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Housecore Horror Film Festival, Part 1

“Down”

You may know David Hall from his label/production house Handshake Inc., his work on the Maryland Deathfest movies, the upcoming Decibel 100th-Issue Show flick, or from one of his many other video collaborations. Dave is a gifted filmmaker, and he screened his work at the Housecore Horror Film Festival (more on that later). He also offered to write about his stay in Austin for IO. Since he’s kind of insane, I knew it’d be an interesting read. — DM

*I am not a music critic, film critic, nor do I pretend to be an expert on anything at all. I don’t know the names of many songs by bands, I don’t really know the names of members in the bands. I like music. —David Hall

WEDNESDAY

My stomach was kicking up like fuck, probably from my wife’s meatloaf the night before. “The secret ingredient is hate,” I told myself as I shoveled the foul-carved beast past my teeth. It resembled beef-jerky, but was wet as a cold bowl of dog piss and managed to be extremely sweet and savory at the same time. We were 3000 feet above the earth. Satellite settlements of lit-up grids; cities and towns. Kentucky? On the way to Austin, Texas via Buffalo, via NYC, via nowhere.

The Sprite Zeros weren’t doing it, and my social/flying/living anxiety was flaring up as my stomach did somersaults so pop go two Ativans. A hot-buttered douche in the aisle across, in a suit, power-point-a-go-go stared at me as I pushed in and dissolved the pills under my tongue. I shot him a wink and he looked away horrified, glanced back in a double take, then away.

Five hours later, screeching down from a benzo-soft sky I awoke on the tarmac of the Austin airport, a Stewardess shaking me out of a white-hot haze. “Welcome to Austin.”

A few months ago, the Housecore Horror Film Festival (inaugural event curated by Phil Anselmo and Corey Mitchell) had selected two of my films to play at the fest. Four days of cult horror and music films, and an insane selection of underground metal, special events, signings and what was sure to be a debauched, slippery time.

The hotel was in the middle of scenic nowhere but the weather was hot, with a slight breeze. Downtown Austin glittered up the street. Billy Anderson arrived a few hours later. Death Angel were playing that night but we were too beat and broke so we sucked on Shiner Bocks (I guess that’s the beer they drink in Tarrantino’s “Death Proof”) and talked about the Melvins and Disco Volante from our respective beds til sleep came.

THURSDAY

The first event of the fest for me was the “badge” ceremony at The Dirty Dog on 6th street – the main drag – of downtown Austin. It was a time for everyone attending the fest to get their badges and check out some bands. 2-dollar tall boys of Lone Star flowed freely as tourists and locals alike beat the pavement out front. I ate a fried pork-belly sandwich from a food truck before shit got started.

The first band was Goatcraft – a one-man act that consists of a bald dude at a piano with fake blood poured over his head. The dude has skills on the keys, but it went on far too long. His jams were drenched in reverb or echo and fell stylistically somewhere between Debussy and Rachmaninov and I couldn’t help but call him ‘Gliberache’ in my head even though he seemed like a really nice guy – definitely lost the crowd but ‘A’ for effort.

Up next was BlackQueen, a band originally formed in ’98 in Seattle that has recently reformed. They play a mix of stoner rock, metal jams and late 90s noise rock infused with horror movie soundtrack samples. Riff-heavy sample jams, dirty and loud. I don’t really get the “witch metal” tag they give themselves, but good band, a lot of fun.

White Widows Pact took the stage next. Metal tinged hardcore form Brooklyn, I’d heard a lot about the band, all good, and they lived up to the hype. Super tight, hard hitting pain riffs and a versatile vocalist who makes you feel it. I’m not a huge hardcore fan, but these guys keep the bro shit to a dull road. I overheard a woman nearby bemoan that someone in the band “put their shirt back on” so I guess someone in the band is a beefcake. I really enjoyed the set – you can tell these guys are legit and could easily take over any number of hard-core or metal gigs. Totally pro, great songs, head-nodding goodness. I was gonna buy vinyl but there was a fuck up at that plant so they had none. Too bad.

By this point in the evening it was getting busy – fest goers, bands and filmmakers converged on the venue to get their passes; I think people were more in the mood to socialize than watch bands but there was a healthy amount of people up front. Shots started to flow, it was getting sloppy.

Black Moriah took the stage and roared through a set of 2nd wave-ish, thrashy black metal. Totally competent band, tight, good riffs, powerful singer, but a little bit safe for me. Good musicians, fine songs, great sound, but compare a band like this live to a Dragged Into Sunlight or Portal show and it’s no contest. That’s where I would start if I was attempting Black Metal anyway – but no dis on the band, they did a really great job. I like.

