Concert Review

dead horse
Warehouse Live, Houston, TX  October 22, 2011

by Andrew C. Schlett

This was an event long in the making. For many years now, anxious dead horse
fans not only here in Houston but around the country and even the world have awaited
the announcement of another dead horse show. Those who are of an age to have seen
dead horse play all those years ago in the Axiom, or the Vatican, or wherever, remember
the unchecked mayhem that went down at these shows. There was nothing in our scene
back then that was as heavy, as chaotic, as all-out-hell-bent-Texas-metal as dead horse.
This is a band who, without benefit of any label backing at all, managed to promote
themselves from the deepest dregs of the Houston underground to a globally-recognized
trademark name whose songs were being covered by the likes of Entombed. It could also
be fairly suggested that dead horse influenced Dimebag Darrel and Pantera, as a large
number of Dime’s riffs are not unlike those of a young Greg Martin. When a band of
such huge magnitude and unforgettable legend, particularly here in the Houston area,
schedules a live concert for the first time in 15 years, you better believe that’s a big
freakin’ deal!

History was made (again) last Saturday night, October 22nd, when dead horse took
the stage. The sold-out Warehouse Live audience responded with tremendous
enthusiasm, great energy, and much full-throated screaming. Jam-packed people formed
a sea of bodies from stage-front all the way clear back to the merch booths. As the band
crashed into their set, the circling mosh pit appeared almost instantly and the next hour, at
least, bore witness to insane pit-hits and much surfing of the crowd, even as in the olden
days of horse. Their set list covered the entire library of classic dead horse favorites,
many from the Horsecore and Peaceful Death albums as they tore through such timeless
material as “World War Whatever”, “Mindless Zombies”, “Turn”, “Bewah”, “Like
Asrielle”, “Hank”, “Microwave French Fry”, “Scottish Hell”, and many others including
a rare performance of “Adult Book Store” and an enthusiastic throw-down of the band’s
world-famous cover of “Rock Lobster”. To see Greg, Alpo, and Ronnie up there together
again was to be brought back to an earlier time, a time of great carelessness and
unfettered artistic reach. They do not look as they used to; gone now is all the hair and
the unwashed, ripped-up jeans, but they played the set with all the same abandon and
attitude as they had done back when dead horse was playing regular gigs around town
here. Indeed, for the first few songs it was easy to become lost in the moment, immersed
in the overwhelming reality that dead horse was in fact up on stage and playing music,
something I personally thought I would never again in this life be privileged to witness.

To be sure, this was not the same dead horse as that which I remember. As a
purist, as a hardcore horsecore fan from way back in the day, I did have some difficulty
reconciling what I saw up on the stage with the memories that I have kept and cherished
all these years. For example, the surprise addition of vocalist Mike Argo, held totally in
secret until the very moment the band took the stage, threw me off. For many months
now I had been under the apparently mistaken impression that Scott Sevall, who joined
the band for the 1996 EP release “Boil(ing)” and the re-release of which was the whole
point of last Saturday’s show, would be covering the vocal duties. To see Argo, a total
stranger to pretty much everybody except the band themselves, handling the mic left me
feeling vaguely like the victim of the old classic bait-n-switch scheme; yet, there can be
no doubt that Argo’s performance was solid. Certainly the thousand or so people on hand
to witness the show had no trouble accepting him. Against all probability, Argo was able
to take the stage and the microphone and make this material his own. Had he been less
enthusiastic, less certain of himself, the results could have been total disaster, yet he
threw himself fully into his role as the voice of the horse with complete confidence. As
to the question of keeping him secret beforehand, I can only suppose this was done to
protect or to shield him from the inevitable firestorm of criticism which would have come
his way had his involvement been pre-announced. Anyone who replaces a living legend
would be subject to both intense scrutiny and outright derision by the hardest-core of
rabid horsecore fans, so perhaps they were better off releasing nothing at all to the press
about this switch.

