Hiatus Kaiyote, Freeway, Black Milk, BBNG, Ibeyi + More Rock OkayHouse Live At SXSW 2015 [Photos + Recap]
Deep in the heart of Texas, SXSW 2015’s peak hit the OkayHouse with full force Saturday night, as Okayplayer’s grand finale evening got under way beneath a dark and threatening sky. Undeterred by the cool air, Cali-bred r&b upstart Marc E. Bassy took the stage and delivered a tasteful set, loaded with woozy synthesizer lines and the singer’s powerful, drawling croon. Full of promise, Bassy came offstage grinning ear to ear, leaving the growing crowd eager for more. With barely a moment’s pause that energy was seized upon by Your Old Droog, who baited the crowd a bit, egging on the tent’s hip-hop heads and leading back-and-forth chants like it was Brooklyn circa 1994.
Deft as always with his microphone work, Droog helped remove all doubt about the night’s prospects–the Okayhouse was headed for historic night-status. A following 1-2 r&b punch of Seattle QueenS THEESatisfaction and London soulcat (uh, wolf) Greighwolfe had arms waving as the tent hit capacity–and in process gave two new, completely distinct meanings to the term ‘neo-soul’. Then came the much-anticipated set from Parisian/Afro-Cuban twin sisters Ibeyi. Here the night hit its first and only snag: Ibeyi’s elaborate rig refused to cooperate and as technical difficulties slowed the momentum, tendrils of energy began to slowly dissipate. But the sisters would not be denied. With just an acoustic piano, cajon drum and their gorgeously-meshing voices, the 19 year-olds turned out an all-acoustic micro set that gave us all a taste of what they’re capable of and made believers of many in attendance (including some of the assembled press). Singing in multiple languages and styles, Ibeyi left not a single ear wanting.
And then everything exploded. In a flurry of heavy beats and wild vocals, Hiatus Kaiyote pushed the night right over the edge of sanity, blazing through cuts like “Molasses”; “By Fire” and “The World It Softly Lulls.” Hiatus had been the band name on everyone’s mind the entire festival and the throngs of Okayplayers in attendance shook and shouted along as Nai Palm nearly lost control from behind her hollow-body guitar. Basslines flying and synth barbs firing in all directions, the antipodal future jazz act set the bar for every future Okayplayer performance ’til the end of time.
Rather than ride on Kaiyote’s white-hot energy, Canadian punkjazz quartet BadBadNotGood opted for a more subtle approach, bringing the room down and immersing it in their noir-jazz world for a number of tunes. All things heavy came on “Putty Boy Strut,” however–the band’s go-to Flying Lotus cover sounded even better than ever thanks to saxophonist Leland Whitty. SXSW had been a multi-show marathon for the young jazzers, but somehow the group dug deep and coaxed us lucky fans into a frenzy.
Special guests Black Milk and Freeway took command of the microphone near the end of BBNG’s set, and Just Blaze seemingly manifested out of nowhere onto the stage’s turntable decks, tossing in virtuoso scratch work for good measure. With so many notes already ringing in our ears, the crowd got a welcome bit of repose with funk man Redinho, whose one-man G-funk approach had many scratching their heads, wondering how just one man could produce so much groove. Redinho’s set transitioned buttery-smooth into the turntablist soul of Orfeo & Computer Jay, who ended the Okayhouse’s legendary evening with a bit of a post-party chill out session that hung on Orfeo’s golden vocal tones. With its emphasis on new and rising artists, this year’s Okayplayer SXSW finale was a massive storm full of bright lightning and low rumbling thunder. By the time we all dry off, it’ll be SXSW 2016 and we can’t wait. Get wet vicariously via Jena Cumbo‘s photos (plus a few shots by yours truly) and stay tuned for more.