By Brian Fee

Ever since relocating to Austin last summer, I'd kept one eye on the live-music/film-premiere/interactive behemoth South By Southwest. This year was to be my first, and as a veteran of CMJ Music Marathon and a pioneer at Brooklyn's first-ever Northside Festival, I was beyond stoked. But between work trips to NYC and Tokyo, culminating in a three-week sojourn to the Big Apple this past month, time slipped by. On my late-night flight back to Austin last Wednesday, surrounded by skinny blokes with guitar cases and European accents, I realized—Oh snap, South By Southwest!

I had to attack this beast badgeless and wristbandless, with a major NYC hangover and little schedule in mind besides what I'd culled fromBrooklynVegan and various Facebook invites. Luckily, Japanese art-punksPeelander-Z were hosting a free day-show of caffeinated awesomeness called “Peelander-Fest.” It featured a solid mix of Japanese acts (like the Motörhead-ish Electric Eel Shock) and yanks, topped by a sweaty Peelander-Z set, in 20-minute bites.

Free show? Cheap booze? Japanese bands? Sign me up!

I bussed to the Grackle, an East Austin dive bar and gravel lot that echoed Jelly NYC's Saturdays @ Rock Yard, except the latter had a slip-n-slide and Williamsburg hipster girls and the Grackle better beer and tattoos.

Lagitagida, self-described as “a super-powered attack instrumental rock band,” played as fast as Brooklyn black-metalheads Liturgy but with way less austerity. At least Lagitagida were having a shit-ton of fun. Next up was bicoastal (i.e. Tokyo/Brooklyn) duo Ken South Rock, who I re-dub KEN the Brotherhood, for beyond Kenichi and Adam's stripped-down sound, these “long-lost brothers” carried that charisma of their country-fried Nashville kin,JEFF the Brotherhood.

I refueled on lengua tacos when local noise-punks Black Cock went on (anybody remember Whale's “Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe”? They're a bit like that), and met the Japanese. Despite the boozy, sun-baked environs, I did that whole two-handed name-card exchange with Lagitagida guitarist Kohhan and bassist Take. New drink buddies for my May trip back to ol' Nippon.

Sendagaya duo Gagakirise are succinctly summed up by their 2009 CD title:Black Long Hair Nice Wah Pedal.

Sets went precisely as scheduled, thanks to Kengo “Peelander-Yellow” Hioki's programming. This is something I noted in Tokyo: bands on and off almost exactly on time, even the ultra-DIY stuff, so I knew how much time I had before elbowing up front for Electric Eel Shock. These cock-rockers brought the house down. Frontman Akihiro may have playfully dissed punk at one point—“We're metal!!!!”—but, considering his flying riffs, bassist Kazuto's mastery of shout-and-response, and drummer Gian's instant denuding (except for a strategic sock), it was all love.

Sunburnt and smashed, thus concluded my first SXSW.

Image: Gagakirise, courtesy the author.