SXSW Online music picks: Sample sounds from around the world
After having no music festival in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, South by Southwest returns this year with a scaled-down online event. Over the past decade, SXSW typically presented around 2,000 musical performers, but for the streaming festival, the roster has been culled to roughly 280.
This year's showcases, running March 16-20, are programmed on three channels in blocks of 30 minutes to an hour. They're open to SXSW registrants only. More than half of this year's showcasing artists are international, and many have filmed their sets in unique locations that will give the viewer a look at life in their home city or country.
International acts always have had a strong presence at SXSW, but the online nature of this year's event "opened up a lot of opportunities for people who normally wouldn’t be able to get here," said James Minor, head of SXSW Music Festival.
Minor's curation of the online event was guided by his belief that "a virtual show is never going to replace seeing a live band in a room. and you shouldn’t try to." Still, he said the fest will remain open to continuing some virtual options even after SXSW returns to in-person attendance in the future.
"It’s something we'd always wanted to do," Minor said. "Streaming was something people had projected would be a big deal, but until we were all forced into this situation, it was pretty slow-moving. Now you see the tech improving at a very fast rate.”
What follows are some highlights of the online music fest. Showcases are available only in the specified time window; some of them might be made available on demand after the festival for SXSW registrants.
3:30 p.m.: Sounds Swedish. Presented by Westside Music Sweden and Sensus, this half-hour showcase presents 19-year-old pop multi-instrumentalist Mimi Bay of Gothenburg, along with Stockholm rock band Vero, which released a second EP, “Heaven on Earth,” last year. — P.B.
5 p.m.: EQ Austin Presents KUTX The Breaks. Talent on Austin’s hip-hop scene runs deep, and it’s time for the city as a whole to get on board. The three rappers at the top of this bill — “Ballsy” spitta Mama Duke, trap king the Teeta and soulful lyricist Deezie Brown —all feel poised on the verge of a breakout. Producer, JaRon Marshall, whose jazzy meditation “The Black Power Tape” was a potent reflection on last year’s unrest, and uplifting rhyme slinger J Soulja are also on the bill. — D.S.S.
5 p.m.: Sounds From Spain. With a mission of supporting “the internationalization" of the Spanish music industry, Sounds From Spain presents three acts in this hourlong showcase. Candeleros, from Madrid, describes its music as psychedelic Afro-Caribbean cumbia with “cinematic atmospheres and tunes that seem to come from an old episode" of "The Twilight Zone." The four-piece rock band Belako, from Spain’s northern coast, got even more creative than that in describing their music to U.K. publication NME, claiming that they sound like “a coven having a rave at a former train station in the year 2999.” They appeared in person at SXSW in 2018. Rounding out the bill is Alien Tango, a singer-songwriter from the southeastern Spanish city of Murcia. — P.B.
6 p.m.: Legendary SOBs. The Soho club also known as Sounds of Brazil kicks off three nights of music with a hip-hop and soul showcase that includes appearances from rising R&B duo Lion Babe, Bolivian American singer Jacque and rapper Ninoman. The showcase continues on Wednesday and Thursday with two Latinx nights. — D.S.S.
7 p.m.: AfroFuture Sounds presented by British Underground and DAJU. For this year’s trip into the British Underground, BBC broadcaster Remi Burgz leads an Afrobeat excursion, examining the genre’s evolution and the many subgenres it has birthed. Featured artists include dub poet Loshh, bedroom “Gangsta” Darkoo and stylish dance floor sizzler Wavy the Creator. — D.S.S.
8 p.m.: Jazz re:freshed Outernational. For close to two decades, the West London jazz residency has pushed to redefine the classic form for a diverse, post-internet generation. This showcase is a perennial SXSW fave for lovers of impeccable instrumental chops, heady electronics and soulful grooves. This year's bill includes tuba player Theon Cross, saxophonist Camilla George and pianist Doom Cannon. The showcase gets a venue upgrade, moving from the vacant Emo’s space on Sixth and Red River streets to legendary London recording studio Abbey Road. — D.S.S.
8 p.m.: Seitrack. Mexican actress and pop star Ximena Sariñana leads a stellar bill that includes energetic electro-funk innovators Kinky and stadium-swaying rock outfit DLD. — D.S.S.
