For the first time in its 34-year history, SXSW has been canceled, leaving millions reeling in its wake. A cultural Mecca for film, tech and music, the cancellation of the influential festival came as a Friday afternoon bombshell with news outlets reporting the decision had been made by Austin officials who declared a local state of emergency. Concern over the potential global implications of hosting massive events at the height of the Coronavirus outbreak also led to the cancellation of Ultra and Calle Ocho Festival in Miami, Tomorrowland Winter in France and led to the postponing of Coachella, originally planned for next month.
The decision came on the heels of high profile withdrawals by speakers and tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Amazon and more, and a petition with over 50,000 signatures calling to shut down the event. “We are devastated to share this news with you,” read an official email from the organization, their first communication on the fallout. “‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.“
The aforementioned ramifications include a gargantuan loss of revenue for the city of Austin, as well as its vibrant music, hospitality and service industries, which were forecasted to rake in approximately $350 million dollars. Artists, fans, event producers, labels, management companies and countless others are also adversely affected by the cancellation, with months of preparation and travel expenses now in administrative limbo and rippling out to the farthest reaches of the global music industry.
In the past, SXSW has been criticized as a deceptive mirage of opportunity where thousands of artists hope to gain industry contacts and international exposure, often incurring backbreaking costs, humiliating migratory bureaucracy and poor performance conditions. And yet, the festival also remains a beacon of DIY camaraderie for the international arts community—a sentiment echoed by the numerous contingency plans hatched over the weekend. Planned showcases by She Shreads Magazine and Selena for Sanctuary have been relocated to Los Angeles, aiming to still provide vital platforms for women and POCs in music. The #BandingTogetherATX initiative has also gained traction, with Texas promoters Margin Walker and Heard Presents, Austin-based software start up Prism.FM and The Red River Cultural District, a management company representing venues like Mohawk, Barracuda and Cheer Up Charlie’s, all pooling their resources to assist artists potentially stranded over the coming weeks.
The team over at Austin nightlife institution Peligrosa also plan to rally around visiting artists, while promoters, studios and musicians in neighboring cities like San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are also mobilizing to welcome the likely spillover of international talent. All these efforts are crucial for the livelihood of independent artists with limited financial capacities who are now being left in the cold with non-refundable travel and accommodation expenses.
In order to keep the wave of support going, we’ve decided to highlight 15 artists we were excited to see at this year’s SXSW, and at the many unofficial parties that fuel the week’s festivities. Just because the festival’s 2020 edition is no longer moving forward, it doesn’t mean you can’t show these artists some much-needed love.
The reigning king of corridos tumbaos, Natanael Cano was slated to grace the Remezcla stage at our very own showcase, bringing his signature blend of Mexican regional wordsmithing and urbano swagger to SXSW for the first time. Having dropped two buzzy, hit-filled albums over the course of 2019, and a pivotal EP, Corazon Tumbado, Cano represents the electric anything-can-happen energy of SXSW and the promise of catching intimate shows with artists that will soon be headlining stadium tours.
The rising Panamanian reggaetonero was also scheduled to make an appearance on Remezcla’s stage this year in promotion of his excellent 2019 EP Me Toca A Mí. A refreshing jolt of Afro-Panamanian talent in an increasingly light-skinned urbano industry, Nino Augustine is at the cusp of the reggaetOn roots movement, proudly brandishing the genre’s Black heritage across his productions while promoting the fun-loving sabrosura of a perreo juggernaut in the making.
Selena for Sanctuary
The buzzy charity fundraisers organized by Mija Management’s Doris Muñoz have taken on a life of their own over the past year, booking bigger, more influential talent with every new lineup announcement. Selena for Sanctuary’s official SXSW showcase promised a star-studded night with the likes of Carla Morrison, San Cha and Nina Díaz, remaining faithful to their mission of centering Latinx women under the unmistakably purple banner of the Queen of Tejano.
The beloved Puerto Rican synthpop duo is currently on their first U.S. tour alongside Little Jesus, where SXSW was expected to be their triumphant, culminating stop. One of the buzziest stateside Latinx indie bands today, Los Wálters’ blend of earnest, pseudo-confessional lyrics and robust synths all but guarantee their impending breakthrough. Just you wait.
