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SXSW: Austin, Texas' Annual Rawk N' Roll Festival

By David Glessner, Contributor
Monday, April 26, 2004 @ 11:20 AM


David Glessner Brings You His

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The guy on stage is jiggling himself into a nipple-twisting frenzy while his Speedo-clad cohort struts like Popeye on crack. Their pseudo-suave band mates look as dicey as a police lineup and the entire shameless spectacle is absolutely killing me. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Throwrag, the most ridiculous, ass-rocking, sweat-soaked band Iíve seen in ages. At the risk of court-ordered therapy, I canít stop raving about this sight for sore eyes from the Salton Sea. They dub themselves "sailor rock," but they look more like a cabaret act hopped up on crystal meth.

And so it goes ... another sleepless, five-day blur of bands, beer and breakfast tacos. Welcome back to South by Southwest, the music industry mayhem that teeters dangerously close to something resembling spring break and Satanís bachelor party. Before itís all over, thousands of bands from all over the world will play around the clock at countless venues while your wallet, job and sobriety spiral into oblivion. You wanted the best, you got the best, the most rockiní good time on Earth.... SXSW! Somebody pass the aspirin.

Because Iím in the process of moving during SXSW, chronological reporting is as likely as finding a sparkling Port-O-Potty in the alley behind Emoís. Hell, Iím lucky to find both shoes in the morning let alone the cameras, jotted notes and other scattered documentation of my various misadventures. Ah yes, my life is in boxes and the world is my ulcer. Let there be rock!

In no particular order, I offer the following random highlights. Besides bumping into Nashville Pussy, Eddie Spaghetti, the Gearhead Records crew and doing some supa-sized partying with Supagroup guitarist Benji Lee (who made me completely forget about the Hives and Riverboat Gamblers), the rest of the highlights went vaguely like this:

(Be sure to click on the band names to link to their official sites!)

Backlit Revolver

Iím walking down the sidewalk feeling the early SXSW buzz, when a kid that looks like heís on a steady diet of Buckcherry and Guns ĎN Roses bursts through a club door and starts yelping at the top of his lungs. Startled and bewildered the crowd on the sidewalk takes a collective step backward. The band is Austinís own Backlit Revolver and it looks like theyíve mistaken Sixth Street for the Sunset Strip circa 1988. Shrieking about cocaine and switchblades, the Revolver kids would likely earn a nod of approval from their hero, Nikki Sixx. Local rock blaster Jason McMaster is in the house preparing to play bass with his latest project, Activator, and gives the kids two Dangerous thumbs up. Itís refreshing to see thereís still an appetite for decadence in the gut of todayís young upstarts.

Scary Manilow

Next up is a San Antonio-based industrial-metal-goth band called Scary Manilow. The band plays a style of music that recalls elements of Tool, Voivod and Faith No More. The drummer is phenomenal and the female keyboardist adds some angelic backup vocals that turn almost creepy within the context of the haunted, tortured music. Itís not light-Ďem up, party hard good-time rock-n-roll, but thatís not the point. This is nightmare music and in the hands of Scary Manilow it succeeds in casting a bleak, foreboding shadow.

Crank Country Daredevils

Being a local, Iím standing on the corner blabbing to my buddy/doorguy when a dude with mirror shades and a dangling cigarette shoves a CD into my hands. What could pass for the Backyard Babies is actually the Crank County Daredevils from North Carolina. The fact that they immediately consider me one of their own has me worried. We shoot the shit and Iím sold on seeing their gig. They slam like Faster Pussycat splitting an eight-ball with Motorhead and for the duration of SXSW, this motley crew is randomly referred to as "that sleazy, eyeliner band of tattooed drunks" or something as equally endearing. Iíve seen them twice since we met and against my better judgement will probably see them again tonight. Bass player Billy Velvet is my new drinking buddy and takes great pride in telling me heís got a tattooed pecker. He also claims that the headdress heís wearing is actually his dead dogís carcass. I take his word on both counts and start looking for the door.

