For the first time in their more than 20 years together, Mexican ska band Panteón Rococó is performing at this year's South by Southwest -- a participation that for many is long overdue. But for Panteón, the timing couldn't be more perfect for them to take the stage at the annual Austin fest.
After performing in major music festivals around the world, like Switzerland's Paléo Fest, Argentina's Cosquin Rock and Mexico's Vive Latino, Panteón's performance at SXSW is really the first time they'll perform at a mainstream music fest in the U.S.
With hopes of one day performing at iconic fests like Coachella, SXSW is the ideal platform to begin their "integration into the mainstream," Panteón's lead vocalist Dr. Shenka tells Billboard ahead of SXSW.
Billboard caught up with Dr. Shenka to talk about their anticipated performance at SXSW and what it means for a band like Panteón Rococó -- known for songs about resistance, including "La carencia" and "Estrella roja" and their politically charged showcases -- to perform on this side of the border in the Trump era.
Panteón has performed in important festivals around the world, so why participate at a festival like SXSW, known for featuring emerging bands, now?
The band is just starting to participate in music festivals in the United States since we really focused on having an important presence in the European market. We've toured in the U.S. for many years now, but we've never really had a strong presence in mainstream festivals. While we're trying to open new doors and integrate ourselves in the mainstream market, SXSW is the place to be at. It's not only a festival; it's like an international fair where there will be promoters, producers and other industry people who we should connect with. It's time for Panteón to have a more important participation in U.S. music festivals. We think Panteón could be performing in festivals like Coachella, so that's the reason why we think it's a great idea to perform at SXSW now.
After more than 20 years together, what type of impact can a festival like SXSW have on the band?
It reinforces Panteón Rococó as one of the most important bands within the rock scene in Mexico. It's important to show the world what we've been doing these past 20 years.
SXSW will be one of your first shows in the U.S. since Donald Trump became president (Skanking Reggae in L.A. is their first U.S. show, on March 11). How does that affect a band like Panteón?
The messages of festivals like SXSW, Skanking and others is important because it supports that idea of breaking barriers in music. There are people from all over the world, and that is fundamental as we return to the U.S. in this new era. It's going to be interesting to see how the cultural interaction with our fans over there might change or might not. It also limits us with the speeches we give during our concerts. As a vocalist, I have to be careful this time around about how I will communicate my ideas with the audience. When I go perform in the U.S., I know that the fans are people who are not only there to have a good time or to listen to our music, they're also there to connect with their culture because they are immigrants or children of immigrants. It's important for the fans to know we have their back and we support them.
How do you prepare the set list for a fest like SXSW, and how important is it to include a political message in that performance when in some cases you have only 40 minutes onstage?
Usually, you have a limited amount of time onstage at a festival, so we can't really sing all of our songs, but obviously we'll play the classics and stuff. The message this time has to be about unity. We have to stick together, resist and confront what's coming in the next few years because it will be tough. Music will be very important during times like these. Panteón Rococó is known for speaking about issues that affect our community onstage and our fans actually expect and value that in our shows. We are part of their struggles. We also suffer discrimination. We use our platform to speak up and, together, walk toward a better path.
You guys are one of the few bands in Latin America that have stayed together for more than 20 years. What's the key for that type of success?
I don't think there is a key to success. More than anything, it's just really believing in yourself and the project you are presenting. You have to love and have passion for what you do, no matter what. It's what has allowed us to stay together for more than 20 years. Every sacrifice we've done is worth it when you see the audience react the way they do and connect with our songs.
What's next for Panteón?
We're spending the first half of the year performing on stages like Skanking Reggae and SXSW then we'll come back to Mexico to record our forthcoming album. To be able to celebrate more years together is a great accomplishment for us because we've come so far.