The crowd stirred outside on the patio as I walked up to the gate at Beerland. Smiling faces smoked cigarettes and exchanged stories while waiting for the music to start back up inside. I was bummed to find out I missed the first two acts, Nazi Gold and The Best, while I was still at work. I had really looked forward to catching both of these bands, as they are the brain babies of some of my favorite Austin musicians. Nazi Gold is compiled of Jeremy Steen of The Gospel Truth and The Flesh Lights, Quin Galavis of The Quin Galavis Band and The Dead Space, and Shearwater/sometime Bill Callahan drummer Thor Harris. The Best is another Austin-brewed super-group, including Max Vandever of The Flesh Lights, Orville Bateman Neely and Jason Smith of OBN III's, and Caleb Dawson of The Wolf and Bad Lovers. If you get a chance to see either of these bands, please do! It's bound to be good.
While Burnt Skull finished up their sound check, I finished my cigarette. The last time and first time, for that matter, I saw these guys, they did a NIN/INXS/Ministry cover set under the name "NINIXSTRY." They played prerecorded songs and sang over them without any need for instruments, while shouting at the crowd with snarling faces and head banging matted mullet wigs. The highlight being when they got everyone in front of the Beerland stage to sit on the ground while they kicked out a heartfelt ballad, commanding, "Sit the fuck down. I didn't tell you to get up." Burnt Skull is made up of Anthony Davis and Dustin Pilkington, members of Austin tongue-in-cheek digi-rap group/whatever-they-wanna-be group Best Fwends. Make no mistake though, this is a definite deviation from what these two dudes usually dish out. From the first song to the last, they laid into pissed off hardcore punk rock, tearing through song after song with menacing snarls and nasty riffs to match. Their set ended with Dustin filling everyone's ears with feedback and silently pantomiming "I'm-going-to-kick-your-asses" to audience members.
I got a drink after they ended their set and waited outside until I heard the muddy, crunchy-sounding bass and guitar tones that make this next group's name, Cruddy, sound so right. With rigid drums and guitar hooks so good, somehow all the chaos was catchy in its own right. When I walked in, guitarist Drew Schmitz was banging out his doomy riffs while Dustin of Burnt Skull returned to play bass, rocking back and forth in some kind of angry trance while he scrambled out his own.
Video played next. Everytime I try to describe Video, the same word comes to mind: CHARISMA. Including members of Wax Museums, Silver Shampoo, Wiccans, and Bad Sports, not to mention all the other things these guys do, Video is a super group Denton, TX has brewed on its own. From the moment they began cranking their songs out, Daniel Fried clutched his microphone with a leather fist, staring into the audience between belting out lyrics and jabbing around on stage. Between songs, he'd talk quietly, but directly, to the audience in a pissed off, disillusioned tone that one can only gain from years of being around people, eating up bullshit, and just being fed up with it. He took breaks to tell everyone how they wasted their money. In the middle of one song, he wrapped and twisted the microphone cord around his neck and face until he was totally tangled. Then somehow, in an instant, he was free, stomping around like an all-out, fully-realized King Kong, bullying the crowd with gestures and angry questions as well as shoving and pinning his own bandmate against the wall so he could sing into his face. Despite the awesome catchiness of the songs, any pop sensibility is not bubble gum. No, boys and girls, this is full on heavy, tough, punk rock letting out long-earned frustration and aggression, while inspiring fear in all the good ways and coming across as one hundred percent real while doing it.
As stunning as their live show is, their new record, Leather, Leather, does such a good job of capturing the bass driven, shred storm of songs, with tones that let you know these guys are pissed and aren't fucking around. From the first seconds of "Make Me Bleed," Leather, Leather immediately locks you into a slew of awesome songs that are bound to get stuck in your head for days. The album ends with "Any Worse?" which leaves you wanting more in a way that's so nice. The first time I listened to it I had to play it twice.