By guest contributor The FurnaceDoor
Downtown Austin is starting to look more and more like some sort of playground of the rich. With gleaming spires jutting up from formerly vacant lots of the old long gone downtown warehouse district, like some strange fruit shooting up from the caliche. Fostered by privilege and nurtured by greed. Growing upwardly, cutting, and blotting out the evenings dusky sunset sky with its pink and orange kissed puffs of cloud that dotted the darkening firmament. Like some cruel jigsaw wielded upon face of God. Replacing the natural, cruelly torn away from tired eyes, with a strict patterned line of geometric rectangular facades of glass, concrete and steel. Perhaps these buildings could be appraised as graceful, playful even, and striking to the trained visual eye. If perhaps, the appraisal was conducted one building at a time. Ignoring the others as one is surveyed one at a time. But lumped all together as my ride passes Whole Paycheck east to Infest they have all the grace and achievement of a cardboard box. Dropped off at the park on fifth street I walk towards the old former Antone’s building on 5th and Lavaca. A building that I must have been subconsciously avoiding for the 15 years I’ve lived here, until tonight. The venue in its current state identifies itself as a dive-y punk rock bar/venue that looks huge when empty. So I wondered if they would benefit from the fact this was the only Texas date Death In June would be playing. Bands that mean the world to me rarely sell a venue out, and at a hefty amount for the admission I was uncertain of the turnout.
Well, well. I don’t even cross the street fully and wouldn’t you know it some friends from the south, Rachel and Ariel intersect with me and the shit talkin’ good times begin! Why? We’re punks after all! Self-identifying ourselves as deathrockers. Goth-punks, if you will. We wander idly for a spell at the side of the building that faces Lavaca for one hot minute. There isn’t even a sliver of a line at the entrance yet and we got 40 minutes before the doors are slated to open. Rachel and I spot Gregory from the opening band Gabhar by a side entrance close to where the main stage is placed inside having a quick smoke, before diving back into the pre-show rituals bands must go through before they are ready to perform. We chat briefly about some folks who threatened to show up and shut the show down tonight. They, the self-proclaimed anti-Fascist activists, canceled the proposed direct action on the venue. Because so many activists in Austin identify as PAGAN and would be inside the venue to see the show. It would be like the dog finding out that it’s tail truly is what it’s chasing! So. Thankfully. No need for awkward arguments about how I must be apart of something that I’m not. No need for me to fight a verbal hot, tense, bellowing match with someone who is out to prove they are fighting the good fight. Saving the world from obscure musicians so cops can safely walk the streets at night pepper spraying women and children, as they ignore domestic violence calls across the land. Yeah. I know that was absurd, but to me, so is the concept of a thin blue line.
Once inside we go through a very arduous and tedious ritual of checking ids, handing over tickets or cash, and getting patted down for knives. There’s some bumming about that from some folks but it makes sense to me. As the world becomes more ill in the head, the frequency for violence out of the blue hangs in the air of every day life. I had in fact opined that, guest in our nation or not, Douglas P. should probably carry some pepper spray. But not for the purposes I had previously listed above. That would be rude! No. Because unfortunately we are a nation with a very proud and growing population of sociopaths. Growing larger at a very robust clip. After it is discovered that sometimes, a flash drive is indeed just a flash drive, I am free to roam. Shortly, I discover the crowd is teeming with folks I’ve known down the years since moving here in 1998. Now, by know means am I popular but I make friends easily with all types and had a entertaining time talking with folks. About everything from Bill Fucking Murry(!) to why I chose the U.S. flag totenkopf patch over the gay pride flag totenkopf patch. U.S. flag one is probably gonna get me into more trouble, that’s why! Now if I can just successfully roll a saving throw vs. turns chickenshit I will put it in a very conspicuous place on my denim….
So I rarely drink and was have good ole aqua fresca watching friends slowly blur their boundary lines, get more comfortable with the brutal concrete surroundings, and upping the antes on our usual verbal antics. So the feeling of no time transpired until I saw friends Gregory, Megan, and their new guitarist Steve filed up onto the stage. Gabhar is a four-piece all acoustic martial folk group with songs about balance with nature, restoring pagan heritage, and the sorrow and rage expressed by those who mourn the loss of old ways. Ways currently eroded by the greed of the elite, the blindness of fools, and a sleeping giant that is us. If only, collectively, with resolve, chose to awake and shrug off these self-appointed kings and queens from our shoulders. This is my second time seeing them but they are founded in 2007. The first time I’d seen them (and Awen as well) was at a local neofolk & “military pop” night called Total War that I had DJed in Austin with Oliver Sheppard.
Before Gabhar hit the stage I had a chance to speak with Oliver aka Deathchurch about posting his DJ sets later. I see him as something as a guru when it comes to many music related things. DJing and writing columns for online publications to be more specific. He was giving me the downlow of a list of bands Mr. Pierce did not want played. I won’t bore you with what I remembered of that list. Rather, I will just impress upon you that my requests for Art Abscon(s) and anything from the KAPO! record had to be denied play time.
Up next on stage is DFW area’s Awen. Erin, Katrin, Eric, and Per. Martial drumming and a sampler/sequencer triggering sounds of industrialized death and war produced mayhem. With not so much a singer, but an orator warning any who will listen to stand steadfast in an ever shifting world of fog and deception. Urging you to stand straight and tall against the winds of tyranny. A tyranny produced by a construct so bloated and out of control with its self that it is about to collapse under its own weight. Awen’s message is quite simple: speak the truth, accomplish all deeds talked of, and above all stay loyal to the things you understand and respect. Sounds quite stern and authoritative? Yes. Possibly handing ammunition to those self-proclaimed activists who would cry Fascist? Sure. But to paraphrase Rick James “Cognitive dissonance is one hell of a drug.” I can understand from the outside looking in that the military chic of Awen’s attire is quite confusing and will cause a lot of argument to what they are all about. So let me attempt to lift the veil for you. They ended their set with their own take of the old protest rally chant of “Si su Puede.” Look it up.
Death in June’s live sound is something I have had some real conflict with over the years when comparing some thoroughly psychedelic dark folk studio albums -with a sound that surrounds your mind and lifts you up to another plane with the anthem-ic fanfare of trumpets- versus a very stripped down primitivist approach of just acoustic guitar and percussion. You can end up feeling like too much is missing. But Meagan from Gabhar has made a gif of the Rule of Thirds album cover with Douglas P. wearing sunglasses and the text “deal with it!” Because Doug is the fucking boss and has balls big as the state of Kansas, traveling the expanse of the world with his partner John Murphy playing only as a duo. So I dealt with it by preparing myself through a rite of initiation accomplished by listening to the radio sessions from the Something Is Coming live album and watching a few live clips from 2012. Once dealt with and gotten over with it was like a very intimate stripped down performance in my living room. Just to be there hearing songs you know by heart played with passion. Because how else? His songs are deeply personal. And yes, he is of course political. This was evidenced by frequent ad-libbing to address the crowd (“drink a Texas wine”) and address, also, the very bleak world politics of war (“Who is Klaus Barbie? Who is Osama bin Laden”). I came away after the performance finally realizing no matter what you may be able to nail him with in regards to personal prejudices he very may well have OR NOT HAVE. Is that Douglas P. is and has always been anti-war, and has always been anti-tyranny. SO DEAL WITH IT!
Did I sing to almost every Death In June song played? No, but the words I could remember were sang with gusto perhaps to the annoyance to a few folks nearby. Well sorry, loved this band since about 1996. I can’t help it. Most people were silent and stern looking. I wasn’t sure they were even having fun, but fun is something different from individual to individual. Mine was boppin’ my head around with a shit eating grin singing along whenever I knew the words. My friend Rachael swinging and dancing and swaying around in drunken delight nearby. The show started with, if I remember correctly, “Till The Living Flesh Is Burned” and well damn, I didn’t really think I would be writing this so my memory is hazy, as I did not take notes. Here are the rest of the results of my holistic cat-scan in no order: “Fields Of Rape”, “Fall Apart”, “Leper Lord”, “Rose Clouds Of Holocuast”, “Runes And Men”, “Giddy Giddy Carousel”, “Little Black Angel”, “Death Of The West”, “Peaceful Snow”, “He’s Disabled”, “Tick Tock”, “All Pigs Must Die”, “Ku Ku Ku”, “But What Happens When The Symbols Shatter”, “Luther’s Army”, “Death Is The Martyr Of Beauty”, “Touch Defiles”, “He Said Destroy”, “The Maverick Chamber”, “Life Under Siege”, “The Enemy Within”, “Symbols Of The Sun”, “This Golden Wedding Of Sorrow”, “Leopard Flowers”, “Hail! The White Grain”, and for the encore “Heaven Street” and “C’est Un Reve.”
A great evening. I was quite ecstatic with the immense pleasure of finally seeing a band that has influenced me heavily, close to two decades now, in regards to my own art. And if I hadn’t seen it I would have felt a bleak tugging at my soul – like a black hole- this time around, and felt poorer of spirit for the mistake. Because after all, we are only getting older and the West surely is dying.
Christian Eason aka The Furnacedoor is a ATX musician/DJ/graphic-designer/music writer/webcaster, whose webcast the Sunken Lantern’s Waltz can be heard every Monday from 1pm-7pm at KAOS Radio Austin.
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