SXSW Live Shot: Kashmere Stage Band Thunder Soul Orchestra

Houston funk juggernaut meets the godfather of soul

In its original late-Sixties/early-Seventies incarnation, Houston’s Kashmere High School Band was begun by visionary music teacher Conrad Johnson, who sharpened the students into a crack ensemble whose brawny, fluid, big-band sound was as powerful as those of funk’s best-known pioneers.

While Johnson’s influence changed the lives of his students in ways that went far beyond music, the orchestra released LPs that eventually fell into the hands of modern DJs, hip-hop artists and R&B fetishists. The resurgence helped spawn an unexpected rediscovery that became 2011’s inspirational documentary Thunder Soul, and sparked a rebirth for the now branded Kashmere Stage Band’s Thunder Soul Orchestra as a live act featuring alumni of the original group.

Photo by Sandy Carson

On Sixth Street Wednesday night, the descendent outfit’s joyous, rousing, mini-revue proved the current lineup to be more than capable of carrying the original group’s mantle. A well-oiled 12-piece including a six-man horn section, the crack unit radiated effortless charisma, ingratiating showmanship, old-school audience engagement, and a volcanic instrumental rapport that was equally impressive in its heavy funk originals andnods to P-Funk, Public Enemy, and James Brown.

The musicians were particularly impressive in acing an extended medley of Brown tunes, stamping their own personality on the material while negotiating the songs’ rhythmic challenges. They demonstrated a confidence and expertise that belied the band’s non-pro origins and an elemental sense of uplift instantly disarming whatever cynicism might be ingrained in any music festival.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Angel Olsen Entrances Mohawk
Angel Olsen Entrances Mohawk
Her other shoe drops tonight at the Red River favorite

Abby Johnston, Feb. 7, 2017

Out of the Gutter
Out of the Gutter
The Bulemics grow up

Tim Stegall, April 1, 2016

More by Scott Schinder
Music DVDs
The Byrd Who Flew Alone: The Triumphs and Tragedy of Gene Clark

Dec. 19, 2014

Box Sets
Bob Dylan & The Band
The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (Record Review)

Dec. 12, 2014


Kashmere Stage Band Thunder Soul, SXSW Music 2014, Conrad Johnson, James Brown

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle