Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deep In The Heart Of Metal - Part 3

The exciting conclusion to Deep In The Heart Of Metal - Part 1 and Part 2!

The stars at night are big and bright...

Let's just say that it's been awhile since I last woke up in a hotel room with a band.....

Landmine Marathon / Book Of Black Earth / The Funeral Pyre
Hoek's Death Metal Pizza, Austin, Texas
March 18, 2010

I had some work-related meetings to take care of in the morning, so Landmine went on ahead to the day's venue: A Pizza Parlor on 6th Street called Hoek's Death Metal Pizza! Throw The Horns and The Claw... I'll wait. Once I was done with my work duties, I had to wander around a bit looking for the place (Thank dog for Google Maps on iPhone). I finally found it and hung out on the sidewalk with various members of Landmine, Book Of Black Earth, and The Funeral Pyre and also some record label friends as well. I liked how the set times were posted on a paper plate at the door.

Hoek's is the type of place that doesn't exist in San Francisco: A pizza parlor that plays nothing but Death Metal on its stereo with a small patio out back with a bar and a small stage for bands to play... and a wide alley behind for easy load-in / load-out. It's the type of venue that makes me question just how "cool" my hometown really is... Just being honest.

Anyway, with the afternoon sun high overhead, it was an interesting contrast seeing Book Of Black Earth in bright sunlight after the previous night's pitch black performance. I'm happy to report that the band managed to block the rays of the sun with their wall of sonic darkness and volume... Although if the new bassist had been wearing a BLACK shirt the effect would have been more complete.... Just being honest. Pastel = NOT Metal... at least in Umlaut's Metal style guide... I wear black on the outside 'cause black is how I feel on the inside.. Just saying.

Book Of Black Earth in the daytime.
(Pic by Umlaut)

Literally minutes before Landmine were due to start playing I was checking messages when someone came up to me and said "I MADE IT!"... It was Umlaut's music journalist friend Hard Rock Chick! It's always cool to see a familiar face from home when you're on The Road, right? Combined with the PBR I had in my hand and my final day at SxSW was starting off alright.

Once again, Landmine were in their element playing a venue that allowed their Hardcore side to drive their Metal side. Under a blazing sun, '25th Hour' got the afternoon pizza crowd going as PBR talls were served up at the patio bar. It was interesting how each of the band's Austin shows had a different vibe: Emo's was a classic Punk riot, Mohawk was a DIY basement party... and Hoek's was like a kegger in someone's backyard.

It's funny when a gap opens up between Landmine and the audience as the boyz in the crowd get intimidated by Grace. Her Velociraptor presence was magnified in the small, confined space of Hoek's patio... and maybe the fact that she "accidently" kicked a dude in the nads early in the set gave the boyz reason for concern. Pussies... Anyway, besides the Velociraptor on the mic, I liked how the band's musical fury had more of the Hardcore vibe than at the other Landmine shows I've seen so far. Their set felt like a fucking prison yard fight... the kind of prison brawl where the guards simply look at each other, shrug their shoulders, and just let the inmates shiv and beat the living shit out of each other.

'Skin From Skull' at Hoek's
(Vid by VicthortheViking)

The band winged the setlist this time, which only added to the Hardcore feeling of the performance and the beat down was pretty complete. If Hoek's had been a prison yard, Landmine would have walked away with the bloody respect of the guards and inmates alike and taken anyone they wanted as their bitch in the showers.

I said this after the first time I saw Landmine in San Francisco 7 months ago: They are the real fucking deal. That's not something I say very often about a band (even ones I like); it's just a gut feeling I have about Landmine. I've never seen a band play so many different venues (from the stage at a major concert venue to a backyard patio..) under different circumstances (high pressure major show to a backyard patio..) in such a short time (4 shows in 6 days). I was seriously gobsmacked how the band approached each of the gig's circumstances and molded their performance accordingly; I'm sure it wasn't a conscious thing on their part. They collectively just grabbed each moment by the throat and went at it Landmine Marathon-style. Drink up, shoot in, let the beatings begin.

By the way, the band's performance at Scion Fest caught the attention of no less than the fucking NEW YORK TIMES, who featured a photo of the band onstage with their coverage of the festival in their March 15th print edition. Click HERE to read the NYT review online, which has some nice ink on the band's set as well.

(Pic courtesy of Landmine Marathon)

After hanging out for a bit, I knew it was time for Umlaut to move on and I said my goodbyes to Landmine as they prepared to continue their tour in Dallas that night. THANKS to Team Landmine (Matt, Ryan, Grace, Mike, Dylan, and Valerie) for putting up with me in 2 time zones in less than a week... and I'll never listen to *that* Kings Of Leon song in the same way again.

"Shreds" Rule!

