SXSW ’13: The Best DJ Sets—A Look Back

Fab 5: M|O|D brought Beantown beats to SXSW.

Austin, Texas — From Soundcloud randoms to Billboard magazine cover stars, more DJ talent than ever graced this year’s SXSW. The annual live-music bacchanalia—held this past March 8-17 in venues all over Texas’ capitol city—was never at a loss for beats.

The 2013 festival was yet another confirmation of the blurring line between dance music and hip-hop—trap tunes, anyone?—and the growth of its shared audience. Working the stage with vocalists and rappers with whom they collaborate, DJ/producers played original solo tracks and collabs, plus official or unofficial remixes of Top-40 artists—whatever it took to get the party started.

Collectives and crews had a strong presence, banding together to throw perfectly curated showcases and parties representing all points from LA to Boston. We saw plenty of lesser-known young artists use their online presences to draw an impressive crowd far from home and play with genre peers. Here were a few impressive DJ/artists:

Ryan Hemsworth. In the midst of his nationwide tour supporting Daedelus and Shlohmo, this Canadian e-heartthrob was a hot commodity for SXSW bookings, playing everything from the Pitchfork showcase to a day party hosted by independent music blog Live for the Funk. Attracting a crowd from hip-hop heads to internet nerds, Hemsworth mixed radio favorites Frank Ocean and Drake with the melancholy vibe he shares with his fellow We Did It collective members. After his recent write-ups in publications like Interview to Teen Vogue and hour-long mixes for The Fader and FACT, the 22-year-old DJ still had an endearingly uncomfortable stage presence, as he danced and kept his gaze low towards his controller.

Warehouse Vibes: Brenmar mixed R&B samples & house grooves.

Brenmar. Dropping a set filled with what he describes as “club music for the present,” Brenmar thrilled with a steady diet of R&B samples and house vibes. What’s perhaps most impressive about the always-dapper DJ is his unending ability to cater to a crowd. The dimly lit Mountain Dew backyard party was not packed, but maintained a constant buzz that made people comfortable enough to dance. Joined onstage by other New York DJs Venus X and Mess Kid, Brenmar effectively brought his Brooklyn warehouse vibe down South.

M|O|D. These five Boston-based college friends play both as a crew and individually under their own names—Yung Satan, Rewrote, Lil Texas, CZ, and Arnold. Though seeing five DJs play at once may seem all too intense, the group thankfully alternates between back-to-back sets and switching off between threes. M|O|D collectively has enough club, Jersey house, B’more, and trap tunes to play showcase after showcase—and they did. Proving they can be appreciated and distinguishable on their own, the quintet worked as a cohesive unit without missing a beat during their performances, beginning on the Lanai rooftop Wednesday and ending with their showcase at Republic Live Saturday.

Denver DJ: Pictureplane dropped cyber-club music.

Pictureplane. Known for both his obscure style in everything from clothing to production, Pictureplane enticed the crowd by tangling his body with the microphone cord as he performed at the Brooklyn Vegan showcase. During an all-original set, the Denver party staple spiced up his performance with heavily affected live vocals. Having produced for Antwon and co-produced with members of the band Health, Pictureplane’s diverse cyber-club-music set the stage for similar performances throughout the night from Brooke Candy and Zebra Katz.

Flume. At the Spotify lounge the Australian producer surprised with an impromptu outdoor performance, as he hopped on the turntables for a set packed with his original tracks off his self-titled album from this past year. Without any introduction or microphone use, Flume threw in the occasional remix—including “Hyperpardise” by Hermitude—causing audience members to recognize his chill-out beats and get their collective groove on—drinks in hand.

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