Now, this was a show! An all out assault on all of the senses. Sound (blistering), sight (raging), smell (mixture of B.O, weed and shitty vape scents), touch (sweaty man bodies hurtling through the pit and into my unfortunate toe) and taste (mmmm….beer).
First week in October in Austin means the start of the most vanilla and safe of all festivals, Austin City Limits Fest. Overpriced and overbearing, it is usually just a shitshow of middle-aged assholes who have no real interest in music absent the pop flavor of the moment and the usual group of legacy artists and retreads. Needless to say, I was extremely happy to have a fantastic underground bill of metal’s finest as a more satisfying live music experience. What you had this evening is two separate metal tours playing Austin on the same evening and just doubling up the lineups at a single venue. The first half of the show was the Revocation/Voivoid/Psycroptic tour with the Napalm Death/Municipal Waste/Sick of It All lineup rounding out the evening.
Tasmania’s Psycroptic started out the evening’s festivities and started their set with a shout-out to ACL’s Friday night headliner, Guns N’ Roses. They thanked us all for deciding to attend their set instead of the Gunners and said that they were going to give us a full set of Guns N’ Roses covers as a salute to our sacrifice. Each song was preceded with an intro along the lines of “Let’s open up this pit because here’s “Welcome To the Jungle!!” and then proceeding into one of their ripping death metal tunes. Funny guys, these dudes.
Canada’s favorite sci-fi thrash weirdos Voivod took the stage next with a set that focused primarily on their latest album, The Wake. Although the guys are starting to show their age, their live show hasn’t lost a beat and the newer songs sound as alive and relevant as their older classic material.
Revocation found themselves in the weird position of playing the first headline set of the evening even though there were still three additional bands yet to play. I say it was a headline set because they were given an hour to play and they spent this time playing the entirety of their latest platter, The Outer Ones. Revocation is kind of a strange beast in that they are a thrash/death metal hybrid, but one that features a Berklee College of Music attendee in David Davidson. The result is that you have a a guy who creates some of the most note dense riffs and solos that you will find in the death metal genre.
Opening up the second set of bands was New York hardcore stalwarts Sick of It All. I’m not a big punk or hardcore guy, but I will say that there is something to seeing these bands perform live. The energy is infectious. The last time I saw Sick of It All was a number of years ago at an awesome festival we used to have in Austin called Fun Fun Fun (no longer a thing thanks in large part to C3 and ACL Fest being jealous little bitches). I had never heard any of their music before, but before I knew it, I was headlong raging in the middle of the circle pit (I say “raging…let’s be honest, it was more of a leisurely jog. This misadventure ended with me throwing my back out. Getting old sucks.) Bodies and middle fingers flying, this show was more of the same and was even more chaotic due to the tight confines of The Mohawk. I felt the urge to jump into the pit again, but put my physical well-being first this time around and just hung around the edges of the pit. The other weird thing I noticed during their set was the appearance of a number of shirtless bald men flailing about the pit. I didn’t see any of these individuals prior to Sick of It All’s set. It was as if these gentlemen simply rose up from the concrete floor once the first notes of hardcore came blasting out of the speakers. Punk is fucking weird.
Throughout the week leading up to this show, a friend of mine kept sending me messages along the lines of “They’re gonna fuck you up!” “Damn, man! Give me some credit.” is all I could think. Then Municipal Waste exploded onto the stage and it full import of his message fully hit home. Municipal Waste is going to fuck you up, indeed. And my policy of wearing flip flops to every show I attend was put to the test and my big toe unfortunately paid the price. I do my best to hang around the outskirts of the circle pit itself, but this particular pit was not to be contained and it took out a number of innocent bystanders in its wake. I’m certain I wasn’t the only bleeding patron during this set.
Ending the evening was the brash British grindcore legends, Napalm Death. I always find the between song banter by vocalist Barney quite the contrast to the bile fueled death metal this band produces. Like anything presented in a British accent, the introductions to songs of war, death and destruction just sound so proper and polite. It just makes the fuzzy sonic obliteration that follows all the more jarring. Barney has got to be one of the more interesting metal characters going because everything about is just so non-metal. He’s kind of doughy. He was sporting a white T-shirt and jorts Friday night. And he just has this dorky sort of awkward flailing stage presence. But then there is that growl of his and it all just comes together.
All in all, this was one of the most satisfying shows I’ve attended this year primarily because of the energy each band brought to the stage. Plus, it was a nice mixture of styles from thrash to death metal to crossover thrash to hardcore punk.