After persevering through a driving regimen of fourteen consecutive hours through the middle of nowhere (and barely winning a race with an Oklahoma tornado) we finally arrived in Texas for Chaos in Tejas. Grown-up humans from every sub-genre of punk rock culture started checking into motels and wandering the streets of Austin on Thursday, braving the relentless, blistering sun (that thing is a real dickhead) to meet up with their back patch-bearing, world-spanning bretheren/sisteren (it's a word; says so on some bible site). Punx from all over the world came to see what Austin star promoter Timmy Hefner's annual celebration of talent, hype, and reunions in the DIY community was going to be for 2013.
Day One: May 30, 2013
Hotel Vegas: Nuke Cult, Breakout, Lumpy & The Dumpers, Negative Degree, & Dirty Work
This show kicked off the whole half-week-long party in downtown Austin. It was one of those absurd and fun KCDIY events; Nuke Cult's dirty, fast hardcore terrorized the crowd into a frenzy from the get-go. Non-stop stage dives took place as far as the eye could see for each band's ten to twenty minute set.
One of said dives went awry as the singer of Dirty Work (also KCDIY) accidentally caught his scalp real bad on something, tearing it open, and was rushed to the hospital. He swore he'd be back before the show was over to make sure DW could play.
Hometown pit masters Breakout were up next. The band sounded like a mix of NYHC with something weirder thrown in, like the Zero Boys maybe. Lumpy and The Dumpers jumped up on stage next, and singer Martin Meyer snarled random forest creature noises into the mic as the band tuned. The nasty natives of St. Louis destroyed the crowd and got rid of some test presses in the process. Denver's Negative Degree played next, with a killer set of '80s throwback-styled fast hardcore. Everyone cringed as the singer of Dirty Work returned -- with fresh head staples -- ready to have them tear open and spread haz-mat filth on the crowd. Luckily, no such medical disaster happened, just sick pitting and contagious hugs between sweaty, hairy people. The bar was set. Could the rest of the weekend follow suit?
In between shows, it wasn't hard to find cheap eats and refreshments, with the abundance of food trucks in the neighborhood. The main factors in keeping "chaos within reason" were a hell of a lot of water and pacing oneself with chemical intake. Some followed these guidelines; others (mainly crust-punk/oogle/train-hopper types) didn't. Their drunken antics also provided the oldest free entertainment in the world during the ever-present heat wave: watching people fall down. This activity went with cheap pizza and gallons of water quite well.
11 East Fifth St.: Iceage & The Casualties
Seeing the charged liberty spikes crash into dirt was a reminder: Oh shit, the Casualties are playing tonight. This prompted a rushed power-walk to the ironic spectacle that is that band. As the path through a field full of drunk punks and garbage clears into a hangar, something horrible is realized: That sardine can is where the fucking show is. After wandering in, we realized Iceage was playing. The weird hybrid of d-beat post punk with clean vocals wasn't mixed very well, and no one in the surrounding area looked to be in the horny-dancing or violent-dancing mood, probably due to the fact it was impossible to make anything out in such a large, echo-y area. This warranted a smoke break.
Once outside, I noticed lots of people laughing about how embarrassing the Casualties' set was going to be. It is worth noting that some of the mockers were fashion boutique bullet-belt buyers, just as they were accusing the goofy veteran street punk act to be. After a half hour of set up time, the Sid Vicious Juggalos known as the Casualties took the stage. They sounded bad. All that could be heard was screaming, cymbals, and bass drum. The mild humor just seemed kind of cruel after about five songs and an exit was necessary.
Red 7: UV Race
It was time for a palette cleanser. When someone mentioned that UV Race was playing and "had sort of a Devo/Jay Reatard thing going on," the choice of where to go next was made. The backyard pavilion-ish area at Red 7 was littered with record-collecting mortgage punks drinking expensive beers. After a quick atmosphere adjustment to a more mature setting, a large bearded man in a speedo walked out to grab the mic as a band tuned. It was good to know this wasn't a stuck-up big kids party. The speedo-clad vocal warrior and his band of merry men (and one merry woman, on rhythm guitar and saxophone) belted out a furious half-hour of jagged but danceable songs. They did it with the right attitude and simplicity, at the right moment in the night.
