POZ SXSW Preview: Our Must-See Acts And Showcases
SXSW seems to grow larger each year. What began as a small get-together of industry insiders and aspiring bands angling for a break has turned into an unwieldy, bloated clusterfuck of corporate sponsorship, headlined by arena-packing artists hoping to glom a little secondhand cool. But beneath all that surface bullshit, the heart of the little-festival-that-was is still beating.
Look — we love Green Day and Paramore as much as the next guys and gals, but are they really hurting in the promotional department? Instead, we’ve decided to highlight a handful of smaller artists performing on each day that you might find simpatico. Of course, with over 2,000 bands performing throughout the week, we’re undoubtedly missing out on some great acts too. Reblog and let us know who we need to see while we’re in Austin this week!
Driver Friendly (Red 7 Patio, 9:00PM)
Austin’s own eclectic pop-punk-with-horns band Driver Friendly — you might remember them as Driver F — signed with Hopeless Records last fall, but other than a few local shows (including one opening for The Front Bottoms) things have seemed quiet in their camp as of late. Turns out, they’ve been in the studio — fingers crossed we’ll get a sneak preview of the results this week.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (Bungalow, 10:00PM)
These Warped Tour vets’ stock in trade is raucous country blues, played on vintage guitars, washboards and plastic buckets. We can’t think of any better way to get into the Austin mood on the first night of the festival than hootin’ and hollerin’ with The Reverend.
MC Lars (Flamingo Cantina, 1:10AM)
Nerd-rapper MC Lars might feel like a throwback to 2005, but if popular attention has drifted over the last few years, it hasn’t slowed Lars down — he’s continued to steadily release new material, including an Edgar Allan Poe-themed EP last year. Here’s a chance to see what he’s been up to while you weren’t looking.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Tuesday: Jenny Owen Youngs; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; Tegan & Sara.
Laura Stevenson And The Cans (Holy Mountain Backyard, 9:00PM; Barbarella Patio, 12:30AM)
One-time Bomb The Music Industry! keyboardist Laura Stevenson might be a small lady, but she’s got a humongous voice, and isn’t afraid to show it off in concert. Her third LP, Wheel, is due out next month; the recently released advance track, “L-DOPA”, might be the best we’ve heard from her yet.
Twin Falls (Central Presbyterian Church, 8:30PM)
OK, so Chris Carrabba isn’t exactly a small fry. But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t super stoked for the debut of his new band, featuring Suzie Zeldin of The Narrative and Ben Homola of Bad Books and Shone (if you could major in “playing drums in side projects”, Homola would have his Ph.D. by now). We’ve only heard one song so far, titled “Scraping Up The Pieces”, but its mixture of bouncy, folky Americana and Carrabba’s soaring vocals sure has us intrigued.
June Divided (Burnside’s Tavern, 10:00PM)
Straightforward rock music might not be in vogue right now, but June Divided are proof that there will always be room for rock done right. Their live set earned them a stint on Warped Tour, and slots as a local opener for bands like Further Seems Forever and The Almost.
White Lung (Holy Mountain, 1:20AM)
Canadian quartet White Lung marry modern punk and hardcore with personal politics and a fearlessness that recall the riot grrrl 90’s. Vocalist Mish Way sports a ferocious roar, but it’s backed with intelligence and empathy, as she proved on our 100 Words Or Less Podcast a few weeks ago.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Wednesday: A Life Once Lost; Barcelona; Paramore; Skinny Lister; So Many Dynamos; The Specials; Twenty One Pilots; Vacationer; Waxahatchee.
Topshelf Records / Count Your Lucky Stars Showcase Day 1 (Pearl Street Co-Op: 2:00PM)
Empire! Empire!. Joie de Vivre. Caravels. Weatherbox. Kind Of Like Spitting. Look Mexico. Pentimento. Candy Hearts. And that’s just half the acts performing at day one of what might be SXSW’s strongest showcase event. You could be excused for spending your entire day there; I know I’ll be tempted to.
Allison Weiss (The Iron Bear, 9:00PM)
Electric singer-songwriter Allison Weiss has made a name for herself in the indie world cranking out one self-released album after another, but her upcoming No Sleep debut Say What You Mean threatens to finally garner her the wider attention she deserves. Plus, she comes vouched for by no less an arbiter of good taste than Dan “Soupy” Campbell; thats one endorsement we take seriously.
Mark Rose (Third String House, 9:35PM)
It was only a few years ago that Spitalfield were defining a vibrant Chicago scene alongside acts like Fall Out Boy and Plain White T’s. Now, former frontman Mark Rose is hoeing his own row, bringing his solo act to SXSW and reinventing himself in the process.
