After Day 2 ending early, I was definitely worried about the show’s possible cancellation. Fortunately, it didn’t rain, but it was absolutely freezing. The temperature stayed in the low forties throughout the day, so everyone, including the bands, were moving as crazy as possible to keep warm.
Day 3 of South by So What? consisted of mostly progressive metal, hardcore, and pop-punk bands. Not only did they get bands with great importance in each of their respective genre, such as Between the Buried and Me, The Story So Far, and the Ghost Inside, but bands that were making debut festival performances, such as 68′ and Barrier.
When we arrived at QuikTrip park, we were greeted by none other than the post-rock band, Chon. Chon are an on-the-rise instrumental band that has been taking the scene by storm. They brought more mellow vibes than some of the other bands that were performing that day, so it was cool seeing everyone getting into their music. They recently released a 6 song EP called “Woohoo!”, and played a few songs off of that, including their one and only song with singing, “Ecco”.
A couple performances later, progressive metal band Reflections took the stage and drove the crowd wild. The crowd was slow to react, since Reflections were the first non-instrumental band to play on the main stage that day, so vocalist Jake Foster encouraged the crowd to jump and start opening up the mosh pit. Eventually, the crowd achieved full energy and was bouncing up and down to the breakdowns of the songs. The highlight of the show was when they played their hit song, “My Cancer”, off their recent release, “Exi(s)t”. Everyone was screaming the lyrics, and Foster dedicated the song to his friend, who had passed recently.
Immediately after Reflections’ performance, ’68 took over and rocked the stage. This was not only their second festival performance; it was their second performance ever. ’68 features Josh Scogin, who is well known in the hardcore scene as the vocalist of the recently retired band, The Chariot. The Chariot were known for their chaotic performances, so there was tons of hype once ’68 was announced for this year’s lineup. As expected, they put on a phenomenal show. It wasn’t even ten minutes into their set before Scogin kicked his microphone stand down while rocking out, causing some technical difficulties. Even though the band has a punk rock attitude, they convey an old school radio-rock sound, reminiscent to The White Stripes. They will be opening for post-hardcore legends Chiodos on April 29 at Warehouse Live, so be sure to check them out when they come in to town.
After taking a break to warm up a little and grab some food, we headed to the second stage, where post-hardcore band A Lot Like Birds were set to perform, in my opinion, the best live performance of the whole festival. A Lot Like Birds features singer Kurt Travis, who was in Dance Gavin Dance for a few years until their former clean vocalist retuned to the band. A couple years after leaving, Travis joined A Lot Like Birds and since then, released two full length albums. The band started the set off with the introduction tracks, “In Trances/No Nature”, which is off their recently released album, “No Place”. Immediately the band started getting into the music and jamming out, but this was only the beginning of the insanity to ensue. Later on in the set, Travis threw his mic offstage and leaped to catch it. While that was going on, their other vocalist, Cory Lockwood, grabbed his friend, who was watching the show from the side stage, and jumped on his back. His friend swung him around and they both eventually collapsed, knocking over one of the monitors. Guitarist Michael Franzino got in on the action also when he climbed the 15 foot stack of speakers on the side of the stage. What ceased to amaze me was that the band was able to maintain an almost flawless performance while instigating all this insanity. If you haven’t heard of this band, I highly suggest looking them up and going to their next show.
Shortly after, Chicago metalcore band Barrier took over the stage. Barrier are an on-the-rise band that has taken the DIY approach, releasing their music all on their own. The band has all of their music, which includes 2 EPs and 2 singles, for free on their Facebook and Bandcamp pages. This was their festival debut, so they were amazed to see such a large crowd witnessing their performance. The band kicked off their performance with “Backbone”, and as soon as they hit the first open-note, the pit opened up and the hardcore dancers began swinging their fists, with one almost slamming me in the face. Even though there was a huge pit, the people standing at the front just stood there, reacting numbly to the music, even though the band put on an amazing performance. It wasn’t until the last song “Behind Close Doors,” when people in the front started reacting to the music, when vocalist Colin Sharkey jumped onto the barricade and gave the microphone to various audience members that knew the lyrics. Even though the crowd had mixed reactions, the band put on a great performance and the band will pass through Houston sometime soon.
After Barrier played, Counterparts, the band I was anticipating to see the most, finally took the stage. I have been waiting for years the Canadian hardcore band, so it was a big treat getting to see them. The band started off their setlist with their lead single, “Witness”, off their latest album, “The Difference Between Hell and Home”. The crowd started chanting the lyrics back to band and the energy carried out throughout the set. The crowd’s energy especially spiked up once they started playing their older songs, such as “The Disconnect” and “I Am No One”, and pits started to form. The band played one last song, “Compass”, and then exited the stage. The Canadian hardcore band is currently on tour with Stick to Your Guns and will be playing Fitzgerald’s on April 8.
After watching a string of hardcore bands on the second stage, it was time to proceed to the main stage to see some of the progressive metal bands playing. First up was Animals as Leaders. They are one of the leading progressive metal bands in today’s scene, and they recently put out a new album called “The Joy of Motion.” I have seen them perform in the past, so I knew their inhuman musicianship skills would woo me yet again. The difference between this time and the last time I saw them was the crowd. When I previously saw them, the crowd was absorbed by the performance, which is great for the band, but is pretty lame if you want to have fun at a show. This crowd was ready to throw down. Pits started opening, people started crowd-surfing, and there was even people dancing to the music. The South by So What crowd proved to Animals as Leaders that we can hang, even in freezing temperatures.
The next band to follow Animals as Leaders was none other than Periphery. Periphery have not only been taking over the progressive metal scene, but the metal scene as a whole. They have opened for such acts as Dream Theater and Deftones. They opened up the set with their infamous trilogy, from their second album, which features the songs “Muramasa,” “Ragnarok,”and “Masamune.” They continued the set with their other hit songs, such as “Scarlett,” and managed to even throw in one of their Old introduction songs, “New Groove.” Overall it was a great performance, and proved why they are one of top bands in metal today.
Photo Credit: Jae GreyThe last hardcore band we caught was The Ghost Inside, one of the biggest hardcore bands in today’s scene. They have been touring extensively with The Devil Wears Prada and had to make a stop at South by So What. The band started things off by opening with their hit single “Engine 45.” Once they started playing, the hardcore dancers opened up the pit and started busting out their moves. There were also several small pits that formed throughout the crowd on top of the giant one that was being occupied. If people were not moshing, they were bouncing up and down and screaming the lyrics. They were the best band to pump up the crowd before the headliners started playing.
The last band we caught, and one of the main headliners, was The Story So Far, a pop-punk band that has been taking the scene by storm. What separates them from so many other pop-punk bands is they have tons of credit through the hardcore scene, since they’ve supported bands such as Stick to Your Guns and Rotting Out, that are relevant in the hardcore scene. They were the band that stood out the most, since they were the only pop-punk band we saw all day. Since they brought more upbeat vibes, there was a lot more jumping and crowd-surfing present. Of, course there was moshing, except in the form of circle pits, where people run around in a giant circle for the duration of the song, or until you’re completely out of breath. This was the best way to end not only the day, but our South by So What experience.
Overall, the festival was an awesome experience. Not only did I get to see most of my favorite bands in the span of two days, but I also discovered several new bands and got to hang out with them too. Even though Saturday got rained out, Sunday made up for it. If you are into metal and punk, you should make the drive and check the festival out next year, you won’t regret it.
If you like the bands I covered, check out my show, “Kill the Music”, Mondays from 9-11 PM on Coog Radio!
By Raj Radia