SXSW Day 3, Fri. March 20

The vernal equinox ensured that today's festival doings would receive equal amounts of daylight and darkness. I got into town early (meaning, 2PM) because there were Things To Do!

First off, I sat in on a demo listening session at the convention center. The panelists were four producers in various genres, and they were pulling submitted CDs out of a bin and listening to the first verse and first chorus of the songs their supplicants wished them to judge. Despite frequent caveats of "we don't know anything!", the panel generally proceeded by explaining what would make the song in question blow up huge on the radio, or why it never would. Afterward the producers made themselves available for meeting and greeting, so I took the opportunity to press the Flaming Tusk EP on Don DeBiase, the one guy who seemed amenable to metal. He seemed very excited to get it.

I discovered via SMS that The Onion were presenting a showcase at Radio Room featuring Ra Ra Riot. I really liked their self-titled 2007 EP and I wasn't sure I'd make it to their 1AM show, so this was serendipitous. I probably missed half of their short set due to the length of the line (in the afternoons, one's badge counts for naught. you wait with the rest of the peons), but what I saw was as lush and danceable as their record, with the added perk of seeing all six folks including the cellist and violinist bop around enjoying themselves. They also drew one of the most tightly packed crowds I'd been in since the beginning of SXSW.
Ra Ra Riot

I stuck around to catch ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, who I'm not terribly familiar with but thought might be interesting. They definitely brought the fire with a rave-up apocalyptic groove. I'm not convinced the second drum kit was necessary, but it at least looked cool to have two drummers set up face to face mirroring each other's slammings. The crowd was singing along and trying to avoid the drumsticks and water bottles being thrown from the stage.

The first show on my To See list for the day was Brooklyn metal act TOMBS at Room 710. Brutal blackened post-hardcore (you realize I'm just inventing genre names, right?). I was jealous of their sonic intensity. Crazy psychedelic washes of noise backed by blastbeats and bass chords. The guys look like they will kick your ass, but I spoke to guitarist Mike Hill for a bit after the show and he was happy to meet a fellow metaller from NYC. He took a copy of the Flaming Tusk EP with enthusiasm and I told him I'd do my best to catch their next NYC show on April 12th at Public Assembly (with Ghengis Tron, Black Anvil and Wetnurse).

The Southern Lord Recordings showcase at Emo's Annex kicked off with Thou from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They were decent enough doom metal, but the show felt a touch flat and uninspired. Their vocalist would do well to work a couple of variations on his stock scream into the act.

Next onstage was Eagle Twin from Salt Lake City. They were another octave-dropped guitar and drums two-piece and it's possible my feelings about them were clouded by how much I liked Jucifer two days before. I was mildly disinterested until, perhaps ironically, they got to their more minimal material about halfway through their set. Eagle Twin have some good ideas but they might do better with a wider sonic palette. The guitar tone was impressively huge, though.

I ducked out of Southern Lord's show in order to catch Texas black metallers Absu at Spiro's Amphitheater. Absu black-metalled so hard that they evilled a hole into their snare drum. Fortunately some dark angel lent them another one. They're not so black metal that the drummer/lead vocalist is above cracking jokes in his death growl voice. The crowd was very pumped up, abetted by Captain Morgan and his wenches handing out free rum shots and branded swag.

The highlight of my evening was seeing Rwake at Red 7. They completely destroyed the room with their Arkansas-bred intensity. It was the first show of the night that had me headbanging and holding up invisible orbs. The stage was full of people who looked like they were just this side of becoming toothless meth addicts, but for their decision to crush metal riffs. I really wish their set had been longer, but such are showcases. I had the chance to speak to lead vocalist CT for a bit after the show as he was selling Rwake merch and he accepted my offer of the Flaming Tusk EP enthusiastically. He also mentioned that he was looking for another band to fill out a bill in Brooklyn that one of his friend's bands is playing, so here's some crossed fingers that CT doesn't lose the disc and likes it.
Rwake 1

I returned to the Southern Lord showcase and missed the beginning of Wolves In The Throne Room's set, but what I did see was great. Lit only by two candelabras flanking the stage, WITTR poured out a tarry black torrent onto the crowd. Atmospheric and harsh, but never without a keen sense of droning melody, like a clawed hand reaching up to scratch the stars from the sky. The band plays like you just might never hear anything again once they're through with you, and you have little choice but to submit to the crush.
Wolves In The Throne Room

Finally, Pelican. Chicago's instru-metallists. They seemed pretty psyched about having just signed to Southern Lord, and they played some tracks from their forthcoming EP. They were high-energy, heavy, stony, doomy... Southern-Lordy. I'd definitely see them again.

And that was day three! Lots of good shows, and hopefully effecting pressings of the flesh. Will I survive Day Four? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

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