Friday of SXSW bolstered an eccentric list of artists from Finland, the UK, and the Lonestar state of the USA, Texas. The day’s sets featured some of the best visual effects of this week’s lineup, and continued on the journey of outstanding individualistic qualities that truly set these artists apart from the rest.
Kaisa Rönkkö, CEO of Music Finland, said it best: “WTF = Welcome to Finland.” The first set of THE SHOWCASE MUST GO ON (presented by Genelec & Music Finland) immediately grabbed the audience’s attention for its strange nature. Eerily shot visuals showed musician and composer Antti Paalanen walking through a pitch black forest, just a lit emergency flare guiding the way. Accordion strapped to his chest, he sang “Meluta” while trudging deeper into the dense darkness ahead of him. His raspy, deep drones of Siberian throat-singing added an extra doomful feeling to the already haunting atmosphere. On his next track, incredibly vibrant and realistic green screen visuals, created by Jesse Auersalo, led to a scene of Finnish midsommar. Still in the dark of night, Paalanen sat in a field of neon of glowing flowers, an ominous red light pouring through the treetops. His mix of traditional Finnish folk with EDM style beats drew out an intense, avant-garde yet catchy set of tunes.
Finnish singer-songwriter ALMA exuded a sassy straight forward approach from her lyricism to her mannerisms. It’s imagined that her poppy bangers would be great to scream in the car with friends or alone on a tiresome commute for an extra burst of energy. Her ruthless, party-girl energy was infectious on tracks like “Bad News Baby.” She’s not afraid to call things what they are, as was exemplified on “LA Money,” where she talks about fake friends when money comes around. Her songs were catchy, full of personality, and begged to be played loud.
Hotel Vegas’ showcased artists gave a taste of the talent brewing up in Texas. The production of the sets were reminiscent of 90s music videos in the best way; the perfect amount of saturation, grainy effects, and transparent overlays and transitions.
Blushing, the four-piece band from Austin,TX is made up of two husband-wife pairs. If you’re a fan of 90s shoegaze icons Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, or Slowdive, they’re a contemporary gift to you. Distorted vocals and jangly guitar enveloped by a heavy wall of droning sound gave way to wistful tracks like “Pressure” and “Lost Cat.” They also performed “Secrets,” a bonus track only on their CD released in Japan.
Lord Friday the 13th, front lined by brother-sister duo Felix and Sloane Lenz, describe themselves as a “Dollar Store Trash-Glam-Punk band.” Felix made three “costume changes” throughout their set, where he shed layers, starting with a glittery red devil’s costume, working all the way down to tiny sport shorts. The highlight of their set was without a doubt the hilarious track “Big Mac.” Creating a punk song out of Mcdonald’s signature jingle, Felix sang “I want to get wasted and Mcdrink and drive / I’m Lovin’ It (3x) / Ba Da Ba Ba Ba” and “I got a cute McMugshot / Hold the cheese!” Characterized by outlandish attire and makeup, quick wit, and fast-paced tracks pleading for in-person mosh pits, the set would’ve been a blast live. They ended their three-song set with a less brash unreleased track “Sleeping Cutie.”
Sasha and the Valentines sounded like the best aspects of Beach House and Unknown Mortal Orchestra molded together. Casting spells with heavenly echoed vocals, thick groovy basslines, and sparkling guitar, tracks like “Angel” and “Flower” felt like slipping off into a melodic daydream. Euphoric with a tint of sadness, Sarah Addi’s voice on “Tears For Mars” was lush and evocative. The track craves to be played on a Summer day with all the windows rolled down, cruising the coastline.
Headliner of Hotel Vegas, Holy Wave, only performed one song, “Time is Not Okay,” to which a viewer in the comments joked “The time of this set is not okay.” That being said, their one track was worth the watch. Their dreamy chillwave sound fused with trance-like psychedelia produced by repetitive synth and guitar notes. It’s easy to kick back and listen to their tracks for hours. Their long-haired keyboardist in his little round black shades, grooving to his own notes, encapsulated what their sound would be like if it were a person.
Represented by the British Music Embassy, London based, post-punk Squid was one of the most anticipated artists of Friday’s lineup. Their off-kilter organization and flow left every song to appear aimless, in an invigorating way. Drummer and main vocalist, Ollie Judge, escalated from spoken word poetry, or a conversation with himself, to yelping and screaming all within one track. Louis Borlase’s vocals would often overlap over Judge’s to create a trippy effect of two storylines going on at once. Their set was one of the lengthier of the day, allowing the audience to get a true taste of what they had to offer. Closing with “Narrator,” electronic spirals of charged synths, the dexterity of quick guitar picking, and the repeatedly bellowed “Don’t push me in!” were all the perfect ingredients for a mosh pit. Sadly, though, moshing is one of the only things that can’t be brought to the online sphere. Here’s to hoping live shows will return soon!
“Bad News Baby”
Lord Friday the 13th
Sasha and the Valentines
“Tears for Mars”
“Time is Not Okay”