Surreal, Nocturnal and Captivating | otay:onii Live at Hotel Vegas, SXSW 2023

otay:onii performing at SXSW 2023. Photograph by Matt Cruz

otay:onii performing at SXSW 2023. Photograph by Matt Cruz

Matt Cruz, Media Librarian

In the environment of terminally online music, textures and acts have become increasingly forward thinking, interconnected and influenced by a wide genre of music and art. Act upon act has seemingly sprouted overnight from the far corners of the Earth, bravely championing new sounds and a keen understanding of several genres. With the digital age bringing an easily accessible library of music to anyone at the snap of their fingers, it’s truly no wonder that we have such radical and challenging modes of artistic expression exploding from every country and continent.

otay:onii is another wonderful addition to this ever-growing list.

otay:onii performing at SXSW 2023. Photograph by Matt Cruz

While covering this year’s SXSW festival, The Impact was lucky enough to catch her live set. Her surrealist animation and soundscapes absolutely dwarfed the stage presence of any other musical act. Playing the interior of the Hotel Vegas, the room was dimly lit in hues of red, allowing otay:onii complete control and command of the stage. 

She played a plethora of material from her albums 冥冥 (Míng Míng) and 夢之駭客 Dream Hacker, but the mesmerizing performance interestingly enough wasn’t as a result of her phenomenal musicianship, but rather her sublime artistry weaving an unforgettable experience before our very eyes.

Adorned in a glittering, woven red sweater, her head and face were obscured by a white covering. This headpiece contained a snaking trunk, presumably with a microphone affixed to the front of the mouth. This trunk coiled around her body from the head, appearing like a 7-foot tapeworm being swallowed.

otay:onii’s musical textures began to morph from their post-industrial palette to the metallic frenzy of electronica and even to neoclassical darkwave. Despite the crushing and bleak atmosphere, one’s eyes were consuming the content rather than the ears.

otay:onii’s costume and use of swirling textures created an apocalyptic, dystopic and avant set of performance art that was nothing short of breathtaking. Like a zombie, she would slowly approach the crowd and articulate her body in grotesque poses — equally an extension and addition of her art. Her demoness appearance served to completely immerse the audience in a showcase of her sound and vision. Her hand would reach out toward the crowd as she became a demonic siren serenading with a post-capitalist song.

otay:onii performing at SXSW 2023. Photograph by Matt Cruz

As she receded toward the stage, she utilized a keytar to synthesize heavy and metallic sounds. The custom presets allowed her to toy with the atmosphere at will. She was locked in place, but still contorting her body in a grotesque fashion — perhaps being one of the only human beings to approach the uncanny valley.

Her hands violently hammered the keys, creating a serrated and dissonant atmosphere perfectly in line with the textures present on 冥冥 (Míng Míng) and 夢之駭客 Dream Hacker. This was helped by effects plugins and samples she had at her feet, which allowed her to reinvigorate the atmosphere with injections and manipulations of fresh sounds.

Toward the end of her set, she set aside her synths and began to utilize the ground itself as a stage for her performance. For her piece de la resistance, otay:onii fell to the floor, writhing in pure agony — or even ecstasy? — as the audience was consumed by her crashing walls of sound. Moving throughout the crowd, the energy bubbling in her set popped, and she exemplified the ensuing mania brilliantly with her energetic and cutting movements.

Encircling her was the audience, watching in awe as she screamed in a machine-like maelstrom of noise. She appeared on the cement floor like a fallen angel, both a victim of some imaginary god and the martyr of an extinguished cause in a truly terrifying, yet thrilling performance.

otay:onii performing at SXSW 2023. Photograph by Matt Cruz


With many other performances during SXSW showcasing a traditional approach to the idea of the concert, it was wonderful to see a complete subversion of those expectations, integrating aspects of performance art, avant-garde music and even fashion to further the idea of what a musician can use the stage for. 

For those who performed at SXSW, these 100-foot rectangles were merely their stage. For otay:onii, these rectangles were boundless, shapeless and broken for the sake of her art.