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Concert Experience

Austin Terror Fest, A Newfound Austin Staple

August 9, 2019

As an Ag, I know a thing or two about traditions. The City of Austin is already home to several traditions, such as the likes of South by Southwest, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Alamo Drafthouse, Sixth Street, and even that school in Austin. Now it is time for the newfound tradition that is Austin Terror Fest, now known as Oblivion Access, with ATF’s recent rebranding. ATF takes a scene that in many regards is not as respected as it should be, that celebrates all things heavy and alternative. The festival has a beating metal core, but welcomes all forms of fitting genres of music for this thrashing scene. Terror Fest is an intriguing brand. With various Location X Terror Fests across the country such as Northwest Terror Fest and Southwest Terror Fest, ATF lives up to the brand of its predecessors while putting a distinctively Texan and Austin spin on the festival. ATF was started by Dusty Brooks after helping with promotion and backing of Southwest Terror Fest in Tucson, Arizona. After helping out with Southwest Terror Fest, the organizer of the festival had realized that Brooks was himself a promoter in Austin for various local acts and venues. Discussions began for an Austin Terror Fest that had its inaugural show during the week-long events of South by Southwest. The festival was its first, and as Brooks put it, “Could’ve been better, could’ve been worse.” The show would go on after the head of SWTF left for Seattle to start Northwest Terror Fest, and leaving the Austin branded Terror Fest to Brooks. Come the second year, Brooks would hire fellow Austin promoter Dorian Domi to help him press forward with ATF to improve it and make it last for the coming years. Let me start by saying that Austin Terror Fest is one of the most comfortable festivals I have ever been to. A venue that was healthily populated with massive fans blowing on the crowd and water coolers galore. It may have been a blistering Texas heat complemented by explosive metal riffs, but one could survive in this pit. During all three days, ATF started off at the Barracuda Bar with the stage that was outside until around 7:30 when the show would move across the street to the Empire venue. Barracuda was a nice intimate venue to start the day off. The inside was dark and had a bar sheltered from the sun that the various insane music goers would flock to in order to take cover. Although there was a stage available inside Barracuda, the shows were all outside in the back of the Barracuda in order to fit the large crowd along with an outside bar and merchandise tables. Empire Garage and Control Room was a much larger venue where the prime time acts came out for the night. The “Garage” was a stage that opened up to a stretch of concrete on the lot where the crowds would congregate around the stage while the indoor bar and stage were the “Control Room.” There was a bar along a stretch of concrete to accommodate the outdoor stage and in the corner of the lot outside were tables for merchandise and various vendors. Both of these venues were located off of Seventh Street and I-35 in the heart of Downtown Austin. Just steps away from Sixth Street and plenty of food trucks, Austin Terror Fest finds itself in a prime location relative to the city as well as two of the best venues in Austin. Barracuda and Empire prove to be fruitful grounds for the festival and the music scene it contributes to. I found myself getting into Austin and Barracuda just to catch the second to opening act of the entire festival, Pyrrohn. Pyrrohn was a prime taste to get the crowd warmed up by laying down heavy riffs. Baking in the heat of the sun, the band pressed forth and managed to continue getting the crowd ready for festival favorite, Goatwhore. Goatwhore being a black metal band from New Orleans, they bring their southern style to command the stage. Amidst chaotic riffs and heavy bass lines, a mosh pit broke out in the dirt in which the sun could not stop these Texan metal heads. Goatwhore had their audience and they were being heard. They were the first act of the evening that really got me and the rest of the crowd prepped for the next couple of days. Once Goatwhore concluded, it was on to the migration across the street. Upon returning to the festival at the next venue, Empire, the crowd began packing in for the outside stage known as “The Garage.” As we convened on this stretch of concrete while dusk began to settle, the crowd was really amped up from the band Taverner. The front man for the band was all over the stage shaking his neck and screaming in fits of rage as something reminiscent of the nu-metal acts. Moving on inside brought on the likes of Terminator 2, a band with a deep doom metal sound of riffs while being complemented by their screaming vocals. A nice change of pace for the day that was altogether refreshing with the air conditioning I forgot existed. I moved back and forth between the inside and outside of Empire throughout the night and continued to enjoy the acts during this time like the insane Full of Hell and the thrashing Primitive Man. My personal favorites of this Friday night were the highly anticipated Pig Destroyer and the gothic Church of Misery. Pig Destroyer was up first with two raging front men that ignited the crowd on their every whim. The synthesizers blasted away on the subwoofer while the crazed man controlling them yelled and raised the crowd up pronging a double headed attack along with the raging vocalist. This duo of hype men helped to make their show all the better live. At the core of this performance was the guitarist who created the crashing grindcore rhythms that sparked the mosh pits in the crowd while this duo, vocalist and synthesizer, fueled them. Church of Misery capped off this Friday night as the penultimate experience. Where Pig Destroyer was much more in your face, Church of Misery commanded you through its bass lines and guitar riffs. You may not have been thrashing around like a monkey, but your head was banging and your body was grooving. This heavily Black Sabbath influenced band hails from Tokyo bringing with it an imagery all too