“Hello, we are your punk rock breakfast this morning!” shouted the singer for Mutant Love, and with that yet another Altercation Punk Rock BBQ was underway. I admittedly missed last year’s annual shindig, and was apprehensive about the new venue of Kick Butt Coffee, having grown accustomed to the outdoor fun of The Vortex in previous years. But within a few minutes of Mutant Love’s blistering opening set, any fears quickly evaporated.
Kick Butt Coffee in Austin, Texas is far and away one of the best venues I have been to in the Lone Star State, and Altercation’s move made total sense once I witnessed firsthand the new venue. Two stages meant even more bands rocking the notorious free yearly event, with larger capacity to handle the impressively huge crowd, and some of the most pitch-perfect sound I heard all week during SXSW.
After ML wrapped up I caught a relatively new Austin band called Despero, who did a great job at channeling Avail-inspired melodic hardcore. I had heard good things about this four piece after some pals saw them at Fest last year, and they more than lived up to the hype. Steadfast from Houston then delivered some blue-collar punk on the Sausage Stage, followed by the snazzy suit-wearing Mr. Lewis and the Funeral 5. Mr. Lewis was all swagger and whiskey, calling to mind Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds on a bender, and by the time they finished their set I decided it was time for some quick sunlight and free brisket outside.
The Altercation BBQ has always been a top draw during the SXSW-fueled March madness, but this year the turnout was downright nuts. Fortunately, the brisket and free beer was in large supply, and a local company called Elgin Screenprinting provided some really cool print-on-demand festival shirts in the parking lot. Returning for seconds on the food meant I missed most of Fat By The Gallon and Memphis power duo HEELS, although if the crowd roar is any indication they definitely were both a favorite. I even heard rumor that Altercation Records co-owner JT hopped onstage to shred vocals for a tune, but can neither confirm nor deny this. I am pretty sure that was him running around as the ‘Devil Chef’ for part of the day though, much to the delight and horror of the younger fans.
Dr. Beardface and the Space Man from Philly had the crowd dancing from note one, and mentioned they will be on some Warped Tour dates this summer, before Blag from the legendary Dwarves showed up for his lone solo set of the weekend. Blag’s banter was hilarious, and the setlist was a Dwarves’ fan dream, ripping through ‘Let Me Show You How It’s Done’, ‘Trailer Trash’ and an assortment of other hits.
Nowherebound, which I’m told features former members of Altercation Records band Born To Lose, had the unenviable position of following Blag, but came out guns blazing. Any fan of working class punk like Darkbuster or Street Dogs would be well to search these guys out, who also had the best looking vinyl I saw all day. The Grizzly Band from Houston channeled Lucero-style country-tinged jams, and while I was unfamiliar with some of the newer songs they played the band was clearly a crowd favorite.
The Fantastic Plastics from Chicago had the most ‘buzz’ I heard all day, and I was honestly wondering what to expect of the guy in the giant white ‘fro wig and the gal in the B-52’s-inspired art-deco dress. Consider me a new FP believer. This duo absolutely owned the stage, complete with a sensory-overload live show of lights and projected images. If you at all like the White Stripes or Devo, the Fantastic Plastics are your new wet dream. Seriously, believe the hype and seek them out.
Punks On Parade, another Austin band I was unfamiliar with, closed out the show with their last set ever (or so it was announced). I was not expecting too much, since the band looked like many of the typical ‘up the punx’ mohawk outfits that seem to be everywhere these days. Shame on me, because it quickly became apparent that Punks On Parade were the real deal. Think ‘Let’s Go’-era Rancid songwriting, with a bass player and drummer that were unbelievably tight considering the lightning speed of the street anthems. The pit truly opened up for these Punks, giving them a proper sendoff and making me feel both sad and lucky to have seen their final show. All in all yet another epic year. How Altercation will top it in 2019 is anyone’s guess, but I know I’ll do my best to never miss another year going forward.
– Chloe Garcia