SXSW 2019 — Drinking Boys and Girls Choir; Damnably Showcase, Valhalla

As you’ve come to realize, SXSW 2019 was a year of firsts for me. First time seeing Run River North. First time being able to Say Sue Me up close. With today’s write-up comes two firsts: first time seeing Drinking Boys and Girls Choir and first time being part of a mosh pit. Trust me, the two things are NOT mutually exclusive.

A little back story. I had the opportunity to see DBGC in Korea during Zandari Festa last year. However, just as with SXSW, Zandari is a crazy whirlwind of music and press that often means I have to sacrifice seeing one artist I really want to see for another obligation. This was the case for DBGC. In fact, we’d had an interview the same day as their performance. I remember very vividly waxing wistfully about wanting them to come to SXSW, convinced the Austin crowd would adore them.

Seems speaking things into existence isn’t just a platitude we tell ourselves to try to get the universe to act in our favor.

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Not only did DBGC end up in Austin to perform (as part of a showcase for their label, Damnably), they did so multiple times. But the performance I’m focusing on today is their crazy set at Valhalla. The venue is known for its love of all things punk. Drinking Boys and Girls Choir is the epitome of everything Valhalla stands for. Loud. Fast. Wild.

As I’d seen from clips of their shows in Korea and Indonesia, every performance is different, but there’s one distinct feature: absolute chaos. That’s the way we like it around these parts!

It doesn’t get much more chaotic than a punk show in the middle of SXSW. So ingrained is the skate punk culture in their DNA, even their sound check is utterly wild. When they actually really get going, everything freezes in time. Everyone and everything centers around that tiny stage and the few feet of floor in front of it. It all begins with Bondu’s heavy guitar. Then we get the ear-splitting grit of bassist and lead vocalist Meena’s high-pitched voice, an interesting counterpoint to the hefty weight of her bass. In the back we have MJ, keeping and shifting time with her drummer’s backbeat. Together, Drinking Boys and Girls Choir create a sound that’s all chaotic energy and, in a word, fun.

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And, of course, there’s the audience aspect. I forgot to point out that every clip I’d seen from them included some serious moshing. It’s no surprise, then, that they bring that kind of craziness Stateside. Meena and Bondu fling themselves around on stage, knocking into each other like they want to start their own thrashing competition on stage (all while keeping tight hold to their instruments, of course).

Bondu eventually ends up in the audience himself. It’s this act of wildness on his part that actually serves as the catalyst for the utter madness of the night’s series of mosh pits. Yes, Bondu is the one who started a trend that would continue for the rest of the showcase.

In fact, Choi Su-mi of band Say Sue Me, with a full glass of beer clenched in her tiny fist, is the main participant. She throws herself into pretty much between her and her friends on the stage. I can guarantee she wasn’t at the front when the band first started to play. Within seconds she’s strong-armed herself to the center of the crowd. Her and Bondu’s antics are contagious, and the mosh bug hits pretty much everybody in attendance.

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Though the focus should always be the music, let’s be real here. DBGC is very clearly about getting the crowd to go as crazy as possible. They provided the perfect segue to the final act of the night, a quartet of Japanese females who take punk to levels unseen since its heyday in the 1970s with the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.

With the energy already buzzing throughout Valhalla, Drinking Boys and Girls Choir pretty much was the match to the gasoline festering in the crowd. They are undoubtedly a force of nature. A band dedicated to the punk motto of live loud, live hard, live free. In that moment I can’t remember ever being so excited during a show. In fact, I can’t remember anything. I’m so swept up in the magnificent wildness of it all, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t know my own name if you’d asked me right after their set.

Those who know me will tell you… I’m a small person. Just… I’m prime for being picked up and thrown over somebody’s shoulder. So sandwiched between the small dip in front of Meena’s microphone, a speaker, and a surging crowd of people going completely apeshit, let me tell you. It was… an experience.

That’s what Drinking Boys and Girls Choir is: an experience. One that will leave a lasting impression on even the most passive music fan. It was a pleasure and a blessing being able to see the band in one of their last performances as a trio, as Bondu left the band after the Brighton stop of their UK tour.

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Honestly, one of the most amazing artists I’ve ever seen live. With these last few words, I just want to wish Bondu all the best for his future. I also want to wish Meena and MJ all the best on this new part of their journey. To all three of them I wish nothing but success. Remember, boys and girls, keep drinking!


You can follow Drinking Boys and Girls Choir on:
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