By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Seventeen touring bands will play an all-day, two-stage festival Sunday at the Double Wide on a ticket that comes out to less than a buck per band.
For a second year in a row, Dallas one-man booking outfit Parade of Flesh has assembled one of the highlights of the annual South by Southwest spillover glut that makes it so fun to be a music fan in Texas in March. We'll get to the music, but first we've got to discuss the ridiculous name: Bro Fest.
Last year, Parade of Flesh head John Iskander put together a 14-band mini-festival that, like Bro Fest, brought touring indie-rock, garage and metal bands to Deep Ellum on the final day of SXSW. Like countless other festivals scooping up the bounty of spillover possibilities, he gave his show a name that paid tribute to the only reason those bands were in Texas at all. South by South Flesh brought Wavves, Juarez, Women, Abe Vigoda and others to The Lounge on Elm Street—and also drew some unwanted attention from the SXSW legal department. Iskander agreed to sign a licensee agreement that year, but decided not to fool with it this time around.
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"I just don't really care for any legality stuff for something that's so minor," he says. "It just seemed so futile when they're dealing with 1,500 acts and I'm dealing with 10. It just made no sense to me."
Iskander still doesn't know why, of all the X-By-X-X festivals, his was singled out. The only answer he got during conversations with a SXSW employee was "Interwebs."
"That was his only answer, one word," Iskander says. "So either I'm promoting it really well, or the bands I'm getting are on a certain tier that they're paying attention to. I could not figure it out for the life of me why I got picked. Even last year, somebody did that [House by House Fest], and they didn't receive any letter. And the guy from South By assured me they make North by Northeast—the one in Toronto—do it. But it never sat well with me."
So he decided to come up with a name that would assure his single-day, single-venue affair couldn't sully the brand recognition the Austin music-industry circle jerk has built over the years. But why Bro Fest?
"I just kept seeing everybody making fun and saying, 'Oh it's a total dude-fest, bro-fest, sausage-fest,' in regards to parties or situations, or this and that, so I wanted to take it and move it into a positive spin," he says. "I'm just kind of making fun of that word, when it comes down to it. Most people think 'Bro Fest,' and it's all going to be dudes, but it's not. It's going to be half metal bands, half indie and garage, so it should be a very good, diverse crowd and group of musicians and characters."
And, he points out, it's no coincidence that a band named Sisters will open this so-called Bro Fest.
One could make the obvious point that, while Iskander is using the term "bro" facetiously, the festival is in fact devoting one of its two stages to bands that could be broadly lumped under the umbrella of metal and metal-influenced hard rock—which gives gangsta rap a run for its money when it comes to being inaccessible to female listeners. But even a cursory listen to the bands playing the indoors stage reveals an intriguingly varied, nuanced bill, ranging from breakneck thrash to sludgy stoner rock to epic, heavy soundscapes—not to mention a female-fronted group.
Sisters (Brooklyn), 3 p.m. Very lo-fi noisy, poppy guitar rock duo. "I'm a really big fan of the Death By Audio collective, and the projects they're doing," Iskander says. "This is one of them, and their EP was recorded by Oliver [Ackermann] from A Place to Bury Strangers. Very fuzzy, '90s-inspired rock."
Woven Bones (Austin), 4 p.m. Droning, reverberating Velvets-influenced lo-fi rock.
Dum Dum Girls (Los Angeles), 6 p.m. Former HoZac labelmates and still friends with Woven Bones, Dum Dum Girls make psychedelic garage rock that evidences at least a passing familiarity with the 13th Floor Elevators, with the aforementioned Rose on drums. "Just because I'm a really big fan and haven't gotten to see them yet," Iskander says.
Slang Chickens (Los Angeles), 7 p.m. "Dirty, sleazy, country-punk band," Iskander says. Former Wires on Fire leader Evan Weiss' banjo-spiked, punk-fueled roots rock should make a good transition to the next act.
Those Darlins (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), 8 p.m. After catching one of their sets at last year's SXSW, the Dallas Observer's Noah W. Bailey declared these saucy rockabilly-country cuties "would kill at the Double Wide." Iskander agrees: "I felt, with Double Wide's atmosphere and an all-girl indie-country band, that it was a good fit. Really upbeat and energetic."
Sleepy Sun (San Francisco), 9 p.m. The only band on this bill that also played last year's South by South Flesh, this All Tomorrow's Parties Recordings act makes spacey, folky, tribal rock featuring organ, harmonica and other classic-rock trappings. "Shoegazy, psychedelic rock," Iskander says. "A seven-piece psychedelic rock band."
The Soft Pack (San Diego/Los Angeles), 10 p.m. Formerly known as The Muslims, this poppy garage-rock band's latest single, "Answer to Yourself," would sound right at home in a commercial for a fuel-efficient but hip four-door sedan. "I've booked them before, at The Cavern, and it was awesome," Iskander says. "Anybody that went had a blast."
Tinsel Teeth (Providence), 3:30 p.m. This confrontational punk act is fronted by the shrieking, wailing lead singer Steph, whose ecstatic onstage convulsions include enough sex toys, semi-accidental nudity and bloodshed to frighten an entire team of roller-derby competitors along with their burlesque-dancing girlfriends. "Very, very heavy, aggressive noise rock," Iskander says. "She hurts herself. I've seen her spew blood at shows before. At least you'll be entertained if you don' t like her music."
Liturgy (Brooklyn), 4:30 p.m. Thrashing, droning black metal with elements of melodic noise-rock. "Very full-sounding and loud," Iskander says. "They're brutal. I'm interested to see the setup live. "
Naam (Brooklyn), 5:30 p.m. Heavy stoner rock interspersed with moments of four-on-the-floor speed. "They're one of those bands you need to listen to the whole album rather than one song," Iskander says.
White Mice (Providence), 6:30 p.m. Absolute sonic chaos that sounds a lot scarier than titles like "Cheesus Saves" would suggest. "They wear grotesque, dirty, demonic white mouse outfits," Iskander says. "Everything's a joke about cheese or mice or something, but it's very serious. Extremely loud noise-rock."
Withered (Atlanta), 7:30 p.m. Underground black metal, complete with vocal fry. "A friend suggested them," Iskander says. "They were a perfect fit, and I went after them."
U.S. Christmas (Marion, North Carolina), 8:30 p.m. Galloping, psychedelic, atmospheric metal with two drummers, violin and theremin. Says Iskander, "It reminds me of a metal version of Mogwai. Very dynamic."
Snake Sustaine (Philadelphia), 9:30 p.m. Bluesy side project from members of A Life Once Lost. "It's a completely different sound than A Life Once Lost, which is huge in that whole emo-core metal thing, so it's something where I can say I was the first person to book them in Dallas," Iskander says. "They sent me their first track, and it's just seven-minute psychedelic metal, Sabbath-y, predictable but good song."
Rwake (Little Rock), 10:30 p.m. Heavy Moog- and sample-accented Southern doom metal. Iskander has been working on bringing them and ASG to Dallas for more than a year now.
ASG (Wilmington, North Carolina), 11:30 p.m. Classic riff metal and melodic singing from Rwake's tourmates. "I was wanting somebody that was really heavy that wasn't coming through the area that often, and it just kind of worked out for this date," Iskander says. "The underground metal people know who Rwake is, but ASG seems to be a little more mainstream."