Housecore Horror Fest: Blood, guts, & Gentleman Jack. Day 16.

I am not a morning person, nor are most of my counterparts. Whether they are literary journalist, photographers, promoters or musicians, our time is the night where we mingle, drink, shmooze, see shows or stay awake surrounded by cigarette butts and too much work with too short of a deadline. We see people with the normal, 9 to 5 jobs, or 6 am wakers as wild beasts; strange creatures we don’t understand and always keep a suspicious eye on.

But it seems that, somehow, when you’re on tour all rules go out the window.

Maybe it’s the bumpy road or the natural sunlight beaming through the windows–or the fact that I’m sharing a space the size of my room with 6 other dudes so sleep isn’t really an option anyway—but lately I have been waking up earlier than everyone else. Granted the times vary, maybe it’s 8am, maybe it’s 11, but it’s still a new experience.

On this particular Saturday morning we were in Austin, down the street from Emo’s a legendary venue in the city of music. It was early, around 8am, but there were already bands arriving for the Housecore Horror Fest.

Thrown by Housecore Records—which is owned by Philmo of Pantera, Superjoint Ritual and more—the Housecore Horror Fest is a four-day long music & horror film festival complete with upcoming and old movie screenings, cult movie merchandise booths and everything else you would expect. It promised the best Austin experience in horror culture & metal music, and we were ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

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The Housecore Horror Fest schedule for our day. 

We pulled into the parking lot of a complex boasting Emo’s and the venue A Band of Orcs were playing at called Antone’s, and were met by a loveable Bear of a parking attendant.

“Which band are y’all in?”

“A Band of Orcs,” replied Gronk! in a half-sleep daze.

Immediately his face lit up.

“Oh yeah? That’s awesome! I’ve been wanting to see you guys for a couple years now. Pull right on in and park anywhere.”

We pulled up right behind the venue, grabbed our passes and began unpacking the trailer to set up camp. We had several hours before the band played, so a few of us walked inside Antone’s where they were screening a new Asian horror flick called Trunk. Unfortunately, the film only had fifteen more minutes left, so I stumbled back to the trailer where another band had pulled up next to us.

“Dude,” whispered Gogog, pointing to a long, curly haired guy rocking a leather vest with no shirt. “Do you know who that is? Ari, the guy who played the child Jason in ‘Friday the 13th.’”

Sure enough, his band—named First Jason, of course—was opening at Antone’s right before A Band of Orcs. We all gave our introductions and met his roadie, Raven, and bassist, Nepharious, from the band, Macabre. They arrived just in-time for Ari to introduce the screening of Friday the 13th, playing next at Antone’s, which he did quickly before returning to our camp.

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Rad Band Van Outside of the Fest

“Who wants to get high and watch Friday the 13th?” he asked. Before anyone could respond, I passed him a freshly packed bowl of Cali bud and the session began. Three bowls, two vape pens and a conversation about their newest smoking gadgets later, they gave us cds and signed Friday the 13th posters before we floated back into the bar to watch some classic slasher movie moments.

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First Jason slashing it up

As the credits rolled past the screen, Raven and I set up our booths next to a band called The Bloody Hammers, and I checked out First Jason’s goods. Every piece of merchandise was Friday The 13th themed, from Jason-style hockey mask earrings to movie stills, posters, t-shirts and even mini, plastic machetes. Ari even played a keytar shaped like a machete, singing numbers like “Jason is Watching” and “Crystal Lake.” It was a whole new level of campy fun, excuse the pun.

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First Jason

Up until the Housecore Horror Fest, the Orcs were building larger crowds at each successive venue, but still relatively unknown. Maybe 10 people would be there to see them one day, and then 12 the next, but in general, most people had never heard of them. HHF would prove to be the tipping point.

A large crowd filled the bar in preparation for the Orcs and before they even hit the stage we had sold over $100 worth of merchandise, including a new shirt to the Bear parking attendant. Finally, we were with OUR people. The folks with a thirst for fake blood and excessive, over-the-top gore; the folks who spent their teenage years as outcasts, discussing the finer points of Dario Argento’s earliest works instead of watching the high school football game; the individuals who cast aside the latest episode of Friends for a handheld video camera so they could make their own horror film with their real-life buddies.

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Blurry Orcs from the back of my Merch Booth

They. Loved. The. Orcs.

Within the first song lead singer, Gogog, had them eating out of his warty, green hands. When he screamed, “Louder!” the audience would erupt with blood-curling shouts. A massive circle pit opened up in the middle of the bar with lost shoes flying above the crowds’ head. Because it was a festival, they only had 20 minutes to play, just enough to tease the crowd and leave them wanting more.

