After nine days the music, technology and film marathon that is SXSW 2023 has come to a close. Here are 20 moments at SXSW that brought us joy, insight, and inspiration.
A high energy, high emotion duet by two of our must-see artists
Japanese poetry-rapper Haru Nemuri and Australian rock musician Jaguar Jonze are two artists we wanted to see during the (sadly canceled) 2020 edition of SXSW. In celebration of their upcoming joint single “Angry Angry” (slated for release April 14), Jaguar Jonze joined Haru Nemuri onstage at Doc Martens Presents for the song’s debut performance. This was one of those rare moments where an artist connects to the audience on a core level, and you can’t help but feel that you’ve been witness to something special.
A rock show worthy of Daisy Jones & The Six
The miniseries based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2019 novel premiered a week before SXSW. In celebration, Amazon Prime hosted An Evening to Celebrate Daisy Jones & The Six. Guests were treated to themed “merch” and cocktails, as well as performances from Joseph and Grouplove - all hosted by members of the cast.
A roomful of incredible XR experiences
The Fairmont’s Congressional Ballroom hosted this year’s XR selections, including AmazeVR’s virtual aespa concert, Consensus Gentium’s eye-tracking film, and Ferryman Collective’s adaptation of Korean studio GiiOii’s Find Wiilii. We especially enjoyed Polymorph’s Symbiosis, which made use of VR, full body suits, and scents to further immerse its audience in the experience.
A double header of Korean artists
One of the highlights of SXSW’s music programme is the opportunity to see a wide array of international artists who might not typically tour through North America. The Mystic Story / Mandoo Entertainment Showcase at Elysium brought two stellar Korean artists to SXSW. Though four-member boyband LUCY were subject to tech issues (a sadly common occurrence during SX showcases), their stripped down set was charming and showcased the group’s raw talent. Girl group Billlie closed the evening with their charismatic Kpop, polished dancing, and a crowd who camped out in front of stage for a chance to see it all live.
A St Patty’s party to remember
What better way to celebrate everyone’s favourite Irish saint than with the folks from Music From Ireland and their annual The Full Irish Breakfast day showcase? The event featured breakfast, irish coffee (a necessity during the 8th day of SXSW), and stellar sets from the likes of Aoife Nessa Francis, modernlove., Ailbhe Reddy, and one of our favourite finds of the festival - the Irish folk/metal mashup of The Scratch.
A keynote conversation between Patagonia CEO, Ryan Gellert and Katie Couric
“‘Woke capitalism’… is often thrown around as a way of saying ‘stay in your lane and don’t try to solve the world’s problems’... but we have created the world’s problems.” Patagonia CEO, Ryan Gellert’s conversation made us feel a little less guilty for purchasing a last minute Patagonia raincoat during the extreme thunderstorm warning later that week. Folks, PR works.
A musical show of solidarity with Ukraine
The SXSW Stands With Ukraine showcase featured the likes of KAZKA and Kalush Orchestra - whose tune “Stefania” took home the grand prize during Eurovision 2022. The crowd was filled with Ukrainian flags and audience members wearing the group’s signature pink bucket hats, all while the group flexed its breakdancing, rapping, and instrumental skills in an electrifying performance.
A new(ish) British Music Embassy location, and a stellar lineup to match
Last year, the British Music Embassy left its former roost at Latitude 30 to call Cedar Street Courtyard its new home. Though this is its sophomore year in the new space, it was our first time seeing it ourselves. As always, the BME had an excellent lineup, including standout performances by jazz/post-punk outfit Robocobra Quartet, the heartfelt musical ruminations of Tamzene, and an incredible audio-visual show by Max Cooper.
An insight into the thought leadership driving Artificial Intelligence
AI was topmost on everyone’s mind this year, and the Tech track’s session list fully showcased this fascination. Much of the conversation centred around striving for ethical, human-centric understanding of AI’s place in this world – from OpenAI President & Co-Founder Greg Brockman (“AI is not just a technology problem… it’s not just a math problem. Not a code problem. It’s a human problem”), to John Maeda (“The problem isn’t how to speak machine, it’s how to speak human”) to a meaty panel discussion on “How Purpose Can Guide Responsible Tech”.
An Australia House that kept our stomachs and ears well fed
The folks at Australia House always make the trek to Austin with a strong lineup of speakers, experiences, and artists in tow. This year’s opening reception featured a menu by acclaimed chef Nornie Bero which showcased Indigenous Australian ingredients. Standout performances throughout the Australia House’s programming included Yolŋu surf rock artists King Stingray and pop rock singer-songwriter Hope D.
