Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 12, 2014
Early movers and shakers at SXSW Music
Are your eyes open? Drinking plenty of water? It’s Wednesday, and historically this is when SXSW music ups the ante and the industry crashes on your couch. But just as likely, this is Day 6 of watching bands. Sure, Day 5 if we aren’t going to count my breakout karaoke headliner set on the Interactive RV.
Thing is, these trendy bills stuffed with this year’s makes and models feature bands we’ve had a chance to catch already this conference. Really, the Interactive weekend performances should go down as better because the talent is fresher and in higher spirits. The last thing a buzz band wants to do is to pull a "Foxygen," and gain a reputation as an over-partying stock everyone sells because the singer can’t stammer through an entire Paste day party gig by Wednesday.
But at this point, the dream is still alive. Nothing-to-prove legends in training The Hold Steady, No Age, and Stephen Malkmus already conquered with beautiful, hands high abbreviated sets. These five bands are your early breakout candidates.
Too easy. The 24-year-old Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson is a heavily endorsed Compton prospect. His singles are good, he held is own at the Stubb’s Def Jam anniversary party, and full length "My Krazy Life" should attack and release on March 18. Schoolboy Q and Rick Ross dropped fun but static-produced albums this quarter, and I’m hoping YG’s more adventurous studio tendencies lead to a more grandiose and ambitious album.
A good canary in the mine-shaft for whether or not a band matters is if kids show up to start something. That’s a bingo for these Los Angeles-based misfits. Their Monday night, A.V. Club party set at The Mohawk was interrupted by unruly teenagers there for the shout-alongs—it’s always nice to stumble upon a regional music scene. For its part, the band was was loud guitars and enormous hooks.
The English pop diva-in-training is here promoting what is sure to be an imminent arena career complete with expensive equipment that takes forever to setup. But she’s legit: attitude, charisma, distinct appeal. Last year’s "True Romance" is stuffed with hits that should have charted higher, but then again trans-continental crossover takes a bit.
This guy is an army of one that makes economical R&B for the lonely drive home from the dance. It’s not, frankly, as strong as bedroom competitors like How to Dress Well or Inc., but it’s well-promoted and perfectly delectable.
I like the formula: A critically adored, quietly received album in the can (2011’s "Past Life Martyred Saints") + a new one on the way + major gigs all week. More importantly—Erika M. Anderson’s raspy songs stuck the landing with lasting grace Saturday night at The Mohawk.
Nashville dance rock that will be circling back to Austin this spring at Stubb’s in support of Vampire Weekend. Big sky romance with moves. Spoiler: At the end of "Inside Llewyn Davis" the protagonist meets a label executive, plays him a beautiful folk song, and gets a sour, perfectly penned and curtly delivered response, "I don’t see a lot of money." This is the opposite. Also the singer is handsome and believable as a frontman, even when banging on superfluous drums during breakdowns—no easy feat.