SXSW Day 1 Recap: Fresh Finds
As expected, my first day at SXSW was nothing short of mind blowing. From Mexican art studio Cocolab’s light-tapestry installation, to the performance of a lifetime from hip-hop up and comer Rico Nasty, the legendary Austin Based Festival did anything but disappoint. Over the course of the day, we saw over 10 performances, but here are our 3 absolute favorites of the day:
Energy: that is the only word that can accurately describe this performance. Sporting yellow jumpsuits, KOKOKO!, who hail from Kinshasa, clapped, sung, and chanted their way into the hearts of the crowd. Though not a word of English was spoken throughout the entire performance, festival-goers couldn’t help chanting along with their cheer-like tunes. This group is nominally of the electronic persuasion, but in reality their music cannot be so easily categorized. Each band member (bar two) was equipped with a home-made instrument. The would-be guitarist shredded on a plank with wires and a pot attached to it. Instead of a vibraphone, a percussionist smacked a carefully arranged set of plastic water bottles with mallets. The sounds that resulted were unique. This unorthodox approach to dance music was completed half-singing half emceeing, done entirely in Congolese. These were backed up by a DJ mixing thumping bass tracks, and a traditional drum set. Though their DIY instruments were undoubtedly the highlight of the show, thumping background provided by both DJ and drummer were crucial to the dancey feel of the show. KOKOKO! sang and chanted exuberantly, bringing their music to life both on stage, and in the crowd. Though many attendees were there for the following act, New York Rapper Rico Nasty, KOKOKO! cemented their place in the hearts, minds, and most probably SXSW recaps of everyone present.
After KOKOKO! finished their electric set, I was whiped. Forty-five minutes of intense dancing can take all of it out of even the most weathered concert-goer. I leaned over to a fellow attendee and said “Man, I think that’s the best show I’ll see all night.” He looked over at me. A look of shock flashed across his face. “What about Rico man?” he said, as if I had insulted the Sugar-Trapper herself.
How right he was. Sporting an all-white dress, with two Off-White belts for shoulder straps, Rico stunted on, swagged through, and simply dominated the Main. Though the crowd was presumably tired out from KOKOKO!, nasty had no problem opening up multiple mosh-pits during her set, which lasted less than an hour. Drawing on both old and new material, Nasty both played to the heavy press presence at SXSW, and allowed her fans to enjoy the performance. The crowd’s antics peaked when, at the beginning of her track “Key Lime OG” she urged all the womxn in the crowd to open up their own moshpit, separate from the male dominated one. Once this happened, there was no turning back for the performance. Nasty preached from the Rapper’s pulpit, as bodies flew back and forth into the crowd, religiously rapping along to her boastful lyrics. Though I’ve always enjoyed her music, seeing this performance cemented Nasty as one of the most exciting up-and-comers set to have a breakout year in 2019.
I’m a sucker for international performers. German Garage-Rock duo Gurr checked this box with flying colors. Their songs, some of which were sung in their native tongue, possessed a unique and at times un-American flavor that can be hard to come by at a Texan music festival. That being said, their best and perhaps most famous song, is named after a great American novel: Moby Dick. Swaying through their rather limited Discography, Gurr’s performance left me wondering why I didn’t know about them earlier, and when their next album would be released. Their hooky indie tracks possessed an energy outside of the genre which occupy, which has become in recent years quite oversaturated. The sincerity of their lyrics, paired with their onstage energy and cohesiveness, made them an unmissable live act. This was the first show I saw at SXSW, and I think this was a case of beginner’s luck. I wouldn’t be surprised if you start hearing Gurr’s name far more frequently over the next 12 months.