The clouds were dark and moody, as if an impending storm was about to hit; but March 17th, dozens of bands came out to bring the heat (as if there wasn’t enough already) at the annual SouthBySoWhat festival in Grand Prairie TX, hosted by Third String Productions. The genres were a large mix between metal/deathcore, pop-punk, acoustic, and everywhere in the middle. There were TONS of technical problems throughout the entire day on all 3 stages, so keep that in mind during these various reviews. Location wise: QuikTrip Park being a baseball stadium was a bold choice, but I think it was a smart one because of the accessibility of the stages. There were lots of duds and lots of surprises, but the show definitely was on the upside of festivals, as the good weighed out the bad. The selection of bands I watched were a mix of local and national, but surprisingly the results might not be what you think.
Make Me Famous:
The Ukraine kids were mega-Youtube famous before they got over to the states, but how did they hold up in the crazy live American festival setting? Well, their set was early so there wasn’t a whole lot of crowd watching, but enough to get things going. First thing I should note is they had technical issues mostly with the wireless for the guitarists, but it wasn’t enough to derail the set. About halfway through they really got the response up when they brought out the song that got them famous, “Make It Precious”. From there, they kept the momentum going. They were tight as a unit, and although they had the stage presence down, it just wasn’t enough to really stand out.
Standout Song: “Make It Precious”
What a force to be reckoned with, these guys are. They seriously came out swinging for brick walls, rather than wooden fences. They got the pit opened up immediately, and the kids were absolutely going nuts. Needless to say, it was brutal. They pushed and pulled through the set, breakdown after breakdown. It got a little hard to follow at times, but there were definite moments that they had everyone on their toes. They totally destroyed the crowd during “God of Nothing”. Most of the new record got played, with a couple off of Lost Boy and closing with “On Wings of Integrity” from Unbreakable; their relentless attitude was solid and most likely got them some new fans.
Standout Song: “God of Nothing”
The party-core quintet came to bring some noise, and by that measure they did. The aforementioned audio/technical problems were very prevalent during their set; as all you could make out a lot of the time was muddied chunks of drumming in the mix. That was very disappointing. Still, they powered through it and played hard. Regardless of the issues, they played most of their new record Outlawed, and a tad bit of Rage (although they didn’t played the title track, which really irked me). Most people don’t get their drug-addled appeal and neither do I, but either way I still enjoyed their set throughout the muddiness.
Standout Song: “Nothing Left to Say”
Motionless In White:
If you haven’t caught these guys live yet, YOU MUST. They came out on fire, and from the get-go took to dropping insane fury on the crowd. Opening with “Abigial” off of Creatures (which is a tad unorthodox from their previous sets I’ve seen), the entire experience was synced right off of the bat: the crowd, the band, everything. They absolutely put the other bands to shame. They played mostly off of the aforementioned Creatures, and tore everyone to shreds. They had THE largest circle pit of their entire career during that set (they said so right after it was done) during “Creatures”. The breakdowns were pure monstrosities that everyone was into, and I mean everyone. It was pure insanity. Closing with Immaculate Misconception, the final breakdown of the song when they yell “So come and fucking get us!” was the easily one of the most chaotic moments I had ever experienced, so much even I had to get into the pit (I don’t hardly ever do that). It was easily the best set of theirs I had ever seen (I’ve caught them 4+ times), and easily one of the best sets of the day. They’ve improved so much that I can’t do anything but rave on them. Go see these guys, you will not be disappointed I promise.
Standout Song: “Immaculate Misconception”
The local Dallas prog/hard-core group have got many tricks up their sleeve, and despite the terrible sound quality they brought them out as much as they could; one of them being new clean vocalist Lucas Cote. He was channeling gorgeous melodies on stage, while unclean vocalist David Escamilla traded back and forth and bringing the heat. For the most part, everyone was on their game. They only played a handful of songs, but they had enough variety to keep things interesting between old and new. Despite the problems, they stood out among the local bands and gave it their best.
Standout Song: “Hurricane Season”
Set The Sun:
Also from Dallas, they tend to brush on the even heavier side of things when it comes to the local bands that graced the stage that evening. First off I must point out that their set was hardly enjoyable, but that is ONLY because the mix was so god-awful. Seriously, I was outraged at the conditions they played under. All you could really make out was vocalist Nate Anderson most of the time, with an incredibly low level of the other instruments behind him. I’m so proud of them for sticking through it. Off of that note, they brought the chaos with them. Clearly, they decided to push through it and have a fun time, and that they did. This is definitely a band you want to check out under more favorable conditions.
Standout Song: “Armagetiton”
A Change of Pace:
What can I say, I missed these guys. The crowd size was small, but incredibly supportive and into the whole set (which I wasn’t expecting). They played a good mix of old and new songs, and it also marked the return of vocalist Torry Jasper; who delivered. His soul-influenced crooning sparked lots of praise during the set, as well as lots of appreciation. The entire set was full of tons of energy, and obvious emotion. The reunion is beyond awesome, and I’m so stoked for their return based off of their set. Welcome back, guys.
Standout Song: “Weekend Warriors”
Not much introduction needed here, you know how this band of rap/destructo-core goes. They brought the damn walls down. The whole crowd was feeling it, and the pit was massive. They played a large chunk of their record Speaker of the Dead, as well as a few from Felony and their new single “Protoman”. They have got their stage presence down to the tee, and seeing them at any show proves that; whether you are into them or not. Also noteworthy was their relatively new drummer Mark Castillo, who was on fire. Not much more to say because it was brutal, but solid.
Standout Song: “Protoman”
Even Cameras Lie:
These local Dallas hardcore kids have got the formula pinned down, and they despite many issues they pretty much nailed every aspect of their set. The main issue they had was the mix of the sound, because that made it a bit difficult to stay latched on. Each member of the band was on their game though, and put up a fight. I was in and out of the set, but what I did catch was solid. The best part of the set was the song they closed with, “Parallels”. These guys deserve serious kudos for their determination. Make sure to check them out.
Standout Song: “Parallels”
We Came as Romans:
Another band that brings it every time they play, that night was no exception. Playing towards the very end of the evening, they had a large number of people at their stage to work with. WCAR had tons of energy, and luckily the crowd wasn’t tired enough yet to show theirs too. The pit was huge, especially during “A War Inside” and “Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be”. One thing they always have going for them is their ability to inspire during their performances, which this was also no exception. I especially enjoy watching their drummer Eric Choi, who is always a show of his own when he manages to employ various stick tricks and embellishments to his already near flawless style. They played a varied mix over their two records, To Plant a Seed and Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be. Overall, to close out a long but great day for heavy music, they never cease to impress.
Standout Song: “Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be”
To cap the entire day off, there was an exasperating mix of good and bad times; but luckily there were plenty of saving graces of the festival (one of them not being the $20 parking). Would I attend it next year? Of course. It was definitely worth it. Would I recommend you to attend it? You bet. My recommendations? Cheaper parking, credit-card accepting food establishments, and better in-house audio/live-sound engineers. Overall, the experience was entirely worthwhile and if you’re not up for the long drive to Austin; come to this instead (you’ll at least be able to attain part of the experience).
Also, here is a list of various bands/groups I didn’t catch enough of their sets throughout the day, but still worth mentioning/checking out without a doubt: Harp & Lyre, Glass Cloud, Vanna, Secrets, With Shaking Hands, We Are The In Crowd, Chelsea Grin, A Tragedy At Hand, Blessthefall, Comeback Kid, Trivium, Hellogoodbye, Motion City Soundtrack, and The Early November (who by the way absolutely ruled, and are worth extra special mention).