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. 

Festivals for Days: Part 1- South By So What? Day 15

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.”

Indeed.

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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.

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a shot of stage 1

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Between the stages

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.

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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.

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By far my favorite shirt and the newest in my wardrobe

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.

Screw that.

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.

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the sensual Iron Reagan

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A Band of Orcs with Yard Bone

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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.

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Death Angel

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.

Rules of the Road

1. Shit happens. Do whatever it takes to get the job done.

2. Always carry a spare tire.

3. Fights will happen but remember why you are here and how luck you have it. You could be working behind a desk under soul-sucking fluorescent lights.

4. When fighting, don’t make it personal unless the greater cause is at stake and the fuck-up needs to be put in his/her place. Other than that, refer to #3.

5. Always carry a spare gas can for good luck. If you have it, you won’t need it and if you leave it, you’ll be stranded.

6. GPS lies. Pay attention to signs, intuition and if in a jam, you can always ask a local.

7. Play more Tetris, it will help when loading/unloading all the gear, merch and half dozen guitars you just HAVE to bring along.

8. 10 minutes of space away from everyone else will spare you 10 fights down the line.

9. Eat whenever possible because you never know where your next meal will come from or when it will be.

10. Don’t forget to bring a towel.

11. Always search your hotel room. Apparently Sting’s bus driver stashes his drugs in the different hotels he knows he’ll be returning to while on the road. According to reliable sources, it’s not just him.

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Spokan, the Beginning of America, and Portland. Orctober 13-14.

Severe lack of sleep for days straight have brought me behind on the updates. After all, what good use is a writer who abides by his own deadlines? If that were to happen, all hell would break loose and the gods would rain hellfire and damnation upon us poor minions, and then where would we be?

So instead I’m starting from where we’re at and rolling with the road. Bringing you right into the middle of this goddamned thing straight from my cell phone. Welcome to the 21st century, where we do the important things with our thumbs. Tough shit non-primates, get with the evolution.

I’m writing this from the front seat of the rv, a band of orcs– looking as haggard as they sound and smelling twice as putrid–relax in the back after a long night of pillaging the Canadian countryside.

We’re parked somewhere outside of downtown Portland, Or., underneath an intersection of freeway overpasses, with the kooks and drunks, the wretched and the addicted, gather for a peace of mind and a sip of the hard stuff. Whether their taste is for the bourbon or the black.

Portland is an amazingly depraved city selling itself as a progressive paradise. Strip clubs stretch up and down the city streets and scattered in-between are nothing but bars, arcades, coffee shops, and record stores. It’s a fetishist’s heaven and has already stolen a nice chunk of money for my precious vinyl. Not that I’m complaining.

Two nights ago we were in Spokane, Wa. where the Orcs opened for a crowd of roughly 1100 drunk, crazed rednecks and mud worshippers. We had arrived early and spent the day idling around the venue, swapping the night’s road stories with the other crew and band members, breaking to go eat the Knitting Factory’s catering of the continental breakfast and taco bar.

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However, by the time the doors opened and the first wave of pre-game hammered fans walked in, we knew it was going to be one helluva night.

The merch tables were set off to the side in a separate room, so I missed the stage show but caught the real action instead.

From the moment Gogog stepped onto the stage and started yelling at the crowd, blackout drunk individuals were kicked out of the crowd in a constant stream every 10 to 20 minutes. Between the booze and the pit the night exploded in a sacrifice of concert goers to the metal gods. Blood, real and fake, drenched the faces and clothes of the horde as they cheered for more. Watching a spectacle such as an alien demon walking around with a massive alien dick, chopping off celebrity and other alien heads so that an actual fountain of blood can baptize the fans makes one realize just how perfect GWAR really is for the Super Bowl. The NFL commission clearly has no fucking clue why people watch their sport.

But that’s not to badmouth Spokane. The sober people were good folk and the lighting guy sold us some weed for California prices. What really struck me was how incredibly clean it was. A major US city with no dirt or grime on the buildings, no graffiti on the walls, and not even a candy wrapper on the ground. When there’s an island of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, you can’t help but wonder if something fishy is going down in Spokane.

When GWAR was finished and we were packed, the Orc caravan set off into the night towards Canada, where they were going to play Vancouver and I was going to in a trucker motel in Blaine, Wa. on the border because of my missing passport.

Blaine. . .well, Blaine exists. The city has a banner stretched across one street which reads, “Welcome to Blaine, where America begins!” Yeah, and Canada’s dream dies. It’s amazing the kids aren’t all drug dealers. Shit, maybe they are, I didn’t ask. But I did ask what people do for fun and the girl behind the pizza counter casually replied, “sometimes we go over to the island across the bay.” I left her a $5 tip just because how the hell do you reply to that?

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That’s Blaine in a nutshell. A boarded up city along a dead train route as a ghostly reminder.

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But they do have killer whales in their parks.

Which brings me to Portland.

After Vancouver, the band picked me up around 3 am and we hauled it the 4 hours south in the early morning mist. I’m back on a no sleep schedule, staying awake with whoever is driving. But things have been improving. In the past 48 hours I”ve actually slept for almost 6 hours. Just have to keep this up for 6 more weeks.
Continue reading “Spokan, the Beginning of America, and Portland. Orctober 13-14.”