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Six Nettwerk Acts to See at SXSW 2024

Photo Credit: Polocho

It’s been called a rite of passage, a whirlwind, and even a new world. But above all else, SXSW is a stage for storytellers, a platform for boundary-pushers, and a place where authenticity and innovation thrive. This year, these six Nettwerk acts will take on the festival for the first time, stringing together raw narratives and fresh sounds that don’t merely fit the bill, they break the damn mold. 

Photo Credit: Lindsay Thomaston

  1. Bathe Alone –

Bailey Crone isn’t just a vocalist. She’s more akin to an octopus, playing the drums, guitar, and bass for her solo music project Bathe Alone. And, like the humble octopi, Crone exhibits an impressive level of fearlessness in her approach to risk. 

On her upcoming LP (out June 7), I Don’t Do Humidity, Crone crafts tracks laden with jaw-dropping authenticity and unabashed scorn. Take “Blame Me” for instance, wherein Crone not only chronicles the painful infidelity present in her recently-ended marriage but invites the listener on a ghostly tour of a relationship riddled with bad math. 

Ain’t no room for three / What’s she doin’ here? / I liked it better when it was you and me / But you disappeared,” Crone croons in her smokey yet soothing vocal fry before sonically laying the relationship to rest. With satisfying resolve – in what feels like a grand “f*ck it” moment – Crone suggests, “You should blame me” and closes the door (it’s a window in the “Blame Me” music video/short film) forever. 

As the Atlanta artist gears up for her SXSW debut, she recalls, “I [was] in awe watching my favorite bands play SXSW online as a teenager. I’m so stoked to finally be going and to be playing my music.” 

Photo Credit: Ryan Lumley

  1. Bay Ledges – 

On March 1, Maine-born musician Zach Hurd, the mind behind the relaxed-transcendent pop project Bay Ledges, released his newest single “Silver.” Though a sallow telling laden with loss, the track is lined with threads of beauty and hope – a silver lining, if you will. 

“Walk toward the sun / I wish you’d come / Come to heal me,” Hurd sings softly, his voice almost wed to the song’s rhythm. For a moment, amid the despair, Hurd summons a mirage in his desert of pain, and we, the listeners, begin to yearn right along with him, reaching for that distant oasis.

But “Silver” isn’t a one-off. Hurd, who initially started Bay Ledges in 2015 while living in Los Angeles, has a knack for imbuing his music with palpable longing and tangible energy. As SXSW 2024 approaches, Hurd will bring that same energy to the stage in Austin, Texas, telling SPIN, “I’ve wanted to play at SXSW for such a long time! I always thought of it as a rite of passage for bands and it’s a real honor to be a featured artist this year. I can’t wait!”

Photo Credit: Polocho

  1. Bleach Lab – 

Originally from Buckinghamshire, a ceremonial county in South East England, the brooding quartet Beach Lab admits that while they’re excited to play SXSW, there’s something additional beckoning them to Austin. 

“It’s been amazing seeing our US fan base grow over the years,” the band tells SPIN. “We’ve connected and spoken to many fans about coming to play SXSW, so it feels really special to finally be here. We also can’t wait to try Texan BBQ for the first time!”

Pleasantries and pulled pork aside, Bleach Lab has a severe sound that calls back to the angst and dark emotional creativity of the 1990s. It’s no wonder the second of their two 2021 EPs, Nothing Feels Real, was produced by Stephen Street (The Cranberries, The Smiths, Blur). 

Now, Bleach Lab has released their newest album Lost In A Rush of Emptiness, a title aptly borrowed from a line in Leonard Cohen’s posthumous collection The Flame. The LP explores alcoholism, toxic relationships, and sexual harassment – amongst many other topics – weaving together a tapestry warm with nostalgia and wet with heavy moods…a perfect addition to any stage ready for a sonic time machine. 

Photo Credit: Christian Lanza

  1. Presence –

Southern California recording artist Presence, also known as Jonathon Martinez, started his music journey long ago, a hip-hop fan on the cusp of his teen years. Today, he produces anxious, pop-punky projects, but over a decade later, remnants of his love for rap still bleed into his music. For instance, when he riddles his newest track “SCARED OF THE FALL!” with a rapid rat-a-tat-tat right before the outro, the song satisfyingly transcends genres while maintaining its mystery factor. 

What’s more, Presence imbues the song with a story centered around death, misfortune, and perhaps even malediction. “It seems like every time I chase some kind of joy, the world balances it out with something equally as horrible…Maybe it’s irrational, but I’m scared…scared to fall.” These are the words Presence speaks just before the beat drops and he commences dancing with the ghosts of his past. 

As for transcending, Presence tells SPIN, “Going to SXSW for the first time feels like I’m going to be stepping into a new world. First and foremost, I’ve never been to Texas, but I’ve just been told about the whirlwind this week could be. I’m all for it, though, and excited for everything it entails.”

Photo Credit: Catie Laffoon

  1. Wic Whitney –

Arkansas-bred, Chicago-based Wic Whitney is a melting pot in and of himself. When listening to him spit, you might find your many preferred genres satisfied in just one song – even beyond music. The experience is a storytelling-rap-soul-poetry-jam sesh amalgamation that feels less like an onstage performance and more like an invitation to a firepit-lit kickback. 

What’s more, the Southern-inspired, quick-witted Wic is a champion of inclusivity, actively creating and holding space for those who are often othered. At this year’s SXSW, he intends to do the same. 

 “This is my first time performing at a festival, so that’s reason enough, but this one’s doubly special because it’s in the south,” Wic tells SPIN. “I’m passionate about representing queer southern folks, being that I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas. I love making sure my lgbtq+ family feels seen in places that don’t traditionally celebrate them.” 

Photo Credit: Noah Kentis

  1. Abby Sage –

Exploration seems to be a recurring motif in Abby Sage’s world. Not only is she anticipating exploring Austin as a first-time performer at SXSW this year, she’s often immersed in the exploration of her mind, body, and soul through music, and the Toronto-born, Los Angeles-based Sage has a knack for deep excavation, especially on her recently-released debut LP The Rot. There, she inspects and dissects her relationship with sex, anxiety around her health, raw moments of loneliness, and the inevitability of change. 

With vocals that feel like braided silk and rhythms like waves slowly lapping in a sepulcher, The Rot carries the listener to a romantic – almost gothic – space while keeping one tethered to reality. 

In line with her explorative nature, Abby Sage tells SPIN, “I’ve heard a lot about the energy [of SXSW] and I’m excited to see for myself.”

You can also catch Bathe Alone, Bay Ledges, Bleach Lab, Presence, Wic Whitney, and Abby Sage at the Nettwerk x Grrrl Music Showcase at The Creek and The Cave on Friday, March 15th, starting 8 pm, and at other showcases around SXSW. Click here to learn more about the Nettwerk x Grrrl Musis Showcase.