The last time Trivium played SXSW was 2005 on the Road Rage Tour at what is now the "new" Emo's. I vaguely remember the performance, but it was alongside Still Remains, The Agony Scene and Three Inches Of Blood. Although having only played once on SXSW, I am very much so aware that it is basically where all the music world of the US (and the rest of the globe) combine onto the streets of Austin for several days of music, food, booze and schmooze.
Initially, we heard we were due to play a metal showcase - then only weeks before, it was swapped to being invited to play Waterloo Records' showcase show and 5B Management's showcase at the "old" Emo's (now JR). Waterloo Records is one of the last strongholds in the USA for real record shops (selling vinyl, CD, DVD, band merch) - it's not unlike Amoeba Records in LA… picture a small Empire Records without Liv Tyler and the chick who shaves her head.
The last time we played Austin, we were far away from Downtown - but this time, I was cognizant of the fact that we'd be in the heart of it all. I pre-warned my fellow Triviums and Trivium-crew that some serious eating would be taking place on all of our dates in Austin… We woke up in the bus at the convention center to pickup our credentials… and it was time to freakin' eat.
Rob (singer of Koufax/ Trivium's merchandising extraordinaire (also works with bands like The Get Up Kids, Larry the Cable Guy and other note-worthy acts as tour manager and merch)) is one of my main food-partners when touring North America and Europe - and since our other food-buddy Joey (Trivium's tour manager/ front of house sound engineer (also has tour managed As I Lay Dying, Coheed And Cambria and many others) was busy doing his tour-daddy work of the day getting our credentials - we hopped out of the bus with Corey Beaulieu to go start tackling some of Austin's best.
To explain in layman's terms (sort of): what's fantastic about Austin is that it's like a really hot chick (or dude, if you will) who knows they've got their shit goin' on… but is still super cool to you for some reason - giving you what you want and need (if you know how to get it). Austin is one of the spots in America for great food, drinks, art, music and people - it has all that without the pretense, without the stuck up nose, without the elitism.
We tried to hit Turf N Surf initially (their site said open at 11), but their owner meanly shouted "We're closed!! 1 hour - come back!" So we wandered further to a spot Rob knew of - 24 Diner. 24 Diner is conjoined with Waterloo Records, and today there was a stage about the size of a two car garage setup in the parking lot, fenced in. This would be where chaos would soon ensue. But first - food.
24 Diner is very much so what I dig… a New American joint with a diner-feel that prides itself on carrying local produce, local sources - doing familiar dishes with slight spins or just their own way completely. I order the Chicken and Waffles with a fried egg (made from yeast-risen dough with butter, bourbon vanilla and raw sugar. Grade A light amber Vermont maple syrup accompanied. Boneless fried-chicken, brown sugar butter) - damn good. This thing was comedically large - there is no way even a stoned linebacker should finish this behemoth. The waffles were alcoholic - straight bourbon-flavored. The chicken was not skimpy in quantity by any means (I had to add the egg due to having it done that way in a few other spots around the country) - just great stuff. Corey got the avocado burger, Rob the tuna sandwich - we all (adorably) shared a Peanut Butter and Chocolate shake in 2 little glasses with me and Corey having two straws in ours. That thing was righteous. It tasted like the best peanut butter and the best chocolate you've ever had… in liquid form… for instant glucose-injection to the system. I tried to time this meal out 3 hours preshow… but I was still full during screaming "In Waves." You try that… it sucks.
We were all excited and a touch nervous about the Waterloo showcase. It was amazing that we were the only metal band on the performance - but the other bands were so far from the spectrum of metal - I was almost a little like… "uh… are we too much for these kids?" I'm talking 14-17 year old indie-girls there for Fun. kinda-thing. Yeah - we were playing with Fun. I couldn't believe it - I'd been rockin' their new record recently, I really feel like the 2nd track on the record sounds like Freddie Mercury - so I like it.
We came up a few seconds early and told the crowd - basically - "who the F we were" and "what the F we were about"… always a good ice breaker for a new crowd. I could tell quickly that 80-95% of this crowd had never heard of us… maybe never heard metal personally live - and by the end? By "F-ing explode" we had everyone moving… moshing, headbanging - people were killing it. That had to have been one of the most genuinely fun shows of recent memory - I love the opportunity to show people something new - and get them into it.
(This paragraph was added a few days after the original typing, immediately after finishing the "South By So What" festival...)
Those young indie girls… who maybe got into Fun. through their alleged Glee rendition - rocked out ten times harder than 80% of the crowd at the tongue-in-cheek named festival in Dallas. And the hundreds of thousands of attendees of the real South By Southwest certainly trumped the 2000 or so crowd of the "So What" festival. SXSW is about diversity - showcasing all sorts of music from all over the spectrum - it's not about being complacent in similarity. SXSW does it right.
