SXSW 2018 Recap & Thoughts
South by Southwest (SXSW) 2018 is well over, but I wanted to finally post some select artist highlights and closing thoughts to the whole week. In the spirit of full disclosure, a good chunk of these artists are new friends or events thrown by friends. I don’t consider this a “Best of SXSW 2018” or even a best of SXSW as a whole, but more of a sample of the events and artists I watched. This was by far the best SXSW I’ve had in years and there were too many things to write. I’ll start by recapping the major events.
While it’s the only event I tend to work and can be stressful at times, it’s always fun hanging out with my Diamond Club family. It also doesn’t hurt that the event had amazing performances by The Possum Posse and Int 80 of Dual Core. It’s usually my first event for SXSW and gives me a taste of things to come in future days. Always fun, always worth it.
What I’m hoping will be a new event I go to year in year out, I was pretty impressed with the Taiwan Beats showcase. With amazing DJs and excellent electronica, it was one of the best ways to kick off my SXSW music experience this year. All the acts were amazing with the stand out performances by Sonia Calico & Ruby Fatale. It was something new for me and something I do look forward to seeing again next year.
This was my first time at this showcase event and I’m hoping won’t be my last. While I was drawn to the event to see Sammus perform, I had never heard anyone else on the label she’s released through. What I learned was why it was that she was on Don Giovanni while listening to some amazing punk, rock, and everything else. The long short of it this: Everyone on the label has that punk spirit. Not the genre, but the attitude of punk. The unyielding attitude of being you.
I hope this is a new tradition for me for future SXSW. Vincent Banks (better known as DJ R.O.C.K.M.A.N) and team did an amazing job booking top tier artists from around the country. It shows the breadth and width this genre has in terms of talent, approaches, and influences. In some ways, it kind of feels like a testing ground for future nerdcore showcase performers. While I know how much work it takes to throw each of the events, I seriously hope Vincent does more of these in the future. Every act that graced any of the three stages were amazing and well worth listening to: Star Fighter Dreams, Mag.lo, Tayy Tarntino, Bitforce, Gross Angel, O-Super, None Like Joshua, and ChocoBros.
There are few things I can say I’ve gone to for the past six or so years straight. It was my first SXSW tradition and one I don’t miss. This year was an amazing lineup. The event opened up with singer and guitar player Kiho giving an amazing accoustic act.
It then went straight into the crazy with Prankroom, a mashup of Hip-Hop and J-Pop (something I didn’t know I wanted). However, the crowd highlight was Mika Shinno with backing musciains Chiro Yamazaki+Route14 Band. Hearing her and an amazing Jazz band perform felt like I was in a 1920s film noir dream and some how in Japan as an American gumshoe. It might have been the most original way to close out a night, but it’s what I’ve come to expect from an event that never disapoints. Japan Nite is one of the only events during SXSW that I know will be a solid bet, will have quality acts, and will always surprise me year in year out. As much as I like all the other events I’ll talk about here, I will not miss Japan Nite. Going to it each year is like going to a family reunion and I love every minute.
No matter the year, the Nerdcore Showcase always has a solid lineup, with plenty of fam on the stage. Usually it’s the last event for my SXSW music experience and has become the best capper. To keep is short, every act that graced the stage was amazing. If there is a single stand out, it would have to be Kadesh Flow’s performance of his new song Glassy Eyes, featuring another NPC Collective member EyeQ (full disclosure: I am also a member of said collective). A perfect end for an amazing SXSW.
I wanted to at the very least write a little blurb on the SXSW Gaming Expo, speicifically the SXSW Gaming Awards and the community pick of Battlesloths. While the expo was great and I saw some amazing board games and video games, the highlight for sure was hearing my friends at Invisible Collective win the community selected award at the show. It was the best capper for the end of my SXSW week and made for an amazing end.
Before I go into some of the artist highlights, I decided to limit it to one act per event. Overall though, this year no matter what music event I went to, every performer was excellent. This is just to keep the article a bit shorter and actually able to come out in some sort of complete form.
Throughout the convention, I was tasked with picking up friends, new friends, and fellow NPC Collective fam. One of those was Lex the Lexicon Artist. After picking her up from the airport and having a pretty fun discussion on an intro to Austin of sorts, I’d drop her off where she was staying for the night and head on back home. It wouldn’t be until later in the week that I’d see her perform. There are those musicians you think you know how they’ll perform live, there are those musicians you think you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into, and then there are those musicians you are not quite prepared for. The kind of musicians that blows you away with a command for a live performance. The kind of musician that not only owns the mic, but the stage and the audience. Lex is that type of musicians. Her music is great, her flow is excellent, and rhymes are on point. With what I saw at each Nerdcore Dayz, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d see her performing at an SXSW showcase in the near future. If you can’t catch her live, make sure to listen to her music.
If it’s not apparent, I’m a big electronica fan and with that comes a love for electronic music in all its forms. This year’s SXSW was filled with a number of acts each bringing some form of electronica, especially in the soundscape side. Ruby Fatale, pitched as “an audio/visual experimental band (source),” produced some amazing music that hit me right away. It was ambient, glitchy, and gave me a cyberpunk dream I didn’t know I needed. If you’re a fan of electronica and need something with a bit more ambient/glitchy feel, add Ruby Fatale to your mix.
To keep in that electronica line, Machìna was one of the acts I was looking forward to checking out, if for nothing more than to add some more strange musicv to the mix. What I would get is this live soundscape built on patch cables and beats. Once again, I drifted back to that cyberpunk dream. It was chill, ambient, and just strange enough to be something I really wanted to listen to more.
If there was a theme to this year’s SXSW for me, it was an increased amount of hip-hop from all places around the world. Such was the case with Japan Nite having two acts featuring some element of hip-hop and there was no greater example that increase than Rude-α, a hip-hop/R&B performer from Okinawa, Japan. Spreading a message of love and peace through music, Rude-α for me was one of my favorite acts throughout the entirety of Japan Nite. In ways Rude-α reminds me a lot of another Japanese act Dragon Ash, having a similar sound, but somehow was more accessible. Hip-hop is the popular music form of this generation and we’re starting to see the world influence on the genre in ways we haven’t before and I couldn’t be happier.
SXSW means a lot of things to everyone. The best way I can explain what it means to me is with the following story. Every year since our first encounter, I’ve met up with my good friend from Germany Achim. No matter what the year, where the meet-up, we grab a drink and catch up. It has become one of the many traditions I look forward to each year. That is what this whole week is to me. The events are just simply the backdrop for me seeing friends from around the world. No matter where I went I was surrounded by fam and new friends. That’s the magic for me: it’s part music, part strange, but in the end it’s seeing my strange families from parts near and far. It’s a series of separate family reunions that make for a great week each year and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Until next year, I hope you all have found some new music or new events to look forward next SXSW.