The Dillinger Escape Plan / Orphaned Land
Emo's, Austin, Texas

March 18, 2010

My parting with Landmine Marathon was perfect timing since it dovetailed into another Metal showcase back at Emo's. This one was to feature a "surprise" appearance by The Dillinger Escape Plan. However, before DEP I found myself at Emo's outside stage watching Orphaned Land. I have to be honest and say Orphaned Land aren't my thing... I can appreciate what they're doing with their music... combining cultures and trying to bridge the rifts in their homeland... but I like my Metal Satanic. Just being honest.

I had never seen DEP live before but had heard how insane they are onstage. Although Umlaut knew about this performance several weeks ago, DEP's appearance at Emo's was a secret to the public until they issued an announcement via their Twitter a mere 30 minutes prior to the 5:15pm start time. Luckily we were inside Emo's well in advance; THANKS to Metal Joh for walking us in the back door! However, we made a serious miscalculation thinking DEP were playing the outdoor stage, when in reality they were playing the stage inside. DOH!

Long story short, there seemed to be an insurmountable line to get in the room's back door... but amazingly people were leaving the room and security let new people in as the sweat drenched lightweights left... and it wasn't long before we found ourselves amongst the lucky 300 or so inside the sweaty box. I'm not sure what band played the room just prior to DEP, but I wonder if those kidz leaving even knew what was coming next. Oh well! The sweaty energy in the room was thick enough to cut with a Bowie knife, but cold Lone Star talls cured that.

We got inside in time to watch DEP finish setting up their gear and then walk back to Emo's "dressing room". Oh, the drama..... After leaving the stage for a few minutes the band returned to the stage and as soon as the first note of the first song was hit... ALL FUCKING HELL broke loose!! HOLY SHIT!

During the FIRST song, guitarist Ben Weinman jumped into the crowd and rode it not once but TWICE... and during the entire set various members of the band dove straight into the mass of fans jammed against the stage. Pretty unreal... At one point during a song I glanced back at the bar and rhythm guitarist Jeff Tuttle was standing on top of the bar facing back to the stage. I literally said "What the fuck!?" out loud because Emo's was pretty packed and how he got through the sea of humanity is beyond me. Unreal. I'm not familiar with any of DEP's material so my reaction was purely to their performance... Non-stop mayhem. During the final song Weinman climbed up onto the stage right PA speaker... Kneeled on top of it for a bit... and then leaped off it to land on the stage. Unreal.

(Pic by Umlaut)

Holy shit DEP are an INSANELY GREAT live band; I can't fathom how they generate that kind of mayhem consistently at every show. They're like Jesus Lizard or Gallows onstage, with that same brand of danger and spontaneity in their performances. If you bought one of every Dillinger Escape Plan merch item you would have paid $50 out on the sidewalk... which is where their merch was set up.

After DEP's set my SxSW experience was over. I headed back to my hotel to chill and cancelled plans to stay out late again and opted for room service instead. I know... BORING... but Ohio the previous weekend and SxSW had finally caught up with me. However, the next day The Rock Godz arranged for a final magical conclusion to Umlaut's week.

As I was about to head for the airport, I received a text from my brutha Jason of Black Cobra telling me how he and bandmate Rafa had just ran into Landmine Marathon at a vegan restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas (about 200 miles from Austin)! Landmine were on their way to San Antonio and Black Cobra were headed to Austin for their SxSW appearance on Saturday. What are the ODDS of that happening?! I trip on coincidences like that, man... Unbelievable, right? The Rock Godz work in mysterious way... On the flipside: Austin Buzzkill = A teenage prayer circle in the middle of the airport terminal as I checked-in.

While boarding my connecting flight home in Houston, I realized I really needed to take a mental shower because my brain was jammed up and bruised from all of the METAL hand-to-hand combat I had experienced over the previous 6 days. So, at 40,000 feet I put THE SMITHS on my iPod and ignored the inflight movie. As the plane landed back in San Franfuckincisco I had decided Umlaut's theme song for my SxSW experience would be:

Yeah, NOT METAL... but it summed up my feelings about my experience ending.. and a text exchange with Landmine Marathon after I landed applauded my choice. So fuck you if you don't like it.

"To die by your side, the pleasure, the privilege, is mine..."

So ended my debut SxSW experience. On the way back to San Francisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag... which makes sense I guess. Yeah, my SxSW experience was limited. Yeah, I didn't embrace the whole SxSW *thing*... but I was there on a work-related agenda of meetings so that was my focus... and I generally hate people... so being around thousands and thousands of people generally puts me into a less than perfect mood. I honestly don't know if I'll attend SxSW again... while the shows I saw were awesome, everything else about the event (the crowds... the congestion... the crowds... the crowds...) aren't my thing. My Scion Fest experience had been inspiring and, while I liked Austin, SxSW was like that drunk girl you see from afar who you think would be cool to hang out with... but after awhile you realize she's not your type... and her record collection has too much crap in it that you don't like.

... deep in the heart of Texas.