SXSW (Saturday): Mess With Texas Party @ Waterloo Park; AIDS Wolf, Clipd Beaks, HEALTH
Various; Austin, TX

- {Mess With Texas Party @ Waterloo Park}

Aside from the staggering lineup of bands, the most remarkable feature about SXSW is that nearly every band performs in a small, intimate venue. That’s why yesterday’s Mess with Texas party at Waterloo Park was such a nice change of pace. With two outdoor stages, dozens of bands, thousands of stinky people, and not nearly enough porta-johns to accommodate everyone, Mess with Texas looked like a proper summer festival in its own right. But nay, it was just one of many things going on that day -- plus it was fucking free. That’s right, ya’ll. The Black Lips, Akron/Family, Cut Off Your Hands, Japanther, Soft Pack, Cursive, King Khan, and many, many more, completely gratis (and those bands I mentioned are just the ones I didn’t see). So remember, kids, if you’re thinking about coming to SXSW next year, don’t fret too much about the cost, because all of the shit that happens during the day is free of fucking charge. Well, except for beer and tacos, and you’re going to be spending a lot of cash on beer and tacos, so I guess it all evens out in the end.

The first thing I heard once I stepped through the gate was {Abe Vigoda} cranking through “Dead City/Waste Wilderness,” the opening track on last year’s sublime Skeletons. I figured, hell yes they’re starting at the beginning and I’d gotten there just in time to catch their whole set, but right after they followed up with “Cranes” (Or was it “Bear Face?” Sorry, I’m a bad journalist); they winded out the show with Skeleton’s title/closing track and said goodbye. Since my Abe Vigoda experience was so abbreviated, all I can basically say is that the songs sounded like they did on the album, and I like the album, so I liked the songs they performed and that unfortunately is how descriptive this stupid review gets.

I fucking saw {Vivian Girls} again and they covered “So Bored” by Wavves. For as much spew-inducing meta-hype that that cover unleashed into our poor atmosphere, I somehow succeeded in keeping my lunch down and later on I even managed to reward my stable stomach with some delicious, delicious funnel cake. Keep that little lesson in the back your mind, America: Whenever your body decides not to throw up, pay it back with deep fried cake batter. Don’t be surprised when you puke all over yourself later, though.

I caught {The Thermals} next, and they were ehhhh okay. At big wide outdoor events like this one, it’s hard to accurately capture some bands’ “real” sound. Sure, there’s a certain charm in the slightly invasive commotion of an outdoor show. The chirping birds, roaring highways, and constant stream of pounding helicopters (the park is across the street from a big hospital) all add to the concert’s open mood, but there are some bands that are meant for concrete-walled clubs and cramped basements free of nature’s din. The Thermals are one of those bands. The unsheltered aura of the park’s wide main stage dulled the band’s normally sharp pop and overran their punk attitude completely. It’s possible The Thermals could have excelled at the show’s smaller second stage.

After The Thermals, I saw {Crystal Antlers} tear the side stage a new one, even though like The Thermals they’d probably be more at home on in a bar or house show or the trunk of a car or some shit like that. Playing in a dusty knoll half the size of the main field made all the difference for Crystal Antlers, the tighter setup allowing their guitars to chime and their drums to thunder without interference. The vocals still got lost somewhere in the air, but overall Crystal Antlers more or less achieved their potential and made America a better place for future generations.

Okay, let’s cut this bullshit griping about stages and get to the real deal: Have you ever seen a hairy Israeli man shove a microphone up his ass while balancing perfectly on a crowd-surfing bass drum? Well, I saw Ami Shalev of {Monotonix} do exactly that, and as you would expect it was fucking astonishing. The cavemen of Tel Aviv’s Monotonix are capable of Olympian feats of rock and roll jackassery, from spiderly scaling of the stage’s supports to having the audience hold all the drums (except the hi-hat) and the fucking drummer in the fucking air while he keeps a flawless beat. And the music ain’t bad either, a Zeppelin-ish brand of easy greasy riffs and chomping drums that drives simply through all the madness on and off the stage. This is music that was meant for an arena or a packed city block or angry protest or really anywhere with a huge crowd and shit to climb on. In short, Monotonix is anarchic, silly, and they play in their underpants. Mmm hmm, that’s just the type of band I like to snuggle up in bed with and give soft pats on the rump. Sorry, I’m really tired.

After my disappointing experience with The Dicks, I was a bit wary about seeing {Circle Jerks}. I was afraid they’d just be another pack of sad old men trying their best to recapture their glory days, but bless my stars I was dead wrong. Circle Jerks haven’t lost an ounce of power in the last 25 or so years, thanks primarily to their 8 years of practice after reforming in 2001 and Greg Hetson’s tireless ability on guitar. Keith Morris has held together pretty well, too; his voice only lacks the adolescent smarminess of his younger days. Circle Jerks packed in around 25 or so tunes in their 40-minute set, hitting highlights like “In Your Eyes” and “Beverly Hills” as quick and controlled as in their prime. Along with CJ’s own golden shower of hits, they found time for two Black Flag classics, “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and “Depression,” which nearly sent me screaming into the mosh pit until I remembered I really don’t like getting bonked on the head a bunch by angry, sweaty men, so I wisely sat it out but still thought it was a fine rock ‘n’ roll show performed well by great men of God.


- {AIDS Wolf, Clipd Beaks, and HEALTH @ Mohawk}

Throughout the festival, I’ve spent my nights switching from venue to venue to see as many different bands as possible. But now I am tired. My feet hurt. There are blisters and there are cuts and there are hangovers. So, yesterday I decided to stay at Mohawk all night and just get my ass kicked all at one place. Actually that’s not completely true; at 11 PM, I walked 500 miles (DERP) to see The Proclaimers play at the Hilton, but they were full up before I got there. Except for that detour, though, I kept my ass planted at Mohawk and saw {AIDS Wolf}, {Clipd Beaks}, and {HEALTH}. All three were loud, confrontational, and exhausting. I was already feeling pretty burnt out from SXSW overload before I got there, but after that show, I think I’ve seen it all, and now I can go home. I can’t really even give a good description of each band since the entire show was like getting smashed in the back of the neck with an anvil, but in a really good way. I didn’t even stick around to see Monotonix play again, even though I was really curious to see what they could do in a small venue. I was/am just too tired. It was a very good noise show, and I had a very good time at the whole festival -- but box me up and ship me home to mama: I’m spent.

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