This was the end of my ability to pay attention to music for day one. Granted, I was running on no sleep and was pissed about missing Marked men and the Damned. My apologies to anyone wondering what they missed out on; I missed out on it too. But the motel beckoned for swimming and sleep. There were so many more bands to see, the best show being the opener at Hotel Vegas.
Click through to page two for day two of the fest.
Day Two: May 31, 2013
Day Show: Beerland: Thee Nodes, The Novice, and The Mind Spiders
After getting stamped for one of the only 21+ places in the Chaos roster, I was greeted by the audio attack of Montreal's Thee Nodes (yes, that's how its spelled). With a sound somewhere in between Void and Henry Fiat's Open Sore, Thee Nodes put on a thoroughly creepy display (singer ended up only wearing a toilet paper mummy mask whilst writhing around on the floor like an angry cat) in the middle of this rather poppy show. It was done in a funny way, instead of a look at us/showoff kind of way -- muy bueno. It wasn't surprising to learn that Thee Nodes are trying to wrangle Lumpy and the Dumpers into a canadian tour. After the dust settled, the Novice started up and was infectiously catchy. It took a second to realize that those familiar vocals were coming out of Jeff from Marked Men. This was the band he had started while spending time in Japan.
I don't know if I've ever had songs this viciously stuck in my head before. Think Roky Erickon-style guitar work over Lillingtons-style vocals. The Mind Spiders came highly recommended by traveling companions, but it just didn't seem to be worth waiting around for as more kids gathered to make water harder to come by. The band's sound brings to mind the image of some guy being too metaphorical about a break-up in a Wes Anderson movie, or something.
Mohawk: Wiccans, Effluxus, The Vaginors, Terveet Kadeet, & Framtid
This was the crustiest show of the fest. One of Texas' best hardcore bands (and not remotely crusty at all) Wiccans opened the show and absolutely killed it. Apparently throwing a new guitarist into the mix, the band played more songs off of its old record and the crowd went ape shit. You should try to imagine it like if Negative Approach or Black SS had weird jam band parts that were appropriate, instead of intolerable.
Effluxus played a very "by the book" d-beat set. It wouldn't be too hard to guess that a song would be titled 'Destructionihilation" or something equally reminiscent of dystopian wastelands with bum flaps used as tribal flags. The Vaginors from Australia were definitely the most glamorous band of the fest, but didn't sound like New York Dolls. The Vaginors sound more like Surf Nazis Must Die if they got into leopard print. The band did a great job of making a mosh pit very confused, sexually.
Terveet Kadet came in from Finland and was definitely a d-beat band, but didn't have nearly the copious amounts of noise and scrambled clusterfuck-ness going on. The band almost sounded more thrashy than d-beat. Anyway, Terveet Kadet finished up and anticipation built for Framtid to play its first U.S. show ever. We all went rushing back in and saw one of the best Japanese d-beat bands headline the night. Everyone went nuts and almost everyone got along. There were some technical problems with the bass that led to an awkward five-minute pause, but the band just kicked right back into the remaining 25-ish minutes of its set. Framtid did quite alright for a first time in America, sticking out as one of the best headliners.
Click through to the next page for day three.
Day Three: June 1, 2013
By the third day of Chaos in Tejas people had figured out what to do: Sleep as late as possible (unless you want "continental breakfast" at 6-10 a.m.), go swimming, then eat and head to a day show. Less people were sunburned as badly or limping from the adjustment to the terrible pavement. People were starting to drink a lot more booze, too.
