Sound On Sound Forges a Path as a Unique New Texas Festival

PhantogramEXPAND
Phantogram
Marco Torres

This was the inaugural year for Sound On Sound Fest, which is produced by Margin Walker Presents, the newly formed independent promotions, marketing, and production agency that continues the alternative festival experience that many in Texas look forward to in the first week of November. And for many reasons, that tradition led the organizers to Sherwood Forest near McDade over the weekend.

The festival began with a dream that includes a lineup you won't find at the other big name festivals throughout the year. This dream does not include shirtless dude-bros and festival girls with flower crowns. Sound On Sound searched for the line where "Keep Austin Weird" begins and just kept going. So what if the festival isn't actually in Austin, and you have to take a shuttle or drive 45 minutes to get there? So what if the park is super-dark and muddy and uncomfortable? So what if the hot water was not so hot in the camping showers and the portapotty with no toilet paper became your best friend for three days? What's important is that we all came together looking for a good time and we found it. Despite all the turmoil and inconveniences and weather delays, the festival was definitely fun, fun, fun.

Pinata ProtestEXPAND
Pinata Protest
Marco Torres

PINATA PROTEST
The thing I love most about the San Antonio band Piñata Protest is the fact that they are unapologetic about their Mex-Tex identity. They rock and polka and Tejano their way into the hearts of everyone within earshot of their set, with a few shouts of "chinga tu madre!" thrown in for good measure. They incorporate the traditional accordion sound with punk to form a high-energy and absolutely fun genre that was a perfect way to open at the equally off-center and weird as hell Sound On Sound Festival. I mean, a loud AF punk version of the Mexican classic "La Cucaracha" could be the anthem of everyone in attendance. So glad I was able to brave the long line at the parking lot in time to catch these guys. Simply amazing! MARCO TORRES

DIE YOUNG
Houston's own hardcore heroes played early on Sunday just before the festival forced attendees to evacuate due to severe weather. Full disclosure, this was my first time managing to catch the band live, but I've admired them as Houston's best hardcore export for years. They did not disappoint, coming out ripping with a nice mixture of new and old beatdown jams. There were only a few of us who dared to start a pit at 2 PM, but it made for a welcome start to the day to get the blood pumping. COREY DEITERMAN

Big BoiEXPAND
Big Boi
Marco Torres

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BIG BOI
If you look in the dictionary under the word "Cool," a photo of a smiling and sunglasses-clad Big Boi just might be the photo that pops up. He may not be considered as a Top 10 all-time rapper, even taking a back seat to his lyrical-genius OutKast partner Andre 3000, but nobody embodies the flow, flavor and fabulousness that is the Dirty South better than B-I-G B-O-I. Even with a broken foot and boot, the Atlanta native provided a well-rounded and supremely entertaining evening set that made everyone in attendance just that much cooler. The Big Grams single "Drum Machine" was a perfect dance inciter that moved the crowd, and then he hit us with the classics such as "Miss Jackson." "Kryptonite" and "International Player's Anthem." And although he forgot to let Pimp C's verse play out (we are in Texas, by the way), it was a perfect bookend to Saturday night at the fest. MARCO TORRES

CURSIVE
Booking a band like Cursive, who haven't released any new material in over four years, might seem like a strange choice for a first year festival, but the organizers of Sound on Sound knew what they were doing when they selected the cult emo band out of Omaha. This is a band with a dedicated following and a stacked lineup of hits and classic singalongs. Even newer, more introspective tunes like "From the Hips" from 2009's Mama, I'm Swollen were crowd pleasers, and the frantic post-hardcore songs from their early-2000s era (check Domestica and The Ugly Organ) were enough to get everyone's hips moving. Sometimes, when you have so many great songs, you don't really need new material to put on a great show. COREY DEITERMAN

Run the JewelsEXPAND
Run the Jewels
Marco Torres

RUN THE JEWELS
As awesome as Killer Mike and El-P are, I feel like I've seen this same set multiple times over the last couple of years. And although that is a small inconvenience compared to the supreme chemistry and energy provided by a Run the Jewels show, it would be cool to see an update now and then from the rap duo. Nevertheless, their fans were still eager and locked in to the Jewels' powerful lyrics, pumping beats, and sweet vibes. We were promised new music soon in the form of Run the Jewels 3, and hopefully next time around we will be blessed with some of that new music. MARCO TORRES

