South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Teenage Halloween, Surfbort, March 17, Cheer Up Charlie’s

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Teenage Halloween is an evocative band name, one that brings to mind images of kids chucking eggs and toilet paper at houses, getting drunk and/or partaking in other illicit substances, or if you want to take a more wholesome perspective, going out for your last chance to trick or treat before you get too old or maybe staying in for an all night horror movie marathon.

For me personally, it evokes the memory of a kid in my neighbourhood named Larry, who came to my door trick or treating when I was in Grade 10 or so. Larry was the same age as me and probably about 6 feet tall, wearing just his street clothes and some shitty werewolf mask that he probably got at the drugstore. I was like, WTF Larry, but I gave him some candy anyways. What does this have to do with the band Teenage Halloween? Oh, nothing, really. Sorry, I got a little distracted there.

With a name like Teenage Halloween, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I headed out to see them on the first day of Brooklyn Vegan’s day parties at Cheer Up Charlie’s, though I had a pretty good idea. I knew they were a punk band and I figured Brooklyn Vegan has a pretty good track record of booking bands for their day shows, so odds were good they’d be worth watching. I was correct.

What Teenage Halloween offered up was a fun set of gruff sounding pop punk with impressive guitar parts and clever lyrics dealing with themes of queerness and mental health. There was also a sax player, though I couldn’t really hear them in the mix. Still, kudos on having a saxophone – must be the band’s New Jersey roots coming through. I enjoyed their set so much I bought a cassette from their merch guy, which is pretty rare at SXSW – rare for me to want to buy a band’s merch on the spot, yes, but also even more rare to see a band even set up a merch table.

Following them later that afternoon on the same stage was Surfbort, whose singer Dani Miller is a delightful and engaging frontwoman, full of punk rock energy. Starting out their Thursday afternoon set with “Silly D”, a song featuring the refrain of “We should be wasted by now” (later morphing into “wasted on love”), the band came on strong and had the attention of the crowd throughout their brief set. Normally I’d question whether someone really should be “wasted by now” before 2:00pm on a weekday but hey, this is SouthBy, and St. Patrick’s Day to boot, so yeah, not really unheard of to be wasted by then. For the record, I was stone cold sober at this point, but I still raise my glass to Surfbort and Teenage Halloween. Cheers!

SXSW Review: Balming Tiger, March 17, International Day Stage

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | Leave a comment


In the years past, SXSW has always had a Korean night, with a focus on the emerging music scene from Korea. Of course these days, you could argue that The most famous act in the world is Korean (BTS) with another one (Blackpink) not far behind.

With that said, I was interested in seeing Balming Tiger, a Korean hip hop group that was one of the few that made the stateside trip.

Playing an afternoon tent is not always easy as half the people are often there just for the free drinks or snacks, yet the sparse interest was not enough to deter the group’s energy level, which was set to 11.

Starting in a group dance formation, the band quickly jumped from what we thought was a synchronized dance into a party hip hop show. Featuring contributions from each member, the group played an energetic set that took elements from hip hop, dance and even punk. Their enthusiasm kept the crowd engaged and at one point they even tried to get a line dance going.

Fun times.

SXSW Review: Astrid Sonne, March 16, Cheer Up Charlie’s

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If I was in the habit of ranking music festivals, both SXSW and Denmark’s Roskilde Festival would definitely make my top five. So when I saw that Roskilde would be presenting a showcase at this year’s SouthBy in honour of their 50th edition happening later this year (after a three year pause due to … well, you know), it was the best of both worlds. And when I saw that Astid Sonne would be playing that showcase, I made sure I was there.

I had seen Sonne perform once before, at Roskilde 2019, where she delivered a memorable performance on the festival’s tiniest, most intimate stage. At that show, she absolutely impressed with a mesmerising blend of electronic and classical elements and this show was no different in that sense. In a way though, it was a totally new experience – a different setup, a different accompanist, and different compositions, but Sonne was working within the same general ballpark. And it was brilliant.

During her time onstage at Cheer Up Charlie’s, Astrid Sonne delivered a performance that was beautiful, unique, and fully engrossing. Maybe not ideal stuff for an outdoor venue full of chatty drinkers, but an incredible performance nonetheless.

SXSW Review: COSBY, Roller Derby, March 15, Half Step

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We need to talk about COSBY. No, I’m not referring to W. Kamau Bell’s thoughtful docuseries on the rather complicated legacy of Bill Cosby. Nor am I referring to the man himself, though I suppose we do, as a society, still need to talk about that creep. No, I’m referring to the unfortunately named German indie-pop band and specifically why they thought it would be prudent to name themselves after a disgraced comedian who is now known as much for his transgressions as he is for his comedy.

How exactly did this happen? Do … do they not know who Cosby is in Germany? Does it mean something else in German? Sure, the band probably chose their name a while back, but bands have been known to change names that have problematic associations – The Chicks and Sea Power are just two that spring to mind off the top of my head. And sure, there’s a good chance that The Cosby Show (Das Cosby Shöw?) probably wasn’t very big in Germany, and the band could be young enough that they might not have remembered it even if it was. But even if we assume that was the case, you’d think they might do a quick Google search on that name to see what comes up before deciding that this would be their chosen moniker. Unless you’re a death metal band naming yourself after a notorious serial killer or something like that, this is probably not the kind of association any band wants with their name. Then again, maybe it is what they want? I mean, I am writing about them after all, so maybe this is all part of the plan and I’m playing right into their hands. Either way, it’s a very bad band name.

Still, all of that aside, I decided to check out the band anyways and judge them on the merits of their actual music. Would their music be able to rise above such a poorly chosen name? I was curious to see.


But before I would make my verdict on the Munich indie pop band’s music, another German act would take to the Half Step stage on Tuesday night. With a similarly synth based sound but a much better and much less problematic name than the band that would follow them later that evening, Hamburg’s Roller Derby put on an enjoyable set of dreamy indie pop that definitely made a good impression. The band must have also made a good impression on whoever was in charge of Sunday night’s SXSW Music closing party as they were on that bill alongside Balming Tiger and Los Bitchos. I had a chance to see all three of those acts at other points throughout the week and I’m sure that Sunday show must have been a lot of fun.

But what about COSBY? I’ll admit that the show was kind of fun – they had a good energy and got the crowd moving a bit, and I did appreciate singer Marie Kobylka’s stagewear, which had a Lady Gaga meets Edith Prickley vibe. Giving their music a bit of a listen again after the fact, I did find their recorded output to be a bit too glossy for my taste, but the live show was enjoyable enough. Shame about the name though. They should definitely change the name.