fitting for a band that sparked heavy metal. The Black Sabbath inspiration was everywhere down to Sabbath’s mascot, Henry, being in Church of Misery’s logo. My favorite part of this entire band was their bassist, helped by the fact he was in front of me throughout the entire show. Sporting an image of long jet black hair, wide bell bottom jeans, and a bass guitar that hung low to his knees, this man channeled Geezer Butler. His rhythmic bass, which would sometimes play in such a melodic way, created the sound for the band. This was a sound that was dipped in a bluesy black with a coating of screaming vocals. The second day of the fest involved everyone shaking off the night from before and possibly dealing with a hangover or two. Eventually everyone was making their way down once again to brace the bodies and the heat. Deep Cross was the act that had the fulfilling job of awaking the crowd at Barracuda, a nice little groove band. What I enjoyed in this early part of day two was the two following acts. Following Deep Cross was Dorthia Cottrell with a refreshing acoustic performance that covered the songs of Texas country-blues legend, Townes Van Zandt. Her soothing vocals and melodic strings brought peace to a crowd and reintroduced people, including myself, to the likes of Van Zandt. Following Cottrell was black metal band Panopticon, but they weren’t out to thrash on their first appearance that weekend. Panopticon had two sets that weekend with the second being their regular set and this, their first one, being an acoustic set. This acoustic set followed in a style similar to Cottrell’s with a twang to its bluesy style all while featuring a hint of bluegrass from the band’s Kentucky roots. When we moved across to Empire for the evening, there was an act that featured the most memorable showmanship of the evening. Machine Girl boasted some of the best theatrics of the night featuring a front man that was infatuated with his audience, catching them in a trance. The insanity with his vocal style, singing, and distortion of his voice while at the same time adding synths over his vocals created a sound that grinded against the crowd. The drummer accompanied this performance while vigorously attacking his drums to the point of bleeding, and just like Jesse “The Body” Ventura, he didn’t have time to bleed. The front man for Machine Girl then would proceed to jump into the mosh pits he had conducted and collided with his audience all while continuing to sing. I wish I could have joined him, but my camera was my cross to bier and protect. Speaking of pits, another favorite of the weekend decided to put the whole band in the pit. The band Daikaiju took their entire show in the middle of the audience donning their geisha masks and playing a punk style surfer music. This was a pretty intimate setting as all the members in the band were shirtless and shredding while one of their guitarists was constantly pressing his body against the wall of the crowd that was around him. His sweaty body pressed against me during which he laid down a riff that sounded like Sid Vicious chilling with the Beach Boys on Venice Beach while watching Godzilla on the horizon. What does that sound like? Believe me, you’ll know when you hear it. Just like the King of the Monsters, the band then proceeded to tear through their instruments by lighting them ablaze like it was Tokyo on any given Sunday. Lighter fluid and matches abound, the inferno raged in the crowd’s faces, mine especially. Adding to the lists of fine examples of showmanship, TR/ST created pure grooves for your feet to move to on this Saturday. This trio of musicians had a sound similar to that of the early days of Ministry combined with Tool all while only consisting of synthesizers/keyboards, drums, and an energetic vocalist. Their front man had the moves that took away the night and audience with him. The man moved on his feet with the likes of a young Rob Halford and Elvis Presley. The singer moved with the people and commanded them with the stage, a true showman. Concluding the festivities that evening was the energetic and insane Lightning Bolt. Another intriguing duo, Lightning Bolt consists of a bass guitarist and a drummer that tear up everything in sight. With the drummer on vocals and his head wrapped in colored fabric, making him look like a criminal madman while he flailed his arms screaming into the mic, he drew the attention to himself. Combined with the strobe lights, rapid bass guitar, equally rapid drums, and blistering vocals, it is no doubt that Lightning Bolt took a bite out of the show. I was saddened that I couldn’t partake of the festival on the third day. Through the two days I was there, I can safely say that at the heart of this festival is music, but it is quite a bit more than that. Austin Terror Fest is about culture, the scene, Austin, and the people. I found myself many times talking to the concert goers who were from all walks of life, each with a story to tell. From a couple visiting from Denver who teach at a middle school, a filmmaker from San Diego, photographers from New York and Seattle, and a sufficient amount of students, ATF had it all. A conversation was had every day with these wonderful people, especially when it was too hot to be amongst the crowd. The vendor section added more to this scene as it wasn’t just the musicians selling there merch, but local artists as well. Jewelry crafters, wood carvers, a food truck, and the tattoo artist Trine Grimm selling the prints of her work. ATF created a welcoming and relaxing vibe to be had. Ultimately, ATF contributed to the scene and culture of Austin all while confirming the city’s title of the Live Music Capital of the World. I look forward to the future of Austin Terror Fest as it continues its legacy as Oblivion Access while further developing this newfound identity and bringing new talent to its lineups. The festival will continue to grow and very well possibly outgrow its current venues. I recommend the festival for anyone in general who loves the indie scene, especially those who enjoy heavy metal and heavy music. I look forward to the first Oblivion Access.     Written by: Jed Ullrich Photos courtesy of Jed Ullrich

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