Written by David Sackllah and Nathan Smith
A date that has been blacked out on the calendars of Houston's gnarliest music fans has finally arrived: Bad Ass Weekend III is here at last. Assembling quite a collection of the baddest-ass and most brutal acts from the local and international punk, metal and grindcore scenes, this homegrown festival is primed and ready to mosh the living daylights out of crowds stretching from Fitzgerald's to Walter's to Mango's and Rudyard's over the next three nights, and if you aren't planning on attending, it's only proper that you take off that patch-covered battle jacket and turn it in to the proper authorities. You're officially mainstream.
There are so many bands playing across multiple stages this weekend (don't forget the afterparties!) that no human being, no matter how drug-crazed, could possibly see them all. Even if it were possible, it damn sure wouldn't be healthy. In order that you might put together a respectable plan of action, however, your buds at Rocks Off have put together this handy list of highlights to make sure that you don't miss out on the most exciting stuff.
Whatever flavor of auditory violence you're into, there's a little something to satisfy the bloodlust in everyone on this list. It's going to get wild, so go ahead and accept that now. Just remember, above all else, to tip your bartender and to bring your own glue, 'cause we ain't sharing.
BACK TO BACK 9:15 p.m. Friday, Fitzgerald's
Back to Back has helped to lead a resurgence in Houston hardcore among a new generation in the last few years, and it ain't cause they look pretty. Their pounding brand of punk drips with dissonance and anxiety, practically forcing fans to act out of their minds. Expect a strong contingent of fans and friends of the band to show up and shove you out of the way when they go on upstairs at Fitz on Friday. N.S.
CATHARSIS 10 p.m. Friday, Fitzgerald's (downstairs)
It's been well more than a decade since Catharsis was a going concern, but these tripped-out hardcore heroes from North Carolina still get together occasionally just to prove that they're still better than pretty much everybody. Bad Ass Weekend will be an extra-rare Houston appearance for the group, and if you miss it, there's no guarantee you'll get another shot at 'em. N.S.
GOVERNMENT ISSUE 10:25 p.m. Friday, Fitzgerald's (downstairs)
One of the highlights on this year's lineup is this classic D.C. hardcore band. Mainly active from 1980-1989, the band achieved a historic status as one of the pioneers of that particular brand of hardcore, alongside peers like Minor Threat. They have reunited a handful of times over the past ten years, but typically for one-off shows or festivals such as this one rather than expansive tours. GI just played a secret show in Baltimore this past week, and Bad Ass Weekend marks their only Texas date. This will be a set worth catching for fans, as it's unlikely they will come through again. D.S.
WHO KILLED SPIKEY JACKET? 1:30 a.m. Friday, Mango's
In addition to having the strangest name in a pretty crowded field of candidates, Boston's Who Killed Spikey Jacket? may also be the only band on the fest with a bona fide sense of humor. The deliberately over-the-top custodians of "punk culture" will be bringing bouncy paeans to studded vests, model glue and beer bashes without much of a hint of the socioeconomic strife or gruesome splatter inspiring most of their fest-mates. Take a timeout from scowling and pogo like an idiot to these guys. N.S.
NASA SPACE UNIVERSE Black Barbie, 5 p.m. Saturday
With a name Nasa Space Universe, you'd be forgiven for thinking this might be another local act. In fact, they're from California, and since 2006 have been masters at creating in their experimental hardcore records full of noisy squalor. The band crafts short bursts of sheer insanity and has a penchant for putting on one of the more thrilling live sets in punk today.
They've built up a serious following based off that chaotic energy, and the many times they have played Texas shows like the now-defunct Chaos in Tejas have always been thrilling events. Nasa Space Universe are destined to slay this weekend, and one of the main reasons to go to the afternoon shows as well as the evening ones. D.S.
IRON REAGAN 8:10 p.m. Saturday, Fitzgerald's (upstairs)
Crossover thrash "supergroup" Iron Reagan may not take themselves too seriously, but they certainly take their chops pretty seriously. Led by Municipal Waste howler Tony Foresta, this hard-drinking, head-banging troupe has made moshpit madness its sacred duty, and they're sure to whip the floor into a maelstrom with the kind of D.R.I.-influenced hybrid fury that has us all remembered the '80s a little more fondly than we probably should. N.S.
NAUSEA 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Fitzgerald's (downstairs)
Not to be confused with the legendary crust band of the same name, the Los Angeles-based Nausea are a nasty little grindcore group that have made a name of their very own. Their ear-shredding West Coast stylings should fit right in at Fitz on Saturday night, where they'll warm up the stage for the likes of Terrorizer and P.L.F. A crucial set for grind freaks. N.S.
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PLF 9:40 p.m. Saturday, Fitzgerald's (downstairs)
Also known as Pretty Little Flower, this grindcore band has established itself as one of Houston's finest over the past 15 years. Even with that name, there's nothing sweet about them, as they have continuously established themselves as one of the heaviest and most uncompromising bands playing today, and not just in Houston.
PLF has played Bad Ass Weekend every year and has been considered one of the strongest sets of the weekend every time.The band's consistency and intensity has marked them as one of Houston's best acts, bringing a furious onslaught to their music that encompasses the spirit of what this weekend is about. D.S.
NAPALM DEATH 10:45 p.m. Saturday, Fitzgerald's (upstairs)
The festival's de facto headliner is the seminal grindcore band from England, who haven't lost a step after playing together for around 25 years. The lineup has remained constant since the beginning of the '90s, and the band has been responsible for some of the most influential grindcore records, including 1987's Scum.
They recently released their 15th studio album, Apex Predator--Easy Meat, to critical acclaim this past January. There's a reason these guys are considered legends, and the fact that they're still putting out killer records after being together for so long only supports their claim. D.S.
RED DEATH 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Mango's
Made up of members of D.C. hardcore act Coke Bust, who were one of the highlights at last year's Bad Ass Weekend, Red Death put out one of the best demo tapes of 2014. With a heavier, more guttural tone, Red Death lean a little more into metal than traditional hardcore, which makes them a nice fit for the festival.
Many out of D.C. have called the band the most promising hardcore act out of that area, and their demo strongly reinforces that notion. Red Death does an excellent job of capturing the intensity that made Coke Bust a thrilling band and translating that seamlessly into a different style. Bad Ass Weekend marks the band's first time playing in Texas, and it should be a hell of a set. D.S.
SECRET PROSTITUTES 8:50 p.m. Sunday, Walters
If you're from Houston and you haven't seen the Secret Prostitutes yet, now's the time. This local group is fairly outré, even for Texas punks, with songs sung in Indonesian about Communism and other stuff that you love. The tunes are tight, the vocals are crazed, and the attitude is pure punk. The Secret Prostitutes are where it's at, daddy. N.S.
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS 10:10 p.m. Sunday, Walters
It's not a proper Houston metalfest at this point without the involvement of Venomous Maximus, the city's premiere practitioners of distorted witchery. The band has a new record, Firewalker, out in May, so expect to hear a heaping dose of new material when they take the stage at Walters on Sunday. Bonus points if you ride a demon-possessed motorcycle to the gig. N.S.
Those are just a start, as dozens of other great bands are worth checking out this weekend. The real question is how many of them your constitution will allow you to withstand. A full schedule and prices for each show can be found at Bad Ass Weekend's Web site.
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