South by Southwest has been a big deal for American bands for decades now, but increasingly it’s become a space for international acts to prove their mettle.
Organized by the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), Wednesday night’s fourth annual K-Pop Night Out showcase at the Belmont in Austin aimed to shine a spotlight on talented South Korean music acts the government agency feels are worthy of global exposure.
It’s a sensible goal from a country that’s seen the rest of the world fall in love with its pop culture over the last decade, such as the critically acclaimed movies of Bong Joon-ho (“Snowpiercer”) and Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy”).
It was made clear that the agency is serious about showing the world the scope of South Korea’s musical offerings, as everything from R&B (DEAN) to metal (Victim Mentality) was on display.
Solar, Wheein, Hwasa and Moonbyul of Mamamoo perform during the K-Pop Night Out SXSW showcase at The Belmont on March 16.Photo: Redferns
A wonderful opportunity for bands like electro rock duo Love X Stereo, Annie Ko and Toby Hwang’s sound is more indebted to Smashing Pumpkins and New Order than other Korean acts.
“We believe our music is more suitable outside than inside Korea,” Ko said. “K-Pop is very different from what we’re doing.”
Love X Stereo is the band K-Pop Night Out was made for, an act that international listeners would be open to if they knew it existed.
“We have always wanted to be an international band,” Ko said. “Like Chvrches, they’re from Scotland, but people don’t think of them as a Scottish band. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
As KOCCA’s director of global business division Iljoong Kim pointed out, bands like Love X Stereo show that Korean doesn’t just mean one thing.
“We like to show that in Korea, there are so many different styles of music,” Kim said. “Not just idol, girl, or dance groups.”