Lord Dying ended the night, or they were the last band I remember playing, at least. Loud and massive, the band pretty much leveled the place. A massive pyramid of thrash, stoner and upbeat doom riffs, buckling under its own weight as thunderclouds swirled, lightening bolts crashed, and thick, black smoke obscured the apex of an evil, unblinking eye. That’s what came to mind for me anyway.

All in all it was a killer night, a diverse line-up, and good warm up for the fest. Radical hangs and feels with fine folks from Denmark, Canada, USA, Mexico, everywhere. 6th street struck me as a bit of tourist-trap hell, and there were cops everywhere on bikes that were really annoying and a dude in his underwear with a cowboy hat, a bass and a giant texas flag draped like a cape over his back. I went back to the hotel at that point and ran into some friends. THC drops, Ativan and blunts sent the night spiraling into a black hole. I was super happy to be in Austin.

FRIDAY

After a killer lunch at Polvo with Morgan from Kill the Client, and a stop at End of the Ear (I was starting to see the real Austin) we headed to the main venue/compound of the Housecore fest: Emo’s and Antone’s. Emo’s, if you’ve never been, is a massive, pro-style concert venue, an amazing room for sound and great views pretty much anywhere you stood – the capacity must be at least three-thousand and was to feature the ‘bigger’ acts of the fest. Antone’s, a smaller nightclub, but still substantial in size, would feature other bands and acts for the packed, daily schedule. The two venues were on opposite sides of a lengthy strip-mall – connected by sidewalks and pathways, restaurants, dentists, ice cream shops. A massive tent – the Grind Tent – was set up out back of Emo’s and the Zombie Room, a dance/zumba studio the fest appropriated for the weekend, was where all the screenings went down.

I liked the feel of this site for the fest. It was in a fish-bowl of mid-70s urban sprawl with cool restaurants and had a slightly sketchy vibe. It felt comfortable and right to see the horde of black shirts and zombie/monster/slasher-movie-paraphernalia-wearing concertgoers flood the area. Some people were in costume. There was some sort of Spock-vampire dude with chef hair and a petty coat. He was rad.

Blue Ox BBQ across the street = baller hot meat. And on Sundays they have all you can eat pancakes and a make-your-own-bloody-mary bar. There’s a Mexican restaurant across the street too, I forget the name of it but it rules and you can go there at midnight and eat next to Mexican babies.

The first band of the day for me was Pallbearer at Antone’s. This was my second time seeing them this year, both awesome experiences. It’s easy to see/hear why Pallbearer are one of the scene’s busiest bands – they’re impeccable live, summoning Neurosis-like intensity as they pound out epic riffery, soaring vocals and pounding, spacey drums. There’s a seriousness to a Pallbearer show, which emanates from their music, but also the confidence with which the lads level time and space into a zoned-out guitar-glory horizon. They played a new song—I don’t remember the name of it, but it was epic and great and if it’s any indication of what to expect from their forthcoming album, that record is gonna be a doozy.

Next up was Repulsion. Before they even started Scott Carlson addressed the nagging issue of new Repulsion material. “We do have a new album out – it’s just 25 years old.” Repulsion are so good, their songs are so fucking killer, so real, so not trying hard to be anything but rad, that these dudes don’t need new material. Even though Carlson was joking, his point is well taken – this was the third time I’ve seen Repulsion this year, and I’ve been burning through various formats of Horrified for a long time and yet the songs maintain a grind/punk/heaviness in a vacuum, a newness and freshness. The passion the dudes pour into raging through the songs rivals and destroys bands half their age. What’s old is new again, what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg… whatever. Repulsion is Repulsion and why even TRY to top a perfect album? I mean, fuck, would YOU want that kind of pressure in your life?

Though I missed my talented friend Marissa Martinez not being on stage with the band, I’ve gotta say I really dig Repulsion as a three-piece. It really brings out the punk aspect of the band and allows Carlson’s killer fucking bass sound to stand out. At the last minute Matt Olivio asked me to film the set with his camera – it’s on Youtube – so I had a fanboy’s-eye-view of the set. Some totally hopped up dude aggressively started a pit, which was cool. People really love that band, man, and I’m one of them. Repulsion proved yet again (for me anyway) why they are one of the most relevant bands in underground music. They did a really cool Venom cover too. Schizo, I believe.

