SXSW 2012: Wiccans, Gypsyblood, King Tuff, and Marriages, 3/16/12

words by Ian Jones | photos by Leigh Metzler | Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

It was time for some straight-up punk rock at Austin’s most cave-like venue Beerland. Beerland has an indoor stage and a tiny outdoor patio that bands can infiltrate during SXSW. Wiccans performed at the outdoor stage on March 16th, doing practically no sound check. Instead, they just turned their amps on and made sure their instruments were working and started playing. Wiccans are a hardcore punk band from Denton, Texas. They sound like most hardcore punk bands — fast drums, walls of guitar chords, thumping bass, and vocal chord scratching screams. The crowd ate it up, breaking into circle pits at various times. It was one of the most energetic shows during all of SXSW.

Then it was to the Bat Bar for Gypsyblood. When you listen to their records, you hear lots of softer single-note guitar riffs with complex time signatures and tempo changes in their rhythm section, as well as tricky vocal melodies — but when you hear Gypsyblood live, they rip your face off and chop you up into a million little pieces. and you can hardly recognize the songs, even when you know every word. Their stage presence is filled with manic energy. Gypsyblood’s sound is unique to them, mixing chaotic post-punk rhythms with a ferocious and borderline psychotic energy.

The next band up at the Bat Bar was Marriages from Los Angeles. This experimental trio filled the room with rhythmic guitar tapping, droning bass, and a tight drum section. The drum and bass filled up enough space that could have been enough to listen to  on their own. The guitars plunged their sound into oceans of feedback noise bliss that sounded like a slightly poppy version of Pelican. Their female singer added the perfect airy vocals soft touch to their songs in between finger tapping on her guitar.

Next up was King Tuff, a three-piece surf-rock beachside band. They could be best compared to Wavves, but Wavves probably took more from King Tuff than they’s probably care to admit. They go harder than most other surf-rock bands, and it was exciting to see to see them perform because it gives hope for a proper return to making music and touring. When there are a million bands harnessing the surf sound to get attention, it’s nice to know there are authentic bands that live and breathe their sound. These guys aren’t just out for the gimmick — King Tuff is authentic.