Local bands are bringing the edge back to SXSW

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Though South By Southwest is one of the many reasons Austin has earned the title “Live Music Capital of the World,” the festival is lacking in one of the largest and craziest live music genres: metal.

“We’ve always kind of felt like metal bands are the step-children of the scene,” said Shaun Twyman, vocalist for local metal band Death of a Dream.

Metal music, most known for its fast beats, screaming vocals and outrageous mosh pits, has found a fast-growing home in Austin. The members of Death of a Dream, who will be playing the South by South Death Showcase on May 16th, said the festival began to incorporate heavier acts into the lineup after Metallica’s surprise performance in 2009. 

Their performance was so popular it shut down multiple blocks, but Death of a Dream rhythm guitarist Trey Ybarbo said the festival is still unsure on whether there is a substantial audience for this type of music.

“We know it’s not an accepted genre like pop and hip-hop,” Ybarbo said. “We’re loud and annoying, but we enjoy it.”

Austin metal band Beard the Lion will play at the Texas Takeover Showcase on March 14. Beard the Lion vocalist Ethan Carthel said SXSW is a chance to get broader exposure outside of a standard show because of the festival’s world renowned status and attendance. 

“I have to say some of our most loyal fans came from (our 2015 SXSW) show, and there were people from all over the world coming out whether they planned to be at that show or just happened to be going by and came in,” Carthel said. 

Ybarbo said one of the largest drawbacks to the scene’s success were promoters organizing the shows without understanding the nature of metal. This is changing due to promoters like Anthony Stevenson, who through his company Come and Take It Productions has been fighting to bring more metal acts to Austin. Stevenson said one of the main focuses of his company is to use bigger artists to support the homegrown Austin metal scene.

“I made it a goal and priority to give locals the opportunity to open for national artists whenever they come through,” Stevenson said. “I’m hoping (this) will get these local bands more exposure by playing in front of new faces that otherwise would not see them. I’m just trying to build our local scene.”

In addition to better promotion,lead vocalist and guitarist for Austin metal band Screamin’ J Jason McDowell, who will be playing SXSW on March 16, credits the scene’s growth to the current volatile social climate.

“Aggressive music is coming back because people are starting to get mad again,” McDowell said. “I think it is important for bands like us during these times to give someone an outlet to get their frustrations out.”

Although the scene is small, it is fast-becoming a strong, self-sufficient underground community of people dedicated to making great music. At this year’s SXSW, multiple Austin-based metal bands are striving to prove just how strong the metal scene really is.

“The metal community is a family,” Ybarbo said. “We all (have) the love of metal and playing live, and maybe Austin being the ‘live music capital of the world’ (helps) that a little.”