12:30 p.m.: Mercury KX Presents. The London-based avant-classical label kicks off the first of three sublime lunchtime interludes with a 30-minute set from Argentinian cellist and composer Sebastian Plano. The showcase continues Thursday with Australian pianist Sophie Hutchings and Friday with German pianist Lambert. On Saturday, Australian pianist Luke Howard perfo. — D.S.S.
5 p.m.: Black Fret. The music patron nonprofit that began in Austin and now also has a chapter in Seattle has given away more than $1 million in grants to more than 100 Austin acts since launching in 2014. Their lineup for this hourlong SXSW showcase features Ley Line and Eimarol Sol, both alumni of Austin360’s Artist of the Month series, along with Sydney Wright, Motenko, PR Newman, American Dreamer and Buffalo Hunt. — P.B.
5 p.m.: La Buena Fortuna. A Puerto Rican company that launched during the pandemic, La Buena Fortuna will feature four acts from its home country in this hourlong showcase — Villano Antillano, Circo, Enyel C and Christian Pagan — along with Spanish group Travis Birds. — P.B.
9 p.m.: Sounds Australia. Perennially a major presence at SXSW known for the popular Aussie BBQ event on Sixth Street, this Down Under marketing firm will be a big part of this year’s online event, as well. Things kick off on Wednesday with an hourlong show featuring Lazy Eyes, Shannen James, Hachiku, Baker Boy, Sycco and Alexander Biggs. Another follows at the same time on Thursday with Alice Skye, Kee’ahn, Beans, Death by Denim, Chats and Kota Banks & Ninajirachi. The finale on Friday features Didirri, Merindas, Jaguar Jonze, Indigo Sparke, No Money Enterprise and Hauskey. — P.B.
3:30 p.m.: Third Culture. Lose yourself in dreamy electro-R&B soundscapes as Mumbai singer Kayan spins raw sensuality through a gauze-filtered lens tinted with sadness. Then slip into the velvet-walled glitter palace inhabited by JBabe, lead singer of Chennai-based indie pop outfit the F16s, who titled his solo debut “'Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin To Bleed a Bit.'
5 p.m.: EQ Austin & Black Fret. A second Black Fret showcase teams the music patron group with EQ Austin, which works to “stimulate cultural representation and foster economic prosperity” in the local music and creative scenes, according to its website. A great lineup for this showcase is anchored by Jake Lloyd and Ray Prim, along with singer-songwriter Betty Soo, cumbia purveyors Como Las Movies and rapper Mike Melinoe. — P.B.
5 p.m.: Music From Ireland. An Irish music export office run by First Music Contact and the government agency Culture Ireland, MFI presents its country’s bands at many annual global gatherings, including SXSW. Taking part in this hourlong streamed event are four Dublin acts — Pillow Queens, Ailbhe Reddy, Rachael Lavelle and Aoife Nessa Frances — plus Maynooth’s Tebi Rex and Dundalk’s Just Mustard. — P.B.
6 p.m.: Taiwan Beats. Four Taiwanese artists lead a tour of their island home. The Chairs serenade workers at an indoor fishing restaurant with their lilting indie rock; NekoJam plays upbeat power pop at a Taoist temple; punk rockers Fire Ex match the industrial grind of their sound to a factory; and indie-pop artist Enno Cheng plays in front of a high mountain range. — D.S.S.
6:30 p.m. Care Free Black Girl. Savannah rapper, community organizer and entrepreneur Quanna Bolden’s lifestyle brand aims “to promote solutions for women of color to keep striving in spite of their obstacles.” Kick your sexy self into weekend mode with a seven-act power set that includes brash and nasty rhymes from Baltimore’s Baby Kahlo, blunted soul from ATL duo the Queendom and sultry singer Demi Grace’s buoyant club seductions. — D.S.S.
3:30 p.m.: “The Showcase Must Go On.” Finnish loudspeaker manufacturer Genelec teamed with international-focused agency Music Finland on this half-hour showcase that features three very different acts. At 25, pop singer Alma already has had several top 10 hits in her own country and has collaborated with Charli XCX and Miley Cyrus. Electronica artist and producer Yotto has done remixes of Coldplay, Diplo, Gorillaz and others, racking up more than 100 million streams on Spotify, and has made waves in dance music with his label, Odd One Out. Perhaps most intriguing is Antti Paalanen, whose world music is centered on accordion-based Finnish folk music but also draws upon EDM beats and Siberian throat-singing. — P.B.
