Occasionally, we get tasked with imaginary booking duties, a power trip that is to music writers what fantasy football must be to jockstrap collectors. We get to geek out and dream up musical possibilities, and it's a little less smelly to boot. Plenty has already been said (and yelled) about GN’R’s choice for a Houston opener, Skrillex, but not many offers of legitimate replacements. And although someone out there must appreciate a Skrillex/GN’R ticket (Skrillex himself doesn't count), there are plenty who don’t. So, in the completely self-indulgent fashion of a daydreaming freelancer, I offer ten Texas acts that could cut in on the GN’R bill and why. (Note: This list is in alphabetical order.)
Why not? Austin's own '80s metal group could easily pass as a nostalgia ticket for thousands of elder metalheads statewide. A GN’R show is a throwback anyway, especially without any new music written or produced in years. The same listeners who adored GN’R in the Reagan years certainly loved Toys, too. Jason McMaster has since moved on to other projects since the days of "Teas'n, Pleas'n," but has never quite mothballed the Toys completely, and has plenty of tours to show for it. If anything, they may be able to teach metal’s favorite princess some serious grace.
There are a few bands who bring an imagery to their art that is so seamlessly perfect, you can’t help wondering why more bands haven’t followed suit. Enter Dixie Witch: an Austin heavy-metal outfit that combines Southern metal, doom and marijuana. Was there ever a more perfect union? This trio is self-described as “motor rock” but sounds more like a mix of Soundgarden meets Hendrix. Best of all, they can kill a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover without sounding like a wailing cliché.
Not only do longtime Houston metal favorites Helstar deserve a booking alongside GN’R, but so do their fans. Helstar has been familiar in Houston metal circles for years, and is known by more than a few European fans too. Why not pair two metal legends on the same ticket? GN’R may be more hard rock than metal, but they lack serious darkness. In a metal show, that’s important.
Contrasted against GN'R's self-congratulatory smugness, Team Honky's superboogie weirdness may be the oddest and most entertaining combo on this list. If ever a Texas-bred band could show the Californians a thing or two about a rock show, it's this offering of onetime Butthole Surfers bassist J.D. Pinkus. Pinkus is perhaps the ideal counterweight to the pompous stylings of W. Axl Rose, and guitarist Bobby Ed (Blowfly) can go toe to toe with ol’ Slash. With just three musicians, Honky does what GN’R's seven can only dream of — write a song, build it, smash it, destroy it and make it all look like rock and roll.
These San Antonio natives have not only made themselves into a successful national act, but are the kind of magnanimous musicians everyone hopes will return one day to cast light on other bands in the scene they left behind. Nothing More are those guys. Even last year, when they did an XM radio takeover, they spotlighted Houston locals To Whom It May instead of playing their own hits. That kind of story makes you proud that they’re from Texas because you are too. Even though that kind of behavior is enough to book them on this fantasy list, it’s their music that has earned them a spot. Heavy-hitting beats against Geddy Lee-inspired vocals, NM fills a longstanding gap in progressive and alternative-metal circles.
This Dallas-based thrash group is making metal straight out of yesteryear, with a catalog of songs that weighs in with a heavy dose of pared-down metal riffs yet still manages to pull out intricate and compelling guitar solos. It’s a delicate yet nasty balance of guitar work against a drummer who makes a kit with one bass drum and only two toms sound like a set twice that size. Thrash and GN’R are perfect complements; they’re from the same time period and GN’R’s core audience would recognize Power Trip's talent for playing metal too oft forgotten outside of (ahem) nostalgic cash-grab tours.
If you’ve never heard of Shattered Sun, then you may not recognize their tiny hometown of Alice, Texas, either. But in spite of their humble beginnings, this five-piece is destined for metal greatness. Last fall, opening for Soilwork at Scout Bar, Shattered Sun proved they were easily one of the best bands on the bill. They’re heavier than GN’R but provide a current take on metal without being too subgenre-specific. While they have black and core elements, they’re also not too heavy for a GN’R ticket. In fact, not only would this bill pull in much younger fans, it would provide an interesting sonic perspective of old versus new metal.
TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION
These Denison natives are the kind of musicians whose shows and antics are the stuff of local metal folklore. Big Dad Ritch brings the loud, crass yet lovable elements of booze, 420 and biker brawls all to a 50-minute set no one is sure to forget for a while. Who else could handle the rough-and-tumble fanbase of a rowdy GN’R crowd than a band even more adept at headbanging and hollering? Certainly, most people old enough to remember when Guns N’ Roses were new are likely a little soft in their old age, but don’t tell THC that. They're here to raise serious hell. And that, sadly, will not be the case with Skrillex.
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WE WERE WOLVES
These Houston hard-rock favorites never disappoint and would be the balance this ticket so desperately needs. Take three young, fresh-faced musicians who are humble enough to call themselves an “indie” band (according to their Facebook page), contrasted against GN'R's self-indulgent tendencies, and the result is not only a new audience for WWW, but a fiery baptism into superstardom. These boys would have to fight an older, thirsty crowd for recognition and respect. The best part? If any local band in Houston is skilled at opening a show, winning over an audience to the point they forget the headliners, it’s the wolf boys.
The Texas blues-rock legends and GN'R would have been the ticket of the year. Bets would have been placed on how quickly tickets would sell, when they’d sell out and how high the prices would climb. Perhaps the only good news to come out of this fantasy is that these tickets would have been so astronomically expensive, the common folk could not have afforded them. Nevertheless, imagining Billy Gibbons and Slash rip through “Just Got Paid” might have been a Houston concert highlight no one could touch for years. And Dusty Hill’s raw-voiced version of “Used to Love Her” or even “It’s So Easy” would’ve left L.A.’s favorite glam band in the shade of backstage. Let’s face it, GN’R wouldn’t be the headliners in this scenario, would they?