I missed Ancient VVisdom (sorry dudes) but caught Head Crusher, who got moved from Antone’s to Emo’s at the last minute. I knew nothing of the band and totally dug them. Top notch, no-nonsense aggressive metal that leaves the bro shit out of it—thrashy, death-metally hardcore but not lame, and super loud and tight live. This is straight-up metal for the masses with good taste and they blow away most cookie-cutter bands that play this type of metal, which isn’t reinventing the wheel, but slays nonetheless. Not sure why these guys aren’t bigger than they are, because it would seem like there’s a pretty big audience for this kind of metal. Oh well. Super rad dudes, too…worth seeing live if they’re playing in your personal/spiritual location.

Warbeast took the stage next. I love Warbeast’s drummer, Blue—he also plays in the Illegals and he’s super talented, fast and heavy as fuck. I love really good drummers. Warbeast is not at all the kind of band I would listen to at home, but I really enjoy seeing live. The one guitarist kind of looks like Hulk Hogan and it was sort of hard to take that dude seriously, but they’re a tight band with amazing energy and the crowd fucking loved em. Their sound is like über-metal-riff-thrash-old-school-awesome-metal. They have a song called “Birth of a Psycho,” and the singer intro’d it by saying “this song is all about me.” I don’t know if that’s true.

A total 180, and a nice change of pace, Goblin took the stage after Warbeast. Honestly, I am not really qualified to talk about this band. It seems like everyone else is, and I think this is a band you have to have been really into “back in the day” to fully appreciate. From what I can tell, these dudes totally invented the fusion of prog/metal and horror films. I’m not going to read their entry on Wikipedia and make like I know anything about them and/or represent like I’m some proto dude who was into the band from day one. I wish I could, because their relevance and importance is obvious by the response and excitement they generated in the crowd and amongst the other musicians performing. It was really cool for me to see Scott Carlson in full-on fanboy mode around the band. “That’s fucking Claudio Simonetti, man!” he said to me at least three times in the VIP room… “I just did shots with Claudio Simonetti from my own personal stash!” To witness an accomplished dude like Scott get so excited to meet an idol was refreshing and reaffirming. As for their set…it was awesome! It sounded great, and it was a totally magical experience listening and watching them perform. I don’t know any of the songs they played. It was literally my first experience with the band – I’d recommend checking them out. Prog/rock/metal Italian cinema style – how can you go wrong, right?

The band also had a ballerina, who I believe was a daughter or grand-daughter of a band member, perform on stage. She was representative of the film Susperia, which is about, in parts, a Ballet school. This performance was the first of two Goblin sets over the weekend. The crowd totally loved it.

After the prog-horror fog of Goblin faded, Down took the stage. This was obviously a big deal since Phillip H Anselmo, Down’s frontman, was hosting the Housecore fest AND it was the debut of Bobby Landgraf – the replacement for recently departed guitarist Kirk Windstein. The crowd was super pumped, and Down did not disappoint in the least. They delivered an hour-plus set of blistering, southern metal/hard rock. The quality and energy of the set is a testament to Down’s songwriting. The band members and crowd threw down with intensity, back and forth, energy building constantly until the end of the set.

Crowd fave’s “Witch-tripper”, “Losing All”, “New Orleans is a Dying Whore” and “Bury in Smoke” had Emo’s exploding with full on heaviosity. Bobby Landgraf—also a guitarist in Honky—is a totally natural fit in Down, trading solos and licks with Pepper Keenan effortlessly. Jimmy Bower’s prowess on the drums never ceases to impress—dude is a hard hitter and has very cool and unique kick-drum groove. Anselmo is a world-class frontman, guiding, goading and playing with the crowd from start to finish. When Down are “on”—and they almost always are—it’s pretty hard to touch them in terms of “big” underground metal. Even if you’re not a fan of the band or listen to them at home, catching Down live is always a good time and highly recommended. It was also touching to see EHG bandmates Brian Patton and Gary Mader on stage mere feet away from Bower, getting their Down on.

A great way to end the night.

— Words by David Hall
— Photos by Trent Maxwell

Pallbearer

“Pallbearer”

“Pallbearer”

“Pallbearer”

“Pallbearer”

“Pallbearer”

Repulsion

“Repulsion”

“Repulsion”

“Repulsion”

“Repulsion”

Warbeast

“Warbeast”

“Warbeast”

“Warbeast”

“Warbeast”

“Warbeast”

Goblin

“Goblin”

“Goblin”

“Goblin”

“Goblin”

“Goblin”

“Goblin”

“Goblin”

“Goblin”

Down

“Down”

“Down”

“Down”

“Down”

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