Almost missed this one. Summer Slaughter hadn't rolled through Austin since 2010, and I was under the impression this year was no different (looks like the Austin date was in fact a late addition). The closing of the old downtown Emo's location may have contributed to that annual slight – the relocated Emo's East is a larger, single stage venue whereas the original location had two smaller stages, which was a little more festival friendly – but in spite of Scoot Inn having both indoor and outdoor stages the festival organizers only chose to use the outdoor one… on a day that boasted a high over 100 degrees. What the living fuck?
There was one (albeit inadvertent) advantage to this set up: since all the action was taking place outdoors, the interior ended up being an uncrowded respite from the heat outside. The bar wasn't open, and the AC wasn't exactly cranked up high, but when the sun is literally so fierce that it's burning through the canvas of your shoes you take what you can get.
I arrived just after the doors opened at 3:00, figuring that since this was a weekday it would be pretty dead until around 5-ish when people started getting off of work. Big mistake. There was already a line wrapped around the block, much of it snaking between tour buses where the heat coming off of the actively running generators only added to the misery of the midday heat. By the time I finally got through the gate my hands were trembling from the early onset of heat stroke (though that could have just been the DT's, who are we kidding?)
Thy Art Is Murder lost out the most on the slow moving line, apparently starting right when the doors opened and playing to a sloooooowly accumulating crowd of early birds as they matriculated through the glacial curriculum of ID/will call. Like any true group of professionals, the band brought their A-game in spite of the sparse crowd, who responded with enthusiasm, though the actual moshing remained pretty tentative until the sun started receding around 6:00. Aeon and Rings of Saturn followed to a similar crowd response (I was particularly surprised that the latter didn't experience any open disdain from the crowd; I know they take plenty of shit online).
Revocation played much earlier than I would have suspected, just the first of several puzzling schedule choices (keep reading). That said, it turned out to be a sort of sweet spot in the lineup, being the first band to play their entire set without the sun oppressively hanging overhead. The crowd – not having done much moshing during the peak heat – hadn't had a chance to get tired yet, an asymptotic energy level that gradually tapered off as the evening got progressively cooler. Playing a set of mostly crowd pleasers, the abbreviated set time didn't allow for a great deal of new material, but that's not necessarily what these buffet-style festivals are for anyway.
The Ocean were great but their placement on the bill, sandwiched as they were between Revocation and Cattle Decapitation, was kind of a momentum killer. Much more sensible was the choice to have Norma Jean follow Cattle Decap; the latter had got the crowd whipped back into a frenzy after the more cerebral vibe of The Ocean's set, and Norma Jean proceeded to show that the frenzied response to their SXSW showcase a few months back was no fluke. Austin is fucking nuts for this band. I wasn't really keeping track of time but it seemed like Norma Jean played a good 15-20 minutes longer than the preceding bands.
With all due respect to Periphery, their relatively sedate blend of prog with mainstream metalcore vocals wasn't what I wanted to hear after six hours of dwindling energy. The one real knock I have about this year's Summer Slaughter lineup is the fact that they scheduled the bands based entirely around perceived popularity rather than any kind of logical progression. Dillinger Escape Plan were the obvious headliner, but as great as Animals As Leaders were in the penultimate spot how fucking sick would it have been to move Norma Jean immediately behind DEP in the lineup?
Alas, in spite of switching from beer to water within the first couple hours of the show it didn't do a bit of goddamn good: I ended up catching Animals As Leaders and DEP from the leisurely confines of the lawn back by the merch booth (I actually missed several AAL songs on account of some equally tired ass due engaging me at length re: my Compton Ass Terry Supras). By that point I was reduced to passively registering what would predictably turn out to be the best set of the showcase (DEP, of course) while the later arrivals and just plain fitter youngsters stage dove and circle pitted off in the distance.
This is why we here in Festival Cities don't do homegrown outdoor events between June and September: it's hotter than the balls of the sun in Central Texas during the summer, a fact that can be attested to by the sheer number of exhausted band members who utilized the interior stage as a makeshift cot to nap on after the heat had it's way with their delicate Yankee sensibilities. I did no better… though I blame it on my Hoosier blood, age definitely has nothing to do with it.