From May 12th to May 15th, the long-awaited inaugural Oblivion Access festival finally came to life. Yes after two years of COVID related delays, I sped down through Texas to see the best and brightest in Metal, Hip-Hop, Punk, and Experimental music.
Before I get to the music, let me say something about my trip there. It took ~12 hours to drive down from Kansas City down the forever beautiful and broken I-35. I’ll say this, that transportation omnibus bill is sure starting strong. Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas are all reworking across the length and you certainly cannot miss it. Also do not trust Google Maps new feature where it suggests alternate routes during high levels of slowdown. Sent me down frontage roads and then had me merge back on to the highway just a few exits later. That’s what I get for not just being stubborn and staying in my lane.
I got to Austin in high-spirits though.
I made it a point for myself to not get hung up with missing shows. Like any festival scheduling conflicts arise and delays complicate plans. Marathon not a sprint here, especially given several trips to the pit.
Anyways, here is the best and notable of my time there
Day 1 – Thursday, May 12th
- Broke my glasses like a fucking nerd by bending over to tie my shoe. Great start to the weekend!
- Shitbag opened up the first night at Empire Control Room. Good but the first band to play in a lineup called Shitbag is too prime of a funny.
- Elizabeth Colour Wheel gave a dazzling thirty minute set, filled with otay:onii’s amazing vocalizations and darkened driving Shoegaze. I completely blinked and missed her jumping down and then suddenly she brushed right past me as she carved through the crowd.
- Hell: Devious and heavy. Perfect Doom Metal in any arena, but live was killer. A bittersweet performance, as it was the last for their touring bassist. Apparently the first performance since 2020. A running theme for a lot of these artists at the festival.
- Primitive Man: Played lots off of the new 2022 record. Just absolutely soul crushing Noise ridden Sludge Metal. So heavy that the bass amp blew out in the middle. Bassist was obviously a little concerned but it was able to be fixed. In the meantime, it opened up an opportunity to lead into the next track with a long noise improvisation. Unintended and in the moment.
- Massacre: Great Thrash Metal set. The vocalist shouted out a couple really bad misogynistic jokes at the expense of a merch-girl, which fell very flat. Old metal-bros are really an iconic breed. Won’t repeat them here, not worth it hah!
- Carcass: Just an amazing show. Hell even Massacre did a quick practice opener to tease for the group. As tight of a performance as I saw the entire weekend. Death Metal from their Grindcore to the Melodic Death Metal days. Classic set, the pit was huge, taking up the circumference of the garage stage. Weird thing I saw in there was what appeared to be a cop or security guard, smoking a vape and participating in the pit. Music is powerful.
Day 2 – Friday, May 13th
- Was apparently spotted by a friend of an associate, which I’ve never met or seen either by the way, by my unique appearance alone. The quote was “a jacked dude wearing a manga shirt”. My style is an enigma for sure.
- Plack Blague was a spiritual experience. Straight up queer dance party to the steamiest EBM you’ve ever heard live. Leather daddy looks and feels. Lead guy came down after stripping and got with the crowd. Just… wow. Only other shirt I bought other than the Oblivion Access standard was a Plack Blague shirt. Bless them.
- H09909 had a very long delay which I can’t explain. Was a bummer that it pushed back a lot of the shows. A lot of down time.
- N8NOFACE was a really great find I made on the final lineup drop. I had always been a Synth Punk fan and knew I needed to look this guy up. A very passionate form of music therapy from this guy, really been through some shit. While not as hot of course as Plack Blague, it was still a dance-ridden bonding experience.
- Soul Glo. Let me go into depth on Soul Glo. I basically went out to get fresh air for a minute and then came back in to grab a good spot up front. What happened over the course of the next hour was probably my favorite memory from the festival.
- The warmup and levels setting was long but was one of the best noise warmups to one of the greatest drop-ins I’ve seen live.
- Shouts out to the whole group, just has the composition of characters and instruments to become instantly identifiable. Like it feels so right, visions of greatness. GG kinda didn’t seem real, straight up Holger Czukay lookalike on bass.
- So remember my glasses? Well I had gone full-tilt nerd and used some medical tape to squeeze the left-eye frame back together and hold in the lens. I had usually had good luck with wearing glasses and residing in the pit. I knew the risks and unfortunately even my supreme agility and spacial awareness couldn’t foresee the 5’5″ beast of a man who stage dove right on top of me out of the abyss. Glasses, floor, poof.
- There was a guy who was tweaking or something, got off a stage dive and started comically windmill punching anybody in front of him. Got pulled aside thankfully and sent to time-out by a bouncer.
- From a performance aspect, it was pretty phenomenal. My adrenaline was through the roof, moshing like crazy. They really gave it their all though. Pierce was obviously really emotional about the whole thing. The meteoric rise of this group since they released their most recent LP really started filling out crowds. This was no exception.
- Speaking of, he gave a lot of words of wisdom throughout the show. In particular, a word on how relationships, the experience and language of them, can never be replicated and exist entirely within the spirit of the other person. Similarly, there was a quick call out on making music. The first question was at the expense of “who wanted to be in a band but not in one”, then “who here wants to learn an instrument and never learned one”. He actually asked the first one twice. First one my hand shot straight up. Second one I didn’t. I felt that in the moment. Most likely not, but I felt like he was looking right at me when I didn’t shoot my hand up the second time. As if he was sorta disappointing in me. A really surreal projection. I can’t put it to words, it was this moment that really cemented my life phase shift. Here’s to just doing something.
