SXSW 2018 – A Week of Musical Newcomers & Legends

The Couch Sessions team hit Austin, Texas for one of our favorite work/play conferences, SXSW 2018. Each year, we touch down with the goals of networking and catching performances by our favorite artists while discovering more amazing talent along the way. With so many great panels and music showcase lineups, deciding which to attend can be stress inducing. This year was no different! Below are highlights from our favorite events and performances.


Arin Ray at REVOLTHouse at SXSW 2018


REVOLT TV returned to Austin with REVOLTHouse at a new venue on 6th Street. Newcomers like Topaz Jones and Duckwrth set the stage on fire early in the afternoon with their performances. Another newcomer, Arin Ray, a singer-songwriter that opened for  H.E.R. on the Lights On tour, also hit the stage to serenade the crowd with songs from his recently released debut album, Platinum Fire. REVOLTHouse ended the night with arguably the dopest performance of SXSW – when Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and Inspectah Deck hit the stage to perform classics in celebration of the 25th year anniversary of 36 Chambers.

Ghostface performing at Twelve Rivers Presents: Open House at SXSW 2018

Twelve Rivers Presents: Open House

While REVOLTHouse excelled with a heavy lineup of singers and rappers, Twelve Rivers Presents: Open House held hip-hop down on the deejaying end with amazing sets from Z-Trip, Jazzy Jeff, Just Blaze, and more. Summit Rooftop was packed early as DJ Ferno got the crowd hype before U.K. DJ Kayper got on the turntables and stole the show with the best set of the night. Other highlights included DJ Jazzy Jeff’s well executed set which featured talented spitter, Dayne Jordan, as hypeman; and Just Blaze spinning his stadium anthems from his days at the ROC before bringing out Jarobi of  A Tribe Called Quest for a surprise performance. Right as the night was about to end, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon popped up as surprise performers for their second set of the evening.

Kelela – Sound + Vision at SXSW 2018

Kelela at See Tickets Presents: Sound + Vision

The indoor/outdoor venue, Mohawk, was the perfect location for Sound + Vision. Just north of most events, the laidback vibes, were perfect as we dropped in throughout the day to catch super impressive sets by Kweku Collins and G Flip. Like most of the crowd by the end of the showcase, we were really amped to catch Kelela – a late addition to this year’s SXSW list of performers. Kelela is not a stranger to SXSW, but the crowd response has definitely changed from when she held an early timeslot on the 2016 FADER FORT stage to now. This year she was the headlining act for numerous showcases and had fans excitedly making their way towards the stage to sing along to every one of her songs. Due to time constraints during Sound + Vision, Kelela let the audience know that she would not do much talking for the sake of performing more songs before giving a clinic in her signature style of performance art. Her sensual movements matched her tantalizing and impassioned vocal performance as she sang songs from Take Me Apart while sliding in a remixed version of “Rewind” and tracks from Cut 4 Me. Although she sang a decent amount of tracks, she left the stage with fans wanting more and there was no doubt that they would attend her next showcase for their fix.

Teddy Riley, moderator, and Andre Harrell at the New Jack Swing: The Renaissance of Hip Hop and R&B panel at SXSW 2018

New Jack Swing: The Renaissance of Hip Hop and R&B Panel featuring Teddy Riley and Andre Harrell

Since Bruno Mars won Album of the Year (AOTY) for 24k Magic at the 2018 Grammy Awards, the topic of cultural appropriation has popped up on social media more often than the ever-so-popular $200 dollar dates and child support debates. Although the influence of funk and new jack swing is very apparently in his music, dancing, and visuals, Bruno Mars has explicitly stated and acknowledged these direct influence; even going as far as thanking Teddy Riley during his AOTY acceptance speech.

Teddy Riley and Andre Harrell spoke candidly about this topic, the origins of New Jack Swing, Michael Jackson, and much more during the New Jack Swing: The Renaissance of Hip Hop and R&B panel at SXSW 2018. Harrell appeared early, telling the story of how he started in the music industry and how he met Riley before Riley came to the stage to drop little known information about your favorite New Jack Swing songs and the King of Pop. Although the talk can be heard HERE we decided to give you a few tidbits from the talk:

  • On Bruno Mars and Cultural Appropriation: Teddy Riley and Andre Harrell are fans of Bruno Mars and do not believe it’s cultural appropriation. Harrell went as far as saying that he told Bruno Mars to make a “black” album since he loved to perform BBD at industry events so much.
  • New Jack Swing Songs Meant for Other Artists: Johnny Kemp’s “Just Got Paid” was meant for Keith Sweat.
  • 2018 EssenceFest: If you’re on the fence about attending, Teddy Riley reveals performance details in the conversation that might help you make your decision.

Khalid at Sony’s Lost In Music at SXSW 2018

Tinashe and Khalid at Sony’s Lost In Music

Stationed across the street from Austin’s Convention Center, Sony brought one of the best, fully immersive media experiences to SXSW with the “Lost In Music” campaign. After guests walked down a long hallway, they were greeted by Sony’s ‘Dreamscape’ space – filled with clouds and ambient lighting. Guests were able to experience Khalid’s highly interactive virtual reality music video for “Young Dumb and Broke” at multiple stations and also become fully immersed in a VR light show.

In the main portion of the warehouse, Leikeli47, A.CHAL, Tinashe, and Khalid took to the stage throughout the night for dreamy performances. Tinashe, just weeks away from the release of her sophomore effort Joyride, showed no signs of exhaustion as she hit the stage for her final SXSW performance of the evening. Anchored by 3 back-up dancers, Tinashe was full of energy as she hit every choreographed move while singing singles like “No Drama” and “All Hands on Deck,” and ” 2 On.” Texas native, Khalid, closed out the night with a bright and bubbly performance of tracks from his debut album American Teen.