Saturday in Dallas was a day you could choose to paint in the starkest possible contrasts, if that's your thing. Two big gatherings cut from an extraordinarily different cloth were happening within a relatively pleasant fifteen-minute stroll of each other, and how often do you get to travel from one event to the other in Dallas without touching a vehicle? Sure, this particular trip required a brief hop, skip and a jump over an on-ramp for I-30, through some trees, and past several parking lots that looked less than welcoming, but that's about as good as Dallas paths get anyway.
First up was Saturday's biggest event, the Homegrown Music and Arts festival. Fitting neatly inside Main Street Gardens and nestled between several skyscrapers, everything about this day in the park was spectacular. The weather was perfect, as a clear blue sky provided the citizens of Dallas with a constantly pleasant temperature. The attendance was fantastic and varied, with a very high adorable child/adorable dog ratio among the crowd and a lot of blankets and local art and relaxing. I'm pretty sure someone hotboxed a portapotty at some point. It was just that kind of place.
There were many fantastic local acts, as there no doubt always are at this event. A.Dd+ flew in specially for the show and even minus usual one-man backing group DJ Sober created a show that had seniors and toddlers alike enjoying the sunshine and shaking their things. It's the sort of event where, outside in the sunshine, surrounded by good people, an ice-cool Shiner in your hand (I've not been sponsored to say that, but if the wonderful people of Shiner want to send me some of their delicious beer, I'm just a mouse-click away) with some righteous local bands playing for you, that you contemplate how lucky you are not only to be alive but to be in Dallas.
I really like it here.
The freakin' Relatives, who we at DC9 find ourselves unable to praise enough (an irony that will not be lost on the Relatives themselves, hallelujah) again proved themselves to be among the local elite with a performance that, as their leader of sorts Tommy said, took the roof off, even if there was no roof. We were outdoors you see. Someone had already taken the roof off. If, however, there had been a roof, rest assured a low-down, booty-shakin' Homegrown crowd would have lifted it into the atmosphere using only the powers of funk and exuberance. A sweating man in a white suit wearing bongo gloves has never seemed cooler.
As the party drifted from the Relatives across the park to the ever-energetic Polyphonic Spree, our gang of three contemplated that, not only this could this totally face-value happiness not last, but within minutes we were going to be plunged into a scene where everything was black and bloodied. If Homegrown was a multi-colored t-shirt worn in the summer by a man who is no stranger to hallucinogens, then what was happening fifteen minutes' walk away at Trees was a black band t-shirt with stark white writing, worn by a man who is no stranger to Jack Daniels (again, not sponsored, but hit me up).
On the final note of "Light and Day" which is about the most upbeat tune any of our party can think of that isn't twee and saccharine, we thought we'd make good on our escape across Dallas to Cannibal Corpse. My wife, God love her, stopped to buy some delicious ice cream because we weren't already happy enough, apparently. The good vibes flowing, we skipped over the I-30 on-ramp (there's a sidewalk, people, you're meant to do it, it just seems.... dangerous), under the freeway, and onto Elm street, arriving in time to catch an opening act for whom the description veteran doesn't even begin to cover it, England's own Napalm Death.
It should be said that a death metal bill like Napalm Death/Cannibal Corpse is my wife's idea of date night. She'd actually spent some time picking out a dress that could work at both Homegrown and Cannibal Corpse (a slinky black number, obviously). She's a massive fan of the heaviest metal, so I decided that the best way to get her to continue dating me when we first met was to fake an intense knowledge of Machine Head. By the time she saw through my act she'd fallen in love with me, the idiot, so really the moral of this story is to lie your way to victory.
Napalm Death are not fucking around. This is clear from the very beginning. There's no such thing as getting old if you don't ever let it happen, and Napalm Death are not letting this happen. Still as full of intensity as the original line-up must have been way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and man was simply just protozoa, Napalm Death played songs that didn't so much have a structure as they did a feral aggression to them, each one a relentless two-minute blast of fury that no-one could understand, not that it mattered. The floor of Trees was about fifty percent pit by this point, a swirling mess of people bashing into each other occupying the middle ground between stage and bar. Singer Barney Greenway shook with intensity, his head shaking from side to side, as he delivered each dissonant growl over a constant onslaught of staccato drums and guitars. Sometimes Napalm Death songs only last about thirty seconds or so, which is fantastic, because the sheer amount of full-on fury the band can unleash in that time is a spectacle of itself.
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After a blazing cover of Dead Kennedy's "Nazi Punks Fuck Off", ND retreated from the stage, bloodied but unbowed, while the whole of Trees emptied onto an almost comically packed smoking patio, where people no doubt ended up smoking each other's cigarettes by accident. The whole of Trees, which wasn't just sold-out but had a spare tickets line down the block, was simply black t-shirts and facial hair, featuring the odd girl. The cost of the tattoos in that place all added together could have paid to add Slayer to the bill several times over. Metal fans though - if you don't know any and you avoid them because, well, metal fans, you're a bad person. They're almost to a man extraordinarily friendly. At one point in the pit, someone lost their hat, and the entire pit stopped while people tried to find out whose hat it was. You wouldn't even get that at a The Script concert. They're just there to have a good time, and they're much better at doing it than most groups of people. They're just also a lot more aggressive in doing it.
As Cannibal Corpse entered into Trees to deliver their delightful opener "A Skull Full of Maggots" it was impossible not to wonder at the incredible physics of lead singer George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, whose neck seems to occupy at least a quarter of his body, muscles developed from decades of windmilling. It was immediately obvious that he's the inspiration behind Nathan Explosion from Dethklok. Also, his voice is fearsome, and his stamina is incredible. How he can forcefully grunt and scream like that for going on for two hours every night is anyone's guess. The band is a force of nature, a sonic assault that does not die down and will not give up. The pit in Trees, by this point, was the entire floor of the venue, and from the balcony it was mesmerizing, like a human lava lamp. You could pick out individuals or you could just sit back and watch the whole magnificent scene ebb and flow with the drumbeat, which varied between fast, very fast, or breakneck. How can you not find even a guilty pleasure in full-on demolition songs like "Make Them Suffer" or "Disfigured"?
So, Dallas, that was my Saturday. Thank you to all the bookers and bands that made it possible. It was the starkest contrast imaginable, and yet everything was perfect. I wouldn't have changed a thing, although I would like to see Polyphonic Spree and Cannibal Corpse collaborate, possibly on a song called "Hammer Smashed Delightful" or something like that. Are there many more cities where something like this could happen, from a packed local exuberant music festival to a sold-out death metal event in one fifteen minute walk? There probably are. But they wouldn't be as good.