Over the past few years, the Bay Area’s goddess of Latinx fusions has commanded our attention with excellent productions that source and collide everything from maricahi to reggaeton and old school hip-hop. La Doña is now operating under the watchful guise of Doris Muñoz over at Mija Management, the force of nature behind indie darlings like Cuco and Inner Wave, so you can expect her own star turn to arrive at any moment.
La Goony Chonga
Miami trap-reggaeton jefa La Goony Chonga has been making legit money moves since the release of her 2018 album Dinero, which she then followed with heavy culo-shaking banger Dimen5ión, late last year. Touting fire collabs with Brooke Candy, Chico Sonido and La Zowi, La Goony Chonga can set off the perreo melee whenever she damn pleases, so if not this year, look for her at upcoming SXSW editions.
Los Angeles’ inclusive, activist-minded, undocumented immigrant-centered Cumbiatón events have been taking the party on the road since autumn of last year, heading out to San Francisco, Seattle and NYC for sweaty cumbia-fueled throw downs. Considering the visibility of Austin’s Latinx population is often erased by the city’s aggressive gentrification, empowering and cathartic sets by the lauded DJ and arts collective will always be welcome where they are needed most.
The rowdy crew of DJs, drag queens and artsy acolytes was slated to sprinkle Brooklyn joy all over Austin with their first official SXSW showcase, featuring DJ Ickarus and their fearless leader Horrochata behind the decks, as well as performances by Papi Churro, Tatiana Cholula and DJ Chorizo Funk. However, don’t fret over missing this year’s wild shenanigans—Horrorchata is a proud Tejana and comes home regularly to set dance floors ablaze and turn the party.
No party in 2020 is complete without the finest perreo blasting from the speakers, and who best to lead the charge than Mexico City’s favorite reggaeton pied pipers, Perreo Millennial. In what promised to be the mother of all turn ups, the crew of Sugar Mami, Mucha Onda and Esamipau teamed up with Estudio 1070 and Peligrosa for a would-be night of incandescent dance offs that also featured Tatiana Hazel, Luna Luna, Ratchetón, Principe Q and La Fiebre X (fka María y José). The fomo over this night of pure knee-busting magic hurts!
Chicago stargazers Divino Niño released without a shadow of a doubt one of the best albums of 2019—the delightfully psychedelic, AM-radio flavored Foam. This is a band tailor made for SXSW crowds, dripping with quirky charm, catchy tunes and effervescent live shows. So don’t stress too much about missing Divino Niño at SXSW because they tour frequently and extensively, and will likely be in a city near you sooner than you think.
Fellow Chicago hometown heroine, KAINA, became a soundtrack for Latinx healing with her 2019 full-length debut Next To The Sun—a deliciously soulful slice of gauzy pop. SXSW is often an overwhelming and hectic experience, making sonic oasis like KAINA a vital respite from the noise and boozy chaos.
We were excited to see ZZK’s latest signees ready to win over SXSW audiences with their tremendous blend of electronic production and organic Afro-Caribbean percussion, but you won’t have to wait long before they finally make it out to Austin. Ghetto Kumbé are gearing up to launch their full-length debut later this year, delivering an evocative collection of textural Colombian dance music grounded in indigenous and Afro-diasporic traditions and the perfect spark for getting audiences on their feet.
Chameleonic Brazilian pop star Céu became a household name in the mid-aughts with mainstream-leaning records influenced by samba, reggae and jazz, but with the electronic departure of 2016’s Tropix she was able to demonstrate that her artistry could also explore experimental new territory. Fresh singles have begun to surface, hinting at a new album in the near future, so keep an eye on this criminally underrated pop gem.
Guatemala’s Dinosaur 88 underwent a major sonic transformation in 2019, stepping away from the brutal chiptune-influenced sound of their first EP and into a more streamlined synthpop sound with their 2019 debut album Ukiyo. The pair of Luis Alonso and Sebastián Méndez spin sweet, melancholy tales of giddy romances and equally potent heartbreaks that have propelled Dinosaur 88 up the ranks of Central America’s band to watch.
Lorelle Meets The Obsolete
Within Mexico’s evergreen psych landscape, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete have emerged as one of the genre’s brightest proponents. 2019’s De Facto LP landed the pair of Alberto González and Lorena Quintanilla on a slew of ‘Best Of’ lists, and with Austin’s extensive psych pedigree, it’s only a matter of time before Lorelle Meets The Obsolete are invited back to shred and dazzle.