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Who to Catch at SXSW 2019

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When Austin, TX music industry conference/festival South by Southwest (SXSW) held its first-ever official China showcase last year, it marked an important milestone for the recognition of Chinese musicians in the US. (By comparison, there’s been an official “Japan Nite” showcase at SXSW since 1996.) Fast forward twelve months, and there are more artists from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong showing up at SXSW 2019 than ever — another indication that music from this part of the world is reaching a level of overseas recognition it never has before.

If you’re going to be braving the day-drunk, wristbanded throngs in downtown Austin next week, here’s a cheat sheet guiding you around two official China Night events, a special showcase of Taiwanese artists, and a few other China-related pop-ups that shouldn’t be missed:

Chinese Techno/Electro/Indie Showcase by Caotai

Shao

This year there are two separate showcases of talent from Mainland China at SXSW 2019 — a first in the festival’s 32-year history. Of the two, the RADII rec goes to this eclectic lineup arranged by indie label Caotai Music. My personal highlights here include Beijing techno producer Shao — who was also part of last year’s China Night — and Chengdu electro-rock band Stolen, who’ll be debuting their 2018 album Fragment for US audiences. Stolen is one of the best live rock bands in China, catch them if you can.

Yin: Gripping Techno Thriller from Beijing Producer Shao

Those two acts are joined by a cast of lesser-known supporters, such as electro-pop artist Lia Lia, Beijing electronic quartet AEM, ambient producer 3He, and Chongqing indie band The Upside Down. Full info here.

When/where: Monday, March 11, 8pm-2am @ Elysium (705 Red River)

David Boring

What’s the opposite of “aptly named”? Inaptly named? Anyway David Boring from Hong Kong is probably the least fucking boring band I’ve seen in the last three years. Check out their just-released new single “Jane Pain” for evidence:

The band is bringing their cold, cerebral post-punk/noise rock brutality to Austin for two separate gigs, and are one of the only groups in this roundup who are not playing any kind of geographically specific showcase, which is extra cool. Highly recommended.

When/where: Wednesday, March 13, 11pm @ Valhalla (710 Red River) + Thursday, March 14, 8pm @ Dirty Dog Bar (505 E 6th)

工工工

Beijing via Hong Kong, Canada, India, and a bunch of other places duo 工工工 are also winging in to SXSW outside of the various geographically pegged showcases mentioned elsewhere here — appropriate for a band of “outsiders who call Beijing their home.” The duo of Tom Ng and Josh Frank has been peddling their stripped-down, guitar-and-bass phantom blues since 2015, with a handful of self-released cassettes and a recent single for Brooklyn label Wharf Cat streaming out between then and now. Learn about the band’s unique experiences growing up between cultures here.

When/where: Friday, March 15, 11pm @ Hotel Vegas Annex (1502 E. 6th) + Saturday, March 16, 12am @ 720 Club (720 Red River)

Found Sound China

The Found Sound China crew of 3 American and 3 Chinese artists first linked up last summer for a one-month residency in China supported by the US Embassy. After reuniting last week for an event in New York, much of the gang is getting back together for a showcase performance in Austin. Artists on this bill include Yehaiyahan (aka ChaCha), who’s also playing two other SXSW showcases (see below), and MC Tingbudong, who’s already parlayed his experiences in China last year into grander plans to bridge the US/China culture gap in 2019. Find full event info here, and learn more about last year’s Found Sound China fellows via RADII’s extensive coverage of the program.

When/where: Saturday, March 16, 8pm-2am @ Speakeasy Kabaret (412 Congress)

Faded Ghost

In addition to the Found Sound China showcase (above) and a rap-leaning China Night showcase (below), ChaCha is also apparating at SXSW as her darker, rougher-around-the-edges experimental electronic alter ego, Faded Ghost. I recommend you get all the ChaCha/Yehaiyahan/Faded Ghost you can, but if you’re more into haunted atmospherics and ritualistic stage theatrics this one’s your jam.

When/where: Friday, March 15, 9pm @ The Hideout (617 Congress)

Taiwan Beats

The Fur.

The Taiwan Beats showcase has been popping up at SXSW for several years now, enjoying the support of the RoC’s Ministry of Culture. (No government agencies have ever supported Mainland Chinese acts making the trek.) This year the bill includes dream pop unit The Fur., shoegazers I Mean Us, pop stylist CHIU PI, synth duo My Skin Against Your Skin, award-winning indie band EggPlantEgg, and math rock band Elephant Gym, who are returning hot off the heels of a quick US spin in 2018. Full info here, and if you’re in LA, catch Elephant Gym when they pop up at El Cid in Silverlake on Thursday March 21 via local promoters Minty Boi.

When/where: Wednesday, March 13, 8pm-2am @ Elysium (705 Red River)

Bonus: Catch an additional set by The Fur. on Tuesday, March 12, 8pm @ BD Riley’s (204 E. 6th)

Chinese Rap Showcase by MTA x WR/OC

Akin x Visudy = Artux Surfin Boy

This last one is a bit of a curveball honestly. Besides another appearance by ChaCha (performing here as Yehaiyahan) and a neo-soul duo featuring Xinjiang vocalist Akin and Shanghai producer Visudy, this mostly rap-oriented showcase is full of artists unknown to RADII. The event is being co-organized by Chinese music festival MTA, which was the main organizer for last year’s China Night showcase at SXSW, and WR/OC Records, which doesn’t have much a web trail besides this YouTube page featuring live videos of all the artists on this bill.

Besides Yehaiyahan and Akin x Visudy’s new duo (Artux Surfin Boi), the 2019 China Night showcase features Jilin-based rapper Kucci, Xiamen’s Lows0n, NineOne# from Xi’an, and YOUNG13DBABY from northwestern Gansu province, near Tibet. Overall there’s a distinct cloud rap flavor to this lineup, and its median birth year is like 1997, so this showcase is recommended for taking the pulse of what the kids in China are about these days. Squarely a 2019 vibe right here. Full info.

When/where: Thursday, March 14, 8pm-2am @ Pour Choices (401 E. 6th)

Listen to tracks from the artists above here:

Listen: RADII’s SXSW 2019 Spotify Playlist

Cover image: Yehaiyahan, aka ChaCha

You might also like:

Yin: Shanghai Singer and Producer ChaCha’s Bold Reinvention

Chengdu’s Stolen Refresh the Post-Punk-to-Techno Vector with New Album, “Fragment”

MC Tingbudong Wants Chinese Hip Hop to Find its Place in the World

B-Side China Podcast: Found Sound China

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.

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