SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19: FINAL SHOW
It was here: The final night, night four, of The SouthWest Terror Fest. The final night was the one I was anticipating the most as well as the least. The headliners, Sunn O))) are a band I’ve only ever dreamed of seeing live, and Black One as well as Monoliths And Dimensions remain among my top doom/drone records. The way people feel they have had their lives changed or musical tastes expanded by Neurosis, is how I feel about Sunn. Their music is something that I’ve loved for years, and something that has always fascinated, inspired, and made me feel frightened and comforted all at once. I had never thought I’d actually see the band, and certainly not in my home town. I was looking forward to this day for the entire weekend and really since the line up for the festival had been announced. There was only one issue: the openers.
The openers were all of the same style: a hardcore/crust punk style which I have never been a fan of. While the variety in music after 3 days of doom/sludge was welcomed, I also knew going in it would not be a very enjoyable set of performances.
First up was local band Sex Prisoner. They performed exactly as I would have expected. High energy, which was appreciated, short loud songs and snarling vocals. It was everything I have heard and disliked about their genre and kept counting down the hours until Sunn would take stage.
The next band was Obliterations, who were pretty interchangeable with Sex Prisoner to me, and even maybe a little less interesting. The only thing that stood out to me was during one of the tracks, the vocalist brought a few people from the audience on stage and told the rest of us they would not end the song until “Every one gets on the fucking stage”. Well, apparently 10 or so people was enough as the band continued playing not soon after. The set was (as with all the openers) about 30 minutes of high energy, and nothing to interest me or make me re-evaluate my thought about the style they play.
The final opener, Baptists, was again, more of the same. The vocals seemed a little stronger for this band, and were of a deeper variety, which made me enjoy it more. However, that’s really all that I can say. These bands were really all the same, and while that had been a theme the entire weekend, the hardcore and crust sound has never appealed to me, while the doom/sludge had enough variety here and there to not be completely boring by the weekends end. Regardless, the hour and half these 3 bands took up felt easily twice as long, and I can only hope the promoters of the fest avoid this going forward.
The time was here. Sunn O))) was in Tucson, Arizona. My friend and I walked up the stage as close as well could (which was pretty damn close) and waited with bated breath. The fog machines wasted no time spewing an insane amount of fog on the stage, nearly obscuring it countless times. When the lights went down the audience clapped and cheered as we waited for the band to show. However, first we had to endure the intro/interlude. While some bands may have a quick interlude track play before they take stage; Sunn O))) employed 3-4 electronic songs before they took the stage. I cannot complain as this just made he anticipation build more and more.
Once Anderson and O’Malley took stage (along with an unknown, at least to me, third person to provide electronics-possibly Steve Moore as they have utilized him before) the fog had nearly taken everything over. As soon as the first deep, droning riff hit my ears, I was captivated. Despite never seeing the band before, I do know they tend to improvise their music live so I was not expecting to recognize any songs and just take in the moment. The riffs droned on and on for probably 30-45 minutes before Atilla walked out dressed in a robe. The experience I was having was increased ten fold when hearing and watching Atilla, and he has shown to me the most versatile and downright creepy vocalist I have ever seen.
The droning continued as the band members passed around a bottle of wine (which they would do off and on the remainder of the show) and Atilla chanted, spoke, whispered, and groaned at us. The show thus far had been on for about an hour or so and felt like maybe 25 minuets. I was captivated. At one point, Anderson and O’Malley left the stage, leaving just the electronic/keys player and Atilla. Atilla hit a few unexpected high screams, which were amazingly powerful, and brought tears to my eyes. All sense of time was really gone at this point, and it didn’t matter to me. The other members came back on stage, and continued to drone on while Atilla eventually left. With the vocalist leaving, it seemed maybe the show was finishing sooner than later, but I was way off. In what felt like maybe 20 minutes, but was more likely 30 or so, Atila came back on stage, wearing a costume with broken pieces of mirror on it which I had seen pictures of before, but was incredible to see live. This time around, Atilla used mostly screams, and they were some of the more unnerving I’ve ever heard live.
The show finally ended with one final scream, Atilla striking a triumphant pose, and the music stopping abruptly. The crowd cheered and screamed as we all had witnessed something that, to me at least, would probably never be beaten. Never has a concert made me feel the way Sunn O))) did. From tears in my eyes, closing my eyes and feeling the reflective nature of the riffs, to just being in awe of what I was seeing; Sunn O))) provided the best concert I have ever seen live, and they didn’t stop for nearly 3 hours. Nothing has ever felt so emotive, hypnotic, cathartic, and to use a phrase again, life changing as that show. All my dreams and anticipation and excitement had not only been met, but were shattered and I was taken to a place I didn’t think any show would take me. Truly the most incredible thing I have seen live.
The Southwest Terror Fest 2014 was something unlike anything I have ever experienced before. From having 4 days worth of concerts, to seeing bands for the first (and quite possibly only) time, this was a weekend I will never forget. Not everything was perfect, some of the bands were less than impressive, and the venues had their flaws as well, but overall the positives and the overall experience made this past weekend a giant success in my eyes. I am already looking forward to next year, but honestly hope to see a little more variety musically. A few more black metal and death metal bands perhaps would break up the weekend a little more. However, if the organizers of this fest can put together a great set of shows like they did this year I can certainly forgive a little lack in variety, but please no hardcore/crust.
I want to end simply by saying “Thank You” to the people behind this festival. While I do not have the space to say “thanks” to everyone, I will personally thank Dave Carroll, Larry Horvath and David Rodgers for founding this Festival and making it stronger each year. Thank you to the crew for also helping to book these bands and making this possible. Finally, Thanks to Violent Resonance and Valerie LIttlejohn especially for allowing me to utilize your pictures in this write up. I cannot wait until next year.
All Pictures courtesy of Valerie LittleJohn for Violent Resonance at www.violentresonance.com except the Flyer and poster pictures courtesy of www.facebook.com/southwestterrorfest