For seven whirlwind days, the SXSW Music Festival showcases emerging and established acts at venues all over Austin. Often accompanied by raucous parties, the performances, scheduled this year between March 11 and 17, leave visitors with exhausted bodies, high spirits and enough new music to keep their playlists fully charged for the next 12 months. If there’s one festival to plan for, it’s SXSW, and checking out these 10 acts definitely needs to be on your to-do list.
Back in 2016, this London quartet generated quite a bit of buzz with its breakout album, Full Circle. In 2019, HÆLOS are coming to SXSW, with a whole new crop of material, to kick off their North American tour. It looks like they’re primed to create another internet moment, and maybe even to secure their big break.
A native Austinite, Carson McHone released her sophomore album, Carousel, in October 2018. Her songs fuse the tradition of Texas country storytelling with roots music to create vignettes that demand the listener’s attention. McHone’s work has earned recognition from Rolling Stone, which named her as one of 10 new country-music acts to watch, in August 2017.
Need a beat to get your blood flowing? Look no further than Madam X. A prominent underground DJ in the UK, she is known for her mixing, and though her music hasn’t quite made it across the Atlantic, this looks set to change. Favoring bass-driven techno, with nods to gritty hip-hop, Madam X spins sets that are as experimental as they are intriguing. Deep techno is having a moment – think: Rezz – and it’s likely the scene, of which Madam X is an OG, will be on full display at SXSW.
If you’re a newcomer to electronic music, check out English singer, songwriter and producer Laura ‘FEMME’ Bettinson. An independent artist, Bettinson has rejected the advances of several labels over the years, and, with FEMME, has found popularity in her own right with a sound that falls somewhere between bass-heavy synth and electropop. Often compared to Grimes and MIA, her retro vibe and envelope-pushing sound combinations keep her music unique and her artistic integrity intact.
Lost Under Heaven
This innovative pair from Manchester, England, bring raw vocals and an energetic cacophony to their music. Listening to it, you feel every pick of guitar string and every vocal cord strain. Despite the clearly crafted rhythms, the duo can’t stop their emotion from leaking through the measures, creating a drive reminiscent of someone trying to control themselves as they deliver exciting news. If you love the blend of vocals, guitar and piano, Lost Under Heaven are a must-see.
Three-time Grammy winner and former Fugees frontman, Wyclef Jean is a pop superstar with a proven track record. However, his latest project is why you should really be paying attention to him at SXSW 2019. Titled Wyclef Goes Back to School, it’s a 12-track mixtape featuring the undiscovered talents of college students he encountered while giving music masterclasses across the United States. Perhaps you’ll see a fresh face or two on stage with the old master this spring in Austin.
Those who love the frills and fashion of K-pop are in for a treat with iKON. They were listed by Billboard – before they had even debuted – as one of the top five K-Pop artists to watch in 2015. Since then, they’ve had several chart-topping hits, which incorporate the classic electronic sounds of pop with Korean lyrics that, even if you don’t speak the language, you can’t help but try to sing along to. Plus, as an incredible dance group, you aren’t going to want to miss the choreography that these boys bring to the stage.
Ferris & Sylvester
This London duo is riding the waves of americana’s resurgence. Ferris & Sylvester’s dreamy pop sounds are spiked with the occasional steel pedal and rising emotional harmonies. As with any male-female harmony that relies heavily on blues licks, you can’t help but associate them with the White Stripes. However, they are less pared back and have a little more honey in their vocals, which just makes you want to grab a partner and dance. What’s more, music god Robert Plant gave the pair his blessing – that has to mean something.
Five teenagers from Los Angeles, Liily have everything you would expect from an alternative rock group that is, well, alternative. Forget cohesive melodies and storytelling, Liily creates music that makes you want to bang your head in a suburban strip-mall parking lot. And, in fact, that is exactly what their fans do. With wildly frenetic shows, the group and their fans come to tear up nightclub and warehouse dance floors. Liily’s energy makes the group unforgettable, the standard-bearers for what they call “suburban valley music from the future.”
Originally from Kenya, Kagwe has lived in South Africa and England, experiences that have influenced his musical style, which would best be described as trap-meets-hip-hop. His international approach has made Kagwe one of the best-known artists in Kenya, but besides partnering with American rapper and business mogul Diddy, he has yet to make it big outside Africa. That said, with a full album release set for 2019, his time is now. The album includes his new banger, Super Seena, which takes a popular children’s rhyme and sets it to irresistibly catchy afro-trap beats.