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Some Thoughts on Chaos in Tejas

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published June 3, 2013

The ninth and perhaps final (at least in its current, 100+ band form) punk, metal and other music festival Chaos in Tejas took place at various venues around town May 30 to June 2. Like most C.iT. fests, it was at various moments thrilling and exhausting, inspiring and dull (look, one can only listen to wall to wall screaming for so long).

Best visual, non-performance-based? Easily the contrast between the sea of tattered black jeans, black band patches, black packs, black boots and black shirts that are the de facto uniform for folks at the hardcore end of Chaos, which was centered this year around the warehouse space at 1100 East Fifth St. and the folks lined up for Queerbomb at Pine Street Station across the street, most of whom were, as it were, more colorful. Seeing the good-natured confusion when someone from either group accidentally got in the wrong line was pretty excellent.

(A small irony: Queerbomb was the same night, June 1, that legendary punk en espanol band Los Crudos played a fearsome set at Chaos; Crudos is fronted by Martin Sorrondeguy, whose post-Crudos band Limp Wrist might be the greatest queer hardcore act of all time. Any shortlist of all-time punk frontmen must include Sorrodeguy, a Limp Wrist set at Queerbomb would have been, um, the bomb.)

Best set? Hard to know; there were glorious moments all over the place. Friday night, Japanese band Framtid owned the Mohawk outside stage, delivering on organizer Timmy Hefner’s assertion that they were one of the best live hardcore band around. Along with the aforementioned Crudos, they were astounding.

On Thursday, Parquet Courts’ terrifically-jammy guitar interaction reminded that band is just now finding its voice and a strong band is likely only to get stronger, Milk Music confused (and, honeslt,y mildly offended) a whole lot of fans with a song that sounded exactly like Johnny Thunders’ classic “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” while New Zealand headliners the Bats were a gloriously poppy box-check for dozens of long-time fans of NZ’s underground guitar strum-n-clang.

The Saturday breakfast (well, more like brunch) show at Cheer Up Charlie’s featured thunderous sets from up-and-coming Bay Area hardcore band Replica, comparative vets No Statik and scene-leading grinders Iron Lung. (The burch show also revealed which fans were from out of town. Texas residents were fine with temperatures in the low 90s all weekend; out of towners seemed to mildly freak out at the heat.)

Sunday night, power electronic outfits such as Puce Mary and Wolf Eyes (think: few, if any tradition rock instruments replaced with a table of electronic pedals, samplers, MPCs and keyboards) turned Holy Mountain into a shuddering howl, while 1100 East Fifth featured hellacious hardcore from reunited late ’80s band Infest and an earlier set by Hoax whose lead singer really enjoyed cutting his own forehead head open with the microphone. (I wonder if he owned the mic? One hopes so.)

And that was a mere fraction of the bands that played. You can’t really blame Hefner — far busier than he was nine years ago as an employee with bookers Ground Control Touring and with his record label, 540 Records — for wanting to scale back next year. Fewer bands, fewer venues, letting the tribe decrease a bit? Nothing wrong with refining one’s attack. As always, Chaos remains a fun weekend that one expects to stay high-quality in the future, whatever form it might take.