South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Spirit Adrift, Victim Mentality, March 15, Dirty Dog Bar

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Metal has never been quite a top priority at SXSW, but its presence has come in ebbs and flows. Some years, there have been enough metal and metal-ish bands that you could pretty much exclusively see bands on the heavier end of the spectrum while other years have been a bit of a fallow period. It was particularly notable last year when Metal Injection, a site that has had a presence at SouthBy over the years, put on a showcase featuring not one band that could quite be classified as metal in the strictest sense (and I don’t think the Metal Injection guys were there at all this year). This year was yet again a bit of a fallow period.

That said, there’s always been enough heavy stuff in the lineup and it doesn’t quite feel like SouthBy to me if I haven’t seen at least one metal band, so on Wednesday night I made my way to The Dirty Dog Bar to catch a couple of metal acts – Korean glam metallers Victim Mentality and Arizona doom crew Spirit Adrift (with a couple of brief detours to catch excellent sets by Detroit’s Anna Burch and former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes in between).

Victim Mentality put on a ridiculously fun (and often just kind of ridiculous … but in a good way) performance in all their spandex glory, full of shredding solos and vocalist Krokodile’s impressive high register. Yes, apparently, he goes by Krokodile while the other members go by Skorpion, Die-amond and Cyborg. It was everything you’d expect and then some – while the band has all the trappings of the stereotypical glam band, they incorporate a lot of heavier influences into the sound as well. And they weren’t afraid to sing their own praises either, referring to themselves as the best band at least once during their set.

Upon returning to the Dirty Dog a couple of hours later, I was greeted by the wonderfully heavy sounds of Spirit Adrift, who mixed doomy riffs with a whole lot of early Metallica inspired solos – a winning combination in my books. While doom metal can often come acrosss as funereal or morose, downbeat or depressing, there was something oddly uplifting about Spirit Adrift’s music.

Singer/guitarist Nate Garrett closed out their set with a plug for their merch table that also maybe served as an explanation for why some metal bands have chosen not to play SXSW anymore:

“We’ve got merch over there. Buy something! This has been an expensive trip – SXSW is expensive as fuck!”

Hopefully they sold at least a couple of records or t-shirts. SouthBy don’t come cheap.

SXSW Review: Superorganism, March 14, Fader Fort

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Superorganism, March 14, SXSW 2018

One of the more memorable songs on Superorganism’s self-titled debut is called “Something For Your M.I.N.D.” and their live show proved to be just that – a feast of sights and sounds for the mind. Sure, it might have been the free booze offered up by Fader Fort colouring my opinion a bit, but Superorganism offered up one of the most fun experiences of the week – a mish-mash of various styles to match the various locales that the band’s members all hail from (they were introduced before going on stage as being “from everywhere”).

Vocalist Orono Naguchi, while not necessarily the best singer in the technical sense, was an engaging frontwoman and worked as a sort of ringmaster to everything that was going on both onstage and in the crowd. “Sing along! It’s easy!” she shouted as she urged the crowd to sing along. Also entertaining to watch were the three backup singers who would just dance and jam out whenever they weren’t singing.

Superorganism’s show was a weird, joyful musical celebration. I enjoyed it so much I didn’t even mind anymore that Fader Fort security confiscated the pear and apple that I had in my bag. Really though, why you gotta take a guy’s pear and apple, Fader Fort?

SXSW Review: Shitkid, March 14, BD Riley’s

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ShitKid, March 14, SXSW 2018

Even before Shitkid‘s set at BD Riley’s had started, you could tell that Åsa Söderqvist was up for some michief. “We’re going for a smoke,” she announced, walking out of the venue with her bandmates at about the time they should have been taking the stage. She did note, however, that they wouldn’t take too long since there were three of them and only one smoke.

Once they returned shortly thereafter, Shitkid launched right into it as Söderqvist shouted “Shitkid! Woooo!” into the mic at the top of her lungs before running through a set of fun, kind of punky tunes accompanied by a guitarist, bassist, and a keyboard in the corner that mostly just played prerecorded beats but with which she would occasionally fiddle around. Billing herself as an “anti-popstar,” Söderqvist certainly exuded a fair amount of charisma onstage, “borrowing” some drinks from a table near the stage, swinging her mic around with abandon, and pulling down the venue’s SXSW banner at the end of her set (I witnessed Starcrawler’s Arrow de Wilde attempting a similar feat the next day) before then exclaiming “That was easier than I thought!”

A raw, irreverent performance to match the raw, irreverent nature of Shitkid’s music. Good times.

SXSW Review: Starcrawler, Jukebox The Ghost, March 15, Cedar Street Courtyard

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Starcrawler, March 15, 2018

“You guys are such a fun crowd …”

If it wasn’t clear from her tone as she crouched on the stage, back half-turned from the audience, Starcrawler vocalist Arrow de Wilde was being facetious and she and her bandmates weren’t totally feeling their afternoon set as part of FLOODfest playing before an audience made up of a lot of older folks, probably a fair number of them media and industry types. Not necessarily their ideal crowd, though the band put on a great show regardless.

And for those for whom it still wasn’t entirely clear (but really, it was pretty damn clear), then surely there was no doubt once the show really got going. It was a pure punk rock performance – de Wilde spitting water onto the crowd, grabbing some dude’s SXSW badge and tossing it into the crowd (don’t worry, he got it back), stealing someone else’s drink and tossing it on the ground (not really sure if she got it back), and finally invading the crowd in a state of mock distress, fake blood coming out of her mouth (at least I hope it was fake) as she roamed about, smearing the blood on the FLOODfest banners scattered around the venue and trying to pull one down at one point. She also probably frightened a young girl in attendance and ended the set by walking up the stairs into Cedar Street’s backstage VIP area as if in a trance before exiting the venue through the alleyway. All in a days work.

Jukebox the Ghost, March 15, 2018

if Starcrawler are like the cool kids skipping class, getting high behind the school, and generally fucking shit up, then Jukebox The Ghost, who followed them on the Cedar Street stage, are more like the nice guys you’d tell your mom you were hanging out with when you were actually with the cool kids instead. I don’t think that Jukebox The Ghost would entirely disagree with that assessment themselves. After all, they did play a song on this occasion about getting older and growing up called “Boring.”

This is not to say that the group were boring – while Starcrawler’s dramatic, over the top performance is probably more my speed, I will admit that Jukebox The Ghost is not without their charms. Running through a set comprised of older numbers and tracks off of their upcoming album Off To The Races, the band put on an impressive show with some of the highlights being “Fred Astaire” and the Fastball-esque “People Go Home.” They also reminded me a bit of Queen at times. And really, it’s hard to hate too much on any band that occasionally sounds a bit like Queen and also busts out a keytar solo during their set. Yes, these guys definitely have some chops.