Let's just call them the dirty dozen... the first 12 bands I saw at this year's South by Southwest, that is. The first day, as always, was a study in controlled chaos, with badge acquisitions, cell phone service checks (Hey Verizon, if the incredible iPhone service keeps up, I might name a child after you) and meet-ups to check in to.

 

And then there's the inevitable Brooklyn Vegan showcase to see. Naturally, I gravitated towards the dark indoor stage where a string of ear-maligning metal bands — and Dax Riggs — performed.

 

The first band I saw this year were Italy's The Secret, who pummeled the crowd with their tight metalcore set. All the band members were pretty intense, but I loved that you could hear the guitarist's admiration for the first two Machine Head records in his sound. Check them out when they hit NY (or a town near you!).

The Secret

Up next were KEN Mode, who, for a three-piece, managed to create a much deeper Converge-meets-Today is the Day Sound.

KEN Mode @ BK Vegan

Then there was my beloved Dax Riggs — who I may have stalked momentarily while sampling various Sparks flavors — who ripped through a compact set of "I Hear Satan," "Wall of Death," and "Stop, I'm Already Dead." Cannot wait to see him again in NYC.

Dax Riggs

After Dax, I went over to pick my badge (missing Trash Talk), but managed to get back to see a triumphant-sound Kylesa, a couple of Surfer Blood songs and suffered through a touch of Peelander Z for a buddy who loves them. And there was a Neal Pollack hazy siesta courtesy of my dear local friend Melissa, which inevitably led us to our first night show....

 

...Have you ever heard of the Skatenigs? You really shouldn't have. They were a local, half-jokey early '90s act that specialized in power riffs and cheeky social commentary. Think of them as the Southern Scatterbrain. In other words, if you knew them then, you might have found this set interesting and nostalgic. But if you're like me, you found it rudimentary and boring. Seriously, their material has not aged well. And guess what? THEY'RE RECORDING A NEW ALBUM. Just what the world needs.

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After that, I checked out Off!, who were really good once Keith Morris espoused the "More Rock, Less Talk" ethos and tore through an incredible set before the Bad Brains hit the outdoor stage. Sure, it was cool to see the legends live — and the set list was a good one — but it sounded like it was being played at half speed. That said, I took the opportunity to see Easy Action, who epitomize the kind of greasy, gritty sexy hard rock that would be ideal for a Robert Rodriguez soundtrack (or some rough fucking). Guys, work on your marketing. Everyone needs to know who you are, and there's only so much I can do.

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From there, I decided to seek out Brooklyn's own A Place to Bury Strangers. The perfect marriage between Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine, their Exploding Head record has been a staple for months now. But I had the nagging feeling that they would suck live, not being able to pull off their textured sound without additional studio tracking. But after hearing two respected folks compare them to MBV, I had to be there. Arriving at the gargoyle-embellished goth club, Prague, I wasn't so sure. But APTBS managed to set off an intense, though slightly murky set. And yes, it was super noisy, which made for lots of hipsters covering their ears. Amateurs.

 

Almost appropriately, my last band of the night was Austin's own Okkervil River. At that point, my dogs were barking and I just found a seat in the back. With tons of musicians onstage and a preview of their forthcoming album, the locals made for the perfect happy-sounding, folky pop nightcap.

 

That's all for now. More pics here. Today: more meat and Full Metal Texas.