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SXSW: K-Pop Night Out thrills diverse capacity crowd

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Erin J. Walter

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 12, 2014

South by Southwest’s annual K-Pop night filled to capacity from the start—and for good reason. Fans of Korean pop and rock music wait for this night all year. As the line in front of Elysium stretched past the club, four-piece band NELL unleashed swirling rock to cheers of a young, diverse but predominantly Asian-American crowd. The group’s last song bore a striking resemblance to Faith No More’s “Epic,” sans vocals, and indeed, ended NELL’s set on an epic note, with fans screaming for guitar picks and sprays of water.

Hollow Jan followed, hailed as Korea’s “one and only screamo band.” Some members of the audience spoke and understood Korean, responding to the performers stage banter, but even those with a language barrier had no trouble experiencing the emotions of the music.

“It’s universal,” said Jackie Sue Guana, 26, of Austin. “The K-Pop community is growing — it’s awesome.”

Guana DJs an occasional K-Pop night at Elysium and attended the SXSW showcase with regulars and friends from a local K-Pop DJ collective Demographics, which she helped start after struggling to find K-Pop in Austin clubs.

“We call it Demographics for a reason,” she said. “It’s not just Koreans. I’m Hispanic. It’s very diverse—K-Pop is for everybody.”

Many fans said they were most excited to see the night’s final two performers, Jay Park and HyunA, who were going on early Wednesday. The line was still one-out, one-in on Red River as Jay Park prepared to take the stage at 12:30 a.m.

“K-Pop music is very different from American pop,” Guana said. “There’s the cultural aspect. You may not understand the language but you’re learning something new. The fashions are cute, of course, but it’s all just so fun and uplifting. It makes you happy.”

In the wee hours Wednesday, Twitter was abuzz that American pop star and SXSW keynote speaker Lady Gaga had been in the audience for the K-Pop headliners.