Big Bill Played the First and Best SXSW Show We Saw

Big_Bill_at_YouVisit_Showcase-6The day before SXSW 2016 began, I wrote, “I can’t think of another current Austin band more iconic or resonant,” regarding weirdo punk rockers Big Bill. The band evidenced their vitality the next day at Austin’s best venue, Cheer Up Charlies, at a show sponsored by Virtual Reality company YouVisit. With wild antics and unhinged punk rock, Big Bill plowed through an electrifying set of songs.

Big_Bill_at_YouVisit_Showcase-8Frontman Eric Braden wasted little time before storming out into the crowd where he jostled various concertgoers who either played along by dancing and jostling back or merely grinned good naturedly while watching the spectacle unfold. Clad in a flowing, unbuttoned dress, Braden even climbed onto the small wall that partitions the restroom entrances from the main floor area, leaning out over the crowd as he gripped the rafters. Big Bill’s songs are strange and hilarious with lyrics akin to Violent Femmes or The Dead Milkmen. And while the songs are memorable for these reasons, the band’s live performance is unforgettable.

Big_Bill_at_YouVisit_Showcase-3So often, a live show consists of a group of musicians going through the motions of performing their songs. The renditions might be particularly accurate or well-achieved, but it’s rare that acts do much to set themselves apart from the average show. With their commitment to oddity, Big Bill won’t be able to endear themselves to every listener, but no one will be able to forget attending a live performance. The contagious joy is obvious in the grins plastered on the faces of the crowd members encircling Braden as he traipses through the mass of people. It’s this sort of immediacy that has always make punk and small independent rock shows exciting and enticing. We certainly saw a handful of other SXSW shows that deserve commendation, but none more engaging and lasting than Big Bill’s. Check out photos from the night below.

All photographs © Bryan C. Parker & Pop Press International; all rights reserved. Click any image to open set in slideshow viewer.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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