SXSW 2012

South by Southwest (SXSW), French Quarter Festival, and Jazz Fest, all past and we’re looking forward to Essence Fest 2012 and Voodoo Fest 2012 (local commitments having deprived of us of a chance to cover Heavy MTL and Osheaga in Montreal this year).  Here’s a more detailed look at SXSW 2012, which we covered for the first time.

SXSW is a completely different experience, even for experienced festival goers.  This year there were more than 2,000 performers, spread across more than 90 venues.  Instead of a concentrated “festival experience”, with a number of stages in a designated area, SXSW is a free-for-all, with performers at a number of different clubs in Austin, spread over many blocks.  Unless you’re just going to wander about and hope to find something good (which might be a viable approach–a few of our favorite performances were discovered this way), proper planning is essential and man, bring the walking shoes.

We arrived late Tuesday night and decided to relax and get an early start on Wednesday morning.  First up on Wednesday:  Alabama Shakes, an American rock band formed in Athens, AL in 2009:


Alabama Shakes

Next, a completely unexpected surprise and our favorite show of the entire festival: Cherri Bomb, an all-girl band from Los Angeles that left us searching for “more like this” for the next three days. The band showcases absolutely phenomenal drumming by Nia Lovelis, who has somehow dug up and reincarnated John Bonham, despite being only 14 years old.  Unfortunately, since no one in the band is older than 17, they are quickly escorted out of the venue by their “Bomb Squad”, to be seen no more.  And here they are:

Cherri Bomb

Immediately following Cherri Bomb, in the same venue, ZZ Ward, blending soaring, bluesy vocals with a smooth mash of pop and hip hop:

ZZ Ward

Our final catch for Wednesday:  Yayo, a rock band from Austin named after guitarist Yayo Sanchez and featuring James Pagliuco on bass, Gavin “T-Rex” Zapata on drums, and Aaron Altounian on guitar (they’re pretty and rock and roll!):


Margarita, sleep, repeat.  Thursday, and time for serious Japanese rock and roll.  With the possible exception of Cherri Bomb and metal bands The Defiled and Shining, straight ahead, hair flying, rock and roll shred was dominated by Japanese bands at SXSW.   We were to be treated to even more Japanese madness on Saturday, but today Johnny Saito, Lagitagida, and The Rubies shredded the tiny outdoor stage at Elysium, where we spent most of the day:

Johnny Saito


 The Rubies

And then a dash of high-energy Swedish New Wave, courtesy of The Bombettes:

The Bombettes

And then, metal, what at least half of HIGH ISO Music lives for.  Raging guitar, broken shit flying everywhere, dodging, snapping, adjusting the ER-20’s to hear another day.   British hardcore metal band The Defiled meets Norwegian metal band Shining (with roots in acoustic jazz–seriously–and completely distinct from the Swedish black metal band also called Shining–will the Swedish/Norwegian war never end?).  We almost got hit by the flying broken keyboard at the end of the Defiled set, but luckily some older fan decided to take it straight in the face, saving a D3s, D700, 24-70mm and 70-200mm zooms from destruction, had our dodging instincts failed.  That fan seemed initially outraged, then, realizing what an honor it was to be smashed in the face by a large fragment of keyboard, relished his moment of glory and cheered with a cheap beer.  These two bands erased every trace of fatigue from carrying around 20 lbs of camera equipment and had us screaming FUCK YEAH! (yeah, seriously–it sounds juvenile, but in the moment…) as we exited the club.  Seeing The Defiled’s last tune was worth walking to Austin from New Orleans, all by itself.

The Defiled


We also caught a bit of Spoek Mathambo’s show.  Spoek Mathambo  is the stage name for Johannesburg’s Nthato Mokgata, an artist that no one seems to be able to categorize or to critically review in any consistent manner (check out the span of ratings for his latest album, Father Creeper, at Any Decent Music, for example).   Reserving judgement, we dodged the drunk woman in front of us who almost took out the camera equipment on multiple occasions (using some sort of drunken, off-the-beat tai chi moves) to bring you the photographic goods.

Spoek Mathambo

Highlights of Friday included British soul singer Alice Russell, an extended event gobbling BBQ smothered in Billy Gibbon’s (of ZZ Top) fantastic BBQ sauce and listening to Jimmy Vaughn, and then topping off the day with blood curdling hardcore punk band Population Zero.  You won’t be able to taste the BBQ, but the dancers are easy on the eyes.

Jimmy Vaughn

Alice Russell

Population Zero

And Saturday arrived, our last day before a mad dash back to New Orleans on Sunday morning.  We spent the entire day at Peelander Fest, which showcased both Japanese rock bands like Gagakarise and Ken South Rock, as well as local Austin bands, like Foot Patrol and Child Bite.  Peelander’s show was amazing, but the stage was far too small to accommodate their energy–be sure to check them out at a larger venue.

Black Cock

Child Bite

Foot Patrol


Ken South Rock

MC Frontalot

Peelander Z

See you in Austin in 2013!

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