Each year, filmmakers, musicians, industry employees and fans alike gather at the live music capital of world—Austin, Texas, for the legendary SXSW festival. This year, over 300 venues participated, making it one of the largest and most anticipated festivals anywhere! Although SXSW is primarily a platform for indie rock acts, Metallica and Jane’s Addiction brought huge star power to Texas’s capital. Clubs also featured some of the best in the metal scene. Absu, Slough Feg, Kylesa, Skeletonwitch and many other metallic veterans got Austin head banging in full force.
This year’s event highlighted some of the major players in stoner rock. In addition to the Tee Pee Records showcase, the 2009 High Times Doobie Awards included some of the better bands from “greener” pastures. Many of the nominees for a Doobie—the annual award for the best bands of the year as according to the staff of High Times Magazine—also performed at the awards. With the exception of Wino, who left before his solo acoustic set, award nominees Black Water Rising, Blower and Graveyard BBQ all performed.
Those who witnessed Earthless close out the Tee Pee Records showcase saw a second set of psychedelic, instrumental space rock at the Doobies. Hard jams, rockin’ grooves, and kaleidoscopic guitar-pedal creations worked wonders on the chemically elevated senses of the audience. Keeping with the stoner rock norm, Earthless kicked out the jams through slick vintage equipment.
Radio Moscow was another group sharing an affinity for classic equipment. Singer/vocalist Parker Griggs displayed serious chops, pulling off the type of guitar work Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton (Cream) patented. His Orange amp produced the right sound for making blues-based, heavy jam music. Radio Moscow’s forthcoming album, Brain Cycles lists Griggs as playing everything except the organ and drums, but he obviously recruited other players for their live set. The drummer used for the day’s performance didn’t seem out of place. His jazzy fills were in line with the Keith Moon type drum work on the album. A Korg organ player completed the group’s live lineup.Blower comprised the sole local band of the day. Clad in leather, vividly colored pleather and throwback motor cycle helmets, Blower proved they deserved this coveted spot. The power trio, complete with bassist babe Boobs McGee rocked the crowed with nasty biker songs such as “HotWheels, ColdBeer, BigTitties.” Blower’s sound was akin to members of Kiss, AC/DC, and The Stooges gang banging a biker whore. In addition to their performance, Blower took home the award for Best Local Artist.
The host of the hootenanny—High Times Senior Editor, Bobby Black took the stage around 3 PM to announce staff picks for best artists of 2009. Black and his minions of stoners showed off the slick, water pipe trophies that each winner would receive. He explained these awards are the only “smokable” trophies around. Special guests announced the nominees and winners for each musical category. The guests included High Times Magazine staff members, ex-DEA agent Barry Cooper from the DVD series Never Get Busted Again, King’s X Doug Pinnick, a Miss High Times winner and Kyle Shutt of the Sword.
Doug Pinnick stopped dumbfounded in mid sentence, saying “What was I saying? I don’t know. I’m so high.” The crowd cheered in agreement. Many of the winning acts including Snoop Dogg and My Morning Jacket could not make the event, so various announcers accepted on their behalf. Too baked to understand they had won an award, Bobby Black called Blower’s name several times before someone broke the news to the clueless band.
Graveyard BBQ was one group completely in tune with the status of the awards. When the BBQ heard their name announced as the winner of the Best New/Underground Artist, the entire group rushed the stage. With beer in one hand, drummer Billy Z. Bubb peeled away his t-shirt and twirled it around in triumphant glory. Bobby Black had mentioned the Doobies were the only awards one could smoke, and that is exactly what Graveyard BBQ did. After each member of the band spoke in the mic, each one took a turn toking and blowing out huge streams of smoke.
Here is a list of the award winners:
BEST HIP HOP ARTIST The Roots
BEST REGGAE / WORLD MUSIC ARTIST Michael Franti and Spearhead
BEST JAM ROCK ARTIST My Morning Jacket
BEST ROCK / ALTERNATIVE ARTIST Black Water Rising
BEST STONER ROCK ARTIST Wino
BEST METAL ARTIST The Sword
BEST NEW / UNDERGROUND ARTIST Graveyard BBQ
BEST LOCAL ARTIST Blower
POT SONG OF THE YEAR "My Medicine" - Snoop Dogg
Those who held off smoking long enough to remember the event’s starting time couldn’t help but be impressed by the performance from the Best New/Underground Artist of the year—Graveyard BBQ. This northern band incorporated the best elements of dirty southern rock, modern metal and classic hard rock. Graveyard BBQ put on an interactive performance, at one time bringing members of the audience onto the stage to join the chorus or holding the microphone down to select audience members. Leader of the pack, Howlin’ Jack Boone included his father on one track. The BBQ had the crowd eating out of its hand (of course, everybody had the munchies) during their rendition of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” which Bobby Black helped sing.
After the awards presentation, Best Rock/Alternative act Black Water Rising took the stage. These New Yorkers played a high-energy set of down tuned, stoner rock mixed with some of the heavier elements of alternative. Imagine if Soundgarden jammed with Alabama. Their Myspace page states this band is at a similar place as Graveyard BBQ—without a record label contract, but expect that to change soon!
Stoner rock behemoth, Priestess were to take the stage next, but at that point, my girlfriend was “stone” tired, so we decided to jet. We left having seen a collection of awesome bands. We had partaken in some of the best smoke around. The people at the event were cool, including celebrities such as The Sword and comedian, Doug Benson. Snoop Dogg’s absence and Wino skipping out on his solo acoustic performance were a bit disappointing, but I had witnessed Wino play the same set at the Southern Lord Showcase the previous night. Because I didn’t attend last year’s event, which featured stoner rock pioneers Blue Cheer, I’m not sure if this year was better than the last. One thing is for sure, though, I plan to go again next year!