Jessie Ware performing at MTV’s “Artist To Watch” showcase.
A few weeks back, we rallied around a handful of up-and-coming buzz artists for 2013 (names like Austin Mahone, The Weeknd, Joey Bada$$, and Trinidad Jame$ all made the cut). Then last night, MTV’s “Artist To Watch” culminated in a special live showcase at New York’s Highline Ballroom (check out the full recap here!), featuring DIY mastermind, singer-songwriter, and self-proclaimed performance artist Robert DeLong, hip-hop/pop/rockers Twenty | One | Pilots (who not only rapped but rocked AND did backflips off pianos), soulful songbird Jessie Ware, and electro-house performer (and Lady Gaga favorite) Zedd.
Read more about MTV’s Artist To Watch showcase, and see photos of the show after the jump.
“Artist To Watch” kicked off with a performance by Robert DeLong, a DIY house musician and one-man-band who quickly got to work creating a melodic cacophony of sound, utilizing everything from his own voice to a tambourine and the audience’s yells. “The show is just me on stage,” said Robert of his solitary act. “I have a drum set, a vocal mic, couple computers, joysticks, game pads, a bunch of electronics, and other stuff. I just run around and I sing and play drums and do looping. It’s kind of a one-man electronic show.”
Next, resident genre-mashers Twenty | One | Pilots jolted the audience awake with their unclassifiable hip-hop-meets-hardcore-meets-piano-pop sound. “Our album (Vessel) has been out for a week now, and we’re really excited to show people what it looks like live, because it’s more our element,” said lead singer Tyler Joseph. “I think it’ll be interesting to see how (our music) translates [to the stage].” Already live show vets, it was a bona fide blast watching drummer Josh Dun getting up from behind the snare to do backflips off a piano, while Tyler effortlessly spit his way through “Guns For Hands” and “Holding On To You,” later topping their set off with a half-cover of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.”
Jessie Ware, otherwise known as the nicest person you will ever meet, appeared too in a rare acoustic set (fun fact: Jessie filmed her first North American television appearance on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” earlier that day). Calming down the crowd with her rich, soulful, “Adele-esque” vocals (as Emeli Sande watched from the balcony above, BTW), Jessie moved gently through trademark tracks like “Wildest Moments,” plus a few others from her debut album, Devotion. “I grew up watching MTV, and it kind of shaped a lot of my opinions on music,” said Jessie before going on stage. “The fact that MTV even gave me a look, especially in America, is a really big opportunity for me, so I’m really appreciative.”
Zedd, on the other hand, blew things up by creating a full-on dance party at the Highline, complete with seizure-inducing, psychedelic flashy visuals, spanning the musical spectrum, mashing together contemporary hits and vintage favorites, and throwing a solid “Gangnam Style” and Kanye West’s “Mercy,” in for good measure. “It’s not going to be just a DJ show,” said Zedd before going on. “Every minute of our set is going to be something special.”
Robert DeLong grins backstage at the Highline Ballroom. Candids!
Jokesters Twenty One Pilots practice their promo pose.
Zedd, looking pensive.
Photo credit: Rachel Brodsky/Michele Crowe/Colin Gray