SXSW 2022 Recap: Day 0

Just because the SXSW music festival doesn’t start until today, that doesn’t mean the music has to wait! Performing in conjunction with the end of SXSW’s gaming conference, the crowd at Emo’s in Austin was treated to an amazing concert with legendary chiptune band Anamanaguchi as the headliner.

The first act of the night was a DJ set from German DJ and electronic composer C418, best known for his work on the soundtrack for the hit video game Minecraft. His set was full of rugged waveform synths backed by massive bass drum hits, set to visuals of pulsating shapes and amorphous blobs. There is something incredibly special about seeing someone whose music has had such an impact on popular culture in the flesh, and he seemed perfectly within his element. A fellow concertgoer explained to me that C418’s work prior to the Minecraft soundtrack bears little resemblance to the ambient soundscapes he is best known for, and that he’s just doing what he’s always been good at.

Enter Peelander-Z, an Austin-based Japanese rock ensemble with colorful alien personas. The group poked fun at American tropes throughout the set; the crowd was invited to chant along to song lyrics that reference medium rare steak and the baffling number of people named Mike (myself included). At one point, audience members were plucked from the crowd, bestowed with costumes, and instructed to perform to the best of their ability. The band wrapped up their set with a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” featuring Peelander Pink on vocals, who absolutely killed it.

Headlining the show, Anamanaguchi has managed to do the impossible and successfully tour a soundtrack album. For the uninitiated, the band is currently touring to support the re-release of the long-unavailable Scott Pilgrim vs. The World arcade-style beat-em-up video game, which they provided the soundtrack for nearly 12 years ago. The band roared through the game’s entire soundtrack in order, accompanied by flashy visuals and footage from the game on a large projection screen behind them. The performance was incredible, with even the band stating they believed it was their best show on the tour yet; lead guitarist Peter Berkman told us that if he had to give their performances a video-game style end level ranking, this was the first night they had hit “A rank”. After the soundtrack blitz had concluded, the band played through some of their more recent material, including tracks from their latest album [USA], a single about and featuring the computer vocaloid Hatsune Miku, and a cover of “Hopes and Dreams” from indie darling video game Undertale. Combining and celebrating their influences of anime, gaming, and Japanese culture, Anamanaguchi brought us a show which has set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the week.