoon set as if it was a night show.

The hotly-anticipated Body Count were in line with the ’90s nostalgia that has permeated FFF for quite some time. The band, led by Ice-T, is most famous for their 1992 song “Cop Killer,” the most incendiary takedown of the LAPD following the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Plenty of people joined in the anti-police chant made famous by the song, despite that most of them would probably call the police if something really went down. Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys came out toward the end of “Killer,” which made the crowd even more uproarious. Ice-T even clowned on the fact that he plays a cop on “Law and Order: SVU.” Body Count also performed a cover of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” but changed the lyrics to riff on playing X-Box and slandering Oprah. Are they the threat they once were? No, even if some would like to think they are.

Tributes to Jeff Hanneman, Slayer’s fallen guitarist, abounded at the Black Stage on Saturday. Brickhouse was sporting a guitar with the cover of “Seasons in the Abyss” painted on the body. Body Count performed “Disorder,” the set of Exploited covers Ice-T recorded with Slayer for the “Judgment Night” soundtrack. Michael Crain, the guitarist from Retox, pointed to the Slayer tattoo on his right arm right after the band concluded.