And want more they did.

It was the first time on tour the audience chanted for an encore and it was the entire bar screaming for more. The shouting grew so loud the sound guy cranked up the background music several times before the crowd received the hint. Over a period of a few hours, we sold more merch than the previous two nights combined. A few days later, Gronk! would receive an email from the promoter of HHF saying what an amazing band they were, how they always have a place to place in Austin, and see you next year.

Two more bands played after the Orcs and then it was time for the final music performance at Antone’s before the next movie. We had to pack up the merch tables to make way for the screening, so I did it quickly and caught 80% of death metal power trio, Hate/Eternal’s, set.

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Hate Eternal

Holy Metal Up the ASS!

Blistering solos, grinding distortion and chest pounding double-bass kicks with snare blast beats filled the air with such immense power I had to double-take and make sure it was only three people. I’ll shamefully admit I never listened to them before then, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t make a new fan out of me. Hate/Eternal, check ‘em out if you haven’t, just make sure you have a bucket to collect your brains after they melt out your ears from so much awesomeness.

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Hate Eternal

With the rest of the day off, we explored the expo and unwound from the previous couple of days. Of course, when you’re living this life, time to unwind means drinkin’, and drink we did. The artists’ lounge was fully stocked with various kinds of beer, Gentleman Jack Daniels and bottles of Grey Goose vodka along with BBQ and tacos. We waited for everyone else to get their food and clear out, before Hulg swiped a bottle of vodka and Jess & I split the whiskey.

Next door, Emo’s was open for business and we spent the rest of the day partying it up with the bands on the Madness At the Core of Time Tour and taking shots with Carlee & Wyatt (Iron Reagan’s & Whitechapel’s merch managers, respectively); watching the music from the front row & photo pit, along with another epic performance by Goatwhore. Their band had parked next to the Orc RV after First Jason left, so we were all able to hang out and talk throughout the day. Sammy, the guitar player, and I bonded over my “Follow Your Leader” backpatch with the picture of Hitler committing suicide while I subdued my fanboy status.

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Iron Reagan

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But the real treat for the night was a special appearance by the one and only stoner/psych/sludge band, the Melvins. Heroes to the underground, the Melvins influenced everyone from Nirvana to Tool, Boris and Mastodon. With 2013 marking their 30th year as a band, guitarist King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover have reuinited with original drummer Mike Dillard, with Crover switching over to bass.

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Goatwore

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Louis Benjamin Falgoust II of Goatwhore

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Zack Simmons of Goatwhore

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Guitarist Sammy Duet of Goatwhore

Since Jesse and I were on one tearing it up, we used our all-access powers to sneak on stage for the full Melvins set, standing only feet away from Buzzo’s giant, white fro. We smoked a bowl beforehand, and let the stoner-sludge fest commence. Everything became a beautiful blur of reds, blues, pinks and greens from the lights above as the sweet stoner riffs swirled in the air like a fresh rip from a clean bong. The venue was packed and we had the keys to the kingdom.

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The Melvins from behind bathing in blue

Throughout the night’s performances Emo’s was our homebase  and we all took the liberty of using it as such. The real parties were happening outside the club, with the various bands smoking, drinking, getting high and hitting on all the females in the parking lot. At one point I passed by Gogog and Hulg doing a radio interview and threw in my two cents when they waved for me to join them. I don’t remember what I said (you can find the radio interview on A Band of Orcs’ facebook page), but I do remember seeing a devil on stilts and fire breathers.

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What’s a Metal Fest without Satan?

Sometime in the past couple of weeks, Jesse had the ingenious idea to have his picture taken by the various famous musicians we’ve played with. Yes, you read that right. He doesn’t take a picture with the person, but instead has them take his photo. You can see all the pics of Jesse on Instagram and Twitter under the #Iaskfamouspeopletotakemypicture hashtag, including the one he got from the man himself, Phil Anselmo. Phil was so wasted he needed two handlers to help him navigate through the hordes of fans asking for his autograph and initially denied Jesse a picture until he realized he wouldn’t actually be in it.

Finally, Gwar walked onto the stage to finish the night. By then, I my whiskey limit had reached its peak so Jesse & I tried hanging out backstage where we could sit and chill, but the production manager said it was closed and kicked us out, right back onto the stage. How the hell we were allowed to hang out ON the stage with Gwar instead of BACKSTAGE where were out of the way, I’ll never know.

