Last year, Scion (yes, the car company Scion which is owned by Honda) held their inaugural Scion Rock Fest in Atlanta, GA. The lineup was pretty killer and featured Mastodon, Neurosis, Pig Destroyer, Converge, Baroness, Kylesa, Coalesce, Torche, Skeletonwitch, Wolves In The Throne Room, High On Fire, Salome, Withered and a ton of other bands from the underground/extreme metal scene spread out across four stages at The Masquerade, a popular concert venue in Atlanta. I was in attendance and had a grand 'ol time, so when it was announced that there would another Scion Rock Fest this year, myself and a few friends decided to make the trek again.
The location was announced first, so we booked our flights for Columbus, OH. Columbus, OH did not sound like it would be as fun as Atlanta, but we were still up for the trip....after all, it never hurts to go somewhere you've never been before right? Then the lineup was announced and just like the location, it was not quite as exciting as last year's. Don't get me wrong, with Cannibal Corpse, Shrinebuilder, Voivod, D.R.I., Brutal Truth, Ludicra, Pelican, Magrudergrind and others, this was nothing to sneeze at, but it was definitely lacking the quantity of heavy hitters that were on board the previous year.
Some of the folks I was traveling with were continuing on from Scion to the annual SXSW Festival in Austin, TX and had rented themselves a completely pimped out RV to drive them from Columbus to Austin. The RV was going to be leaving from Indianapolis, IN, so we flew there for an evening [And had an amazing dinner at Weber Grill, but I'll leave the food blogging to my friend Rev over at Burger Conquest. Check out what he had to say about our meal at Weber here.] and departed for Columbus the next morning. The RV was dubbed the SlayRV (get it?) and was essentially a mini tour bus complete with driver (thanks for driving Mark!), bunks, satellite TV, refrigerator, stereo system, etc. We set out for Columbus with a fridge stocked full of beers, bacon, red meat and cheese, Iron Maiden cranking on the stereo and were looking forward to an evening full of metal spread out across four clubs on Columbus' High St. [But the first stop upon arrival in Columbus was The Thurman Cafe to try one of their famous burgers. Again, check Burger Conquest to see what my friend Rev had to say about these ridiculously good burgers.]
Just like last year, I knew I wasn't going to be able to see every band I wanted to because there was simply too many bands playing and you can't be two places at once. This year was going to prove even more difficult because unlike last year where all the stages were inside (and outside) the same club, there were four different clubs hosting the bands. There were two clubs separated by a couple of blocks on one end of town and another two clubs separated by a couple of blocks on the other end of town with a distance of about one mile between the two ends of town (got that?). There were shuttles running from one end of town to the other, but you had to wait for the shuttle to show up, etc. or you could simply make the 20 minute walk from one end of town to the other. Either way, you lost a decent chunk of time getting from point A to point B, so you had to plan your schedule around that. I based my plan around seeing bands I'd heard a buzz about, but had not seen live or heard at all, bands I really, really wanted to see and bands that I could skip based on disinterest or knowing that they would be coming to NYC soon. Surprisingly, I more or less stuck with my plan of attack and walked away a fan of four bands I'd never heard before and not disliking one set I saw. Not bad!
Now on to the music (and my usual crappy pictures):
The first band I saw was Black Tusk. They are a relatively new Relapse signing from Savannah, GA. In my opinion, any band Relapse signs is worth checking out and like so many of their bands, Black Tusk was thoroughly impressive. It was horns up metal with elements and the groove of stoner rock, but without getting too jammy...think a thrash band playing sludge metal...or "swamp metal" as their Myspace page says. Fans of Eyehategod, Baroness, Rwake, Mastodon, Coalesce, etc. would definitely enjoy this.
The next band I saw was not one I had planned on seeing, but my buddy Rev (of the aforementioned Burger Conquest) talked me into checking out Oakland, CA's Saviours. I had somewhat dismissed this band because I had heard the tag "stoner rock" and they are on the same label as the grossly overrated The Sword who are definitely part of the hipster metal/stoner rock scene that I am not a fan of, so I had them pegged as guilty by association. Well, there are definitely elements of stoner rock to their sound, but this is more stoner rock by the way of Iron Maiden and it really works well. The guys have serious chops and held my attention through their entire set. And much to our surprise (and pleasure) Wino (St. Vitus, Shrinebuilder, The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan) jumped up on stage and kicked out a jam with them.
