SXSW 2010, A Heavy Opening

March 18, 2010

There's always so much going on at SXSW that it' impossible to hit every single showcase worth going to, and choosing one over another is no easy task. But when it came to Tuesday and Wednesday nights, there was no question in our minds were we needed to be.

SWORDTuesday night at the famous Stubbs BBQ -- which has an amazing, large back yard venue -- we settled in for heavy rock 'n' roll legends Motorhead and local favorites The Sword. This bill was a no-brainer for the metal guitar and bass geeks, and it was a sold out event. We arrived just in time for The Sword to start, and were instantly reminded of why we're so heavily anticipating the group's third album (currently being recorded here in Austin by Matt Bayles, of Mastodon production fame). The band plays a brand of metal that's rhythmic and driving, heavy handed and hard charging, but doesn't sacrifice the technicality. We heard classics like "Winter's Wolves" from their eponymous debut record, and "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians" from their second record, Gods of the Earth, as well as some soon-to-be favorites from their as-yet-untitled record.

When Motorhead hit the stage pandemonium hit the audience. Despite his slight frame, Lemmy is about 20 feet tall in personality, and when this signature opening line rang out from the PA -- "WE ARE MOTORHEAD, AND WE PLAY ROCK 'N' ROLL!" -- the audience responded with a massive wave of cheers, and the band proceeded to rip through an hour-long set of new and old songs, including the legendary "Ace of Spades." It was, in a word, epic.

HOF_MatzWednesday night was a lock for the Action PR showcase at The Mohawk, featuring psych rock newcomers Mondo Drag, Booklyn's Naam, Vancouver BC's Bison, midwestern metal traditionalists Gets Of Slumber, Southern metal stalwarts Zoroaster, Montreal's fast rising Priestess, and the mighty High On Fire, in their only SXSW showcase appearance. It was a long night featuring act after act of bone crushing metal, capped off by Oakland, CA's High On Fire, who played a packed house of rabid fans. The band's latest record, Snakes For The Divine, was released a couple weeks ago and cracked the Billboard Top 100 at #62, and fans were treated to live renditions of great new songs like "Frost Hammer" and "Bastard Samurai," as well as older tunes like "Fury Whip" and "Rumors of War." Guitarist Matt Pike, bass player Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensal are obviously very much in their element on stage, effortlessly pummeling the audience with massive riffage, Pike running his custom 9-string First Act through a Marshall stack AND an Ampeg 8x10, Matz following suit on a First Act Delgada run through an Ampeg SVT CL and 8x10, as well as a Marshall half-stack.

It was huge and loud and amazing, and it was just the first night of SXSW Music. Stay tuned for more, and see photos from the High On Fire show by CLICKING HERE.

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