Trailer Space Records: Nuke Cult, Sucked Dry, Lumpy & The Dumpers
This show also featured other bands. But Acid Reflux was playing a "secret" reunion at Hotel Vegas, so we all kept running back and forth between venues to see if it was possible to have our cake and stomp on it too. Nope. Most of the other bands on this show had played at least two shows at Chaos already, or played the first show of the fest. I mention these bands because something of note happened: Nuke Cult made the venue owner angry. I guess somebody hurt a member of the audience during the slam-a-thon and broke something. It put a hiccup in the show's rapid pace. KC's Sucked Dry played and got one killer song in before the bass cab broke and ground the show to another halt. It was replaced and Sucked Dry ruled while people did somersaults (not a metaphor).
Lumpy and the Dumpers played last, after trying to weasel onto the end of the Acid Reflux show. The band played one of the best sets I've ever seen in its year of existence. Martin peed his pants. Johnny broke a throne and played standing up. B.O. did the duck walk into jumping high five's with out screwing up a lead. Ben "the Smith" Fox laid down on the ground for a while. Everyone went nuts and LTD's got rid of all records and shirts to the grateful kids who stayed.
Cheer Up Charlie's/11 East Fifth Street: Total Control & Merchandise/Sudor, No Tolerance, Criminal Damage, Los Crudos
Right next to Hotel Vegas and the food truck "court" was Cheer Up Charlie's, an outdoor venue hosting one of the most hyped, post-punk "indie" shows of the weekend. Total Control went on and did a good job of being a hybrid of accessible and abrasive at the same time. A friend was staring at two "locals" and heard one of them compare Total Control to Nirvana. He then proceeded to inform his compatriots that he wanted to "stab that idiot to bits, then take his bones, sharpen them and stab his friend in the throat." TC finished and it was time to run over to catch Spain's Sudor play a rippingly tight set of later Poison Idea-esque hardcore.
Next, another sweaty march back to Cheer up Charlie's for Merchandise. Never has so much aggressive stage diving been done to such Robert Smith/Morrissey-inspired songs. Merchandise was tight and had the crowd in the palm of it's hand. After a shorter set than expected and another hustle to East Fifth, I was able to catch No Tolerance, one of the verrrrrrry few Straight-edge acts represented on the entire fest. No Tolerance got the dudes in their fresh Ebay-scored t-shirt finds going with ignorant stage-dives and massive pile-ons to their Lockin' Out Records-sounding set. Criminal Damage started playing pretty soon after, and had a definite Blitz worship thing going on which A) rules and 2) worked with the pace of bands being so different all day.
Los Crudos was ready to take the stage around 11 p.m. As soon as the mics were on, the veteran punk band blasted through five songs at a time, mainly in Spanish. It sounded like they hadn't missed a day in the past fifteen years of non-existence. Singer Martin Sorrondeguy gave eloquent speeches about the hardships Latin-Americans face and seemed genuinely concerned with passing the information along in a healthy, creative way, to deal with his rage about the issues. It was a hell of an experience, to be in that humid hangar with all that tension release literally flying through the air (in the form of either stage dives or fireworks). Los Crudos used hardcore punk to deal with harsh, cruel reality. On this night they helped everyone else in that crowd deal with it too, just by playing 30+ minutes of break-neck speed hardcore songs. This is why the best bands do things, period.
Red 7: Left For Dead & Integrity
Left for Dead started playing at the stroke of midnight, and sounded exactly like its old recordings. Kids and old heads alike were there to freak the fuck out to these two bands that they'd been waiting to see for a long time. Left For Dead barreled through a set of fast, heavy songs about how fucked up life in Canada is (just like anywhere else). The band also played a couple new songs, as the members recently reformed and apparently have already written four seven-inches of new material. Singer Chris Colohan seemed legitimately excited and humbled by the intense reaction from the crowd, being at a loss for words at one point in the set. Left For Dead ended at 12:28 p.m., pointing out that they had just played over twenty songs in that span. It was both genuinely exciting and scary.
