Deborah Sengupta Stith
Riders Against the Storm: The husband wife hip-hop duo has been at the top of Austin’s scene for a minute, but they continue to evolve, always upping the ante for themselves. These days they’ve been showing up to sets with a crew of six to 13 players, bringing a furious funk that has all the magic of a post-millennial second coming of George Clinton’s mothership. (11 p.m. Thursday, March 19, Soho Lounge)
Keeper: Austin music scene vets Yadira Brown, Erin Jantzen and Lani Camille Thomison form the trio of voices at the core of this group. They describe their music as synth soul, but it has a trip-hop backbeat that will appeal to fans of Phantogram or Sylvan Esso. What sets them apart are the gorgeous three-part harmonies that soar over the beats, creating beautiful swirls of sound to lose yourself in. (7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, Swan Dive)
Sweet Spirit: Sabrina Ellis’ new nine-piece powerhouse churns out an excellent mix of revisionist doo-wop, garage soul and ridiculously catchy pop. Ellis is an entrancing lead. If there’s any justice in the world, the band’s regular set closer "Take Me to the Party," a punky number with the chanted hook "Got a broken heart, so take me to a party," will be a radio hit by the end of the year, bringing intoxicating solace to dejected ladies everywhere. (8:20 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, Cheer Up Charlie’s)
Cilantro Boombox: Austin’s Latin fusion scene is going through an exciting moment right now and Cilantro Boombox is one of many bands freely mixing elements of cumbia and salsa into a funky stew also flavored with hip-hop, reggae and blues. (7 p.m. Saturday, March 21, Mexican American Cultural Center)
Kydd Jones: One of Austin’s sharpest rhyme-slingers cuts a commanding presence on stage. The combination of his lyrical dexterity and his innate understanding of crowd control sets him up as a top candidate for local emcee whose ready to move the masses. (9:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, the Roosevelt Room)
East Cameron Folkcore: One of Austin’s most socio-political bands is known for its powerful live shows that incorporate a wide range of instrumentation. They’re using SXSW as a springboard for a big record release coming in April. (1 a.m. Saturday, March 21, at Lamberts; frontman Jesse Moore also plays a solo acoustic show at 10 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at TenOak)
Mastersons: The husband-wife duo of guitarist Chris Masterson and violinist Eleanor Whitmore spend much of their time on the road as members of Steve Earle’s backing band. But they’ve now released two albums of their own material and have become one of Austin’s best Americana acts. (11 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at Holy Mountain)
Quiet Company: One of Austin’s most prominent indie-rock bands for nearly a decade now, they’ve just released their fifth album, "Transgressor." The high energy level of their recent live shows suggests they’re ready to break through to a bigger audience. (Midnight Thursday, March 19, at Red Eyed Fly)
Mother Falcon: Probably Austin’s largest pop-music ensemble, their cast sometimes swells to more than 20 members including strings, horns, percussion and more. They’re hosting the all-day Mother Falcon’s All the Friends Ball on Monday, March 16, at Empire, and they’re also playing two official SXSW showcases: 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at St. David’s Bethell Hall and 1 a.m. Saturday, March 21, at the Hideout.
Zoltars: This four-piece band really gets the roots of where rock ’n’ roll came from, playing admirably straightforward garage rock that has pop and psychedelic overtones. Their self-titled new album that came out in February is a great collection of songs that are almost all under three minutes long. (8 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at 720 Club Patio)
MORE PICKS TO CLICK
A few more of our favorites from the hundreds of local acts playing SXSW:
Singer-songwriter Sahara Smith’s new project, Girl Pilot, features the inventive atmospherics of Okkervil River guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo (10 p.m. Friday, March 20, at Lamberts). … Aaron Sinclair’s new indie-rock outfit A. Sinclair shines on its Dangerbird Records debut "Pretty Girls" (1 a.m. Thursday, March 19, Red 7). … The classic era of late-’90s alt-country comes alive in the songs and sound of Harvest Thieves, whose full-length debut disc is due this spring (11 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Lucky Lounge). … Avant garde ensemble Graham Reynolds & Golden Arm Trio have a couple of SXSW showcases, but especially intriguing is their debut of "Marfa Triptych Part I: The Country & Western Big Band Suite," the first of a three-part work commissioned by Ballroom Marfa (midnight Saturday, March 21, at the Hideout). — P.B.
The Digital Wild brings a cool blend of indie rock and trip hop soul. (10 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, at Red 7; midnight Friday, March 20, Lambert’s) … With a bar-busting live show, punk rockers Flesh Lights are "Just About Due" for a breakout (10:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, Hotel Vegas Patio) … Rap rock king Zeale is the city’s top freestyler, an electrifying live performer (midnight Friday, March 20, Sledgehammer) .. Former champ Phranchyze has retired from the battle rap circuit, but he still hits the stage swinging hard. (11:15 p.m. Thursday, March 19, Blackheart)… R&B singer Melat is a new sensation on Austin’s soul scene. (10:15 p.m. Friday, March 20, the Madison) … Afro-beat orchestra Hard Proof always throws down a body rocking wall of sound. (7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, Empire Control Room) — D.S.S.
A few local rising stars already have major-label deals in hand and will showcase what’s to come at SXSW. Check out Sire/Warner Bros.’ teenage postpunk trio Residual Kid (midnight Saturday, March 21, at Holy Mountain Backyard), Republic/Universal’s modern folk-rock outfit Jamestown Revival (10 p.m. Friday at the Gatsby) and Atlantic’s sweet-voiced pop singer-songwriter Max Frost (midnight Tuesday, March 17, at the Parish; 9 p.m. Thursday, March 19, at Stubb’s; and 1 a.m. Friday, March 20, at Victorian Room at the Driskill).
PRIDE AND JOY
While SXSW is largely about discovering new acts, it’s also an occasion for Austin’s brightest lights to shine. Here’s where to catch a few of our city’s most beloved and decorated acts:
Spoon: The local titans of indie rock return to Auditorium Shores, headlining a free show on Thursday, March 19 (their set is 8 to 9:30 p.m.). They’re also on an official Lyve Floodfest showcase at Cedar Steet Courtyard at 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, March 18, and have other party gigs lined up as well.
Gary Clark Jr.: Austin’s blues-rock guitar heir now having risen to the throne, Clark will head up a "Return to Austin High" segment at the Austin Music Awards on Wednesday, March 18, at the Convention Center. He’s also booked on Tuesday night (March 17) at 12:30 a.m. at Empire Garage as part of the Heard/PayPal bash.
Asleep at the Wheel: The multi-Grammy-winning western swing institution takes over the Saxon Pub from 8 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday, March 17, with some guests from their new "Still the King" Bob Wills tribute disc expected to stop by. They’ll also play the Waterloo Records parking lot at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 19.
Doug Sahm: He’s not back from the dead, but the melting-pot master will have a heavy presence at SXSW this year, thanks to the documentary "Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove" premiering at the film festival. An all-Sahm tribute night set for Saturday, March 21, at the Paramount will feature Steve Earle, C.C. Adcock and a huge case of area luminaries including the Texas Tornados, Charlie Sexton, Terry Allen, Joe King Carrasco and Marcia Ball’s reunited Freda & the Firedogs.