Bro Fest 2012 Club Dada Sunday, March 18
Five years in the making, Parade of Flesh's Bro Fest doesn't seem to show any signs of wear. Sunday's overcast morning only helped set the stage for a full day of growling, screaming and headbanging spread across three stages and 12 hours. As I approached Dada, I could hear Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles' scratchy drawl spilling out the door and onto Elm Street. Even from the parking lot, Titus Andronicus sounded vigorous and hearty, underscoring Deep Ellum in a way that felt organic. With a new LP expected this fall, the loss of guitarist/vocalist Amy Klein had clearly been contained. Titus pushed through a commanding set for an eager crowd who seemed to be only lightly moshing. There would be time for that later -- it was early after all.
Gauntlet Hair was absolutely escapist on the indoor Dada stage and I found their material surprisingly more accessible live. The noise-pop duo is made up of Craig Nice and Andy Rauworth but their live sound comes across as if haunted by several more musicians. The reverb bath may grow tiresome to some listeners, but I found their approach smart and filmic. Mostly it's hard to catch the nuances of Gauntlet's melodies, which seems to be the point, but I was impressed when the guitar rang out like a tin drum, and I caught myself in a few of those embarrassing eyes-closed swaying moments.
Big Fiction played at LaGrange to a small crowd, mostly due to hungry folks crowding the food trucks during their slot, but that seemed to matter little to the noise rock foursome from DFW. Big Fiction brought a big, loud set to the stage and didn't let a little thing like sunlight infiltrate their heavy, industrial sound.
Crystal Antlers flirt with both a lo-fi grunge sound and a harder beach-rock aesthetic, and when those fuzzy guitars swing into something bluesier, there is no question where the sex in their sound lies. Sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson of Prince Rama brightened the day with their gold glitter dresses and tribal electro-psych dance mantras. Giving a lesson in stage presence, their set ended in a choreographed dance routine that made use of the entire patio floor, and it didn't take long for us all to be wrapped around their mystic fingers.
That I saw The Coathangers and The Raincoats within a week of each other without ever leaving my beloved North Texas feels full circle, and I am considering sending a personal thank you note to both Parade of Flesh and 35 Denton. First formed as a joke band for a single party performance, The Coathangers have since become a dynamic must-see live act. The energy level never wanes and the confrontation is tongue-in-cheek but unrelenting. "Nestle in My Boobies" ended their set too soon for my taste.
The Men had already made quite an impression in Austin, and I was excited to see the onstage energy everyone was talking about. Quite literally from the first chord I was pushed outside and had to ease back in, but it was a good kind of pain. The Men are indeed making some big sounds, but their guitar riffs have a lighter touch then expected and sometimes veer into jam session territory, much to the moshers and Patrick Stickles' delight. Their sound disarms you, warms you with surprising shades and then just makes you jump around. That is the right order, in my opinion.
It truly was a beautiful night to be under the trees on Dada's patio for Maps & Atlases and my ears were pleased to take break before OFF! would take the stage. Maps & Atlases sometimes falls under the math-rock genre but they're moving into a folk-influenced place, albeit still experimental. Their new album, Beware and Be Grateful, will be available April 16. If you miss the harder edge of their older material, it might not be your favorite, but based on the spacey live show Sunday night, you might consider saving the date.
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I decided to end the night with OFF!, because it was late and I knew that Keith Morris' stage banter, in addition to the music, was going to be my personal high. His political, frank anger rarely disappoints and was on full display as Bro Fest was coming to an end. Morris is a focused and friendly rebel, and during a particular rant about California's economy, one bro threatened a fight. Morris called him out: "You aren't going to hit anyone. If you hit someone, you will get kicked out. And that is not cool." I don't know if it was a confession or a brag to admit they'd only had one rehearsal before they slayed "Borrow and Bomb." Based on the end result, I call brag.
Needless to say, they killed it. Everyone did.
Note dump: Besides the lovely door ladies, I was the only female present twice during some harder shows at LaGrange. Not a music note, but you know, a note.
By the way: In addition to being one of the friendliest bands I encountered, White Mystery have the best hair for side-stage headbanging. This was put to excellent use during the OFF! set.