Remi Wolf, Mariah the Scientist Turn All the Way Up in Austin
On Thursday evening, Rolling Stone’s Future of Music Showcase was the place to be — and not just because it took place inside while storms were wreaking havoc elsewhere at SXSW. The third night of the event at ACL Live at the Moody Theater was all over the place in an excellent way, a women-led lineup that bounded from alt-rock to wildly fun punk to satisfying R&B to Day-Glo alt-pop, and lots more.
Blondshell, the alt-rock project of L.A-based Sabrina Teitelbaum, stood out from the night’s other artists in part because of the number of albums she’s released so far: zero. Despite her self-titled debut not hitting till next month, Teitelbaum has earned significant buzz — this very website called her “all the rage.” Her set showed why: Blondshell’s songs are long on gut-punch emotion, big choruses, and quotable lines (“Mama, I’m adjacent to a lot of love,” from “Kiss City”). Dressed down in a T-shirt and jeans, Teitelbaum stalked the stage while playing most of that upcoming album, cranking up the intensity at times and falling to her knees while singing the “gonna make it hurt” refrain from “Salad.” Her songs show she can process intense feelings — anger among them — via excellent, stormy music, and her set showed she can roll with the punches: When her guitarist broke a string, she treated the crowd to a guitar-free cover of the Cranberries’ “Disappointment.” As local indie legend Britt Daniel of Spoon looked on, Teitelbaum flashed heart-hands and thanked Austin for the warm reception, which is surely to be duplicated again in coming years.
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Not long after, Otoboke Beaver turned the stage into a roman candle of kinetic punk-rock energy. Clad in brightly colored dresses, the quartet from Osaka, Japan, climbed on monitors, screamed, strutted, ran in place, and never, ever stood still. Singer Accorinrin channeled feminist fury on songs performed with stop-on-a-dime proficiency; the band was both a goddamned riot and tight as hell. Dudes in the crowd moshed. After blasting through a dozen or so songs in a half-hour, including several from last year’s Super Champon, drummer Kahokiss tossed her sticks in the air, the band sprinted off stage, and that was that — except the crowd was still cheering as Otoboke Beaver packed up their gear.
Things turned quickly again, and out came Brittney Parks, known to fans as Sudan Archives. “Y’all ready to get lit?” she asked the crowd. “I just fucking flew here, so get lit.” Of course, Parks’ definition of “lit” was pretty unique: Dressed in black, feet bare, a violin on her shoulder, and joined by no one, the 29-year-old Cincinnati native sang and rapped her way through a singular catalog. She began with “Homemaker,” the opening track on 2022’s Natural Brown Prom Queen, cooing over propulsive loops then overlaying the beatwise soundscape with stormy violin. On the dope, clattering “Oatmeal,” she intoned over pizzicato-plucking and ended up bowing from her knees; on “OMG Britt” (not about Britt Daniel, so far as we know), she spit sinister-sounding rhymes over ominous loops.
Parks has said that Sudan Archives is, in part, an attempt to “show the Blackness of the violin,” to prove that all over the world it’s not just a classical-music totem but also a party instrument. She’s done that, and a lot more. She closed Thursday night with “NBPQ (Topless),” enlisting the crowd to help with a refrain that felt like a mantra and a statement of purpose: “I’m not average, average, average.…”
Atlanta’s Mariah the Scientist then came out toting no violins, just warm and innovative R&B jams. Alone onstage, she bemoaned “a tornado outside,” and promised “a couple of sad songs and then we’re gonna turn it up.” The sad songs worked. “2 You,” a gently surging ballad about the aftermath of a failed relationship, filled the theater with woozily gorgeous heartache. More upbeat tracks like “Always n Forever” (which, on her most recent LP, Ry Ry World, featured Lil Baby) matched incisive lyrics with tightly effective arrangements and little left turns of melody and lyric. She closed with “Spread Thin,” from last year’s Intermission EP, turning a kiss-off to a lover into dreamy, big-chorused songs that filled up the theater like a power ballad.
“South by fuckin’ Southwest!” Remi Wolf shouted as she took the stage to close out the night. “Are you ready to have fun?!” We were. The California singer-songwriter kicked off with 2021’s “Quiet on Set,” a gently funky party starter full of left-field raps where she notes that she “ain’t got no time for the frenemies/Eating my ass like the human centipede.” For the next hour, joined by a guitar, bass, and drums, Wolf commanded the stage with good-natured buoyancy as the large screen behind her flashed Day-Glo visuals of her in various outfits.
Wolf has said she wants to “erase the rules of pop,” to make radio say “‘Wait, this is sick,’ because it’s so different than everything that’s on the radio now.” You could see that vision: Her songs are hooky and eager-to-please but full of hallucinogenic hooks and witty, unexpected asides. She got real at one point, delivering a speech about how all of us fall prey to vices before starting in on “Liquor Store,” a 2021 track about getting sober. (Naturally, that one was deeply catchy too, and full of vivid lines like “I’m a thrift-store baddie with my booty on the sink/I’m a shitty ex-nanny with my marbles on the brink.”) At various points, Wolf jumped around the stage, plopped on a couch, let out warm, skyrocketing howls that showed off her powerhouse voice, played drums, turned cartwheels, and covered Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” She noted that two previous SXSW gigs hadn’t panned out — a March 2020 one, for pandemic reasons, and a 2022 one because the stage she was supposed to play on fell apart. She made the most of the stage she finally got: After the breezily funky “Photo ID,” perhaps pop’s first song inspired by both Hall and Oates and David Byrne, she left behind a grateful crowd. She seemed grateful, too: “I love you all,” she said.
(Full disclosure: In 2021, Rolling Stone’s parent company, P-MRC, acquired a 50 percent stake in the SXSW festival.)
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