SXSW Music Review: Hamburg x Berlin Showcase

International cosmology from the German capital

Although this showcase of German acts allegedly represented Hamburg and Berlin, nearly every act came from the latter city. As such, it’s a mark of how cosmopolitan the town is that most of its acts at SXSW weren’t natives. Case in point: opener Lucas Ufo, aka World Brain, is French, which explains why his charming electro-pop resembled Air’s poppier sides.

Fenster (Photo by John Anderson)

Based in Berlin, Emma Elisabeth hails from Sweden, but neither her birthplace nor her home base had any impact on her colorless indie rock. Ufo’s main band, Fenster includes American bassist J.J. Weihl alongside the Germans. Together, the international quartet mixed psych-pop, soft rock, and prog rock, actually sounding like a blend of its heritages as it previewed material from a forthcoming LP.

German natives, power trio Jaguwar transcended nationalist pigeonholes with traditionalist shoegaze far more muscular and aggressive live than on its shimmery debut Ringthing. Hamburg act Meute, replacing citymate Ace Tee, translated the stiffly funky beats of EDM into crowd favorite brass band arrangements. Now seven albums in, Berlin-based singer/songwriter Gemma Ray first made a name for herself in her native UK, but her distinctive noir version of early-Sixties pop – equal parts swampland and night club atmosphere – would sound right at home in her city of choice.

Also calling Berlin home, OY originally formed in Switzerland when Ghanian native Joy Frempong hooked up with Swiss drummer Lleluja-Ha. The pair’s futurist, electro Afrobeat hinged on Frempong’s mastery of samples and synths, and the aspirational cosmology found on latest album Space Diaspora. Preaching global togetherness in a utopian future may fall on deaf ears in today’s America, but OY’s booty-shaking music kept the audience moving and enthralled.

After that performance, DJs Andrew Applepie and Linda Lee, and South African singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou simply didn’t measure up.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Dungeon Family Headlines SXSW’s Free Outdoor Stage
Dungeon Family Headlines SXSW’s Free Outdoor Stage
Big Boi & Co. rolling into Auditorium Shores next Friday

Kevin Curtin, March 4, 2019

Playback: Does Size Matter at SXSW?
Playback: Does Size Matter at SXSW?
A smaller SXSW Music week still satisfies

Kevin Curtin, March 23, 2018

More by Michael Toland
Texas Platters
American Sharks
11:11 (Record Review)

June 28, 2019

Texas Platters
Atlas Maior
Riptide (Record Review)

June 14, 2019


Hamburg x Berlin Music Showcase, SXSW Music 2018, Lucas Ufo, World Brain, Emma Elisabeth, J.J. Weihl, Fenster, Jaguwar, Meute, Gemma Ray, OY, Andrew Applepie, Linda Lee, Alice Phoebe Lou

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle