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the most exciting artists we’ve caught at the Austin Festival

After a two-year absence, the return of SXSW was certainly cause for celebration. The multidisciplinary festival’s new music showcase is a key date on every up-and-coming artist’s calendar, and the event’s in-person return this year in Austin, Texas (2021 took place online) showed another encouraging sign that nature — or the Live music industry – starting to recover after the last two years of pandemic-related shutdowns.

NME drove to Austin last week to see what SXSW 2022 had in store – here’s a recap of the most exciting artists we met at this year’s festival.

Words: Jonathan Garrett and Rhian Daly

fan club wallet

It may still be the morning that Canada’s fan club wallet takes the stage in Mohawk on Thursday (March 17), but the venue is teeming with people. When Hannah Judge and her band start their set, it’s clear why: the Ontario indie rocker’s songs are full of fresh takes on the emo-indie that’s been having a moment lately.

Judge’s wry humor runs through the songs (and their banter between songs) from the start, like on the flaky opener “Gr8 Timing!”. where she sings: “I deserve to be with someone who hurts me / So I’ll spend all my time just with myself / I don’t need nobody else’s help.” That the track then morphs into an upbeat, disco-tinged banger immediately after these lines is just as funny – and makes for an instant live hit. Across the set, Judge previews her forthcoming debut album You Have Got To Be Kidding Me (out May 20) with its mellow title track – further heartfelt proof that Fanclubwallet should be our next big indie star . (RD)

fan club wallet sxsw
Fanclubwallet making an appearance at SXSW 2022 (Image: Sam Keeler/NME)

lower town

The thing that immediately strikes you about Lowertown – even before they start playing – is how young they are (that’s without even looking at the big black Xs on their hands, which are the dead sign). As soon as they start playing, however, your mind immediately shifts to the band’s enormous potential, no doubt why The 1975’s famed Dirty Hit label snatched them up in a hurry. The Atlanta indie duo, which expands to a foursome during live performances, has perhaps the highest ceiling of almost any group we see during SXSW.

Her set on Saturday night (March 19) at Elysium is a work in progress and unfortunately fraught with technical issues both beyond her control and of her own making. The frustration doesn’t even show up after five minutes as guitarist Avsha Weinberg snaps all of his guitar strings, causing an awkward delay while he searches the venue for a replacement. But in the fleeting moments when Weinberg and singer/guitarist Olivia Osby’s bedroom confessions go widescreen, Lowertown is nothing short of transcendent. They close with “Antibiotics,” a new track from their unreleased full-length album, and while Osby squirms on the floor, lost in the moment, it’s hard to deny that we’re seeing a band on the cusp of greatness. (JG)

the Wednesday

The North Carolina band is an unusual offering on record – infusing the blissful guitar heroes of the early Smashing Pumpkins with the earthy twang of vintage country music true to their Blue Ridge Mountain roots. All of this is documented on her newly released, eclectic covers collection ‘Mowing The Leaves Instead Of Piling ‘Em Up’ as well as her excellent and often overlooked 2021 LP ‘Twin Plagues’.

NME catches the band at a 1pm show (shockingly early by SXSW standards), and it feels like a blown-out Sunday service at times — except on a Friday and with a lap steel guitarist in a Hotline TNT t-shirt . Singer Karly Hartzman, who may sense that audiences might not be overly spiritual, explains that the Jesus references in her songs are “because we’re from the South. I’m Jewish, but you can experience Jesus culturally and not spiritually”. Amusingly, perhaps to convince herself, she adds: “He’s here. I can feel it.” While we can’t tell if it was really Jesus or just second-hand smoking, NME definitely feels something too. (JG)

SXSW 2022 Wednesday
Appearing on Wednesday at SXSW 2022 (Image: Sam Keeler/NME)

geese

For reasons only they presumably know, Geese arrive on stage at Container Bar on Thursday with a giant pencil. It doesn’t play a significant role for most of their set, which highlights the best of their 2021 debut album Projector role, except for light-hearted exuberance. The Brooklyn band doesn’t need any props to captivate, however, as they prove before the pencil returns. Frontman Cameron Winter tumbles across the stage between songs while staggering and tripping as he sings, lending a tipsy vibe to his punk-poetry recitals over the mesmerizing grooves of his bandmates.

Winter’s lyrics are often written from the perspective of different characters — a serial killer on “Fantasies/Survival” or someone falling into a breakup on “Disco.” He becomes something of an actor live, as he fills those roles through shifts in his vocals that range from a cooing falsetto to a Richard Hell bark (as on the reeling “Low Era”). All the while he erratically bangs a cymbal placed between himself and drummer Max Bassin, and it is this instrument that eventually reveals the pencil’s role in things, whether intentional or not. As the chaos builds to a climax, Winter smashes the basin of oversized stationery until they’re both in a heap on the floor, invaded by geese – just like Austin at the end of the week. (RD)

catcher

Surely the award for Least Likely Gig of SXSW 2022 goes to this brooding post-punk outfit from Brooklyn. Catchers frontman Austin Eichler plays with an absurdly inexplicable promotional affiliation with a minor league baseball team called the Portland Pickles at an outdoor event this afternoon, and repeatedly tries to lure the team’s mascot out of hiding. Though perhaps understandably terrified of the band’s unholy noise, Dillon the Pickle eventually warms up and can be seen turning to the front with two of his mascot friends at the end of the set. It’s an endearingly bizarre sight and a perfect summary of everything that makes SXSW an experience like no other. (JG)

catcher sxsw
Catcher performs at SXSW 2022 (Image: Sam Keeler / NME)

body flesh

Philadelphia native Christopher Taylor — aka Body Meat — isn’t interested in playing it safe. That becomes clear as soon as he kicks off his set at Antone’s on Friday (March 18) with “Ultima,” which blends ringing melodies and beats that crack like shattering glass as he paces the stage intensely. Its mission is to push pop music as far as it can without losing people, and beneath the clashing layers of sound there are plenty of snags to cling to and catalog in your brain for later recall.

Taylor also questions what electronic music performance can look like. Instead of standing mostly still between his synths and drum pads, he uses his body to express the sounds and feelings in his songs. As he moves dramatically across the stage, the twin lights attached to his arms at elbow height add even more allure to a set that feels like one of the most unique and exciting of SXSW 2022. (RD)

Glove

Too bad the iconic cover of the first Strokes album is already taken, because here is finally a band that sounds like the cover looks. Glove shamelessly steal 80’s synth-pop and stylistic guides for their own nefarious purposes. The black-clad foursome are originally from Florida, although their vampiric complexions suggest they have limited exposure to sunlight. Onstage at their only SXSW performance before joining Nation Of Language for a handful of West Coast dates, their muscular new wave update wows the assembled crowd at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Such thieves do not come often. (JG)

Jelani Blackman

The industry-heavy crowd at SXSW can sometimes make the atmosphere at shows a bit dry. But there’s no danger of that being the case at Jelani Blackman’s British Music Embassy set on Saturday – the London rapper’s energy is contagious from the get-go, sparking an electric reaction rare in this type of showcase. “I feel like there are things in life that we don’t celebrate enough,” the aspiring MC tells the lively crowd, before performing his 2019 single “Cheers” and urging them all to toast their drinks to raise.

Jelani Blackman sxsw
Jelani Blackman performing at SXSW 2022 (Image: Sam Keeler/NME)

It’s a perfect embodiment of the spirit that permeates his performance, which is a total feast: whether delivering a typically charismatic version of the persuasive “Hello,” or leaping into the crowd to raise the energy of the room even higher. It’s irresistible stuff – in fact, his set is the only one that ends with cheers for an encore NME sees all week. And even after Blackman follows up with another song, the screams keep coming. (RD)

pom poko

Pom Poko’s fifth set of SXSW 2022 has more energy than most artists’ first. Mixing post-punk-esque blasts with halcyon vocals and staccato riffs, Pom Poko are perhaps most reminiscent of another Norwegian SXSW alumnus: Sløtface. PP’s secret weapon is their frontwoman Ragnhild Jamtveit: she uses every inch of the stage, jumping around with a mischievous grin and cheering on the rest of her band. Her joy is as obvious as it is contagious: While her set may have only lasted 30 minutes, the serotonin rush lingers long after the last note has been played. (JG)

Lil Cherry & Goldbuuda

A day after Korean rapper Lil Cherry and her rapper/producer brother Goldbuuda released their latest addictive single “Catwalk” — complete with a Rico Nasty feature — the duo end their first trip to Texas in riotous fashion. They perform at the Balming Tigers Showcase at the Reina and Rey Rey after midnight on Sunday, bidding late for the title of Most Exciting Act on this year’s SXSW bill. A bustling production melds with muttered rap verses, and pop culture references (from Doja and Megan to K-pop giants Girls’ Generation and SHINee) weave into their infectious hooks, while Cherry and Goldbuuda make the party start look effortless permit.

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Lil Cherry performing at SXSW 2022 (Image: Sam Keeler / NME)

When they’re not all fiery ‘G!’ and “All-You-Can-Eat” take them down a notch with sparkling, softer tones, like the romantic glow of “Motorola,” one of the highlights of a radiant performance. “We’re bringing you vitamin C all the way from South Korea,” Goldbuuda tells the crowd at one point, and after a long week of anger her set feels like a much-needed boost. (RD)

https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-radar/sxsw-2022-review-geese-catcher-lil-cherry-austin-texas-festival-radar-3186686?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sxsw-2022-review-geese-catcher-lil-cherry-austin-texas-festival-radar the most exciting artists we’ve caught at the Austin Festival

Caroline Bleakley

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