Gronk! woke me around 7am, saying he already checked in with the venue and we would need to dump the merch soon. I opened my eyes in a daze and looked outside the window. We were parked in the middle of a muddy field with nothing but open sky and one or two buildings peppered throughout the grassy knolls.
“I know we’re in Ft. Worth, but where are we?” I asked, trying to remember just what-in-the-hell we were doing that day.
“Some baseball field,” he replied. “It’s ‘South By So What?’ today, so it’s going to be a long day.”
South By So What? is the metal answer to the infamous South By Southwest festival. But instead of being a week-long festival that takes place in downtown Austin like its namesake, SBS? Is a weekend at a minor league baseball stadium seating several thousand people. It was by far the largest venue A Band of Orcs have played along with several of the other bands.
Since no one was awake yet, Gronk! and I decided to walk around and check out the digs. On the playing field there were two large stages and a third, smaller stage, on the side. Band members from Story of the Year, Hawthorne Heights, Revocation, Battlecross and more were all walking around with the same idea, drinking coffee, smoking the morning cigarette and trying to avoid the mud.
I started this tour listening to the latest Goatwhore album, Blood for the Master but every time they play Santa Cruz, I seem to be out of town and always kick myself for it. I didn’t know they were playing SBS?, so my metaphorical music nerd boner was probably showing when I heard, “Hey man, I’m Ben” and turned around to see the lead singer.
Louis Benjamin Falgoust II
The morning progressed as more and more bands began piling in. Gronk!, Oog and I grabbed the merch and found our table nestled next to Battlecross’. The festival’s merch manager was a short, bubbly, early 20-something named Shelby, who could talk a mile a minute and reminded me of any character Parker Posey has played. Within the first ten minutes I already knew about her three jobs, where she’s lived and why she’s a horrible Texan (she hates barbeque and has never rode a horse, in case you’re wondering).
Here’s the deal for those of you who have never worked in a venue. Just like in Vegas, the house always takes a little something. Bands usually receive a guarantee from the venue (or a portion of the ticket sales) and always have to give a cut of their merchandise to the club. Normally, it’s 15-20% and only on “soft” merch (t-shirts), but every once in a while, the house might go all in and ask for a cut of everything. Luckily, we had Shelby.
“So, do you have a lot of non-shirt merch? ‘Cause if you do, tell me and I won’t count it or take a cut.”
Of course my answer was, “We have tons, almost too much,” and that was that.
All-day festivals are too goddamn long to work, but fun as hell. Along with all of the various bands’ merch, there were you usual festival booths selling jewelry, glass pipes, and a wide variety of different t-shirts.
As the hours progressed, we all began wondering where the audience was. Half way through the day, there was only about a thousand people watching the various stages, leaving the stadium with a very empty look. Turns out Korn and Five Finger Death Punch were playing a sold-out stadium show RIGHT NEXT DOOR to us, draining much of the SBS? crowd. The bass player for Five Finger Death Punch, Chris Kael, was at SBS? earlier in the day, telling people he “felt sorry” for us because of the diminished crowd.
I feel bad for whoever went to the other show because those bands suck and we had metal legends.
With our all-access passes I was able to get pics and video of A Band of Orcs, Iron Reagan, Whitechapel, Goatwhore AND San Francisco Bay Area thrash metal legends, Death Angel, all from the photo pit.
the sensual Iron Reagan
A Band of Orcs with Yard Bone
Ben & Sammy of Goatwhore
Dave Brockie (lead singer for GWAR) and I even rocked out together for Goatwhore by sitting behind the baracade, right in front of the speakers so we could literally feel the intensity.
“Fuckin’ amazing sound!” he screamed giving me a fist bump.
By nightfall it was time for dinner, and hospitality had barbeque catering with some cornbread, salad and mashed potatoes for us wimpy vegetarians, all lined-up in the stadium’s penthouse skybox. Gogog and I made our way up to the box where Hulg, Cretos and Jesse already were. After some food and a few glasses of real, Southern sweet tea, we walked onto the balcony and smoked some Cali green as 3 Inches of Blood belted out their high-pitched power metal.
Even though the first day of SBS? was a bust for the promoter, it turned out to be basically a giant metal music picnic for the bands; providing us with a chance to see some awesome music, rub elbows with other musicians and have a semi-relaxing day. Which was needed, because the next day would be the Housecore Horror Festival and we had no idea how crazy of a shit-show that was going to be.