by JONATHAN CHA
K-pop fans were treated to the second manifestation of “K-Pop Night Out” on Tuesday night as part of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. One fan just happened to be one of the biggest acts in pop music.
Before the show, KoreAm was watching fans flock to a steadily growing line in front of the Elysium Nightclub that ran down Seventh Street; they could barely contain themselves waiting for the rockstar list of performers hailing from Korea. Despite the obvious disappointment about Kiha and the Faces’ last-minute cancellation due to visa issues, the remaining acts valiantly filled the void.
Jambiani enthralled the crowd with their eclectic blend of haegeum, the piri and the geomungo with electric guitars and electronics. Nell delighted fans and newbies alike with their hit anthem, “Ocean of Light.” Hollow Jan took over for Kiha and the Faces. Designated by the dozen photogs and international press lining the back of the club as “Korea’s only screamo band” — or emotional hardcore punk augmented by screamed lyrics — the band won over a few new fans of their own.
Crying Nut continued the controlled chaos, rocking out with screaming guitars and an accordion occasionally played with a microphone. Yes, Kim Insoo smashed a microphone onto his accordion and used it as brilliantly as a cellist would a bow, just far more punk.
Idiotape followed by moving everyone in all directions with their synthesized dance beats, prompting an inspired electronic fan to scream out, “This is what Daft Punk should have done for Tron: Legacy!”
Suddenly, the crowd went nuts as the “Goddess of Love” herself, Lady Gaga, moved to the front of the room amid a frenzy of reporters and cameras. After security ushered her to a riser behind the ticket booth, social media exploded with pride for Lady Gaga’s support of K-pop. The phones used to capture and record the Gaga experience sprouted like mushrooms and remained there for the rest of the show.
Jay Park, a former Gaga interviewer in 2009, confessed to a slight bout of fatigue following the familiar 14-hour flight to the States, but the Seattle native still managed to electrify the stage. He danced, sang and rapped with his new AOMG label act, Loco, amid a steady stream of screams with the occasional swoon.
The night concluded with the first solo U.S. performance by 4minute’s HyunA. Only a total of 15 minutes, her four-song set featured the You Tube hit “Bubble Pop” that had Gaga moving a bit. Expect this showcase to monumentally expand K-pop curiosity in Austin and SXSW for many years to come.