Emerging artists capitalize on SXSW appearances

Kartik Sridhar

While surprise appearances from superstars like Drake dominate South By Southwest headlines, the festival’s most interesting stories lie in the performances from emerging artists. Ranging from punk rock to hip-hop, here are four emerging artists who made waves at this year’s SXSW.

Beach Slang

  • Philadelphia-based punk band Beach Slang took over the crowds at their Pitchfork day party set, embracing the drunken St. Patrick’s Day culture in both their appearance and energy. Frontman James Alex wasted no time in engaging the crowd, opening the show by saying, “We’re Beach Slang, and we’re here to punch you right in the heart.” Dressed in a clover-green vest, Alex played through their latest album, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us. Their brand of old-school punk mixed with modern lyrics resonated perfectly with the Pitchfork crowd as Alex powered through a bloodied hand to finish the aggressive set. 

Anderson Paak

  • Anderson Paak performed at a few different shows, though his performance at MTV’s Woodies stands out among the rest. Despite the early start time and relatively short set, Paak managed to liven the crowd with his performances from his latest album, Malibu. Taking the stage with his band The Free Nationals, Paak showed-off his versatile musical repertoire, belting out passionate vocals in between playing the drums and rapping over mellow beats. His ability to blend hip-hop, jazz and electronic music creates a diverse sound that attracts audiences of all kinds. 

Jack Garratt

  • Hailing from London and already seeing critical success in the U.K., Jack Garratt’s blend of electronic music and wide-ranging vocals propelled him into stardom at SXSW. Forced to replicate the meticulous sound created by his electronic recording, Garratt’s varied instrumental skills add a new element to his live performances. Fighting through the sun in what was the hottest day of the festival, Garratt performed at Spotify House on Tuesday to kick off SXSW Music. Truly a one-man band, Garratt alternated between the electric guitar, percussion and keyboards. It is impossible to categorize Garratt’s music as just one genre. After an impressive percussion solo highlighted his Spotify House performance, Garratt appeared at string of high-profile shows during the rest of the week. The most memorable moment came when actor Aaron Paul introduced Garratt at the MTV Woodies, praising the musician for his sound and imploring the audience to appreciate the opportunity to see Garratt live. 


  • From being a contestant on “America’s Got Talent” to earning a Grammy nomination at 20 years old, Kehlani’s musical career has been eventful to say the least. Signed to Atlantic Records following her album You Should Be Here, Kehlani has a sound that is only eclipsed by her own stage presence. With a background in ballet, Kehlani boasts the impressive ability to control the stage with her soulful vocals and captivating dance. Her performance at MTV’s Woodies kicked off the show, bringing the audience to life with her performance of “The Way,” a song she recorded with Chicago-based artist Chance The Rapper. Though her sound is considered contemporary R&B, Kehlani doesn’t fall into just one genre. Instead, she blurs the line between hip-hop and R&B, providing a powerful female voice in a male-dominated genre.