The music portion of Austin's South by Southwest has begun and will overrun Austin,
Texas, through week's end. Though it's easy to gripe about the congestion and corporatization of the event, especially during the last decade, hordes of bands still make the southward pilgrimage in hopes of being heard at showcases both official and unofficial.
Below, I've listed all the area bands making the trip, as well as some presumable reasons for doing so. And if I've forgotten someone, let me know, and I'll add 'em.
In some ways, Shirlette Ammons's Language Barrier
reflects the spirit of the modern SXSW. Genre- and boundary-free, it explores so many sounds and ideas in its too-short run, twisting and turning into the unexpected. With a series of official showcase sets, Ammons can hopefully share that spirit with a wider set of critics and, perhaps, ad-placement gurus, for which her songs seem suited.
: The area artist poised to have the biggest breakthrough in Texas, Boulevards
will issue his debut LP through hip New York label Captured Tracks April 1.
Perfect timing to take the party to Texas and bring the buzz home.
: The Winston-Salem songwriter has been dubbed the next Jason Isbell for his bright new alt-country LP, Carolina Ghost
. Austin's an essential outpost for the stuff, so this is a good time for Caudle to find new fans and industry boosters.
: Des Ark issued the terrific Everything Dies
last year to positive reception locally and nationally. I've kind of been waiting (hell, a lot of us have) for the band to break into a much wider audience for years. Does that still happen at SXSW for veteran bands? Des Ark's songs—able to be heard at several showcases throughout the weekend—deserve it.
This badass Durham beat maker has started to build some serious attention through Soundcloud streams. The new jam "Keep it Going"
reminds me of Hudson Mohawke conducting a marching band. Like Boulevards, GRRL stands to leave Austin with a wide new audience.
: As with Caudle, it just makes good sense for Raleigh rock ’n’ twang band Hank Sinatra to get in front of Texans. Like Wailin Storms below, they're doing a Blurt party and
a Jon Langford-presented show
, both of which should be stocked with folks who know their way around roots-rock.
For the last few years, Brett Harris has been one of the stunning voices involved in Chris Stamey's Big Star tribute show. His new LP, Up in the Air
, shows he's ready for his pop-rock star moment. It's a great record from a seriously talented singer-songwriter. He's got a handful of showcases—and plenty to share.
: Young, mod Chapel Hill indie rock band Happy Abandon issued its Heavy Lines EP
in January. The group, whose hooks suggest The Fray, could benefit from a producer with big issues. Perhaps they can find one in Texas?
: Last I heard, Loamlands is sitting on a terrific and totally finished debut LP and looking for the right outlet. With a series of official shows at SXSW, maybe their crackling country-rock can connect with that person. The last time I saw them play, they were the best they've ever been, so the timing should be right.
: Mister Merge has gotta visit to assess the buzz bands, right? He's also there on official festival business, playing and speaking at a panel called "I Wrote That Song"
and doing a set tomorrow at End of an Ear.
MADE OF OAK
: Nick Sanborn's main gig, Sylvan Esso, is in the throes of finishing its second LP, but his solo EP, last year's Penumbra
, is still fairly fresh. As the stars of Sylvan Esso and Sanborn continue to climb, you've got to expect him to do more production work under this handle. SXSW should be a good chance to encounter some interested ears.
: Raleigh guitarist George Tisdale has a new album coming in 2016. He's in town to play a jazz- and soul-loaded showcase for E. Calloway Management a
nd turn attention to the upcoming LP.
A few years have passed since Bowerbirds' Phil Moore put out his last record. His new project, Tuskha, issued a single last year
, so it's likely time to start inching toward an album cycle for that project—and reminding folks who love Bowerbirds of his wonderful voice.
: As best as I can tell, Durham's Wailin Storms are dipping down to Texas only for the Blurt showcase on Saturday and an early-evening show at the Dizzy Rooster. That's a shame, as it seems their arid, warped mix of punk and metal could really find a wider audience in the Texas sun. Last year's One Foot in the Flesh Grave
seems like a righteous soundtrack for a weekend that can get weird.
: If you're wondering why the Baltimore favorites are listed here, singer Jenn Wasner relocated to the Triangle several months ago. There's some whispers Wye Oak's working on a new record, so perhaps they're in town to offer some teases—or remind folks that 2014's Shriek
is still great.