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Gwar’s Beefcake beefing out. 

After standing next to Beefcake for part of Gwar’s set, my exhaustion took the best of me, so I swaggered back to the empty RV and passed out. It was an epic hangover the next morning, and I regret nothing.

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After a night of metal, I finally found Jesus. 

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Halloween: It’s Gonna Get Weird

It’s been a few days since a post straight from behind the merch booth; so why the hell not deliver a fresh, hot, live post straight from my gut to your brain? I already have a couple on my computer, ready for publishing, so I’m going to skip ahead a few days and go straight to last night.

Halloween.

We had pulled up next to the venue in Charlotte, NC sometime hours before dawn, having driven straight from Atlanta. I was the first one awake, which has been happening lately and I don’t know why. My internal clock has been completely unwound and built anew on this damn tour, it will be hell getting back on my normal routine, but no matter.

When you’re on the road in a van or RV with 6 other guys, you learn to live out of gas stations. First, they are everywhere. Second, they always have coffee and horrible, food-like processed substances that fill the hunger. Third, there’s always a bathroom and dear Lord, is that a sweet, sweet thing.

After a few days, the gas station routine becomes so regular they turn into a personal kitchen. You just roll out of bed, throw on your flip-flops and stumble your way towards the heavenly caffeine. Nevermind the 50 year old Southern man behind the counter casting a suspicious eye in your direction. Ignore the nice, Christian family staring at your tattoos and bedhead while you wipe the sleep from your eyes, cursing the sun and asking yourself just where in the hell you’re at. Just another morning in America, thanks Ronnie.

Only on this particular morning, the gas station was out of coffee and didn’t have a public restroom, but the lady was kind enough to point me in the direction of a Bojangle’s Chicken restaurant a quarter of a mile up. The air was crisp and quickly brought my senses back into reality. By the time I was at Bojangle’s, my gut was growling for biscuits and coleslaw, which I promptly ordered. With food in hand I made my way back to the RV, stopping for 20 minutes to hangout on a brick building stoop to watch the pedestrians and crackheads walk by.

Gronk! And Jesse were the next to make their way out of the RV. I grabbed my computer and went inside The Tremont Music Hall to charge my electronics and do the journalistic work for the morning.

The Tremont looks like an old warehouse, complete with loading docks, separated into two rooms with the largest holding somewhere around 900 people. The floors are spray painted with “attack lines” and “safe zones” and the walls are adorned with a couple decades worth of pictures of the various acts who have graced the stage.
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Gwar was up several times along with Iggy Pop, Green day, Rancid, Hank 3, Death Angel and many, many more. Painted above the front, bay door it read, “Enter At Your Own Risk”. Ominous foreshadowing, indeed.

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As the hours progressed, more and more people began piling in and soon everyone on the tour was hanging out, getting ready for the Halloween festivities.

“Since nobody is dressing up tonight, we’re gonna have to get weird,” explained Iron Reagan bassist, Rob.

“Yeah,” chimed in Tony, the singer. “We’re gonna get (Cretos) so wasted he’ll wake up with another teardrop tattoo!”

And weird it got, but more on that later.

I have to mentioned the Tremont’s catering. We’ve been eating amazing food throughout this tour, with most venues catering dinner for us. But the Tremont takes the cake. There was hot brisket for the omnivores and mashed potatoes, lentils with jicima root, salad, grilled veggies, rolls & brownies for everyone else. It might’ve been the first time I got all my servings of nutrients and protein in one meal, so I had seconds. I thanked our chef and she told me about all of the various events she’s worked.

“Yesterday was Alicia Keyes, today is Gwar and tomorrow I’m cooking for the WWE” she said with glee. “It’s only for 300 people but I’m making enough for 600 ’cause those guys can eat!” Well said, kindly grandma figure.

The club stashed our per diem beers in the green room & Jesse skated up the street to grab a bottle of Jameson for the bands. After all, what’s Halloween without Jameson? That’s right, a crappy one.

Doors opened and the costumes began pouring in. The usual suspects were there in full force, from store bought Mario & Luigi’s to slutty kitty, slutty cop and slutty ghosts. But Charlotte has a lot of character & too much down time, so we also saw a guy dressed as a tampon, a rad version of the Scooby Doo Mystery Gang, contestants from the 90’s Nickelodeon show “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and even a damn good replica of Oderus Urungus.

