If you're running down a list of ways you expect to close out a two day trip to Round Rock to support sales initiatives in the southwest, a day already marred by eight-plus hours of marathon software demos, capped off by having no chance whatsoever of getting thru rush hour traffic and to the airport in time to make your flight home, being pinballed around a mosh pit by the world's two shortest Samoans* is probably somewhere near the bottom of the list. I won't lie. I didn't see that coming.
As of roughly 9:30 PM Central on a Thursday night, I had no idea Spineshank existed. At all. I had no idea they were sort of a big deal in the metal scene in the late 90s and early 2000s. I had no idea they broke up and then got back together in 2008. I had no idea they had been nominated for a Grammy. I had no idea they were on a reunion tour in support of their brand new album. I mean, seriously. I didn't even know a band calling themselves Spineshank had ever existed in the world at all. Ever. And then this happened.
It goes a little something like this. Faced with missed flights, TSA, and arrivals back on the east coast no earlier than midnight even if we found seats, we decided to boot the travel until the next morning and enjoy an evening in Austin. A quick call on the ride down 35S and we're safely plonked down into the Hilton Garden Inn off of 5th Street (nice digs, for the record). A few minutes to drop the bags and decompress, a round of pre-dinner drinks at the hotel bar, and then out for a nice meal to cap the work week off well. Cab it up and over to 12th and something for a 7:30 reservation at Austin Land & Cattle, a perfectly prepared t-bone and a nice deep cab to wash it down... Friends, food, fun, and a sales budget to expense it to. Life is good.
Around 9:30 chase down another ride back toward the heart of the city, and we decide to drop in the warehouse district off of 5th and Lavaca and take the scenic walk back down to the hotel. A few blocks into it and P stops dead in her tracks, turns around and sort of squeak/shouts, "METAL!!!" Turn right toward bar. Listen. Oh yes. The lady is absolutely correct. This is totally metal. From the barrage of kick drum beats to the chainsaw power chording to the guttural growls in the vocals, oh yes. METAL!
This is The Dirty Dog. It's a bar. It's dirty. It's decorated in various metal themed clutter, highlighted by prints of a dog mascot humping various things around the bar. Concrete floors. Bikers. Metal chicks. Biker chicks. A pole for the customers to dance on if they feel the urge. And metal.
Technically, what we're hearing on the sidewalk is a six piece from Alice, Texas called Shattered Sun. They carve up the night with rusty cleavers. They croak and bellow. They pogo in unison. It is awesome. The door guy apologizes for the $10 cover, but they "have a touring act tonight." Okay, dude. Whatevs. METAL!
We park at the bar while Shattered Sun wrap their opening set. These guys are tight. They've been playing together since 2005. I have no idea what their songs are about, aside from aggression and brutality, but dude. Metal. It's completely about aggression and brutality. And after more than a decade of winsome indie pop and shoegaze bands moping about the stage, trying to ignore the fact that they're technically supposed to be entertainers, Shattered Sun is a revelation. The sheer force of will and passion required to go at it this hard, with this much intensity, while the crowd on the floor barely outnumbers the band members on stage is phenomenal. The set is spot on, if sparsely received. Later I feel bad for waiting them out at the bar and not giving them so love during their set and buy a t-shirt. It is an awesome t-shirt. It is a metal t-shirt. Those sentences are redundant.
A brief break to change out and Spineshank take the stage. Regardless of how tight and entertaining Shattered Sun was, it's clear these guys are on another level. The songs are more complex and melodic, but more aggressive at the same time. Metal rocks.
Look, I know nothing about this band that I didn't pull off of Wiki thirty minutes ago, okay? Aside from the fact that, outside of Archers of Loaf, this is the most entertaining two hours of live music I've heard in years. I know I ended up in the pit with twenty other guys, bouncing off of Samoans* of small stature but great width and density. I know the clock did that thing that happens at only the best shows and skipped from 9:30 to 1:30 in the blink of an eye. I know P bought a Spineshank t-shirt on the way out, and that every annoying thing about the day before we randomly ran into The Dirty Dog, Shattered Sun and Spineshank was obliterated in the cleansing fires of metal. And if that's not a seven sponge show, I don't know what is.
*Okay, for the sensitive among us, I have no idea of those two guys were Samoans, I'm just ethnically stereotyping them based on hair, complex and general bod shape, but both of those guys were pushing 350 and neither of them were in inch above five and a half. But by god they were sturdy.