Every year, thousands of musicians, record labels, fans and publicists from all ends of the earth make their way to Austin, Texas for the five-day sonic soiree and sensory overload known as South by Southwest, which for the rest of the week, you’ll see referred to as SXSW.
For the uninitiated, SXSW is, in theory, where bands go to make it, labels go to show off their talent and the rest of the industry goes to latch onto untouched potential. As for me, I’m there to take it all in, write it all down and tell you all about it. While there’s no possible way to see every act, here are a few I’m looking forward to.
Chelsea Light Moving
The band’s name may seem esoteric, but their leader is one of rock’s greatest guitarists. With Sonic Youth on indefinite hiatus, Thurston Moore’s latest outfit is far from the delicate stylings of his recent solo records. CLM combine Sonic Youth’s atmospheric guitar sounds with artistic abrasions most similar to Moore’s 1995 “Psychic Hearts” record. On CLM’s self-titled debut, released last week, Moore possesses a newfound angst and seems angrier than ever.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Ten years ago, Nick Cave may have seemed a bit out of place at SXSW. But after scoring three westerns, and providing the musc and a screenplay to the Southern bootlegging movie, “Lawless,” he now seems to embody the ideal of the dusty American outlaw (despite being from Australia and the U.K.). While his recent release seems more like a solo record than a Bad Seeds endeavor, his commanding presence in live shows is as powerful as a fire and brimstone preacher. SXSW is the first of his 20 sold out North American dates and one of the hottest tickets in town.
An electro pop duo from New Orleans, Generationals combine guitar and electronics to create blissful textures and melodic hooks that overpower the inherent melancholia that lingers in the backdrop. Playing seven shows in four days at SXSW, the band will preview their third and best full-length, “Heza,” due out in April.
While the name may suggest some Studio One dub producer, only the weed smoke links Tuff with Jamaican styles. The pride of Brattleboro, Vermont and one of Sub Pop’s latest acquisitions, KT’s music is more akin to the haunting acoustic psych sound of Girls, but with a grunge-y energy.
NYC by way of Boston and England, Skaters will be one of the newest and busiest bands in Austin. Consisting of members of Dead Trees and Dirty Pretty Things, Skaters are one of Warner Brothers’ hopes for a youthful rock ‘n’ roll revival. They’re headed straight from the studio after wrapping up their debut LP, slated for early summer release. There’s already a buzz around them, based on their free EP, and extensive European and U.S. tours are already booked for spring. Expect infectious guitar ballads that make you move, but also make you think.
Wait, what? Yes! In the past few years SXSW has become about established superstars staging their comeback into the public consciousness as much as it is about undiscovered talents. Now that Justin Timberlake has been co-opting Prince’s big band setup of the “Diamonds and Pearls” era, it’s time for his Royal Purpleness to show JT how it’s really done. Prince will reportedly stage an as yet not totally confirmed club show with a 22-piece band during the festival.
—Follow Nolan Gawron on Twitter this week at @metrousmusic. Check out this website all week for his updates on the best of SXSW. Check out our playlist below...