As the years progress, SXSW tries to become more and more progressive. Half of that battle is found in fully embracing international artists—people from across the globe flock to Austin, Texas for the music conference and festival, and it only makes sense that those people are represented. That continues to happen in pockets: French band there, Aussie act over there. But what about non-Western countries?
Four years ago, K-Pop's Night Out was founded to support the scene stateside only to further bolster it. Last year Crayon Pop blew our mind, and this year it was Mamamoo who won our hearts with their Fifth Harmony-esque girl group superpowers. As if there was ever any doubt: Seoul is the place to find exciting new sounds.
The annual event is always one of the most diverse: Early on in the night, glam rockers Victim Mentality slayed through their set...it was a real treat to see the fans of pop-based Korean music get down to some heavy riffs. Named after the Stone Roses song (we can only hope) Bye Bye Badman continued in the rock tradition but with their unique brand of glittering indie-pop. Love X Stereo, too, managed to bring new edge to the guitar-driven genre.
But it truly was Mamamoo who took over the event. Their songs varied in tempos, with the more ballad-based moments showcasing their wide vocal range and the faster songs allowing each girl to rap—and rap well. Their sound was fairly Americanized; they truly felt like a R&B-leaning girl group from the '00s, but with a modern twist. It was a familiar sound and performance, one that the rest of the U.S. would be smart to get into sooner than later.
The power of K-Pop's Night Out is found in its celebration not only of the Asian country's rich musical climate, but in its celebration of fandom. Many of the attendees didn't even appear to be at SXSW for SXSW; they were there for K-Pop. Being around that much passion at once: That's what makes music so exciting.