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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Louis Benjamin Falgoust II of Goatwhore
Zack Simmons of Goatwhore
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a night of metal, I finally found Jesus.