Show Review: Altercation Records’ Mid-Summer Night Scream!

Altercation Records has continued to demonstrate the staying power of true underground DIY culture over the past decade, with the Austin / New York label’s annual Punk Rock BBQ and Mid-Summer Night Scream events fast becoming some of the most ‘must-attend’ throw downs in the nation. The 2015 Mid-Summer Night Scream, held in Austin, TX at venue Holy Mountain, proved exceptional even by Altercation standards, and will hold a lasting impression in my mind for a long time to come.

Despite the 108 degree Texas heat and the bittersweet knowledge that Holy Mountain will be closing its doors over a rent raise dispute this coming October, spirits were high from the get-go. Punk rockers are not known for their promptness, but even at 6:30pm an enthusiastic crowd had arrived to catch Scream kick off band Pleasure Tide. Fronted by ex-Assjack vocalist Gary Lindsay, the band channeled fire-and-brimstone lyrics with gypsy-infused melodies to yield a potent punk rock gospel revival that had even the shyest of wallflowers singing along. Lindsay’s voice has never sounded better, a gravel-and-whiskey soaked hybrid best served on the rocks.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not! mainstay The Lizardman brought his circle sideshow out of the big tent and into the club, entertaining and horrifying the crowd by putting a corkscrew through his nasal cavity and having his comedic sideman destroy a cinder block hanging from his earlobes with a sledge hammer. To say you had to be there is an understatement.

All Eyes West proved no-shows, although Dallas’ punkers Fat By The Gallon cranked out the high-energy jams that have secured them opening slots for legends like NOFX and Bouncing Souls. Avenue Rockers, fresh off performing at Punk Rock Bowling Fest, continued to keep the energy high with their Operation Ivy-vibe of ska/punk. Members of local rising street punk band Sniper 66 were spotted in the circle pit, as was the divine Miss Genocide from Burning

The Dirty Charley Band added nice outlaw country flavor to the Scream, mixing songs about the devil and bad women gone worse, while College Station, TX outfit Girl Band channelled a modern-day Runaways. Blue-haired siren Nikki was impossible to look away from, and the band was clearly having a blast delivering their bubblegum punk and sending out a shoutout to ‘the fine art of finger banging’.

Word of mouth was high for ASS, and they did not disappoint. This was my first time seeing the band and will not be my last, as they absolutely dripped energy from the minute they took the stage until the last wringing guitar chord. ASS thrashed like heirs to the Suicidal throne, rocking out with abandon to songs about classic pastimes such as pizza, drugs and wizards. I was impressed to say the least.

Altercation Records’ The Grizzly Band delivered the goods as usual, wringing country-tinged rock from a sweat-drenched Lucero towel. These bearded gents are clearly bound for some next-level stages, having recently provided support for Nashville Pussy and The Supersuckers, so seeing them in the intimate confines of Holy Mountain felt like a true treat.

If there’s a heavier Texas band than Sabbath Crow I have not heard it. Looking like the extended family of The Devil’s Rejects, this power trio absolutely destroyed the Holy Mountain stage. Their cowboy-hat clad guitarist was jaw-dropping to watch, his hands pummeling his guitar with such speed and dexterity it almost seemed comical. The crowd was ecstatic for Crow, and the bar was clearly raised.

Blues Meanies’ vocalist Billy Spunke was up to the task. A Chicago legend, Spunke reunion with the Meanies for 2014’s Riot Fest drew HUGE crowds for good reason. He is a dynamo to watch, and new post-punk project All The Way Korean was impossible to turn away from. Shrouded in smoke and dense red light, Spunke shouted and clawed his way through each song like a demon-possessed, sunglasses-clad preacher.

Finally it was time for USSR import The Svetlanas to play. I had seen the band perform half a set at SXSW a few years back, and was in short amazed. Word of the band has clearly spread like wildfire, as the crowd was wall to wall even at 1 am in anticipation of the band, who are in the US to perform on the 2015 Vans Warped Tour. Singer Olga Svetlana appeared like a female version of Iggy Pop in his primal prime, setting a poster of Putin on fire before the roaring crowd and then diving headfirst into hardcore anthems like “I Must Break You” and “Revenge”. The band recently completed a month of support for The Dwarves and it showed – a well-oiled thrash machine, Svetlanas were simply unstoppable, with bodies constantly flying from the stage into the pit like crash test dummies.

By ignoring trends and completely bypassing the usual cultural trappings of corporate sponsorship that seems to dominate so many other ‘punk’ festivals, the Altercation Mid-Summer Night Scream felt like a true underground music event for the fans – diverse, high-energy and uncompromising, and a great reminder of why so many of us were drawn to the genre in the first place. How Altercation will possibly top this year’s Scream in 2016 is a question I’m glad I am not responsible for answering.

Photo’s by Dave Prewitt

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