At some point over the course of every South by Southwest, most attendees ask themselves some version of this question: “Who can I see tonight in a club that will likely be playing an arena in a year?” Judging from the line to get in (and the floor packed in anticipation) for many Gen Zers at this year’s conference, the answer to that question on Tuesday was pop chanteuse PinkPantheress, who’s currently riding high on a string of bouncy TikTok hits, including the current viral smash “Boys a Liar Pt 2.”
Unfortunately for her and the audience at the So Satisfying House, all the anticipation was for naught: PinkPantheress, backed only by a DJ, suffered an onslaught of tech problems and a general lack of enthusiasm; her set — composed of same-y, super-short late ’90s garage-era beats, abetted by her sugary-sweet vocals — was one of the least engaging SXSW buzz sets in memory.
Adding to the overall iffyness, the singer was clearly lip-syncing the entire set, holding the mic out at times while her vocals resonated at full force, then speaking in-between songs in a volume range so low, you had to lean in to try to hear her.
Her songs are notoriously short, and here almost played like a giant gag. After 90 seconds or so one would end, she’d mumble a bit, and then another would start, with the singer pantomiming the same moves, lip-synching in the same range, and doing the same two-step dance as the last. They blended into each other like a passive, bored scroll through a For You screen: next. next. next. next.
At a festival long known for bringing both artistry and showmanship to the forefront, PinkPantheress’ set was an anomaly, but one unfortunately indicative of the era: all hustle and no flow, all shine but no sheen, all tik — but no tok.