Terror Fest Review: Dorthia Cottrell, Panopticon

Windhand singer and outdoorsman Austin Lunn stage own AMAs

Imagine folks milling about a patio wearing metal t-shirts and denim jackets covered in band patches. Now imagine that crowd not only giving a pair of Texas singer/songwriter-obsessed headbangers their full attention, but also recognizing the songs within a few notes. That’s what occurred outside at Barracuda Saturday afternoon for this matinee show.

Cottrell and Lund mesmerizing Barracuda’s outside stage for ATF, 6.8.19 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Following an edgy, atmospheric set by Neurosis-loving gothic ATX duo Deep Cross, Windhand singer Dorthia Cottrell and her acoustic guitar took a chair for a short set of songs from the catalog of original Lone Star troubadour Townes Van Zandt. “Flyin’ Shoes” and a carefully slowed “Waitin’ Round to Die” covered obvious classics, while “Why She’s Acting This Way” unearthed a requisite deep cut. With her husky alto and insistent fingerpicking, Cottrell proved herself a gifted TVZ interpreter.

Panopticon leader Austin Lunn joined her for two final tunes, adding seasick dobro to “Rake” and duetting with Cottrell on the closing “If I Needed You,” which replaced precision – and, one suspects, rehearsal – with something more important: heart.

“Hopefully he’s not rolling over in his grave,” protested Cottrell near the beginning of the set, a state of affairs that’s highly unlikely.

“When Dusty [Brooks, ATF co-founder] said, “You can do a Waylon Jennings set or a Blaze Foley set,’” noted the Tennessee-born, Kentucky-based Lunn, “I said, ‘I got your Blaze Foley set. I already know all of the songs!” Joined only occasionally by his bandmates, Lunn eschewed the proggy black metal for which Panopticon is known in straightforward acoustic renditions of one of Austin’s most infamous obscurities.

Opener “Cold Cold World” validated that his plainspoken voice suited the material; “No Reasons Why,” which was greeted by cheers when he announced it, proved this crowd of headbangers was a bunch of softies. Indeed, “If I Could Only Fly,” probably Foley’s most well-known tune thanks to Merle Haggard’s 2000 cover, brought tears to the eyes of singer and audience both. You could hear a guitar pick drop in the silence accompanying that performance.

When Lunn forgot a lyric in “Picture Cards,” someone helpfully shouted it out.

“I owe you a beer,” replied the singer without missing a beat.

After a luminous “Rainbows and Ridges,” which he announced as his favorite Foley track, he donned his Les Paul and brought the full band up for an electrified version of scathing political comment “Oval Room,” a song he noted, “Sounds like it was written yesterday, and that’s fucked up.” At full strength but avoiding metal, the quintet version of Panopticon turned to original material, specifically from The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness Pt. 2, the folk-rocking companion to the black metallic Pt. 1. “Not Much Will Change When I’m Gone,” “A Cross Abandoned,” and “Beast Rider” showed a group as comfortable with roots drama as with extreme metal dynamics.

Without Lunn’s own patch-covered denim jacket and fearsome reputation as the black metaller’s black metallist, anyone might think they were watching the Americana Music Awards’ latest multi-award nominee.

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Dorthia Cottrell, Panopticon, Austin Terror Fest 2019, Austin Lunn, Windhand, Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Dusty Brooks

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