n 2005, Erika Wennerstrom saved South by Southwest. Thanks to record-setting attendance, most of the Austin music fest's big-name shows were reduced to laminate-only status, leaving real music fans in the cold...that is, until Wennerstrom's Heartless Bastards snuck in with a '70s rock blast that any casual fan could attend--and fall in love with. The Dayton, Ohio three-piece was more than adequate at whipping up a stripped-down, to-the-gut take on Zeppelin's glory, but Wennerstrom's soulful, low-register singing against the noise gave these Bastards their heart.
She's not ignorant about her unique voice, either--"I have a lot more influence from guy singers," she says, "Otis Redding, Iggy Pop, and I really like Robert Plant." When asked about SXSW, Wennerstrom admits that "there's definitely still some [shyness] there. Sometimes, I can't tell if the audience is into it, and at that show, I remember being really, really nervous." That shyness was a big factor in waiting until two years ago to finally form a band and play the songs she'd been writing since 1999, a fact that's hard to stomach with pipes and stage presence as confident as hers. Pardon my overhyping, but if you don't arrive early enough on Friday for the Bastards' opening set, you'll regret it. Find me at the front singing along.