What It Was Like: Akkolyte, Mount Righteous and The House Harkonnen at the DOMAXXII Showcase

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Mattie Stafford
Akkolyte wowed at Reno's during last night's showcase.
Akkolyte
Reno's Chop Shop Saloon
9 p.m.

Akkolyte--brothers Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez--delivered their ususal thundering performance grindcore/punk at this year's DOMAXXII. Aaron wields the bass while Stefan mans the drums. Both thrash away in pure melodic thrash. Both shine with insane virtuosity. Both lash out lyrics with fervor and grit.

Stefan's bellowing screams often answer call-and response style with Aaron's more high pitched vocal frequency, creating a beautiful fusion that sucks you in and just as quickly spits you back out, and ready to go on the ride again. Watching these two play, it's obvious that music is in their blood.

Having performed earlier in the evening as part of Yells at Eels--the improv-jazz group that the two play in with their father, Dennis Gonzalez--the duo impress with their ability to exude their mood via their art, regardless of any constrictions of genres. This band is a wildly conspired attempt to corral some of the most intense musical instincts of the Gonzalez Bros. Dripping with themes that move them to intense emotion, the two express their concerns regarding justice and politics and the shortcomings of our society at large. But the loud, fast and skillful combo are also quite adept at getting their hooks into you--if you're into these guys, you're probably into them big.

Nothing at all sloppy here either: Look to them for a lesson on briskly executed drum fills or turbo bass strumming, not to mention the well-polished stage presence that warrants the rabid audience this terrific duo habitually pulls in. A rhythmically intense, technically on point, and fun, experience. The two definitely treated DOMAXXII patrons with about as seamless and cool of a set as a grindcore-inspired outfit could possibly play.

Mount Righteous
Trees
12 a.m.

Mount Righteous is, quite simply, a sight to behold.

The nine-piece group filled up the stage at Trees equipped with the tools of the trade of traditional orchestras. But this is far from the ranks of traditional music.

Playing to a room that stayed full all night, Mount Righteous quickly had the attention of all. The infectious pop grooves also employ influences that come from punk and rock music. Trumpet, trombone, guitar, sousaphone, bells, drum kit, marching bass drum, cymbals, megaphones, and wonderfully upbeat vocals all coalesced into a beautiful harmony.

The band's regular supporters furiously sung along to the unyieldingly cheery pop from the powerful group, right alongside others who looked as if a gong had just been rung inside their head. With all of the elements that make marching bands fun, Mount Righteous keeps the mood extremely upbeat, with repetitive, high-speed drumming tilting the audience forward and subtly forward into the realm of unconscious dancing.

The room bounced and bobbed, many of us shooting a smile off in some direction as the band made the most of their appearance on this stage.

"I never thought I'd be playing at Trees," said cymbals player Zicole Marxen at one point between songs.

It was a surreal moment in time when there was a solid connection between band and audience.

It's safe to say that many left Deep Ellum last night loving Mount Righteous. It's always fun when a band catches someone off guard, a fond little side effect of cramming nearly 50 bands into a small area for one night. Mount Righteous can honestly boast one of the most startling "surprise effects" for people who have no idea what to expect. And they use that to the fullest, playing with a spirit that's impossible to ignore.

The House Harkonnen
Trees
1 a.m.
One of the many strong acts nominated for the Best Hard Rock DOMA this year, The House Harkonnen puts together a top-notch heavy rock show with Grade A solos from both guitarists and loud, loud badassery from all four.

It's no small feat for me to say this, but The HK was hands down the loudest band that I saw all night. While all four of these guys are true professionals on stage, even managing to pull of the coordinated three-man head bang without looking dorky, much of its appeal comes from fantastic frontman Alex Johnson. He poses, writhes, and twists about, all while shredding ably while driving this four-man hot rod with his outstanding vocals. And he's not the only one melting faces: Guitarist Michael Doty coolly puts in some maniacal axe work himself, as well.

HK performs like they were built to do this, and honestly, they just might be. Quite comfortable on the stage, this act is a polished one that more often than not levels the crowds that assembles before it.

We even spied the members of local Best Hip-Hop Act nominees A.Dd+ unable to resist getting into the gripping rock being played.

Living his stage show in a series of deadly serious looks, Johnson was his usual rock 'n' roll self, at one point strumming and regally posing with his feet spread shoulder width apart. He then began to slowly tilt his head back until he faced the ceiling, proudly spitting several feet into the air with fervor. And as high-energy as this band was for the duration of their set, it all ended quite abruptly.

While playing, Johnson removed his guitar from his shoulder, spun a 180 and took a shot at the drum kit with his instrument as he flung it away from himself. He then had a mini dust-up with the kit, ending with a bass drum being flung behind him as his final act of destruction.

The House Harkonnen were, quite suddenly, done playing. And with that, the lights come up and the wild fun on this Deep Ellum Saturday night drew to a close.
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