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.