SXSW needs very little introduction or explanation. Beginning in 1987 it has outlasted the young lives of many of our contributors and students at University of Houston. The week long festival takes over Austin and features up and coming artists near and far. This year featured Houston native bands Deep Cuts and Wild Moccasins; as well as artists as far as Bangkok, Thailand. The festival has evolved over its 30+ years to include think tanks, key note speakers and innovators alongside the music. Coog Radio sent Parnia Razinobakht and Taylor Marron to experience the festival first hand. Check out their recaps of the music below!
A fresh electro-pop trio from Australia, Haiku Hands brought their energetic DIY style to SXSW. Their first time performing in the U.S., they definitely pleased the crowd. With brilliant choreography, they were perfectly in sync but also had their moments where they freestyled and preserved their individuality moments. They played one of their most popular hits, and my personal favorite, “Squat.” With a reggae-inspired beat, they had everyone dancing with them as they vibrated the entire venue. In their coordinated outfits, they also had different masks and headpieces they wore for different songs. In addition to their vibrant music, their unique and interesting visual elements brought their performance to a higher level. They were sunny, happy, exciting, and definitely my favorite set to kick off SX music week on Tues., March 12th.
Familiar with their hit song “Why iii Love the Moon,” I was excited to finally see the soulful band Phony Ppl from Brooklyn, NY on Weds., March 13th. They were even better than I imagined, and I loved that the whole band really connected as one, as opposed to just the lead singer standing out. Each member got a little solo part of the set, and the talent each of them brought was showcased. They were comfortable on stage, connected well with their audience, got everyone to sing along, and elevated the energy of the entire space. Although they defy and refuse to conform to any genre, their inspiration from soul music shines through; while they also create a progressive sound that appeals to younger listeners. Combining their soul and jazz influence with an indie-rock flair, Phony Ppl are created a special space in music. With high energy, vulnerability, and charisma with their audience, seeing the band play at SX was definitely a highlight out of my second day in Austin. Their set ended leaving me craving more of their sound, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to their latest album mō’zā-ik since.
I had heard of Yoshi Flower from his collaboration with electronic artist Elohim, and I loved seeing his own music bloom to life as he played at SX on Thurs., March 14th. With a rather small crowd, he didn’t let that stop him from going hard and bringing all his energy to the set. He’s goth but light at the same time and I love how contradictory and intriguing both his music and persona are. His quirkiness and warmth were the first thing I noticed and what made his stand out from the rest of the day. I loved his vivid personality. Although unexpected, it made a lot of sense with his lyrics and understanding the underlying messages of his music. He sings about things like being bullied, being a misfit, being gay, and simply having fun with friends. Making jokes, throwing water bottles, and smoking a cigarette on stage, he brought sass and went hard shredding on his guitar at the same time. His song “Brown Paper Bag” was my personal favorite from the set. Definitely an impressive set for a fresh artist like himself, I really enjoyed the indie-pop meets electronic twist he brought with his music. Deserving of a larger crowd, there’s no doubt Yoshi Flower is an artist to look out for this year.
A psychedelic-rock band, Crumb brought a great set to SXSW on Thurs., March 14th. With lead singer Lila Ramani’s warm and beautiful vocals stealing the spotlight, their set was the highlight of my day. With the warm afternoon sun and Lila’s perfect voice, the afternoon melted into the evening as everyone bobbed and swayed while completely enveloped by the music. All the way from Brooklyn, NY, these young musicians delivered an impressive set. Although they had their imperfect and off-key moments and they came off as shy or distant from the crowd, I appreciated their raw talent and the calmness their music imparted. Meeting when they were students and still being very young, I think they were relatable to the young fans who were there. They also seemed very down to earth with their simple style. Their song “Locket” was my favorite that they played, but they also played a few unreleased tracks, which made me excited to hear the future music they put out as they grow as artists.
Playing at SXSW for the first time, DJ and producer Femme did not disappoint with her fabulous set on Thurs., March 14th. With a simple setup and classic London disco style, Femme made the crowd dance from start to finish of her set. It was easily the most fun set I saw during my week at SX music, and everyone seemed so happy and uplifted as they danced their nights away. With a classic European house sound, Femme brings the simplicity we love about traditional EDM and its House Music roots, but she also adds her own unique flair with the vocals/features and modernized production. She DJed an incredible mix of music, transitioning perfectly into some of her old and new songs. Her latest single “What You Gonna Do?” was my favorite, as she ended the set with it and dropped all of her remaining energy into the track and its performance. Across the crowd, as everyone was vibing and dancing, I saw people from all ages and walks of life enjoying her music. She was incredibly genuine in connecting with her diverse fans, as she stopped to chat and take photos when she got off stage. Being so authentic and simple in such a convoluted modern genre, Femme takes us back and uplifts us with her energetic electronic music.
Australia House, featuring nothing but Australian artists, showcased one singer-songwriter who left and returned to music only to get better each time. Jarryd James was the last act of the evening on Thurs., March 14th and a few hundred people were huddled in the backyard of the bar just to see him. The crowd did not budge, all eyes were on James as he performed his soulful tunes. Although James is not a high energy performer, his delicate vocals hold the listener’s attention. And as soon as “Do You Remember” started playing, the audience grew in size, with many mouthing the words to the hit. He does still need to grow as a performer, but has remained a strong song writer throughout his career. Check out my interview with Jarryd James to learn about him and his decision to choose music as his full time gig.
Step on the glass and staple your tongue because Billie Eilish gave a hair raising performance at SXSW on Sat., March 16th. Concert goers could not get enough of the 17-year-old rising pop queen. Shoulder to shoulder, the crowd squeezed tightly into the venue, making it nearly impossible to catch a glimpse of Eilish past the first few rows.
Opening with the chilling American Horror Story theme song, Eilish proved that the audience was in for an unpredictable night. She began her 12 song set with “My Boy” from her EP Don’t Smile At Me and also performed “Idontwannabeyouanymore” and “Ocean Eyes” from the 2017 EP. Eilish slowed the night down with her soft, angelic vocals as she performed “lovely” featuring Khalid, followed by some earlier singles like “Bored” and “b*tches broken hearts.”
The bass pounded the room as Eilish performed “you should see me in a crown,” “wish you were gay” and “bury a friend” from her upcoming debut album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, that is set to release March 29th.
Her young spirit and energy made for an entertaining night as she poked fun at the fact that she was a 17-year-old teenager performing to a 21 and over crowd. “What’s it like?” she joked with the audience and even challenged the crowd to channel their youth. “I know you guys are over 21,” said Eilish, “but you still know how to jump, right? Prove to me that you’re not old!”
Taking the challenge head on, the audience sprung from the ground as Eilish closed the night with “COPYCAT,” only to have the audience craving more.
“I know you guys are over 21,” said Eilish, “but you still know how to jump, right? Prove to me that you’re not old!”
Danny Brasco was one of the many DJs who had the opportunity of showcasing their skills at SXSW. His Mexican heritage bleeds heavy into his set though, separating him from the others on the scene. On Sat., March 16th Brasco messed around with his audio by playing the same sound clip over and over, assuming he was testing it out, but managed to erase the annoying sound by starting a bass booming set. He had a short set of 15 minutes but found a cohesive blend of tracks between new and older Spanish songs with a few Top 40 English tracks splashed throughout the set. He heavily relied on Spanish rap and steered clear of popular club bangers. His transitions were smooth, the songs were flowing and the audience became a sea of beat nodding heads.