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Tasha the Amazon | © Sarah Karney
Tasha the Amazon | © Sarah Karney
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10 Standout Acts From the SXSW Music Festival 2017

Picture of Sarah Karney
Updated: 7 April 2017
Every March, SXSW invites thousands of artists to perform for an international audience in hopes of reaching new fans and breaking through the noise. The chaotic five days of showcases and parties leave visitors with exhausted bodies, exuberant hearts, and plenty of new music to keep their playlists full for the rest of the year. Check out these 10 standout acts from this year’s SXSW Music Festival.

DUCKWRTH

DUCKWRTH is everything a quintessential SXSW breakout artist should be: barrier-breaking, genre-bending, and sensually idiosyncratic. Gracefully weaving between genres including hip-hop, R&B, and funk, DUCKWRTH is the complete multidimensional artist, from his personal style to the illustrations he creates to accompany his own music. His backing band, made up of equally eccentric characters, are an essential part of the package that will undoubtedly be well known in the near future.

Khruangbin

Everything about Khruangbin is both mysterious and irresistibly entrancing, from their name, which means “engine fly,” or airplane in Thai, to their look, complete with matching bobs for the guitarist and bassist, to their slowly building and enveloping psychedelic soundscapes. Though the trio originates from Texas, they pull inspiration for their music and vibe from 1960s Thai rock and funk culture. They’re a one-of-a-kind, must-see live experience that can’t be truly understood through video and audio clips alone.

Tunde Olaniran

Tunde Olaniran would turn heads just by walking into a venue, whether he was performing or not. Part-pop, part-rap, and part-glam rock with a hint of drag culture, Tunde has a massive presence, not unlike that of Prince or Lady GaGa, that somehow makes you feel more confident just by partaking as a passerby. But rather than send yourself spinning trying to categorize him—just give in to the delightful quirk and dance.

Anna Wise

You’re likely already an Anna Wise fan and don’t even know it. After appearing on multiple Kendrick Lamar tracks, including “Money Trees,” and taking home a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2016, she branched out with her own solo project, The Feminine: Act I. She made waves at SXSW with her glitchy, sultry, fem-positive pop; you can catch her next on tour with Lewis Del Mar.

J.I.D

Rappers owned SXSW 2017—there’s no doubt about it. J.I.D led the pack, giving multiple exhilarating, high-energy, and highly talked about performances throughout the week. Hailing from Atlanta and affiliated with EarthGang and Dreamville, J.I.D shows the same thoughtful lyricism combined with quick-spitting over fresh Atlanta beats.

Tasha the Amazon

The gloves are off with Tasha the Amazon—she hits hard. She played at least one show per day during SXSW this year, but her energy and poise never faltered. Though both her beats and flow are striking, her style is cool and sui generis, keeping her audiences locked in and engaged for the duration of her vibrant sets.

S U R V I V E

The Austin-based band that gained recognition for their eerie background sounds in the Netflix hit show Stranger Things had a stellar SXSW 2017. Their retro-synth sound was coupled with psychedelic projections, making for an enjoyable chill set in an otherwise hectic week. SXSW was just the first of a huge festival tour for them; next up is Coachella in April.

Jamila Woods

Another voice you may recognize, Chicago-based Jamila Woods appeared as the smoky, soulful female accompaniment on some of Chance the Rapper’s latest tracks, including “Blessings.” She released her debut album, HEAVN, just under a year ago, and has been gaining attention ever since with her shrewd poetry, astute world views, and unabashed, artistic activism. As she showed during this year’s SXSW Music Festival, she’s just getting started.

Smino

The timing is right for Smino to blow up and put St. Louis back on everyone’s radar. He released his debut album, blkswn, on March 14, 2017, just a few days before SXSW, on a date symbolizing his city’s area code. Around the same time, he was announced as Apple’s New Artist of the Week. His soulful and groovy sound is filled with smart, sing-song rhymes, reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar, and warm production, and translates well to a live show.

Conrad Clifton

Brooklyn’s Conrad Clifton’s sound is a combination of smooth, chillwave, and tropical/deep house beats. He provided a cool mini-vacation for exhausted crowds and had a refreshing sound compared to the many interchangeable electronic acts that dominated the EDM space during SXSW this year. His personal brand and appearance carry on this cool vibe, relying heavily on warm, saturated colors and neon-themed fonts that make his merch desirable even to those who have never heard his music.