Oblivion Access Festival
Dorian Domi & Dusty Brooks guest DJ, spinning artists performing at the festival.
I have never seen a lineup like Oblivion Access festival’s debut. It’s as if distant stars aligned to summon the most unique musicians on Earth to Austin, TX for a once in a millennia cosmic event. Beginning this week in the Red River Cultural District, Oblivion Access is a rare gathering of experimental hip hop, hardcore punk, techno, ambient, and a bottomless pit of heavy music subgenres from grindcore to doom metal. But in truth, it wasn’t fate or some eldritch invocation that called this festival upon ATX, it was the indefatigable effort of two Texas natives, Dusty Brooks and Dorian Domi.
It’s been a long time in the making, and the events that led up to this year’s festival began well before their initial announcement back in 2020. Domi began booking shows in Austin at 16 years old when he provoked the ire of Dusty Brooks. Domi recalls, “I started booking metal shows and me and Dusty were…competitors” before Brooks interjects:
“I was mad. He stole a show from me. But I was dating this girl at the time, and she’s a very smart and successful woman, and she told me probably the best advice I’ve ever taken to heart. She said, ‘You need to work with this guy, you do not need to take him out. Why are you trying to do that? He’s obviously into the same stuff as you, work together, idiot.’ And that was god, five years ago?”
Their fifteen-year age difference already makes for an unlikely partnership, and if it weren’t for this wise intervention, Oblivion Access would have been nipped in the bud long ago. In a way, their beginnings are reflective of the qualities that make the festival lineup so compelling and unique. There are plenty of superficial differences between say, heavy metal and hip hop, but both were born stylistically antagonistic towards mainstream music and a lyrical compulsion for brutal honesty. “I think what all of our artists are saying in their art, speaks the truth from the heart from everyday people… it’s very honest, it’s real, it’s raw and sometimes that can be off-putting,” Brooks remarks on the common thread that runs through all the artists performing at this year’s festival.
Before Oblivion Access, the booking duo was known for the metal-focused Austin Terror Fest which began back in 2017. However, they eventually felt stifled by the Terror Fest moniker, “It was Dorian’s idea, which was the best idea that I think we’ve had in a long time, to change the name…we were kind of pigeonholed into the metal genre. We wanted to expand and we changed our name at the end of 2019.” Eclectic is an understatement with a lineup featuring hip hop iconoclasts like Danny Brown and Kool Keith, the Body’s brutal experimental metal, and ambient music legend William Basinski to name a few of the over one hundred artists performing this year.
“Don’t be ashamed of what you like. If it’s good it’s good,” Brooks quotes another piece of guiding advice given to him in the past. It’s clear both of them are sincere and attentive listeners with a relentless curiosity for new music. And like Domi and Brooks, all of the artists performing have a kindred fearlessness and attraction toward experimentation. Those qualities are necessary to put on a festival of this scale that features almost exclusively musicians who have deliberately torn apart the established conventions of already extreme genres of music.
There are inherent challenges in booking experimental music. They often come from music scenes that are at best misunderstood, and at worst feared. “A lot of the experimental acts they play one-off shows that are either in a basement or in a cathedral. there’s no in-between,” but Brooks and Domi took a gamble that musicians and fans have been looking for a festival like this. The buzz around their 2020 debut proved their instincts correct, but of course, 2020 happened:
“These obstacles that we’ve been faced with for these last two, two and a half years have proven the tensile strength of mine and Dorian’s thread. It’s really shown me that we’re in this to work together. I’m 36, and he’s 21, it’s a big age gap, but it’s never been an issue. There’s a synergy that we both have on top of having to just trying to climb this mountain together…you can’t help but stay motivated. Yeah it’s discouraging, and yeah you want to throw in the towel sometimes, but man we’ve worked too damned hard to just throw in the towel at this point.”
Their indomitable commitment was infectious. Many of 2020’s original ticket holders and the original lineup’s artists held on and rolled with the punches through two postponements and several of the original venues permanently shut their doors. It also says something about the Austin Music scene:
“All the local venues we’re working with have been so flexible, open, and willing to work with us. And a lot of the new venues like elysium and the belmont…we’ve never worked with them, but yet they’re willing to open their doors and allow us to just come in and take over for a weekend. That speaks volumes about the local scene here and the local business owners here and how willing they are to participate in something like this.”
Dusty Brooks and Dorian Domi have struck a mortal blow to the Austin Music scene’s doomsayers with Oblivion Access. On top of the Austin venues involved, there are dozens of genre-transfiguring experimental local acts represented like Glassing’s heavy shoegaze, Blank Hellscapes’ soul-piercing noise, and Troller’s haunting darkwave. The four-day festival proves the wonderfully weird part of the Austin Music Experience is still here, and if you thought otherwise, maybe you were looking in the wrong places. The gates to Oblivion open this Thursday, come on in.
Location: The Red River Cultural District: Empire Control Room for & Garage, Mohawk, The Belmont, Elysium, Central Presbyterian Church, Valhalla, Native
Date: May 12th-15th, 2022