SXSW 2018: Unlikely heartthrob Cuco spins sunny psych pop daydreams

Fresh out of high school, 19-year-old singer and trumpet player Cuco seems like an unlikely choice for this season’s heartthrob. He has a mop of unkempt curls, glasses and a low-key demeanor that says band nerd more than playa.

Cuco performs at The Mohawk at SXSW on Friday March 16, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

But backed by a six-piece band, he charmed his way into the hearts of a Mohawk crowd last night.

The young Chicano, who alternates between Spanish and English in his lyrics, is not a technically superb singer yet. He started out his set a bit pitchy, but warmed up quickly. By the time he hit track two, the lovely heart-on-sleeve ballad “One and Only” he seemed to have found his groove, belting out his sing-along hooks with clarity and confidence.

Cuco’s true gift is as a songwriter. He writes sunny loves songs, dreamy psychedelic meanderings with catchy choruses and a vibe that poignantly captures the aching impermanence of summer romance.

The showcase featured Latin bands, and the young crooner, whose parents are both immigrants from Mexico, said he appreciated having a space where Latinx fans could come together. The venue was nowhere near capacity, which can probably be attributed less to Cuco’s overall appeal, and more to the fact that he played a sold out show there at the beginning of this month.

For such a young artist, Cuco shows enormous promise and we should expect to see much more of him going forward.

Cuco performs at The Mohawk at SXSW on Friday March 16, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN