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Human
The Parish, Fri., Jan 23rd

I’d seen the name Human in the Chronicle a time or two. I remembered them because the name itself had such proximity to Hum, one of my favorite bands. Sadly, when I saw them at the Parish that Friday they did not mimic the Hum sound I so carelessly associated with them.

I took notice of the crowd right before Human played. It wasn’t looking hopeful that I was going to hear something new. It was a cornucopia of stereotypical rock fans. Everyone was going for the typical rebellious-rock look. I felt like I was in a bad teen movie, the kind where they introduce the misunderstood bad boy during a rock show in a club filled with other "rebellious" patrons.

A pack of girls who looked like they came right out of the 90’s rock movie "Airheads" strutted around like they owned the place. To my surprise, black leather, metal belts and big blonde hair are still in. Middle-aged, mullet-headed rockers were represented too. It just wouldn’t be a rock show without those guys.

I quit people watching when the band went onstage. There was some seriously long hair attached to that band. "If you feel it, scream," the signer said prematurely. I didn’t scream. But I did count the people who did scream. It was five.

It was typical hard rock. No, not even that. Human’s sound was about 10 years old in my opinion. It reminded me of Alice in Chains, the Dirt album or old Pantera. Appropriately, some front-row drunk hollered out Pantera song titles all night.

Their sound worked well within itself; it’s just not 1992 anymore. Human has dated themselves. If that’s the sound they’re going for, fine. Viva nostalgia. I just like to hear new music or variations on new music.

Every song, up until the last two, sounded like they were building to something. "Something" never came though and I was left unsatisfied. There were no real dynamics in the songs. Human kind of methodically marched though the music. The set was vanilla thus far.

That being said, the last two songs were really good. I then realized what was missing in their set. They were finally enjoying themselves. It was about time. Only during the last two songs did Human start putting on a show. Only then was the long hair thrown around, rock faces made and the rock sign held high.

I got the impression they recently wrote the last two songs and were most proud of them in comparison to the rest.

The highlight of Human was the lead guitar player. He was old school. He played guitar solos with dramatic vibrato and classic metal riffs. He had the killer hair, too. "Throw that mop around, brah!"

Thankfully, they ended the show on a high note, leaving everyone and me with a good last impression. Otherwise, the show could have been chalked up to lack-luster 90’s rock. I hope they keep working to improve on their sound. Maybe someday they’ll earn a respectable place near the Hum albums at Waterloo Records.

–Vernon Effenberger

Dale Watson
Ginny’s Little Longhorn Chicken Shit Bingo, Sunday 01.25.04

On any given Sunday at Ginny’s Little Longhorn one can find great country music, cheap beer, and win some cash if physics and chicken shit magically transform into lady luck. Dale Watson is the long-standing and charming host of the infamous event. Now that football season is over, there is no excuse for skipping Dale’s weekly show and experiencing the glory of chicken shit.

Over the howls of bingo fanatics, the sounds of Dale and His LoneStars playing songs from all stages of their career waft through the bar. After the chicken, Red, drops his lovely load on a giant bingo card, one lucky bastard wins about a hundred dollars. Before all you overzealous animal rights folks plan some waste of space rally, let me emphasize that the chicken is loved and pampered. Try one of the pickled eggs sold at the bar.

I always enjoy seeing Dale and the guys. They play straight country, completely null and void of the grisly top-pop country that we all loathe. The LoneStars are Gene Kurtz, Don Pawlak and Gary Wiesner, and their years of experience and talent never cease to amaze me. Their tour manager Donnie Knutson still sucks, in spite of what the band says.

Dream Land, Dale’s next album, will be released this spring. You may remember from a previous issue (Volume 1, Issue #17) that Dale is doing the soundtrack for Austin Angel, a movie with Martin Sheen playing the Devil. Dale is still up for the lead role in this country musical, “Unless my acting totally sucks, or someone like Val Kilmer comes along and wants the role,” says Dale. I will personally kick Val Kilmer’s ass if he steals the job from Dale, because only a true Austin Angel would tell me nobody noticed when I fell and busted my ass outside the bar. Would Val do that? I don’t think so.

Dale and His LoneStars have a packed schedule as usual. They recently performed at Sammy Hagar’s Super Bowl tailgate shindig and are excited about playing the BGGW’s first roller derby bout of the season at the Thunderdome on February 15 at 8:30 p.m. The band’s usual Austin dates still stand: Mondays at Continental, Wednesdays at Fadó, and Thursdays and Sundays at Ginny’s. They are shooting up to Alabama for a few gigs and then heading back to Grand Ole Opry where Austin Angel will kick off shooting. Check out Dale’s website for additional tour dates @ DaleWatson.com

–Joelle Bart

Sworn Enemy
Backroom, Thurs., Jan 29th

"Their lyrics make DRI seem like Shakespeare," my friend Colin said commenting on the straightforwardness and simplicity of Sworn Enemy’s lyrics. I couldn’t make the comparison myself since I couldn’t understand these New Yorker’s lyrics too well. But who can discern live, hardcore lyrics?

On stage hung three large black banners bearing the band’s name. It seemed excessive and distracting, really. They were typical hardcore style with overused Gothic text in an attempt to look somber and menacing.

Despite coming out strong, their music was predictable. All the changes in the choruses and verses could be foreseen. While the music wasn’t breaking any boundaries, it was tight and performed well.

What I didn’t foresee was the unison pogoing they engaged in. You have to respect a hardcore band that’ll have the balls to get the visuals synched up with each other. It wouldn’t have been such a surprise if they were a pop-punk band or cock-rock group. For me, it was a first-time experience seeing a hardcore band do that. They did it again during the next song at another cut-time breakdown.

Sworn Enemy kept the show driving along. They wasted no time bantering between songs, except when the singer heralded their song "I.D.S." This was the crowd favorite. They shouted "I.D.S." with him during the chorus while surging toward the band. What did that mean, "I.D.S"? All the possibilities soon become ridiculous as I used my power of letter/word association. Whatever it means, it must strike a chord with their fans.

Speaking of fans, an overwhelming crowd from San Antonio made the long journey to the show. I must say, San Antonio is loyal to the bands they embrace. If a band is lucky enough to score a following there, they won’t abandon the group for anything.

Sworn Enemy did indeed have the sound that Hatebreed has pioneered. I’d recommend Sworn Enemy to anyone who likes East Coast hardcore/metal. Musically, their songs were dominated by downbeats and driving, repeated riffs. The show was performed with all the passion and fervor one would expect from a touring hardcore band. I enjoyed the performance, as did the sea of fans wearing black shirts and hoodies.

Thanks to Deborah Gill from DVO Booking and Management for bringing the show to Austin. The hardcore kids who made it up from San Antonio sure did appreciate it. A special thanks goes out to Byll and Mark at the Backroom as well for the hookup. See you all soon.

-Vernon Effenberger

HIMSA
The Backroom, Thursday 01.29.04

The Sanskrit definition of the word ahimsa is “abstaining from causing hurt or harm.” HIMSA dropped the A, rightfully reversing the meaning. Everything about the black-clad ones screams pain. As soon as the band hit The Backroom stage, an expectant audience met their exemplary brand of metal-hybrid music.

HIMSA did not disappoint as they artfully fused the “trinity of heavy music scenes (metal, hardcore, and punk)” with clean technical prowess and as they delivered a note-perfect onslaught of aggression in support of their second record, Courting Tragedy and Disaster. They are violent and they are heavy, but the songs are so finely crafted, both lyrically and musically, that it sets them apart from other hardcore acts.

In a world where the battle between old-school and nu-metal rages, HIMSA blazes defiantly past both genres and delivers dark sounds that are so unapologetically polished that they practically gleam and absolutely lure the listener in for the kill. I predict this Seattle-based band will surface above their weighty contemporaries, if for no other reason…who’s going to stop them?

–Tammy Moore

Our Black Love Song
Flamingo Cantina, Friday 01.23.04

It’s an indie guitar rock world. It may be difficult to push anything else, but if there are adventurous spirits among you, who seek to find something fresh, then be prepared. The underground may soon be ready to erupt again and spew the archetypal sounds of Our Black Love Song.

Obviously, the atmospheric music is supposed to speak for itself. Mood and expression are what is emphasized here. It appears restraint is practiced in terms of audience interaction between songs. (There is none this night. However, I was present for the groups’ debut and seem to remember a more engaging rapport. So one is left to assume that maybe it all does hinge on current frame of mind.) It is like the indifferent calm before a rampant storm.

Each time the music starts, however, there is an abundance of magnetic energy as vocalist Jason Farmer dramatically translates his emotive wordplay, which is made-to-order life-affirming anticipation set against a raw backdrop of occasionally synth-infused edgy dance beats—more Joy Division circa post-punk era, though, than electronica. It then melds with skillfully crafted jagged guitar riffs compliments of local guitar prodigy, Danny Stapleton, and is anchored by a popping rhythm section comprised of bassist Chris Keith and drummer Jason Henderson.
The dynamic diversity of this nervy brand of guitar music appears to take aim and subvert both the modern pop and indie guitar rock worlds. Remember the ironic name. This is one of the bands to watch in the year ahead.

–Tammy Moore

Travis
La Zona Rosa 2.03.04

Travis are a mildly entertaining five-piece (formerly a quartet but the son of Rick Wakeman has joined them for this tour) from Scotland who combine lush and gooey harmonies with formulaic mid-tempo lite rock. Imagine Rufus Wainwright with hair on his balls fronting Hootie and the Blowfish, sans Darius Rucker. If you're into that sort of thing, then Travis is the band for you. Their previous Austin appearance in October of 2001 at Stubb's was a goddamned rockfest. I was there. They were on their way up and they were excited about it. But hey, sometimes you're on and sometimes you're off. Last Tuesday's show at La Zona Rosa (downgraded from the Austin Music Hall) was a study in mediocrity. The first ten songs were barely discernable from each other. In fact, the band was in danger of being upstaged by it's light show. Midway through the set things started to pick up when some girl fainted a few rows from the front. That was about as exciting as it got that night. The first encore song was a solo piano/vocal fiasco that seemed to last forever. Their big single "Why Does it Always Rain on Me?" was halfheartedly delivered at the end of the show and then everybody went home. Ho hum.

-Peter Elliott

Opeth
The Backroom, 2/6/04

Ever seen that symbol of a snake eating its tail? Probably around the belly button of a stripper, right?

Ouroboros is her name. She symbolizes totality, the cycle of renewal and the continuous round of existence; an ancient archetypal stamp inked in depths of man and emerging on…Death metal? Well sure. Nintendo ain’t usin’ ‘em and Jung did have a point.

I contend that Death Metal in general is one of the more creative and symbolically dependent genres of music. So it was not surprising to see the snake eat its tail at the Backroom when Opeth played. However, it was totally refreshing and that’s when I began to see that it takes more than Satan to really pack a house.

Compared to other, more orthodox satanic bands I’ve seen there off Riverside, Opeth had the thoroughly fanatical crowd singing along and patiently waiting for the next number.
There were more than a few times when Opeth vocally came right off as a Jethro Tull thang. “Woodsy Folk”, the fodder of sprites, the dark forest and moribund love tales. Absent was the flute but then again there was absolutely perfect metal being played instead. The Rush-like acoustic parts woven into the looming metal fabric was like blending Farewell to Kings with Master of Puppets.

Opeth has advanced light years past the morbid cock paradigm of Death Metal. It seems that 14 years ago when Opeth was practicing tunes by Death and Maiden over there in Stockholm, they were destined to advance into a crystalline world where even an acoustic song amidst the set of tunes would not only woo the crowd into an emotional harmony, but satiate a dynamic precedence un-utilized by the likes of the Death Metallers (though it is clear there are predecessors). And so really it’s no surprise to see the response of the crowd (and within myself) to what was clearly the new wave of metal: the Gothic blended into the acoustic, the mid-tempo metal camp married to downright light-folk riffing.

Opeth took their time, played ballads and fist shakers; a third of the set was material never played in the states before and the thrill coming off the audience at each of these tunes was immense. I felt lucky to be in on this show. Not to mention that Opeth takes the cake from now on. They had culled their sound from Voivod, Burzum, King Diamond, Bathory, and brought elements of jam bands’ grooves, prog rock intricacy, fusion jazz to the point of Metheny on Malmstein.
If you subscribe to the idea that we no longer have a “new”, that the past is re-invented to the point that the original is unrecognizable and sub-standard, then we must name a few masters of this simulation and innovation: one of them is Opeth. So that snake, eating its past to feed its future, recoils to strike in the timeless nest.

Or, Opeth can make little girls sing along to Fender Rhodes key stylings while bordering Dave Matthews so discreetly that the most opposing styles of music can complete the cycle of what’s hot by simply forcing a mew mood onto metal with high professionalism. Color me charmed.

--Kevin Stack

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