Roadkill and Rock ’n Roll: HIRAX/KILL THE CLIENT/PLF (Aug. 29, 2009 @ Red 7, Austin, Texas)

By Jay H. Gorania

I’m not sure if the beautiful creature my small car “greeted” on my way back to West Texas (from the Hirax/Kill The Client/PLF show in Austin) was a bobcat, or whether or not it even survived, because I continued driving along the highway in a state of shock and confusion shortly after Sunday evening’s witching hour.

God bless the poor bobcat. And considering that the driver side headlight is smashed in like a gouged eye and a few panels are torn and mangled, God bless me for the insurance deductible I have to meet.

The stars obviously weren’t aligned in Billy Bob the bobcat’s favor (the least I can do now is name it), but they sure as hell were for me when I was leaving Austin’s Red 7 the previous evening. Taking on the stereotypically aggressive attitude of a whistling construction worker, a scantily clad brunette bombshell hollered for my attention on the street at bar-closing time. After getting her digits, I foolishly walked away and boasted to my friends about “laying the foundation.” She kept looking back at me as we walked away from my manhood.

Another case in which I was in a state of shock and confusion. Not one of my finest moments.

Right before that, however, at least I saw a great show. The yelling and clattering drums of openers Nah Dude wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad. The aggressive hardcore of Streetcleaner faired better as they entertained with their brawny vocalist who looked like he came straight from the frat house with his camo hat and Cleveland Brown’s T. But their performance was all muscle, no finesse.

The real show began when Houston’s Pretty Little Flower (PLF) took the stage in front of the sparse crowd (Austin audiences can be unpredictable and fickle). Though diminutive compared to someone like Phil Anselmo, shredding guitarist/screamer Dave is nonetheless as intense looking as a serial killer. PLF primarily shifts between two gears (mid-paced hardcore thrashing and full-on hyperactive blasting grind), yet they do it so well, barely held together at the seams by frenetic blaster Frank. They do it so quick and violently one might assume they’re brutal bank robbers by day.

Cranking things up a notch or two was Dallas’ powerhouse Kill The Client, one of America’s best grindcore bands, if not one of the world’s best. Having seen them recently play to nearly a thousand crazed metalheads during one of the best performances at Maryland Deathfest, it just wasn’t the same seeing them play to a small group of diehards. And though they recently parted ways with second guitarist Dorian, there was nothing that could hold this band down (not even the inaudible mic vocalist Morgan was using at the set’s onset…well, until the situation corrected itself it was pretty annoying). They’re about as unforgiving as a steamroller flattening a bunny…or a Toyota side-swiping a bobcat (yea, that was quite an unsettling experience for a wannabe vegetarian).

Morgan’s vocal chord ripping growls and screams are augmented nicely by the similarly pitched vocals of guitarist Chris Richardson, and the rhythm section of bassist James Delgado and drummer Bryan Fajaroo provide the meaty foundation at the base of their bottom heavy sound. Taking into account their recent member loss, it’s all the more impressive that they performed as vicious as ever.

Starkly contrasting the straight-to-business, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am approach of the rest of the evening’s acts, with their short, quick and violent sets, headliners Hirax took the stage as though they were Judas Priest or Iron Maiden playing Madison Square Gardens.

Suffocating in leather clothing, they came across as such an old school band…because they are old school. They were born in the early eighties. Some of the clichéd aspects of some of the music, and most definitely of their mannerisms and singer Katon De Pena’s banter, was quite humorous (though they are not even remotely as cheesy as Immortal appears to be in their latest over-the-top promo shots). Yet at the same time, their completely genuine devout worship of metal is commendable because it’s so unwavering and apathetic toward trends and industry cycles. And it’s certainly better to be genuine than ironic for irony’s sake as is the case with numerous new thrash bands popping up around the globe.

While the street-cred is well-deserved and earned in the case of Hirax, upon realizing how many young faces in the crowd were loving the evil sounding thrash, the thought occurred to me that some old school bands of a lesser quality might want to reform based upon lies about how “under-rated” and “cult-worthy” they supposedly were  (this is probably happening on a daily basis). Old isn’t necessarily good; however this is the case with Hirax.

But, again, judging by the way they carried themselves, it was so shameless I’m not sure whether they were aware or not of the fact that they were playing to such a sparse crowd. They probably just didn’t know any better. God bless ’em. God bless ’em for it, indeed.