A celebratory Oscars viewing party
Last year, a little indie film called Everything Everywhere All At Once had its world premiere at SXSW. This year, that same film cleaned up at the award circuit, including seven wins at the Oscars. The SXSW South Asian House played host to an Oscars viewing party, where the whole room erupted in cheers each and every time the SX-alum film was read off the inside of an Oscars award envelope.
A day showcase celebrating Women That Rock
Keeping true to its mission to “lift up badass grrrls making waves in the music world and to foster a community of womxn supporting one another through music,” Women That Rock hosted a stellar day showcase of awesome female artists including Ava Maybee, Overcoats, and Jaguar Jonze.
A keynote from Priyanka Chopra Jonas
In conversation with Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon + MGM Studios, Indian actress and producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas spoke about her experiences navigating and breaking the glass ceiling, as well as her upcoming science fiction television drama, Citadel. “Diversity isn’t just about how you look. It’s also about how you sound, what language you’re speaking”
A surprisingly rowdy crowd - especially by SX standards
SXSW is well known for playing host to a more stoic type of crowd - after all, when your venues heavily overindex on music industry folk vs fans, you’re going to get your fair share of cross-armed contemplators haunting the back of the room. This is in part what made Been Stellar’s set at the Line of Best Fit showcase so special. The NYC-based rock band put on a great performance, and the crowd was clearly resonating with it - so much so that the stage-front barrier became rattled loose, allowing the very invested crowd to rush toward the band. If you can get a crowd going at an industry showcase like SXSW, you know you’re onto something.
A high production night of music whose high spirits carried on despite a storm alert
One of the joys of SXSW is witnessing how every bar, store, brewery, and nook and cranny in downtown Austin is able to host live music. There’s a certain charm to seeing an up and coming artist in a dimly lit room… but a well lit stage is a special treat for our camera. The Bose x NME C23 LIVE Showcase was audio and visual eye candy with high production value and a well curated lineup of artists. Singer-songwriter JVKE performed a moving golden hour set from a stage replicating the childhood bedroom where much of his music was first ideated. Ghanaian-Australian performer Genesis Owusu lit up the crowd with his high energy, genre-spanning performance. Despite an extreme thunderstorm warning that temporarily shut down Austin’s outdoor stages, the show continued with a set from Jockstrap later that evening.
A television premiere that garnered applause whenever a few actors showed up on screen
American Born Chinese, the Disney+ television adaptation of Gene Luen Yang’s lauded graphic novel, premiered at SXSW. Featured among the cast were Everything Everywhere All At Once’s Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh. While they were not present during the premier, both actors received loud cheers whenever they appeared on screen. The first episode of the show, a highschool coming-of-age story, is a nuanced, well paced addition to Asian-American representation in media.
An all-Asian mini music festival - the first of its kind at SX The Tiger Den
SXSW 2023 Showcase featured an entire day’s worth of artists from across Asia and the Asian diaspora. Headlining the event was South Korean musical collective, Balming Tiger, who also co-presented the day’s festivities alongside American entertainment company Jaded. Other standout performances included CIFIKA, and ena mori, whose Iron Bear showcase the night previous was a highlight of our SXSW.
A groove-worthy set by South African trio, Beatenberg.
A band so nice we watched them twice! Beatenberg blends indie pop, jazz, and South African mbaqanga music into rhythmic, atmospheric soundscapes that had us grooving along. The Cape Town trio performed two Official SXSW sets - at Esther’s Follies and the International Day Stage, and we loved them so much we caught both sets.
A raucous applause for the humanitarian work of chef José Andrés
As soon as José Andrés walked onstage, the room burst into applause. The chef, credited for bringing the small plates dining concept to America, is also the founder of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit NGO providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. “In the middle of chaos you never see Republicans and Democrats. You don’t see Christians and Jews. You don’t see black and white. There, you see people next to people. People helping people. Longer tables, no walls.”
An audience whose singalongs persisted long after the final notes
Liverpool rock band, Red Rum Club had the audience in the palm of their hand during their final SXSW 2023 performance at Shiner’s Saloon. The crowd danced and sang along all throughout - uncharacteristic for a SXSW audience. After high energy closing number “Would You Rather Be Lonely”, the audience chanted the chorus repeatedly, continuing on well after the final notes had been played.
All photos captured and edited by Katrina Lat.
Article written by Katrina Lat.