Hanoi Rocks

It wasnít all complete lunacy, however, as I found myself in Michael Monroeís hotel room chatting about the past and future of his legendary band, Hanoi Rocks. Itís 3 p.m. and I feel spaced-out and weak after the previous nightsí thrashings from Supagroup, The Ends, Broken Teeth and others. But Monroe has a way of shooting you to Cloud Nine. What can I say? Even in the privacy of his hotel room, the guy is a 24-7, glam-punk, rock god. Makeup, ratted hair, jewelry and charisma to spare, heís an engaging and most hospitable character. Heís not here to play a gig, but rather to promote the latest Hanoi Rocks album, Twelve Shots on the Rocks. Reunited with detoxed guitarist Andy McCoy, the real news is that Twelve Shots is an amazing comeback that continues the bandís legacy as opposed to harming it. "If I wanted to whore myself out, Iíd be a gay prostitute," cracks Monroe. A tour is in the works with a revamped band. For the record, original bassist Sammy Yaffa is now with Joan Jett and guitarist Nasty Suicide is now a pharmacist. Would you buy pills from a guy named Nasty Suicide? Of course you would.

Many thanks to Liquor and Poker ace Brandon Stratton for welcoming me and my wife to Monroeís room and, of course, to the eternally cool Michael Monroe for making me the envy of Austinís punk-rock underground. Hanoi Rocks, indeed.

Bible of the Devil

Perhaps the best moniker I happened upon belonged to Bible of the Devil. The band ripped through old-school Flying-V metal that recalled UFO, Thin Lizzy, Paul DiíAnno-era Iron Maiden and Accept. Iím not a gambling man, but itís a safe bet "Strangers in the Night" is rattling around the bandís van when they bang their heads back to Chicago.

Von Bondies

My buddy Rick Canny has hooked me up numerous times while road-managing Buckcherry and the The Cult so I decide to show up at Stubbís to watch him babysit the Von Bondies from Detroit. Courtesy of Rick and his cigar, we watch the band from the side of the stage where itís apparent that frontman Jason Stollsteimer has healed from the black-and-blue publicity campaign doled out by White Stripes frontman Jack White. The Von Bondies turn in a decent set of revival-style Motor City garage rock with the added spunk of female backup vocals courtesy of the guitarist and bass player. The drummer flails like Animal from "The Muppets" and gets my vote as the Von Bondiesí star attraction.

As the Von Bondies exit, Joan Jettís security clears a pope-worthy path that makes me hate myself for loving her. Privilege is fleeting and my up-close Jett set is cut painfully short. Boo-hoo. Next.

The Dragons

Ah, the familiar smell of Jack and Coke can only mean The Dragons have arrived despite another tour van mishap. This is the bandís 11th appearance at SXSW and as usual (to paraphrase their album title), they rock like fuck. Their latest album, ďSin Salvation,Ē is another potent blend of Motorhead muscle and Stones swagger spiked with all the woo-hoo and whoa-yeah shout-along vocals youíve come to expect from these rock-n-roll kamikazes.

The Wildhearts

Pairing up with The Dragons are British underground legends, The Wildhearts led by dreadlocked frontman Ginger (who could pass for former White Zombie guitarist, Jay Yuenger). The band gets the award for most-anticipated SXSW act (at least among the in-the-know rock-n-roll lifersÖ Dragons guitarist Kenny Horne even has Gingerís autograph taped to his Flying-V). Onstage, The Wildhearts sound like a punk-rock Cheap Trick. The band is worth the hype, especially onstage. The band recently released a compilation album called Riff After Riff on Gearhead Records and while it is a great rock record, Iím told itís worth shelling out for the earlier imports, The Earth Vs. The Wildhearts and The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed. (Note: I have since found out The Wildhearts are soon re-releasing 'Must Be Destroyed' on Sanctuary Records, which would make it more widely available.) By the way, if youíre planning to see The Darkness on tour, make sure you get there early to see The Wildhearts open.

And there you have itÖ another blurry SXSW snapshot from Austin, Texas. The members of Ozomatli may not have fond recollections (two band members and a manager made headlines after being arrested for allegedly tussling with police), and there were bands I wished I had seen (The Burden Brothers and Hardcore Superstar come to mind), but all in all, it was insanity at its finest and once again reminded me that SXSW and the entities that feed off its spirit help make my fair city the envy of music freaks everywhere. Thanks for coming. Now go home!


Michael Monroe

Michael Monroe

The Dragonsí Steve Rodriguez

The Dragonsí Mario Escovedo

Crank County Daredevils

Crank County Daredevils

Crank County Daredevils

Crank County Daredevils

Crank County Daredevils

Crank County Daredevils

Crank County Daredevils

Crank County Daredevils

Throwrag

Throwrag

Throwrag

Glessner with Von Bondies Manager Rick Canny

(Photos contributed by David Glessner. Crank County Daredevil live photos by Chucky)


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