I will admit I do believe that SXSW music should be reserved for those unknown bands in a chance to spread light on them in a chance that it will help them succeed. I believe it’s our job as music journalists, music writers, or music hacks, whatever we are, whatever I am. However, I also believe that this rule should be bent or maybe even smashed when a band of higher notoriety does something great, something worth talking about, something worth telling, because not covering this might also be neglecting the job. This is the case when it comes to Awolnation. I saw so many bands at SXSW, too many to count in fact, and yet and once again none of them even came close to this. Awolnation, in my eyes, has the potential to hop the ranks and become one of the greatest live bands of all time. This is the kind of band that guarantees a story to tell when it comes to be your turn to share one of the great concert moments in your life among friends. Not too many bands can do that, and not too many bands can do this. I can only think of a handful of bands that have taken it to that special place: musical nirvana.
That place that when the show starts and you disappear, lost in no thoughts, lost in nothing but a feeling of excitement, and without even knowing it you’re screaming to a range you never even knew possible. However, you don’t notice it until the next day when you can’t talk. Your body moves in way that you can’t control, but no shame or embarrassment, you’re not thinking the music has you and everyone around you as far as you can tell. You can’t look away and you can’t stop feeling whatever is happening, but why would you? Maybe til this moment you didn’t even know music could do this. Your brain is lighting up like a Christmas tree, you’re in love, you’re in lust, you’re simply having a great fucking time. Then it’s all over. The music has stopped; you’re back. You push your fingers through your hair and notice all of the sweat, hell you notice you have hands. Your soul, your mind has had a little dark spot chipped off of it. You feel great and you can’t believe music just did that to you.
This is the place that Awolnation took me at The Moody Theater and I’ll admit I was a repeat customer (my 5th time seeing them) when it came to Awol. I was hopeful it would a great show but this would the first time I had seen them touring on the new album. The new album was good but Awol’s studio albums are not a true reflection of how they actually sound, so there was still a question as to what to expect. I was in lovely company with a new friend who I had just met and I always recommend seeing Awol in good company. Upon reflection, I realized that Awol came out to their new intro “Run,” an intro that repeats the line: “I am a human being capable of doing terrible things.” A true statement for us all, I guess well, except for the company I kept — she might be missing that part of her brain. Anyway, “Run” is just a red flashing light that lets you know something is about to happen and up the hill of this roller coaster we go. Then “Soul Wars” kicked in and the coaster drops. This is a song that is much more intense when played live. Aaron’s scream has more energy and sounds different, and the music itself is heavier. There is a madness to the energy and yet a bliss as well and it will only leave you asking yourself “why don’t they record their albums like this?”
“Kill Your Heroes” was next then “Jump on My Shoulders,” a Robin Hood song of sorts that takes all of the raw energy that is being projected and turns it into a feeling of togetherness, something even a cynic like myself can never help but get swept up in– an idea that we were all on the same energy strain in that moment. Next was “Hollow Moon,” the first new song I heard them play off the new album and just as I expected it was just a more intense version of what’s on the album. Then there was “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!” this is the next great Awol song and since I heard it in Austin I have been listening to it on a loop and know all of the lyrics, but at the actual time of the show I didn’t. I could only respond in a long lasting scream and jump; there was no was silent nod response to this song and that was not a option.
There was no slowing down yet. “Windows” is yet another song that will have you screaming at the top of your lungs with only the chorus giving you time to take a breath. Time to speed it up more; “Dreamers” was the next song that was played. It was a wonderful bit of candy, but how many more ways can one lose their shit you ask? How can one dig down and give more energy when you have already been going so hard? Well, you will find a way when you hear Aaron scream “FUUCCKK!!” It just hits you with no conscious thought involved. Slow it down with “Dreamers” but only for a bit pick it back up with “Not your Fault” and the best one of them all: “Burn It Down.” And by the end of that one, you find yourself laughing from just how intense and incredible it all was with “Knights of Shame” to end the night.
Wait! What is that? It’s encore time and more gentle laughter as a side effect high you’re feeling with the song “I Am” and “All I Need,” the I love you of the night, but it’s time to come down to earth and sober up with the song that started it all: “Sail.” It’s just one more boost of energy before we leave nirvana, put ourselves back together and go home in the astonishment that live music could ever be that good.