SXSW Music: Periphery

Staff Writer

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The inside of Rusty’s on Seventh Street has become a literal hotbox, almost like it is beckoning the arrival of an ungodly hot summer that is sure to hit Texas eventually, even though we keep getting respites. None of the people here, however, seem to care in the least, because modern metal torchbearers Periphery were coming to the stage for their first ever SXSW show, and we would sit in the bowels of hell if Satan had booked them.

That, and there is an open bar.   

The actual show started around 7 p.m., early by SXSW standards. Earlier, we had been treated to a special bonus: a clinic/Q&A session held by the band, where they demonstrated and discussed their finest guitar playing techniques, the secrets of their live rigs and various other subjects that are too numerous and technical to be discussed in this space. (Trust me, I would transcribe the whole thing, but I do not make the rules.) Afterwards, the members mingled with the crowd, signed autographs, took pictures and shot what little breeze was still alive in the humidity.  

Periphery’s hallmark is a trio of sublime guitarists (Jake Bowen, Mark Holcomb and their leader Misha Mansoor) and their chosen style of metal, djent, is heavily distorted and percussive. So when they get going, it sounds like you are trapped under an artillery gun during an invasion, with brutally loud waves of sound that slam into your body.

The clarity of the guitar sounds is unparalleled, though, and when each of them took solos, it was up front and uncut quality. The only downside of the guitar assault was that they kind of blew over singer Spencer Sotelo, whose mastery of singing and screaming is one of the gems of the band’s sound. Even at the height of his powers, he was just barely audible, but what I heard was amazing, especially on songs like “Insomnia” and “Luck as a Constant.” And of course Adam “Nolly” Getgood (bass) and Matt Halpern (drums) kept things from spinning out of control, especially in the outrageous time signatures that the group tends to use.

Periphery was one of the live shows that I had been wanting to check off my bucket list, and now I have finally done it. Here is hoping they come through again.