Photos by Reginald Duvivier, Vickey Ford, and Celso White
Capped off by a special appearance from the fire marshall and the police (not the band) The Couch Sessions Annual SXSW showcase was the place to be for music fans looking for what will likely dominate the landscape for the next year. Things got off to a rolling start; by the time doors opened up the line stretched down the block and the venue, Empire Automotive, was at capacity soon after. With free sneakers offered by Shellback Caribbean rum and barbershop shop shaves (!) offered by New Amsterdam Vodka, along with open bars, the crowd was in a great mood from the start.
First up was Jesse Boykins III. Cut from the classic soul man cloth, he prowled across the stage with his mane of hair bouncing along to the futuristic beats backing him up (queued up by dance music overlord Nick Hook). The juxtaposition of sounds, particularly the dance centric production, got the crowd amped.
Hiatus Kaiyote brought their version of pop soul up from Melborne, Australia. With their imposing but gorgeous front woman Nai Palm they charmed the crowd with their set of sun kissed blues which was a perfect fit for the gorgeous day in Austin.
Electropop group Cherub was up next. Based out of Nashville Tennessee, the duo rained three full bands worth of sounds onto the crowd; keys, a vocorder, and guitars all meshed together into glorious funk grooves while they thrashed about on stage.
Brooklyn’s Body Language kept the dance party going. They shimmied onto stage with a fun set of hard hitting percussion, playing a relaxed blend of dance pop songs.
Next up was Allen Stone. Blue eyed soul is a term that gets bandied around almost as a negative but with his shock top long hair and Lennon glasses he proved that soul music is just SOUL music, as long as you’ve got it, you can play it. The Seattle based artist was wildly animated and emotive; he tore the garage down and left the crowd screaming for more.
Grammy award winning headliner Robert Glasper’s set was not meant to be; right when his band hit the stage the fire marshal showed up and cancelled the overcapacity show. The disappointed crowd let their opinions be known with an impromptu chant of an unmentionable N.W.A song but was good natured about what happened. Erykah Badu (the show’s special guest) posed for fans outside while the crowd happily stumbled out into the street content; heads still buzzing from what they witnessed that day.