Editor’s note: This article was originally published February 25, 2014
With more than 2,000 bands in town for South by Southwest, this 20-song playlist represents just under 1 percent of your options for the week. There’s no intent to be completist here, or even representative of the festival as a whole; no sample size this small could manage that.
Consider it, instead, just a curated primer of favorites falling into a variety of categories: well-known names such as Twin Cities rockers the Hold Steady and local country favorites Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison; Scandinavian singers Kurt Nilsen of Norway and Agnes Obel of Denmark; buzz bands both local (Not in the Face) and national (Alabama’s St. Paul & the Broken Bones); acclaimed singer-songwriters both female (Laura Cantrell, Basia Bulat) and male (Noah Gundersen, Robert Ellis).
A ringer is Japan’s Bo Ningen, a fascinating hard psych-rock band called to our attention by former Austin American-Statesman music write Chris Riemenschneider (now with the Star Tribune in Minneapolis). Classic cover songs are served up by Starlings, TN, and the Haden Triplets. And a couple of couples weigh in with beautiful acoustic tunes: Mandolin Orange’s "There Was a Time" and the Mastersons’ "Birds Fly South."
Michael Martin Murphey closes out the playlist with his early ’70s song "Alleys of Austin," recently revived by Alejandro Escovedo at January’s "United Sounds of Austin" concert. Will Murphey play it at either of his two SXSW showcases? Who knows, but if not, you can hear it here, as you prepare for your own SXSW journeys down the alleys of Austin.