It wasn't a particularly auspicious slot: 8 p.m. Friday at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, where 2,000 bands vie for attention in mid-March annually.
But Wild Belle made it count with a 40-minute set that demonstrated a command of breezy, Caribbean-flavored pop and trip-hop. The five-piece band's musicianship gave everything a buoyancy that had fans swaying and dancing. But the focal point was the brother-sister combo of Elliot and Natalie Bergman, who grew up in northwest suburban Barrington.
Elliot, 31, is a skilled multi-instrumentalist (everything from saxophone to the kalimba) with a flair for jazz-inspired funk and Afrobeat, as evidenced by his acclaimed band Nomo. Natalie, 23, is a dusky-voiced singer-songwriter who was exploring a career as a solo act after attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
The two had worked together off and on in Nomo since Natalie was a teenager but began focusing on writing together exclusively as Wild Belle only last year. Natalie had some words and chords, but the sound wasn't predetermined. "We found a space between modern and organic," Elliot says, referencing a blend ofelectronic textures and vintage '60s and '70s soul, reggae, African music and pop.
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