Top 5 SXSW 2017 New Artist Debuts
Every year I do South By Southwest I tell myself I’m going to take it easy and not try too hard to have to see every artist and every year I end up seeing a comical amount of shows by the time I tally it up. This year I managed to see at least a part of 53 shows for the week. I’ve created a playlist of one track from each of those shows to act as a little scrapbook souvenir of the week. I’ll include that at the end of the post along with my playlist for my favorite new songs that I saw live throughout the week.
To distill my experience a little more, here are my top 5 shows from new artists that I discovered in the last half year or so. I’m not including the shows I saw from more established artists who came back to play the festival, like Banks (who was fucking amazing btw — she had amazing swagger and dance choreography), but there were some good ones there as well.
Biggest trend I noticed this year: EDM is out! I barely noticed any DJs this year — it was the year of R&B singers and solo artist-producers fusing many different music styles.
About halfway through her set during the YouTube showcase at the Coppertank my buddy Ram asked me if I recognized the cover song she was playing as Harvest Moon. I squinted my eyes (because that’s what I do when I want to listen more intently) and realized “Holy crap, those are the lyrics to Harvest Moon!”Rogers had transformed the song into a pulsing, ascendant dance song that begged you to not only move your body, but also sing at the top of your lungs. It was at that moment that I realized I was watching something truly special — definitely the best and most lasting performance for me at sxsw this year.
Her single “Alaska” propelled her to be noticed (especially with the Pharrell Masterclass YouTube video), but she’s got the voice and songwriting/production chops to back it up.
I was debating whether to catch either Khalid or Rag ’N’ Bone Man and made the call to see Khalid do one of his 3 precious performances at sxsw after seeing that “Location” had almost 70 million streams on Spotify already. It’s safe to say that he’s no longer “under the radar.” The crowd at the RCA Showcase at Container Bar sang along to every word as if they all grew up with Khalid in El Paso. (They probably did)
If it weren’t for song titles like “American Teen” and “Young, Dumb & Broke”, you’d be hard pressed to have any inkling that Khalid is only 18 years old. With a voice and production sheen that sounds like an optimistic version of Frank Ocean meets Drake, the dude is literally the voice of a generation.
With a voice that sounds like Lana del Rey with more attitude and less dreamy-ness, Billie Eilish packed the inside room at Mohawk so much that the crowd had to crane their necks to catch a glimpse of her from the doorway even at 1pm.
“Ocean Eyes” is an amazing track and I got chills throughout her entire performance of the song. Then I discovered that she’s only fifteen years old and my mind just exploded. Very bright future for this kid ahead.
With her whimsical, childlike outfit, 20-year old Norwegian Sigrid looked like she could have been part of the same Mickey Mouse Club that brought us so many American popstars.
“Don’t Kill My Vibe” is an anthem of the summer type track. It’s an absolute smash, and every time I hear the crescendo on the second chorus it makes me want to headbang and strut like Conor McGregor. The song has gotten such a following that someone’s even made an Instagram account called “SigridsVibe”. That thing has no chill for sure.
I caught Matt Maeson at the Neon Gold Showcase at Empire Control Room sandwiched between Tei Shi and The Japanese House. 10pm may not have been the best time slot for the solo singer-songwriter and his acoustic guitar, but I enjoyed his storytelling in between songs, which included an anecdote about finding inspiration from sneaking into the rooftop of a Wendy’s to spend a night while hustling on tour.
“Cringe” is one of my favorite new songs in the past year and it was far and away the highlight of his set. Maeson’s voice is powerful and his chords resonate strongly.