SXSW Last Night: Queens Of The Stone Age At La Zona Rosa
Rolling Stone magazine surely knows how to throw a showcase, bringing forth Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis, Mini Mansions, and Black Angels to open for a reinvigorated Queens Of The Stone Age on Wednesday night. Every band on the bill coalesced with each other beautifully and succinctly, preying on almost every single one of Rocks Off's sweet spots in his musical brain.
Mascis unrolled tracks from his new solo album, Several Shades Of Why, with just a nastily-tuned acoustic guitar and a few effects pedals. Mascis' voice filled the room with grunge dread as he played some of the most bluesy music of his long-running career.
Mini Mansions features QOTSA's Michael Shuman on vocals and drums, and the L.A. band and Buddyhead label cats churned out a set of vaguely Brit-pop death dirges, with just keys, guitar, and drums, adding a Elliott Smith twist to the mix too. They even played a slowed-down version of Blondie's "Heart Of Glass", which revealed the sadly sinister corners in the Debbie Harry disco-punk anthem.
Austin's own The Black Angels satisfied the hometown crowd with tracks spanning their whole career, and the most recent Phosphene Dream, making for a hypnotic final appetizer before QOTSA. "Young Men Dead" made us wish that we raided grandma's pill cabinet before the show, and we mean that in a good way. With each passing year, lead singer Alex Maas reminds us more and more of Jim Morrison, which we also mean in the best way possible.
QOTSA and Josh Homme are back on the scene rested and ready to pick-up where the band left off after Homme started work on his Them Crooked Vultures project with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones. What better way to remind people who you are, than playing your debut LP in it's entirety, during the week of it's re-release.
The self-titled 1998 album is an almost scarily hard and fast affair, distilling most every thing the band would do it over it's now 13 year career into around 45 minutes of music. Of the current QOTSA line-up, Homme is the only one who played on the debut. Drummer Joey Castillo has now been in QOTSA since 2002, and played harder and meaner on songs like "You Would Know" and "If Only" than their recorded counterparts ever were. We had only heard maybe two of the album's eleven songs live in our personal QOTSA concert history.
Homme looks as if he has bounced back from his recent health scare, guzzling what appeared to be vodka onstage and smoking cigs during and in between songs. He was his usual sarcastic and randy self with the crowd, at one point remarking that the band had "the only Mexican drummer in town." He also swatted down the stringent "no photos" rule at the door, halfway through the show, making these pictures you see on this review possible. Thanks Ginger Elvis!
The band ran through a punishing set of stand-bys and nuggets from the past decade of recorded output as an encore, playing three cuts from 2007's Era Vulgaris, two from 2005's Lullabies To Paralyze, and closing the festivities with a version of Songs For The Deaf's "Go With The Flow" that either had the crowd humping or punching depending on where you were standing.
Personal Bias: We wouldn't have missed this show for anything. Except maybe a Christina Hendricks burlesque show on Sixth Street. But if there was any justice in the world, they would have rolled the two together.
The Crowd: Lots of industry folks, a few Strokes, Rolling Stone's resident rock journo royalty David Fricke, and one Mr. Jack White lurking somewhere in the backstage area.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Is it cool if I bro-out on you later?"
Random Notebook Dump: When the band played "Go With The Flow", our QOTSA pitchfork tattoo started glowing like E.T.'s heart.
QOTSA SET LIST
Walkin' on the Sidewalks
You Would Know
How to Handle a Rope
You Can't Quit Me Baby
Give the Mule What He Wants
I Was a Teenage Hand Model
These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For
Turnin' On The Screw
Make It Wit Chu
Tangled Up In Plaid
Go With The Flow