For our last day at SXSW, we headed to Hotel Vegas for Burgermania, where over 50 bands played. To sum it up briefly, it was a loud, messy garage-rock paradise. The first band we saw was Crocodiles, who played a poppy set under the boiling hot sun. The band played songs from most of their albums, weighted heavily towards Dreamless, released in 2016. They capped off their show with a cover of “Jet Boy, Jet Girl,” by The Damned.
After Crocodiles, we rushed over to catch the end of Surf Curse’s set. The band was a great representation of how DIY Burger Records is. Jacob Rubeck, the drummer and lead vocalist, split his drumstick, and had to stop the show to tape it together because it was his last one. Meanwhile, guitarist Nicholas Rattigan tuned his guitar with nail clippers. They played one more lo-fi song and finished their set.
John Wesley Coleman was next, playing songs from his new album, Microwave Dreams, which was released earlier this year in January. Coleman has often shown his comedic side through his song titles and content, he continued to make people laugh while on stage, giving the audience incorrect song titles and false information about himself. The second song he played was called “Jesus Never Went to Junior High,” which was a testament to his more refined style of lo-fi rock. There were hints of classic Ramones in his set as his keyboardist pulled out a saxophone.
We headed inside to catch Moaning and their more emo-punk sound. Their setup was a little more comprehensive than most of the bands we saw at Hotel Vegas, as the band seemed to incorporate electronics and modifiers a little more than others. The band has yet to release a full EP, so the audience was listening with fresh ears. They ended with a song called “No Place,” which had a long and messy guitar jam during which lead singer and guitarist Sean Solomon came crashing into the crowd. It was awesome.
We headed back outside to watch Meatbodies, who are touring fresh off their new album, Alice, released in February. Meatbodies really riled up the crowd with their hard-hitting guitar shredding. It’s very impressive how they can offer such a heavy, raw sound but still incorporate elements of bouncy pop music. The result: music that fires you up while also forcing you to bob your head. They finished their set with “Creature Feature,” and easily cemented themselves as one of the better sets all week.
We caught a couple songs from The Mystery Lights’ set. The band played heavy, rolling songs that had a bit of desert psyche rock influence. The trio had great stage presence and made for quite the entertaining performance, often jumping around and banging into one another. Another band that had incredible stage presence was Gary With a Circle Around the A. Gary – the lead singer and guitarist – was hilarious, singing songs about being bald, something that he expressed a lot of disdain for. Their sound was less aggressive than the previous bands we saw, offering a more classic good ol’ rock n’ roll sound with a quirky twist. The band asked if there were any A & R agents in the crowd and began to plead to them. It was comical.
We went back outside to see Duchess Says, who played a rambunctious show, to say the least. Lead singer A-Claude was constantly interacting with the crowd, invading the audience multiple times, even passing the microphone to audience members, and putting them on the spot to keep the show going. To call the band eclectic would be an understatement. There are so many different styles of music incorporated in their sound that it’s dizzying. The heaviest influences were garage, punk, art, and psyche rock. In summation, Duchess Says put on a really intense show that made for quite the spectacle.
Brian Bell of Weezer was the next act we saw, his band is called The Relationship. The band’s sound is very different than Weezer’s, but it does share the catchiness and indie-pop style. The Relationship’s last full project was a self-titled release in 2010, but they released a single earlier this year titled “Break Me Open,” which they played to an adoring crowd. Before their second last song, “Susie,” Bell warned the crowd that Brandon, the lead guitarist, liked playing the song because he likes the long solo he has, and it did not disappoint – Graham absolutely shredded the stage for a few minutes.
The next band we saw was The Sloths, who put on an unforgettable performance. The Sloths have a very interesting history, first forming and disbanding in the 1960s, over the next 50 to 60 years their music began to gain attention within the modern garage rock scene. The Sloths were reborn in the 2000s and started touring again with what original members were still with us. Lead singer Tommy Mcloughlin had a plethora of props to match with the songs he was playing, keeping the show constantly interesting. During their song “End of My Rope” he pulled out a rope and strangled himself with it. Before he started “Gotta Get Fired” he pulled out his old Home Depot apron that he wore to work and talked about how much he hated working there, saying he “couldn’t wait to get fired from that place.” Additionally, he pulled out a lighter during the song and proceeded to show it off. The show felt like it was straight out of a 1960s garage – it was beautifully simple and extremely entertaining.
We caught the last couple songs of Unkle Funkle’s set, which was pretty funny. Unkle Funkle – Chris Uehlein of White Fang – played covers of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” as well as “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. It seemed like the entire crowd was singing along to the covers. To close the night, we saw White Mystery from Chicago, composed of siblings Alex and Francis White. In cue with most of the bands from the day, and in very typical Burger Records fashion, they played loud and messy. It was a rocking set played to a tight crowd. Alex was nice enough to hang out after with the crowd – a certain Northern Transmissions member (me) may have had some drinks with her. By being so crowd-friendly, Alex White really epitomized Burger Records and their accessible music. It was an incredible day, until next time Austin.