MTV kicked off its Artists To Watch campaign with a sold-out showcase at New York’s Highline Ballroom on Wednesday (January 16) night that featured four of the year’s hottest up-and-coming acts.
Los Angeles-based electro act/whirling dervish Robert Delong kicked things off with a high-energy set that saw him ask the audience to make some noise, loop their response into a beat, then sing and shake a tambourine over top of the racket. He’ll release his Glassnote Records’ debut, Just Movement, next month, and he gave the crowd a taste of what they can expect with first single “Global Concepts” (powered by the hook “Make you f—ing dance!”), and frequently darted across the Highline stage to bang on drums and pound an MPC, creating a wave of head-pounding, dubby dance and firmly establishing himself as a one-man band in every sense of the term.
Up next, and hailing from the epicenter of Buckeye Nation (Columbus, Ohio for the uninitiated), Twenty One Pilots didn’t waste any time, kicking things into high gear with thumpers like “Guns For Hands” and “Holding On To You,” with frontman Tyler Joseph sprinting across the stage and doing backflips off his piano while drummer Josh Dun hammered away behind his kit. They even got the crowd in on the act, literally parting them like the Red Sea at one point, and wrapped up their set with an (almost-complete) cover of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It,” which certainly ranked as one of the night’s most, uh, unexpected highlights.
Cooly coital British singer Jessie Ware followed with an all-acoustic set, playing songs off her excellent Devotion album, and though her voice was as beautiful and brooding as ever, she had a difficult time separating herself from the rest of the exceedingly up acts on the bill. Still, she managed to own the stage (both with her songs and her sweet, self-deprecating banter), no small feat considering it was just her and a guitar player beneath the spotlight.
And finally came the night’s de facto headliner, German producer Zedd, who definitely seized the moment (and no doubt triggered several seizures) with a set fill of psychedelic visuals, massive plumes of smoke that bathed the stage and lasers that criss-crossed the club. He weaved snippets of “Gangnam Style” and “Mercy” into the mix, but got the biggest response from his own hits, “Shave It” and “Clarity,” which left the crowd begging for more. Though he’s small in stature, Zedd proved that with simply a laptop and a whole lot of pyro, he’s an EDM atom bomb waiting to detonate.
Head to MTV’s Artists To Watch page for more on our picks for 2013!