Austin Terrorfest Put The Fear Back Into Texas at SXSW
The Terrorfest brand has grown into a highly respected name in recent years. With several major successes at Southwest Terrorfest and it's expansion to Northwest Terrorfest later this year in Seattle, it was only natural for the mastermind behind the event, Dave Rodgers, to put together another edition of his beloved creation in Austin. Though distinctly less ambitious than the other fests, there was still a lot to dig about what was going on this weekend at The Lost Well.
In an event that saw standout performances from bigger names like Thou and P.L.F. there also were rad sets from a bevy of up and comers, bands like Ecstatic Vision, Nate Hall and name who ruled the early parts of the day. It was a powerful weekend of heavy metal depravity for just about everyone involved.
I want to give a massive kudos to the venue The Lost Well who worked tirelessly to make everyone feel at home, from the fans who gathered in the generous patio space to the artists who were given an awesome backstage spot to hang. The bar was reasonably priced and the sound was on point. It's the small little metal bars like this that define our scene and which give a home to so many of the acts that help to make this entire thing possible, so getting to spend some time experiencing a new one is of course really fun. The Lost Well is the sort of venue that feels strangely magical, and I think it's the outdoor portion that makes it so great. There's nothing quite like sitting out in that Texas heat with a bunch of your friends from all over the country drinking beers and shooting the shit, and that's exactly the experience Austin Terrorfest provided.
The festival kicked off on Thursday with a rad lineup that tended towards stoner stuff. As a rule Austin Terrorfest was extremely varied in its presentation and many of the band switches felt a little off kilter which provided added interest. Thursday thrust you right into that. Standout sets from The Great Electric Quest and North really set the tone though. The Great Electric Quest are in my eyes one of the most purely talented bands out there and there live presentation belies a massive potential. Meanwhile, the sonic destruction of North was mesmerizing and a fitting capstone to a night of heavy music. To close out the soiree though was a festival mainstay, the powerful magic of Amigo The Devil, a wonderful solo acoustic act with a demented sense of fun. He made a variety of appearances throughout the weekend and added to the camaraderie of the entire event.
Friday was the first day where we started to see some of the bigger bands involved in the fest come out to play. That being said – one shouldn't ignore the crushing power of a band like Cleric who came on at 4PM and utterly melted the faces of the gathered crowd. Those dudes have a future to be sure. The secret set for the day featured half of the classic punk group The Dead Boys coming together to perform a virile set and invoke the sort of punk rock atmosphere that hasn't really existed since the 70s. Watching dudes who have been playing to clubs like The Lost Well for over 40 years on stage was a lot of fun and a great way to place the event in the larger history of the genre. Meanwhile, the bands that closed out the night were utterly devastating, perhaps even too much so. Call Of The Void are of course always excellent, but when the dudes in Pig Destroyer showed up before their set at a different showcase the next day they wouldn't stop raving about the power of Sex Prisoner, Genocide Pact and of course the almighty P.L.F. The pure sonic desecration represented therein captured the imaginations of just about everyone at Terrorfest.
Saturday was by far the strongest day of Austin Terrofest. I showed up a little late, but early enough to get to check out the powerful Tyranosorceress, a group who seem to understand the fundamental power of their genre far better than many of their peers. The Ditch And The Delta were a major highlight of the early part of the show as well – these Salt Lake freaks created something utterly fascinating, invoking powerful vibes and doing credit to one of the most exciting cities in metal right now. However, as with Friday, it was the latter half of the night is what really got me excited. The two big highlights for me were Fister and Thou. Fister deliver some of the most balls out punishing doom metal in the world. They are among the best in the doom scene right now and their bestial roars and crushing rhythms are truly down with the sickness. Meanwhile Thou came in to play their third (!) set of the day and did exactly what they do best – pure sonic devastation. This is not a band to be taken lightly and they won't let you forget it. Saturday was the perfect auditory punishment and a potent tribute to the combined booking abilities of this festivals organizers.
Finally we arrived at the last day of the festival. Sunday featured one of my most anticipated bands of the festival, Ecstatic Vision, a group of Hawkwind and The MC5 worshiping freaks who aren't afraid to make their own rules. This is the sort of band who you can't help but to love because they are so clearly passionate about the music. They have the sort of energy and magic behind their sound that most bands can only dream of. Other highlights for Sunday included Nate Hall – the Townes Van Zandt inspired singer songwriter who used to play in a little band called US Christmas, he charmed audiences with his folksy ballads about the pain of being. The evening got a hell of a lot thrashier with locals ASS and Widower tearing it up with some gnarly grooves and punchy riffs that got fists pumping and folks screaming. This of course culminated in Iron Reagan crushing everything when they came on at midnight. Their rendition of “Fuck The Neighbors” left me in awe. When Black Rheno all the way from Australia came on after them to close out the fest we knew we had been a part of something special.
So we all faded off into the night. Friendships had been forged and bonds of brotherhood reinforced. The first edition of Austin Terrorfest, at least from a fan perspective was a roaring success with a great variety of sick bands delivering the goods to a crowd of dedicated and passionate fans. It gave us a chance to all come together in honor of something truly special and witness the sort of event that most of us never thought would be ale to hit a town like Austin. Heavy metal is a magical thing and I love having the ability to sometimes sit down, step back and simply revel in all that it has come to represent for me and my friends. Austin Terrofest proved a fitting conduit for this passion and for that I will be forever grateful.