BNLX (East Avenue Lounge, 10:45PM)
You might not know Ed Ackerson’s name, but there’s a good chance you love his work: his production credits included the two most recent Motion City Soundtrack albums, and A Great Big Pile Of Leaves’ upcoming LP. Ackerson steps out from behind the board as the noise-pop band he fronts, BNLX, hauls down from Minnesota to the Austin sunshine.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Thursday: Body Language; Breathe Carolina; City & Colour; Dead Sara; I The Mighty; The Joy Formidable; KEN Mode; Mod Sun; Norma Jean; RDGLDGRN; Set It Off.
Masked Intruder (Holy Mountain, 1:00PM)
You know you’ve got something special when your awesome gimmick — a gang of mysterious, lovelorn ex-cons in brightly colored ski masks, as apt to steal your car as your heart — is only the second best thing about you. But Masked Intruder, above all else, make some of the catchiest old school pop-punk we’ve heard in ages. Maybe now we’ll finally be able to figure out who’s behind those masks after all…
The Limousines (The Brew Exchange, 6:30PM)
When Eric Victorino (ex-Strata) and Giovanni Giusti, the electro-rock duo known as The Limousines, decided things weren’t working out with their label, they opted to go their own way. Fortunately, their fans had their back, chipping in more than $70,000 to fund the yet-to-be-released second LP, Hush. SXSW might be the first opportunity to hear what those funds have wrought.
Mystery Skulls (Avenue On Congress Rooftop, 8:00PM)
You probably remember Luis Dubuc from his one-man laptop pop outfit The Secret Handshake (or perhaps for his underrated heavy music project, Of Legends). He’s spent the last few years woodshedding, sporadically issuing electro-indebted dancefloor bangers via a Tumblr under the project name Mystery Skulls. Here’s a rare chance to catch him live.
The Photo Atlas (Peckerheads, 12:30AM)
Hyper-intense dance-punks The Photo Atlas looked like they might be the next big thing back in 2007, when they released their killer debut LP No, Not Me, Never. That title was sadly prescient — for one reason or another, it never quite happened for the band. But if they’ve suffered for the lack of attention, you’d never know it from their live show, which commands you to shake your ass and bang your head all at once.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Friday:
Andrew McMahon; Chiodos; The Dangerous Summer; The Dear Hunter; Frank Turner; K Sera; Lemuria; Less Than Jake; Metz; Off With Their Heads; Schematic; Trapper Schoepp & The Shades; Topshelf Records / Count Your Lucky Stars Showcase (Day 2)
Bridge Nine Records Showcase (Elysium, 11:00AM)
With the likes of Lemuria, Weatherbox, Candy Hearts and Loma Prieta all on one stage, you could happily spend your whole afternoon at Bridge 9’s showcase. And capping the day off is one of the first full-band shows by What’s Eating Gilbert, the 50’s-loving rock-n-roll project by NFG guitarist Chad Gilbert that we can’t get enough of.
HRVRD (Red 7, 2:15PM)
HRVRD are a tough act to describe; their music incorporates hardcore, spacey ambience and melodic indie, inviting comparison to acts like Circa Survive, Death Cab For Cutie and Explosions In The Sky, but none of those are more than distant approximations for what’s ultimately a unique sound. (No surprise that they cite the incomparable Radiohead as an inspiration). Their second LP, From The Bird’s Cage, was released last month to near-unanimous positive reviews — we wanna know how the new material plays live.
Jukebox The Ghost (Uncorked Wine Bar, 3:45PM)
The good-time indie pop of Jukebox The Ghost has landed them tour slots opening for everyone from Motion City Soundtrack to Jack’s Mannequin to Ben Folds. It’s no surprise — the multi-instrumentalist trio make solid records, but they’re at their catchy, punchy best in the live setting.
Bad Rabbits (Uncorked Wine Bar, 6:00PM)
It’s been four years since funk-rock combo Bad Rabbits releasedStick Up Kids, but the legend of their raging live shows has only grown in the time since. The real secret? They’re even wilder than you’ve heard. With their debut LP, American Love, finally set for release this May, it’s only a matter of time until everyone knows what we know.
Other acts we’re looking forward to seeing on Saturday:
Chuck Ragan; Crown The Empire; Forever Came Calling; The Hush Sound; Matt Pryor; Rocky Votolato; What Made Milwaukee Famous; Young Guns.
by Jesse Richman
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