- This was the performance that finally started off my pit shoe art experience. That as in, I wore white shoes to these shows on purpose. I was curious to see how dirtied I could get them. The results were really nice, a perfect gradient on the front of the shoe, charcoal blacked with grime. Looks sweet.
- Call it a missed bro connection. There was a guy who was at this show named Cody. Cody has been liberally drawn below for identification purposes. Shouts out to Cody.
Day 3 – Saturday, May 14th
- All shows were pushed back an hour again, definitely put a damp on my interest to go elsewhere. Plus I was old-manning really hard as my feet and back were aching from last night’s festivities.
- Seeing Kool Keith was neat, seemed kinda out of it but rolled through the hits throughout his afternoon set. His touring DJ was very talented, though didn’t seem to quite hit the cues Kool was throwing his way. The back half of the set was the best, went through a whole freestyle set over a handful of classic beats. Funny moment of him thinking “Midnight in a Perfect World” was to sad of a track to play.
- Melt Banana was super sweet. I was very excited to see these two play. They had been at the whole festival with everyone and just seemed like the two nicest people there. They set up a laser driven instrument that was paired with a smart-tablet with colors on it’s screen. Acted like a KORG-type thing. The show itself was mind-blowing. Like a lights on/lights off type experience. One minute it was calm, the next: Melt Banana.
- After the extended afternoon shows and me being very hungry (kinda planned on having more time in between afternoon and night shows), I walked back to my place and got a copious amount of Jerk Chicken, rice, beans, and fried plantains. Stars in my eyes as I rested my body for the next day.
- Side-note, if you have any interest in sports you should check out Secret Base on YouTube. The best deep dives on statistical anomalies, sports star beefs, and great stories.
Day 4 – Sunday, May 15th
- I started off at the actual first different venue I was able to make it to: The Mohawk. Neat place but it was almost too vertical.
- I’m not sure but I think the Vermin Womb drummer got cussed out after their performance? Might have been fired or something ha I don’t know.
- Despise You was awesome. I was just chilling on the balcony but that would’ve been an exciting pit. Powerviolence fucking rocks.
- Converge was good, probably a bigger deal for most people than me. Cool moment with their set being finished off by a kid grabbing the mic and ending the final song of the show, concluded by him Jesus-falling into the crowd. Hell yeah.
- Later that night, I had made the tail end of MVTANT (okay, but probably came too late to make a full opinion) and was able to get stage-side for Liturgy. This had been one of the shows I had on my list from the beginning. Liturgy’s recent material was unfortunately missing, no MIDI sequencers or ability to properly glitch/orchestrate. For a short set, it was probably for the best.
- Leya could have been such a phenomenal show. Not on the fault of the group but really just some unfortunate circumstances. First was the fact that their first couple songs were effectively ruined by the sound team by removing their necessary reverb. Second was that the bar wasn’t exactly being quiet for the group. Third was this jack-off standing a couple people behind me that was just being a real jerk trying to act too cool for this group. Fitting in an Ambient/Electroacoustic set into this festival was a tough sell, and especially at this venue and linup. Elysium would have been a far better place for them, hell William Basinski was playing there. It really was a beautiful set focusing in. The usage of electric violin and harp, along with the leads gorgeous singing, was stunning.
- So the last of my groups I wanted to see at this festival was The Locust. Very unfortunately, at the end of April their drummer, Gabe Serbian, passed away. This meant that the group was down a man and needed a replacement. Just as it so happens, Gabe was actually a founding member of Cattle Decapitation back in the day. They were actually going to record a new record over in Denver. As they said it went, they even brought their tour gear just to play a show or two. The show-runners reached out to them and the replacement was found. The lead of the Locust gave a real heart-wrenching send-off and gratitude for the support of his fallen friend. Ended with “fuck this world”, just bleak and sad. Harsh reality.
- Cattle Decapitation’s set was nothing short of a perfect end to the experience. Death Metal that was executed perfectly. Fast, brutal, and emotionally charged. Obviously the band is friends with Gabe and were equally distraught. They were able to exude that energy into an amazing performance.
It was a really good time overall! My experience was mostly centered at the Empire Garage & Control Room, where it just so happened most of the music I wanted to hear was at. Seemed like there were a few technical issues inside, especially compared to the outdoor shows I went to. Not very surprising when it comes to levels and such, but even just the background projector and equipment problems. Happens though, nothing too bad. The places I went to were well prepared with alcohol and water stations, always stocked up until the end of the day.
The festival as a whole was pretty neat. In concept, a show series at several venues in a city like Austin is a great sell. It probably would have helped to have the main festival HQ hosted closer to the cluster of participating bars. It was unfortunately on the other side of I-35 in some local hostel. It could have been a much higher-traffic area if it were in a more central location and built up the festival atmosphere a little more. Kinda just hidden at the end of the day.
But at the end of day, it was chock-full of amazing artists. From locals to legends, this festival had so much to offer. No other festival has had this blend of underground especially. I’m really happy it ended up happening after those long two years. It wasn’t the original lineup by any means, but I’m glad so many of the former bill were still able to make it. Props to Lil Ugly Mane and all of the underlying supporters for this festival, especially for a first time. Looking forward to what comes next!
P.S. Still waiting on my new glasses by the way!