Integrity took the stage as one of the last acts of the night. The band started playing through everything in its catalog -- mainly old stuff to cater to the crowd, who toughed it out through the long, hot day. The crowd was less dangerous than you'd expect from one of the meanest, toughest bands of the past 25 years. They wanted to scream every word right along with Dwid and throw their friends across the room, but not send them to the hospital. Integrity probably played for about 45 mintues, including an interlude with clean guitars and Mr. Hellion playing harmonica before the last song "Jagged Visions of my True Destiny," which is the only song that would've appropriately worked for. Not all tougher shows end in terrible violence and crew beefs. People got their release at this just like the Crudos set.
Click through to the next page for the last day of the fest.
Day Four: June 2, 2013
11 East Fifth: Hoax, Final Conflict, & Infest
Other shows happened this day. But 99% of the people who were coming to Chaos in Tejas were coming for this show. IT'S FUCKING INFEST! Who would've ever thought that band would start playing again? This was the most anticipated show of the fest, and for good reason. Infest is possibly the angriest band to ever exist. Its music bridges the gaps from tough-guy to crust-punk to skate-dork to record-nerd. Rumors were going around and an article was posted last week, saying that Timmy is planning on scaling back Chaos in Tejas or breaking it up into smaller shows through out the year. If that happens, getting Infest to decimate a hangar space with 1500 hardcore punk fans at once is the way to cap it off properly. But first, the openers.
Hoax started at 7:30 p.m., and within seconds former St. Louisan, now Massachussets native/singer for Hoax, Jesse Sanes was bleeding and acting like a complete psychopath. He had most of the crowd trying to smother one another while screaming along to his sado-masochist slam dance anthems. Hoax deserves the hype because those riffs never leave your head and Sanes (ironic last name given his battered disposition) knows how to fucking scare people.
Final Conflict played a very tight set of fast d-beat punk. The band fought the system in a very pissed-off, professional manner. The guys are starting to get older so they didn't move around as much as the younger bands, but vocalist Shane Mclachlan made up the energy difference for his proficient band mates, climbing all over the speakers and getting crusties to dive. This was one of those bands that justifies all of the positive qualities about these people, who get joked about so much. Final Conflict wrote songs about destroying a broken system and attracted fans with radical views and a strong, stubborn willpower to an alternative lifestyle.
Okay, now...Infest. HOLY GOD DAMN HELL, INFEST! One of the arguably (barely) best hardcore bands to ever exist played most of its catalog in front of 1500+ people. For 35 minutes, Joe Denunzio (vocals), Chris Domino (guitar), Chris Dodge (bass, Spazz/Slap-A-Ham Records) and Bob Deepsix (drums, Lack of Interest/Deep Six Records) finally gave everyone what they wanted and everyone lost their motherfucking minds. Every one of those 2100 seconds were either spent moshing as hard as possible or catching what small amount of breath was left in the hangar. Infest belted out a set of songs from everything: the LPs, the seven-inches, comp tracks, even a song from new Days Turn Black EP (featuring 3 originals and a Negative Approach cover recorded in 1995).
I'm pretty sure it's hard to be 100 percent positive when you are about to have a pit-based heart attack of joy and terror in the midst of a communal war zone. Everyone helped each other up. No one beat the shit out of one another (at least in the front, where I was). This was heaven in the form of hell. The band played no encores. The majority of interaction with the crowd was high fives and mic hand-offs from Denunzio. The only hiccup in the show is when some girl took too long to stage-dive and got collectively booed by the other 1499 people in attendance. The bay-area powerviolence forefathers made everyone so violent and happy at once. This has to be the live musical equivalent of taking bath salts, only no jail time afterward. Its still hard to believe no one died. HOW DID NO ONE DIE? Granted, it's rumored that members of all the other bands helped one kid who got injured get to an ambulance. Hopefully, he's alright. Still, I can't believe no one threw landmines or that Denunzio didn't just destroy us. We're lucky. Go see them play as soon as possible.
Notes: - I only wrote up shows I went to. These are my dumb opinions. - Everyone really liked my Four Horsemen/Ric Flair shirt. - The pool at the motel had a bunch of beard hair in it. At least I hope it was beard hair, ugh.