That is my only real criticism of the band. Otherwise, they tore the entire place to
hell! I do, however, have some bitterly harsh words to level against the venue,
Warehouse Live. From the very outset this entire affair was handled as if by sloppy
amateurs. On the day of the initial announcement we were all misled to believe that it
would be the original dead horse reuniting on stage. Then they came back some days later
to say that the original dead horse would in fact not be reuniting on stage, but that Scott
Sevall would in fact be the front man. Why even put the word out that Michael Haaga
would be rejoining the band until such details had been finalized, unless you are trying to
bump ticket sales by pimping (yes, pimping) the great body of work and overall
achievement of the earlier dead horse? I stress that in any other context, with any other
band, it would have been just fine and dandy. But this is dead horse. You don’t fuck
around with dead horse, and Warehouse Live should be held fully accountable for their
heinous deception. Also, the security that night was both heavy-handed and stormtrooper-
esque. Never in my life have I been wanded with a metal detector before
entering a show. Boarding an airplane, yes. Going into court, yes. But taking in a
concert? Are you nuts? Is there such a high probability that one of the musicians might
get Dimebagged on stage that we must all be searched, and have any prohibited items,
like those pesky little Bic lighters that we like to carry around and which certainly could
be used as deadly weapons (“stand back, motherfucker! I’ll burn you!”) confiscated and
thrown into a box never to be seen again? I mean, really. I’m all for security, but when
an official photographer from Rivethead Magazine, properly identified and tagged as
such, camera in hand, who has been granted explicit permission by the band itself to have
unlimited access for no other purpose than to take pictures, finds himself harassed and
challenged individually by every security guard in the place, like he’s trying to get away
with something that he’s not supposed to be doing, then I just have to ask what the fuck is
going on down there. Who is in charge of such things, why are they so dense, and why is
the simple art of communication so difficult for them? Stripping concertgoers,
particularly thrash concertgoers, of any weaponry is probably a good idea. Stripping
them of their cigarette lighters is simply ridiculous. Get the hell over yourselves, you
bunch of overinflated dickbags. Indeed, if this is the standard operating procedure here in
Houston these days, then my job just got a lot harder.

On this point, Rivethead owes a debt of gratitude to the band. In the words of our
chief photographer, Wes Dodson, “I also want to add that it was Argo's wife that would
track me down in the moments before the lights went down and got me that damned
access wristband! Beyond that, as I encountered further troubles with the security detail,
she would personally lay an assault on them to make sure I was taken care of... ultimately
putting me under the watchful eye of stage manager George Dennis. George went even
further to ensure that I was not harassed or hounded by anyone. This was not only done
for me, but for Rivethead Magazine!” We are very much obliged to Mrs. Argo, George
Dennis, and the entire band in helping us overcome this problem, which shouldn’t have
even been a problem in the first damned place!

Those who didn’t know any better might infer from this column that I did not
have a good time at the show. This is definitely wrong. I had a tremendous time, all
things considered. I met a great number of people whom I had previously only known
through Facebook and re-connected with a couple of really old friends from back in the
days before I moved away. Many influential players in the Houston music scene were
on-hand for the festivities, and I had the honor and the pleasure of meeting most of them.
The overall vibe of the experience was positive, and I’m definitely glad that I went.

Rivethead and dead horse go very far back together, all the way back to the
beginnings of both horsecore and Rivethead. We as a media outlet and I as a staff writer
back in those days were covering dead horse shows long before anybody outside of
Houston had any idea at all who the hell dead horse even was. It warms our journalistic
heart to see the band onstage again, even if it is a different dead horse than that which lay
undisturbed in my memory beneath the accumulated dust of twenty years. As a
publication, we will continue to cover our old friends as they proceed with this dead
horse revival and we wish them the best of success next month at the Fun Fun Fun Fest
out in Austin, where they will appear in support of nobody less than Slayer.

Horsecore in the 21st century is not the horsecore of old, but it’s still horsecore!