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As soon as A Band of Orcs hit the stage, the audience was already in a tipsy state with the sound of bottles breaking against the concrete floor. The merch tables were in the smaller room, but I could hear Gogog riling up the already rowdy bunch as more glass exploded around me. This time, a pint.

By the time Whitechapel made their way onto the stage, the floors were drenched in beer, there were a few stumbling, blacked out girls (more like zombies, really. all because of the booze and not the holiday) and the men’s toilet was clogged with two Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys, which made the urnial flood out. The night was 1/2 way over.

Three songs into Gwar, I saw Jesse leaving the main hall, so I thought it was a good moment to grab some video of the mighty scumdogs.

“Dude, I wouldn’t do that. It’s nuts in there,” he said with a stunned gaze. “I’m not even going back in for the rest of the night.”

Even though he’s not in the business of selling wolf tickets, I had to go see for myself but couldn’t make it past the entrance. 900 sweaty, drunk, blood covered minions were in full rabid mode, raging to the metal and all pressed up against a tetering barricade. The Tremont’s security are all a bunch of biker-built guys but even I could read the fear on their face.

Within moments shouts to cut the power began ringing out as the metal barricade gave way.

“Hey you Motherfuckers!” screamed Oderus. “Calm your fucking shit or we won’t play. I know you all want to fuck us that badly, but we don’t need anyone dying before they can suck my dick!” They’re the Scumdogs of the Universe for a reason, and their brand of raunch was just what the audience needed to hold back and rebuild the wall.

After their set, Dave Brockie walked through the audience, covered in Gwar blood and cum, wearing nothing but a pair of Gronks! tighty-whiteys. Brockie had talked about being Heisenburg for Halloween all tour, but when it came down to it, he had no time for a costume. So the underpant served as part of his “Walter White goes crazy in the supermarket” costume. He ran around screaming “Where’s Jesse? Let’s cook!” so I made sure to grab our Jesse for a candid shot with Crazy Walt (or drunk Brockie. When it comes to Gwar, it’s hard to tell what’s what sometimes.)

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“Walt” & Jesse

As we packed up the trailer, it was clear that Iron Regan had succeeded in getting Cretos trashed. But the truth is we all had a hand in bringing that poor bastard to puke. And puke he did, all over our RV bathroom ending with a snot rocket on the window curtain.

All of the bands were hanging out in the parking lot, taking pics and chatting it up with the old school Gwar fans while Gwar switched buses yet again. This was the 4th time for them, each one breaking down in their own way. Jesse, Gogog and I found a guy named Todd who was willing to smoke us out as we talked about metal, white people destroying the government and everything in-between.

As people started to disperse, we saw a very drunk, slutty Predator hitting on Balzac before she stumbled back to the car with her boyfriend and friends. Half-way there she tripped over her platform boots and face planted into the gravel.

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Slutty Predator & Dirks with Ben from Whitechapel & Jesse photo bombing

“That’s spousal abuse!” screamed Jesse, loud enough for her to hear.

Immediately the embarrassment hit her and instead of composing herself like an adult Predator, she began wailing on her boyfriend, punching him in the face, chest and crotch. We all stood there, watching and adding ESPN commentary until a security guard joined our group.

“Man,” he said very matter-of-factly. “I’d try to stop it, but that’s what she does. I’ve seen her with at least 4 dudes and she’s beat every one of them. If THAT’S not a red flag, what is? You go for the low-hanging fruit and it’ll punch you in the nuts.”

By now, the bus switch was almost complete and the Gwar guys invited us to raid their beer, fridge and random packs of new socks, boxers and shirts. Jesse and Hulg came back 3 times, each with pillow cases full of comandeered goods. As I write this, we have beer stashed in the fridge, cupboards, under the bed and somewhere in the trailer.

Jesse went back outside to hangout on the new Gwar bus, while Gogog and I put the loot away. When out of nowhere, BAM! the entire RV shook with the hand of God. Or the old Gwar bus, which had hit our trailer and was now stuck on. Hulg watched the whole thing and woke up Oog, who owned the trailer. With some tricky manuevering the driver was able to unlodge the bus and gave Oog $40 for the damages. The passenger side fender was ripped like a sardine can, but remained over the wheels and the hanging metal wasn’t in danger of popping the tires, so Oog chalked it up as a win.

With the old bus gone, the drunk fan goers retired and our ripped up fender, there was nothing left to do but kick it in the parking lot longer, drink beer, smoke some hash oil, and recount the night’s events with sleep deprived laughs.

It was a helluva night. I’m still trying to figure out how the hell all of that happened in less than 24 hours. What a difference a day makes.