EMPRESS OF
Going into Sound on Sound Festival, I had maybe heard the name of Empress Of once in passing and had no other knowledge of her or her music. I'll never forget now. Lorely Rodriguez, who goes by Empress Of in her one-person synth project, put on one of the most insanely fun sets of any festival I've ever attended. Alternating between programming her beats and singing to DJing classic hits by her influences, including Prince, David Bowie, and Queen, Empress Of never stopped dancing the entire time she was onstage. She twisted and turned through her songs, with her beats and her voice echoing a more modern version of an early career Bjork. Think Post in 2016, with even more pep. Frankly, I'm not sure Bjork ever enjoyed herself onstage so much as Empress Of did on Friday night. It was infectious for the audience, who grooved right along with her. She's got the potential to break out as a major star in the next few years if she keeps this up. COREY DEITERMAN

Death GripsEXPAND
Death Grips
Marco Torres

DEATH GRIPS
Also known as, we waited all these years for this? If Sound on Sound Festival is the spiritual successor to Fun Fun Fun Fest, then Death Grips has been booked for this festival and canceled twice before. This time, they actually showed up. Third time's the charm, right? Wrong. Playing a set consisting primarily of Zach Hill performing a drum solo, Andy Morin clicking play on the most arbitrary bass drops this side of a Gritsy night, and MC Ride barking like DMX on (more) steroids and (more) crack, we probably would have all just been better off if they had canceled a third time. At times it seemed like nobody knew which song they were playing. Other times, when you could make out something resembling one of the band's actual songs, it just seemed as though nobody actually learned the songs and were all winging it up there and hoping for the best. Either way, this was an exceedingly poor showing for a group who is so beloved. Death Grips can and has done better in the past. Perhaps no one will ever know what went wrong this night, but hopefully they put it behind them quickly. COREY DEITERMAN

DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
This was perhaps one of the most bittersweet moments I've ever witnessed as a journalist and as a fan of music. After 20 years, the Dillinger Escape Plan will call it quits for good next year. Despite lengthy touring plans, each city will likely only get one performance out of them before the end. That means this was probably their last run in Texas. If this is really the last time those of us here get to see them, it was well worth it. Despite playing a significantly shorter set than their usual, Dillinger packed their typical wallop, opening with bangers "Limerent Death" and "Panasonic Youth." Given the cuts for time, they still did their best to maintain a good balance of all the sides of their personality. Busting out deep cut "Mouth of Ghosts," an extended jazzy ballad, and slow burner "One of Us is the Killer" gave fans at SOS just enough time to relax before the explosive duo of "Sunshine the Werewolf" and "43% Burnt" sent the pit into a frenzy. That breakdown at the end of "43% Burnt" will probably never be topped. What a way to end a career. COREY DEITERMAN

Joe MandeEXPAND
Joe Mande
Marco Torres

JOE MANDE
I must admit that before this weekend, I never was one to partake in the comedy offerings at a music festival. But with some time to spare on Saturday afternoon, I ventured over to the Globe stage and took a seat for some afternoon laughs, and it really did lift my spirits. It also helped that Joe Mande provided a hilarious routine about the everyday life of a pot-smoking, married, daydreaming comedian. I found myself refreshed by laughter and was surrounded by a very large crowd who was equally enticed by the break from the music. Although I thought Joe failed to include the proposal of a taco cannon during his Shark Tank bit, but overall dude was funny and changed my mind about comedy at music festivals. MARCO TORRES

TIM HEIDECKER
The comedy stage at these festivals is never usually a highlight, but there's nothing usual about Tim Heidecker. The star of several Adult Swim hits, including Tim and Eric's Awesome Great Job! and On Cinema at the Cinema, came out immediately insulting the sound man for "botching" his intro by fading into Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" instead of starting it on a high note, then launched into a series of purposefully awful jokes. His persona was partly based on his obnoxious, narcissistic, fussy and sociopathic On Cinema character and partly a take on co-star Gregg Turkington's "worst comedian in the world" Neil Hamburger alter ego. It's nearly impossible to explain in words why Heidecker's schtick was so funny because it mixed all these elements with a heavy dose of his bizarre sense of humor and a strong sense of improvisation. Just trust that if you're willing to go along for the ride with Heidecker, he's one of the most hilarious comedians on the planet today. COREY DEITERMAN


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