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Looking for the heart of Wednesday night at smaller SXSW venues

Peter Blackstock

In our South by Southwest preview coverage, we focused a bit on how fewer huge names were heading here compared to recent years. That doesn’t mean SXSW isn’t rife with talent, including some acts that might be big draws relatively soon.

We spent Wednesday evening on a hunt for some of those, based on pre-festival scouting of the SXSW schedule. A downtown stroll took us to four venues for acts from three different countries, plus a local favorite we know well but think the rest of the world should hear.

8 p.m.: Dizzy (Canada) at the Blackheart. From the suburban Toronto town of Oshawa, this young foursome caught our eye in part because their recent debut single came out on Royal Mountain, home of fellow Canadian indie-pop darlings Alvvays. Singer Katie Munshaw has a magnetic stage presence, and brothers Charlie, Alex and Mackenzie Spencer lay down dreamy soundscapes behind her. A sizable yet still comfortable early crowd at the Blackheart seemed to appreciate the group’s music. Just how far Dizzy may go remains to be seen, but this is the kind of promising young band upon which SXSW’s long reputation for discovery has been built.

Catch them again: 2:05 p.m. Thursday at Whole Foods Downtown Rooftop Plaza (free, no badge required).

9 p.m.: Jade Bird (England) at Latitude 30. The smallish venue long used as the British Music Embassy was too intimate for the demand on this night, as a sizable line stretched down the block of badgeholders wanting to get in to see Bird, Frank Turner (who followed) and others. And with good reason. Alternating between guitar and piano, Bird played immediately engaging pop songs, sometimes quiet and pensive, sometimes forceful and bubbly. At 20, she has the confidence and stage presence of someone who’s been doing this for a decade. Her three-piece backing band provided just the right steady support while keeping her vocals clearly out front. Her new single “Lottery” (275,000 YouTube views) was the highlight of a great 40-minute set.

Catch her again: 8 p.m. Thursday at Mohawk outdoor (official SXSW show); 4 p.m. Friday at Waterloo Records (free, no badge required); 4 p.m. Saturday at Cheer Up Charlie’s (free, no badge required).

RELATED: Our Austin360 guide to unofficial SXSW day parties

10 p.m.: Field Report (Wisconsin) at Swan Dive. Leader Chris Porterfield worked early on with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon in the group DeYarmond Edison, but his music sounds less akin to Vernon’s than to that of California rock-pop band Dawes. Their set stressed material from a new album, “Summertime Songs,” due out next week on Verve Forecast. Tunes such as “Blind Spot” and “So Far Yet to Go” were forceful but melodic, easy to know and like even on first listen.

Catch them again: noon Thursday at Austin Convention Center Radio Day Stage (official SXSW show); 5 p.m. Friday at Banger’s (free, no badge required); 8 p.m. Thursday at Continental Club (official SXSW show); 6 a.m. Friday at W Hotel (broadcast live on KGSR).

10:20 p.m.: Bonnie Whitmore (Austin) at Victoria Room at the Driskill. We’ve seen Whitmore a lot; her Thursday late-night residency at the Continental was a finalist in our inaugural Austin360 Music Awards last year, and lots of folks have heard her from the duet she did with Hayes Carll on his song “Another Like You” a few years ago. A singer, songwriter and bassist, Whitmore does all three things well, and on this night received solid support from a three-piece band including another accomplished local singer-songwriter, Bonnie Whitmore, on guitar. “I’m Not Your Baby” anymore recalls Bonnie Raitt’s R&B sass, “Time to Shoot” digs deeper and darker, and she hits immediate pop with “I’ll Be Fine” (co-written with Austin’s Jaimee Harris).

Catch her again:Several more SXSW shows, but also most every Thursday at 10:30 p.m. at the Continental Gallery.