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26 Apr 10 A Look Back at South by So What in Dallas

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By Bianca Montes

While thousands of music fans were ready to greet Austin’s annual South by Southwest conference, Dallas locals were treated March 14 to South by So What, a one-day music festival put on by Plano-based Third String Productions (TSP).

A lot of changes went into this year’s festival, including a more metallic line-up, compared with previous year’s punk-themed events. The biggest improvement, however, was the change in location. For the past two years the festival was held at the Plano Centre, but moved to Dr. Pepper Arena following TSP’s positive experience with Unsilent Night.
 
“We were really surprised at how good it sounded, for a hockey rink — like a regular music venue,” Harrison Blum, a spokesman for the promoter, said in an interview with Pegasus News.
 
I did not attend Unsilent Night, and cannot speak for the sound quality then. But judging from the sound at this performance, I was left somewhat unimpressed.
 
I arrived at the venue after 1 p.m., to avoid a few opening acts I wasn’t interested in seeing,. I walked into the set of Dallas-based A Tragedy At Hand. While they lack experience of band’s to follow and their instrumentation was a bit repetitive, I would not place them on the list of utter failures, such as From First to Last and A Skylit Drive.
 
Imagine Deas Vail having a baby with a sloppy version of Alesana, and you might have something that looks like the band, A Skylit Drive.
 
For the first few moments of the band’s performance, I was a bit shocked. I found the high-pitched vocals of lead singer Michael Jagmin awkward;  had I not known better, I would have figured a girl was singing. 
 
With a more than solid line-up of three headlining bands, one would not have expected stand-out artists such as Everyone Dies in Utah, Asking Alexandria, We Came as Romans and Of Mice and Men to perform on the same docket.
 
It was the performance of American Post-Hardcore band We Came as Romans that stole the show for me. With their flawless stream of instrumentation and precisely placed breakdowns, We Came as Romans perfectly evolved the sound of electronic-infused metalcore. 
 
Rounding the top of the 22 bands that performed at South by So What were some of the best moments of the evening. However, North Carolina-based Alesana hands-down takes the cake for best and worst moments of the evening.
 
Leaving an arena chanting vulgarities is surely something Alesana does not encounter. But thanks to a lot of sound problems and the producers cutting their set short, Dr. Pepper Arena was left with one angry audience.
 
What many bands lacked in stage presence, Alesana killed thanks to an over the top presence highlighted by out-of-this-world stage dives.  The vocal range of lead singer Dennis Lee was amazingly showcased through vocal trade-offs and gut-wrenching death growls. Sadly, if there was any band I would have liked to see more of, this was the one.
 
Welsh rock band Attack Attack took the task of performing after the bitter exit of Alesana, and managed to keep the seriously hissed off crowd under wraps, thanks to involving them in the biggest chicken fight I have ever seen.
 
Ending the evening, California deathcore band Suicide Silence put on a brutal performance of out of control drums, driving bass and guitar and seriously impressive vocals.

While some may call this year’s festival a great success thanks to a solid line-up of national touring bands, others were turned off by sound issues and cut stage shows.
 
In spite of some issues that could have turned this year’s event into something difficult to get on with, South by So What left Frisco, Texas with an amazingly exhausting day of rock – who could ask for more?

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