In the old days, package tours were the exclusive purview of washed-up rock stars and semi-retired silver-fox crooners. Lately, they've served as reliable ways for clothing or energy-drink sponsors to reach a particular demographic. In 2016, Third Man Records, esteemed purveyors of garage punk and heavy blues rock, body-slams that cliché to the beer-drenched floors of 27 venues across the country with its Audio Social Dissent Tour.
Featuring Austin proto-punkers Video and psychedelically inclined Detroit sleaze-rockers Timmy's Organism, along with fellow Motor City noise emissaries Wolf Eyes and Regression 696 (featuring two-thirds of the Wolf Eyes lineup), Audio Social Dissent represents a vicious undercurrent of loud, trippy, in-your-face music.
"All of these bands are very modern representatives of the direction Third Man is going in 2016," label co-founder Ben Swank tells Orlando Weekly. "It's not necessarily polite or easy listening – in fact it's uneasy listening. We released all of their records in a batch last fall, and it definitely turned some people off. But it was important for us to say, 'This is where we come from' and use Third Man's cachet to turn people on to stuff that might push them in a new musical direction. And that's absolutely, 100 percent the reason you work for a record label in the first place."
Swank adds that, since the band's founding in 2001, they've dreamed of putting together their own package tour – "sort of like a punk Stax Revue showcase," he laughs. But after reaching out to multiple booking agencies, they settled on Flowerbooking, 25-year veterans in the independent music world. "They get these bands and they know the markets that they'll do good in," Swank says. "Flowerbooking jumped in with both feet to do this with complete gusto."
Which perfectly represents the energy that the Audio Dissent Tour brings to the Social on Feb. 13. Timmy's Organism frontman Timmy Vulgar says that together, the bands form a pitch-perfect distillation of today's underground music community. "Video brings high-energy classic '70s punk, while Wolf Eyes and Regression 696 do this gnarly, psychedelic Krautrock noise," he says. "And we play dirty, sleazy, balls-out Detroit punk. There's a lot of wimpy music out there, and we're going to take it on headfirst as a greasy threesome of grimy rock & rollers."
So yes, you can expect some drunken debauchery, some eardrum-pounding lunacy – maybe even a little stage violence. Ben Swank says he knew Video was the real deal last year when they performed at SXSW for Third Man's Rolling Record Store, in a parking lot, in the rain, for 10 people: "[Frontman] Daniel [Fried] was still punching the pavement, smashing his lip open with the microphone, screaming in people's faces and shocking himself," Swank laughs. "And they were doing it for the sake of doing it, as fully as they could, just because that's how they do every show."
And they're the young'uns on the Audio Social Dissent Tour. Nate Young of Wolf Eyes and Regression 696 has been plying his mangled, drone metal-influenced sonic assault for almost 20 years; Timmy Vulgar has served as a Detroit icon in cult-famous bands like Human Eye and Clone Defects for even longer. The fact that Third Man Records finally gave these lifers the support they deserved will warm the hearts of anyone obsessed with raunchy, revelatory rock. "I'm never going to work a regular job," Vulgar says. "I just love to go on the road and play rock & roll. What I'm stoked about with Third Man is being able to do it a little more comfortably. And that they've given me the chance to finally come to Florida for the first time."
As Ben Swank adds, "These bands are not playing music to have a career or be famous – it's all they have and all they do, and they've created their own individual sonic worlds doing it. When they played together here in Nashville in December, it was one of the shows of the year. And that's not a 'Way to go, Third Man' thing – that's a 'Man, I'm glad I actually got to witness it' thing. These guys live and breathe rock & roll, and giving other people around the country the chance to check that out is all we're hoping for."