SXSW Day 4: Press darlings Gallows got the Metal/punk/rock day show started at Austin’s outdoor amphitheater Town Lake.
The band’s press officer, James Sherry, gave a preemptive heads-up, saying, “There’s a bunch of kids down here. This show should be really fun.”
So we excitedly hustled down, not realizing that his pronouncement was referring to ‘kids’ in the sense of toddlers, and “This show should be really fun” was meant quite sarcastically. Turns out the festival grounds had hosted a child-oriented event during the morning—complete with clowns and bouncy tents—and scores of families were still milling about the area as the band set up.
According to Sherry, the band was initially pretty uneasy about the affair. Finally, a promoter took the mic and gave a very clear warning of what was to come. With diplomatic exuberance, he explained that SXSW embraces free artistic expression, and that those who are leery of being spat on and called cunts should move along. (We paraphrased that, but of course that’s what he was ultimately trying to get across.)
“These kids are gonna learn some new words today,” warned guitarist Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard.
Once again performing at the most un-rock hour of 2:00 pm, the grounds were rather devoid of fans; but the slow emergence of Texan family types made for some great face gazing.
Vocalist Frank Carter took things in stride. He performed on the ground about thirty feet in front of the band, getting right in the faces of the gawking crowd. During the chorus to “Abandon Ship,” Frank spat out the line, “I’m the captain of your ship. …And I’m sorry!” as he encircled several members of the audience and dashed back to the stage with them ensnared by his mic chord. The captives scrambled to loose themselves and had the fear of death in their eyes as they wriggled free.
The set closed with “Orchestra of Wolves,” and Frank took the opportunity to make extremely sarcastic and lewd masturbatory gestures as he belted out the line, “I want you to wake up and remember my name when you’re washing my cum off your fucking face.” Classic.
The entire entourage mobilized to Emo’s IV lounge for the Warped/AP showcase, where Gallows’ mates The Automatic from Cardiff Wales kicked off their set just as we arrived.
Keyboardist/vocalist/cowbell-ist/leaping pixie Alex Pennie was on fire (as he always is) climbing to the top of amp stacks, leaping off and back onto the four foot stage with the swiftest of ease. The rest of the band played, but that’s about it.
“If it weren’t for Pennie, this band would just be indie rock shit,” an onlooker snarled. This same onlooker then showed me a piece of paper the bartender had handed her earlier, along with a shot of Jaegermeister. It read “Just because you CAN play music doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD.” Cold! We found them quite entertaining; but it is true. Without Pennie they’d be fucked.
Gallows closed this same show, finally with a reasonable turnout and some real audience reaction. The band was clearly stoked to have had this gig turn up, and gave ittheir all.
Bassist Stu Gili-Ross at one point took a massive swig from his water bottle and then spurted it right in the eye of an audience member, which prompted disdain from Frank, who returned the favor to Stu, and followed it by spitting on him and blowing his nose in Stu’s direction.
This time, the closer (again, “Orchestra of Wolves”) boasted vocal accompaniment from Pennie of the Automatic, as he was forced to perform faux fellatio on Frank whilst spatting out the now infamous chorus. (He didn’t look all too bothered about it.)
The band of kind-hearted gentlemen in wolves’ clothing thinned their skin a bit in the end. Frank thanked the audience and gave a statement of his appreciation for the “fucking hot young ladies in Texas—and there are some hot fucking old ladies here as well.”
He then thanked Gallows fans in general, saying, “A year ago I couldn’t even think that I’d be here, playing for you people—spitting on you and calling you fucking cunts.” Advocating the path he’s taken to get here, he concluded, “Stay outta school and you’ll do better.”
This was the final show for Gallows at SXSW, but they’ve definitely earned themselves some attention. They were featured in a morning news report by local media; their shows were inundated with press, and this final gig attracted representation from literally every major record label that exits. Something tells us they’ll be very well represented in the near future.
Incidentally, look for Gallows’ return to the US—along with the Automatic—during Vans Warped tour this summer.
Our day turned back to Town Lake, where Mastodon ripped through their headlining set, capping off the band’s seventh year of SXSW appearances. Is it just us, or is it hard to believe that band has been around for ten years?!
Attention quickly turned to the Vice Saves Texas late night party, set to kick off at 11:59 pm at a massive Elks lodge in a residential area south of downtown. This is the party of the year, and everyone knows it. We opted to get there early to ensure our entry—and we did get in without hassle—but we found the venue already packed to its gills with the hippest of hipsters. There were so many tall, skinny hotties lurking about, it looked like a patch of bamboo wrapped in denim and neckerchieves.
It was like we were vexed into Hollywood.
Against Me! put on their second set of the evening, but you’d never know it, as the spritely, shirtless lads hammered a set of classic material you hardly ever hear them play. The smiles on their faces were gleaming. It was clear they were stoked to be playing a set in a small venue—reminiscent of their early, pre-arena days.
They closed their set with a cover of the Replacements’ “Bastards of Young” that brought tears to the eyes.
The crowd was feeling it too, as dozens of half naked men wrestled and got bromantic, dumping beers on each other and sweating like pigs. It reminded us a bit of San Francisco’s very dirty and very gay Folsom Street Fair. Good times.
Les Savy Fav set up to play an unannounced set immediately after AM!, and by the time we downed a gallon of free Dewar’s scotch, they were ready to jam.
Vocalist Tim Harrington made an announcement that the party was shut down, and that they were going to just play as long as possible. Most folks thought this was a joke, as Harrington is known for his sarcastic wit; but half-way through their first song, he walked off the stage and out the door, still singing the song as the band played on stage, never to return.
We quickly noticed dozens of fire truck rolling up with lights blazing as the sound was cut and we were told to leave. After two parties in two nights were shut down, we were feeling a bit juked—conspiracy theories were flying amongst the crowd as it slowly stammered outside hating the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing Black Lips, Fucked Up, and anyone else who had jumped on the bill.
As it turned out, there was no conspiracy. A concrete veranda that hung from the second floor had collapsed with dozens of party-goers on it, falling 12 feet to the ground. Miraculously, there were no injuries, but the night was certainly capped, and we were off.
A bit disappointed that the long-awaited blowout was cut short, but it certainly was an event—even if a short one. While Vice didn’t manage to tear the roof off the motherfucker, as they are known to do, they did peel off the porch, which is something.
It is now the following day, and Austin is so quiet, you can almost hear the echo of the city’s door having slammed. The capitol of Texas now goes back to what it is all year, which is essentially just a more quaint version of this same festival. It’s a vibrant music town, a bit like a miniature, slow-burning New Orleans; but my friend, it certainly knows how to throw one ass-kicker of a party.
photos: Jef Hoskins