The next band I wanted to see was conveniently playing immediately after Saviours in the same club, so we simply stuck around and waited for Baton Rouge, LA's Thou to come on. This band had a painfully long sound check and I'm not sure whether the club's sound man or the band was to blame, but either way I was very close to leaving when they eventually started playing. These guys are definitely sludge/doom metal of the Eyehategod, Salome variety, so their choice to open with a cover of Nirvana's "Aneurysm" was an interesting and ultimately successful one. The problem was that they only played two other songs afterward because they had gotten off to such a late start. I would have loved to hear more, but what I did hear was enough to make me grab a copy of their album Tyrant from the merch booth. I listened to the album today and it is solid. Very much looking forward to hearing more from them in the future.
After Thou, we hitched up to the other end of town in an attempt to catch some of Liturgy's set, but unfortunately did not make it in time. We did wind up catching Black Anvil's set though and I was floored. Definitely my favorite band of the weekend. They are some seriously blackened thrash metal and it is hard to believe that just three guys are creating this sound. Last year, Skeletonwitch had much the same impact on me and I'm now a huge fan of theirs and I quite expect the same thing to happen with Black Anvil. I've already picked up their album Time Insults The Mind and haven't had a chance to listen to it in full yet, but the three tracks I did listen to were amazing.
D.R.I. was most certainly on my must see list as I have been a fan since high school, but have never seen them live before. We didn't catch the beginning of their set and didn't stay for the entire time due to wanting to get back to the other end of town for the next band, but we caught a healthy chunk of it and as expected it was a lot of fun. D.R.I. plays thrashed up punk hardcore, so you pretty much get the point after a couple songs, but what an enjoyable couple songs those were. Hopefully I can catch them doing a headline set if and when they roll through NYC next.
The band we left D.R.I. early to see (or rather that I made everyone leave D.R.I. early to see) was Magrudergrind. Their self-titled 2009 release was one of my favorite albums from 2009 that I didn't hear in 2009, but rather in 2010. They basically sound like a grindcore band doing Entombed covers or vice versa. However you want to say it, it rules. Unfortunately, we caught two sonic bursts and then they were done. Yet another band to try and catch when they roll through NYC next.
After Magrudergrind was Brutal Truth. I really dig Brutal Truth and had heard that they are a great live band, so I wanted to see these grindcore legends up close and personal. Brutal Truth (like most grindcore bands) isn't about songs, but more about the overall experience of the album (and in this case the live set) as all the "songs" blend together in a vicious whirl. You either love it or you hate it. I happen to love it and thought their set was really impressive, but the most impressive part was the drummer, Rich Hoak. The man must literally be half machine because the speed and ferocity of his drumming doesn't seem plausible for a human being to be able to pull off. And he isn't simply bashing the drums with no sense of rhythm. If you slowed the guy down, then this would be very groovy sounding stuff. Amazing.
At this point in the evening we had been imbibing for a couple hours, our ears were bleeding (even with earplugs all night) and we were getting a little hungry, so most of the crew was itching to get back to the SlayRV for some snacking and post-show beers. I decided to split off from the pack and try and catch the second appearance from Wino that evening, this time with the band he had shown up to headline with, Shrinebuilder. Wino waltzed out on stage, hit one thunderous chord and I was instantly toast. I headed back to the SlayRV to sit down, relax, have a beer and listen to some Motley Crue. So, I can't tell you how the rest of Shrinebuilder's set was, but if it was anything like that first chord, then the crowd was destroyed.
The next day I arrived at the airport eager to fly home, but ultimately my flight was canceled due to bad weather in NYC, so I had to stay an extra night in Columbus (unbelievably and believably at the same time, the same exact thing happened last year, except for that I was stuck in Atlanta for two days as opposed to one day in Columbus). If you ever find yourself stranded in Columbus, OH, then I suggest staying at the Best Western by the airport. The staff is very friendly and helpful, they'll give you a distressed passenger rate and you have McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway, Waffle House and Donato's right near your lodging. If there is a Scion Rock Fest next year, then I hope it is in driving distance of NYC.
P.S. FUCK DELTA AIR LINES! Every other airline was getting their planes out of there and safely to NYC, but they had to cancel and then refused to pay for anyone's hotels or even offer meal vouchers. I will never fly that airline again and I hope they go bankrupt. Poor customer service in this economic climate is inexcusable.