We crushed the show, did a meet and greet for some awesome Trivium kids and some new friends - cleaned up - then me and Rob headed into town (the others were going back to… pre-game? Who knows… miss out is more like it). We hit up Jackalope for some Fire Eagle IPAs and began catching up with label-friends, management-friends and other industry-buddies.
Having never explored SXSW before - I can tell you - it's a madhouse. It's like an adult Disney… it's like Mardi Gras with clothing… it's 1,000's of bands playing 100's of clubs everywhere in a town that is ready for it. I feel bad for the locals - but hell - their economy must kill after the fest. People guzzle down beer from the early a.m. to the… early a.m…. chowing down on some of the best damn food trucks in the country.
We hit Trinity to meet up with one of Rob's buddies bands; Justin Arcangel (Trivium's manager meets up with us… unfortunately his plane broke down so he missed what would have been one of his favorite Trivium shows (J prefers when I'm a little… meaner… to the crowd (and I was))). No local drafts?? So I opted for Guinness. We made plans to make our way over to Iron Works BBQ for dinner. We walked over there and tried to make plans to see some acts (Rob and I wanted to see Andrew Bird and Fiona Apple - but so did the rest of Austin - so that was out) and then decided… whatever we see - we see. No plans.
Iron Works had a line out the ass… as did and would all places in Austin around dinner time. I'm always skeptical with BBQ out, since I've married into an incredibly Southern-family. My in-laws do BBQ better than anywhere and everywhere I have ever been to in the world. This is no exaggeration. Even Iron Works was majorly beaten by Tammy and Ross. I couldn't blame Justin and our label and booking agents - they're all North Easterners… the Yanks' always want BBQ in the South.
You can see quickly that this place is legendary. It smells like BBQ-ing meat… pics of George Dub-yuh Bush, Mitten Romney, Obamy and others all greet you to your left. The air is sticky humid in delicious Southern-air and BBQ-sauce fumes. The meat pits are impressive as heck - mountains of brisket and sausage was all I could see. I did the Brisket, Sausage, Pecan Pie and a Saint Arnold Amber. Onions, potato salad, pickles, hot peppers and the ubiquitous white bread slice accompanied. Don't get me wrong… this is good stuff - it just can't beat home-cooked BBQ… if you don't have access to kick-ass home cooked BBQ - try this place out. Maybe even the gas-station BBQ-combo, Rudy's… I hear Ruby's rocks too. I've yet to try Salt Lick even. So yeah - decent - Brisket was a touch dry - the meats required the sauce more than I feel like they needed to; the sausage was just aiight.
We headed to Barbarella Patio to see the Metalsucks showcase. Man - was everyone from my whole musical-life in Austin - ran into Roadrunner past and present, The Agency, 5B, Metal Injection, Metal Hammer UK, Mike from Darkest Hour, even the fine folks from Metalsucks. Metal Injection and Metalsucks have always been super nice dudes, and great supporters of the Triv - so it was great to catch up with everyone.
I came in as Black Tusk was still rocking out. Beastly heavy, 3-piece: sludgy, trashy, punchy, heavy-as-balls mastodonian-band (not comparing to - simply using the primal beast as adjective for Tusk's style). Intronaut was up next - spacial, jam-band (but with metal and post-hardcore roots (if you will)) - elements of post-metal, some proggy bits in there. I feel the bass was mixed loudly that night, however - the bass lines were so damn interesting, I was happy they were cranked up a smudge. It was really interesting that to the far left and far right, both guitarists were doing main vocals simultaneously at most times. If I had to compare to bands - I'd say a touch of Neurosis, Isis, Tool (merely in the bass doing catchy prog-style lines) - one dude at the show called them a Metal Phish. Great stuff.
We said our goodbyes and headed to the British Music Embassy for the Raw Power Management showcase (Raw Power: Rise To Remain, Bullet For My Valentine and many others). We came in during the singer (?) of Fightstar's solo-acoustic band - decent stuff; then Turbogeist took the stage (actually a 5B management band; one of the band members is Mick Jagger's son). Turbogeist is really a killer punk band. Very aggressive while still minting a great sensibility for melody (in a Misfits sorta way ofcourse). I really appreciated the 3 front guitars (2 guitars, 1 bass) doing a triple onslaught of vocals at the same time - it really takes you back to when punk was great. Turbogeist really did a great job.
Around this point, we were hanging with all the aforementioned Trivium-industry people; Paolo and Corey and Joey showed up - Rob went to a buddy of his' show… then Clown and Craig from Slipknot showed up - we hung with them a bit. By this point - I was beat to hell… I'd been eating, walking and drinking essentially all day - whilst being battered with some great (some not-so-great) music. I did the 1-plus mile walk back and the boys stayed and hung.
Paolo usually doesn't drink much on tour… apparently when I left, he was going shot for shot with Clown, Craig and Corey - Paolo allegedly alternating between Jack, Jaeger, Vodka and other stomach-twisting varieties. He was hung over for two days afterwords…
Day one. Success.