5 p.m.: Wide Days Scotland. A decade-old festival held in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh in April, Wide Days Scotland is presenting four Scottish acts in this hourlong showcase. Edinburgh duo the Jellyman’s Daughter teams Emily Kelly and Graham Coe, who mix folk, bluegrass, pop, chamber music and more on their recent album “Dead Reckoning.” Glaswegian singer-songwriter Kapil Seshasayee merged elements ranging from electronica to Indian classical guitar on his 2018 debut album, “A Sacred Bore.” The Glaswegian punk duo Memes formed in 2019 and recently released its debut EP on Fierce Panda Records. Dead Pony, also from Glasgow, describes its music as “a grunge-infused sound akin to Bikini Kill, Wolf Alice and Queens Of The Stone Age.” — P.B.
5 p.m.: Hotel Vegas and Hotel Free TV. In the before times, it never felt like you’d fully experienced SXSW if you didn’t make it far enough down East Sixth Street to stand in a line wrapped around the side of beloved indie-rock dive Hotel Vegas. The club’s in-house streaming station, Hotel Free TV, serves up a selection of signature Vegas sounds. Chief Cleopatra injects a blast of burning blues rock into a celebration of pop psychedelia that also includes sets from international touring sensation Holy Wave, rapidly rising romantics Sasha and the Valentines and next wave shoegaze standouts Blushing. — D.S.S.
8 p.m.: Marca Unica. Sarah “YaYa” Yazdanpanah, a Houston-based tastemaker, artist rep and author of the blog yayainthecity.com, presents the next generation of regional Mexican artists in a showcase featuring Janine, Valez Garza and Diamante Perez. — D.S.S.
11 a.m.: Nine Mile Records & Touring. Both a record label and a booking agency, Nine Mile has been a key player in recent years for Austin indie and roots acts. Their SXSW lineup features some of the city’s finest performers, including soulful duo the Greyhounds, accomplished folk-rock outfit the Deer, indie-country sensation Carson McHone and former Uncle Lucius frontman Kevin Galloway. — P.B.
2 p.m.: Jon Dee Graham & William Harries Graham. Austin music die-hards who’ve greatly missed iconic South Congress Avenue venue the Continental Club during the pandemic will have a chance to catch a showcase that was filmed there in this half-hour presentation. Wednesday nights at the club have long featured separate sets by Graham family patriarch Jon Dee and his younger son, William, but for this night they teamed up, each joining the other’s band. — P.B.
5 p.m.: Heard We Gon’ Make It. The team behind Empire Control Room & Garage has made a classic ATX hip-hop anthem from the League of Extraordinary Gz their recovery mantra. The bill for this one features top Austin talents Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Kelsey Wilson’s Sir Woman and Golden Dawn Arkestra. Nané, who was poised for a breakout going into last year’s festival, will also perform. Somewhat oddly, there is no hip-hop on the roster. — D.S.S.
6 p.m.: Beatbites/AOMG. In the years since former K-pop sensation Jay Park emerged as an in-demand rapper, he’s used his label AOMG to elevate other Korean hip-hop and R&B artists looking for an avenue outside the industry machine. The label presents the sounds of Seoul with steamy singer Devita; Sogumm’s post-bubble gum pop; rappers Woo and Loco; and DJ Wegun. — D.S.S.
6 p.m.: Yamaha Guitars & BGS Presents. The noted instrument manufacturer and online roots-music community BGS, aka the Bluegrass Situation, presents an hourlong showcase focused on Americana music. New West Records artist Aaron Lee Tasjan, a Nashville guitarist who toured with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ before launching his solo career, has received widespread acclaim for his latest album, “Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!” Singer-songwriter Katie Cole moved to Nashville from her native Australia, and in addition to making her own music, she has been a touring keyboardist with Smashing Pumpkins and recorded a duet with Kris Kristofferson. Jade Jackson & Aubrie Sellers, from Los Angeles, had accomplished careers on their own but teamed up to write a song during the pandemic and decided to pursue a full-on collaboration. This will be their first public performance together. — P.B.