It seems like all the greatest adventures begin with a phone call. This particular call came about a month ago. The gentleman on the line was one of my brothers. Brother Grier had called to inform me he had purchased tickets to Southwest Terror Fest in Tucson, Arizona. His plane ticket was purchased, the hotel reservation was set, and I had no choice but to join him (he had apparently bought me tickets too). So I set out for Tucson—a road trip that involved excessive road rage, increased air conditioning, and so much grindcore it nearly ripped holes through my speakers. When I arrived, the stage was already set. A day of metal had already commenced and two full days lay ahead (I couldn’t make the Thursday shows or stay for the Sunday shows). And what better place for it than a rundown venue on Toole and the hotel where Dillinger was captured?
After Friday night’s dinner of fake burgers and peanut butter cheesecake with Via Vengeance‘s Shane and Generation of Vipers‘ Josh and Travis, Brother Grier and I headed over to 191 Toole for a night of chaos. Within, the merch tables bottle-necked the entryway, the floorboards buckled with every banging head, and tallboys of Rolling Rock littered the pit. With a dozen band shirts dangling from Brother Grier’s forearm, we took in the sweet smell of alcoholic vomit and ball sweat. The kind that generates man-made humidity from the entrance to emergency exit. It was something that would live in our lungs for the next couple days, but it felt right.
Though I missed Via Vengeance (whom I’ve seen a couple times now), Generation of Vipers, North, and Sumac Thursday night, Friday made up for it. Vermin Womb crushed my soul, Gay Kiss rocked it, and Wake unsettled it. And, for some reason, The Final Conflict sat between; playing an old-school punk set that did everything from mock the youth and piss off the cops to threaten Trump supporters. Next came Nails‘ replacements. The room was hotter than it had ever been and Despise You hit the stage without a fear in the world. The pit was nasty, the vocals were in your face, and the sweat and humidity increased tenfold. It may not have been Nails, but Despise You came and fucked us up. But, Pig Destroyer topped them all. They sent drunken morons into pillars, stole Rolling Rock from stomachs and blood from the noses of the unfortunate. Be a lover or hater of the band, Pig Destroyer have their act down to a science. And having Kat (from Agoraphobic Nosebleed) hit the stage as a teaser for tomorrow was the highlight of the night.
After hanging out for most of Mountain Man and Behold! The Monolith (the latter fronted by a female vocalist who looked like a gal I know, but no one else seemed to recognize), it was time for these old bones to get to bed. My boots smelled like puke and I forgot my toothpaste, but these were the least of my worries that night. It turns out Brother Grier is no longer allowed to select hotel rooms. Left to his own devices, the sum bitch got the room directly above the stage. But, somehow, the throbbing bass and pounded drums of Old Man Gloom rocked me (and the entire room) to sleep.
After a simple breakfast of baked eggs and chocolate-chip pancakes, we struck out for some gentle drinking at a local brewery. After lunch, it was time for another night of earth-rumbling doom and grind. Of the Saturday night sets, Magguts, Sex Prisoner, ACxDC, Infest, and Power Trip stood out. The Ghoulish qualities of Magguts (and the bass player’s King Diamond patches) had me hooked, while Tucson’s love for Sex Prisoner had the room headbanging in ecstasy. And with good reason. These grinders had more energy than most bands at the fest. ACxDC followed with trenched machine-gun fire (I swear they played one hundred songs in twenty minutes), with an energy almost as addictive as Sex Prisoner. But, Power Trip fucked me up. Seconds into the opener, I found myself thrown from the front of the stage to the drumset on the side stage. I got headbutted, I got kicked in the face, but, goddammit, did it feel good. Power Trip were a violent entity that ripped that venue to shreds, caring little for safety or close quarters.
The pit continued to grow that night as Infest hit the stage—the vocalist even joined us on the floor. But the band that took down the house was Agoraphobic Nosebleed. It was intense and interesting (especially the synthesized drums and… drum solo). Richard Johnson and Kat Katz were intimating as fuck; adding their unique styles to the already unsettling atmosphere. I, for one, watched in awe all the way to closer “Agorapocalypse Now.” At the conclusion of the show, I found myself Deaf and worn to the bone. Brother Grier and I left, never to return to Terror Fest 2016. Satisfied, I returned to our room for a shower under shitty water pressure, a cold drink from that mystical second-floor water fountain, and a bed that refused to quit rattling.
That night, after fighting off the annoying techno music below us, Brother Grier and I finally fell asleep around 2 am, only to awake an hour later. He had a flight to catch and I had a car to take him in. After making it to the airport, we gave our farewells and I hit the road. But, as I followed the blackened mountain range north, Brother Grier called me. Being only an hour since dropping him off, and now 5:30 in the morning, I feared the worst. I retreated from the freeway at the first available exit and answered the call. “What’s up?” I asked. “Not much,” he replied. “You asshole,” I thought to myself. “So, I got past security and ran into Agoraphobic Nosebleed.” Not only had Brother Grier run into them, but he got a picture and bought the gang some breakfast. To many, this would be a neat coincidence, but to Brother Grier (the biggest ANB fan of all time), this was icing on the cake. A moment he had been waiting for and a moment he deserved.
As I sat there listening to his story, and imagining that awkward meeting, my mind began traveling over the events of the weekend. Of all the bands I saw, one stood out above the others. I first saw this lone character Friday at the local distillery. He came with only a banjo, an acoustic guitar, and his voice. But, honestly, that was all he needed. Yet, it was his set Saturday afternoon that had me hooked.
Saturday afternoon, Brother Grier and I walked across the tracks to a local record shop. Behind it stood a poorly-trimmed Palo Verde, a bathtub full of Tecate, and a man with banjo, guitar, and dust. Above the whistling train, the man behind Amigo the Devil unleashed a performance like none other. He was funny, he was entertaining, and he had music that made bumblebees buzz, ice melt over shitty beer, and wandering eyes peer over the fence of the neighboring restaurant. He let down his hair, he shotgunned a beer, and we sang everything from “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” to “Dahmer Does Hollywood.” It was fucking perfect.
With Brother Grier’s weekend made and our individual journeys back home just beginning, I hung up the phone. There I sat smiling like a moron, amused and alone in that dark intersection above the interstate. It turns out this adventure had begun and ended with two phone calls. Both from Brother Grier. It’s rare these days that I get to see either of my brothers and when it happens, it’s always special. I put my mom-car back into drive and accelerated for no one but myself; cranking Magguts, Generation of Vipers, and Amigo the Devil while grinning like this were the closing credits of a really sappy movie. It was a kickass weekend, Brother Grier, and I have you to thank for it.