SLUG Slides Through SXSW

Kayo Dot
Quantam Lounge 03.13
Invisable Oranges
Showcase
Kayo Dot = Mount Eerie + Woods of Desolation

Briskly walking into the Quantam Lounge from across town, I can hear the minimal decibels of noise from Kayo Dot working the crowd at the end of the narrow venue. Earplugs go in, and I situate myself into a tightly woven circle of bodies to make sure that no amount of the experimental, avant-garde goth metal (bonded to chamber-rock soundwaves) evaporates into the ether. This act is charged with a drummer, guitarist, saxophonist, synthesizer player and vocals by creator and only original member Toby Driver. The band plays soft, repetitive, un-surfaced waves of sound, which allow Driver’s silver serpent tongue to ripple in wet reverb. He uses his soft, trailing-off, poetic words to beckon the crowd close just before the band lashes out with a wave of viscous black metal. The audience tenses up to take on the brute force of the chaotic blast of metal with guitars wailing in long, drawn-out drones until they slowly subside to calming drum beats interlaced with vocals. Theming the show off of rising and falling from metal to poetic folk, respectively, the saxophone, synthesizer and drums stitch all parts together in KD’s set throughout the night. They play their latest self-released album, Hubardo—the band’s entire set for the night. As the audience creates waves of headbobbing amid gazes and stares, the bass is quickly replaced with Driver’s keyboarding to add in extra depth, almost like an organ with the stops pulled out. The unique keyboard bass becomes clear only after the sound engineer is told to “turn the keyboard up” two or three times. The rest of KD’s set moves on through a marriage of mixed noises and harmonizing vocals to create a close-to-indefinable sound that they have crafted for years in order to give these select followers at SXSW an aural imprint for the rest of the week. –Joshua Joye

King Dude
Gypsy Lounge 03.15
Sailor Jerry Showcase
King Dude = Tom Waits + Cult of Youth

TJ Cowgill of King Dude prepares his sing-a-long seancé about Lucifer being the light of the world. Photo: Joshua Joye
TJ Cowgill of King Dude prepares his sing-a-long seancé about Lucifer being the light of the world. Photo: Joshua Joye

When I first heard TJ Cowgill, aka King Dude, it was winter and the album was Love—his spooky, deeply resonating voice and droning, reverberating acoustic guitar wove lyrics about Earth, death and the devil together in a fitting wintertime soundtrack. Now, two years later, joined by Alexander Ortega and Joshua Joye, I milled around amid a somewhat subdued crowd, stoically guzzling Sailor Jerry rum drinks in a last-ditch effort to extend our weeklong party. To scattered shouts and applause, Cowgill took the stage in front of a blacked-out American flag. During a drawn-out setup and sound check, Cowgill chain-smoked while we watched his every move. When the band finally started, Cowgill held the audience’s attention like a preacher. Instead of the spacious, atmospheric sound on Love, King Dude’s live sound was plugged in, heavier and more aggressive as they played a blend of country, folk and rock n’ roll, vaguely informed by black metal—people call it “goth Americana.” Cowgill commanded the midnight stage, yelling like a satanic Tom Waits as drummer Joey D’Auria slammed a fistful of chains onto his snare in a performance that Cowgill introduced as a song about life extension—“Do some research,” he said. During faster, more rock-oriented songs, Cowgill shredded and sang like an evil Mike Ness, breaking up the séance vibe of the slower, darker songs. He chain-smoked through the entire set and took slugs from a bottle of cheap whiskey between songs. “Lucifer’s the Light of the World” topped off the set, with a sing-along about our love for Lucifer and his love for us. It made me feel weird inside, but I liked it. It was probably just the death of my remaining subconscious Mormon guilt—the perfect mood to record our final SLUG Soundwaves recap over at the Texas State Cemetery. –Cody Kirkland