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Critics picks: What we think you should hear at SXSW this year

Staff Writer
Austin 360

MICHAEL CORCORAN

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. Sean Rowe at Lamberts. Lofty comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Rowe's Anti labelmate Tom Waits are almost justified.

9 p.m. Colourmusic at Friends. Wayne Coyne's side project should get lips moving. He's Mr. Southby.

10 p.m. Vaccines at Club DeVille. Hot, hyped British band that sounds like they grew up on the beach, then moved to the Bowery.

10:40 p.m. Bad Brains at Emo's Main. Punk legends play their first SXSW show; tough ticket alert.

11 p.m. Braids at Beauty Bar/Palm Door. Four best friends from Calgary, Alberta, make great, wide pop with arty touches.

Midnight The Naked and the Famous at the Phoenix. Deliciously epic electro-pop from Auckland, New Zealand, that should make the Phoenix seem three times as big.

12:50 a.m. Okkervil River at Red 7. The new songs, the old songs, the ones they don't play anymore - what an incredible songwriting well Will Sheff can draw from.

THURSDAY

8:20 p.m. Jackie Chain at Venue 222. Who da mane? This Kid Cudi-endorsed ("Rollin'" remix) rapper from Alabama purports to be one and the same.

9 p.m. Abigail Washburn at Antone's. Keep yo eye on the Sparrow. Mrs. Bela Fleck is always exploring new avenues for the clawhammer banjo.

10 p.m. Amy LaVere at Swan Dive. This great rockin' bass player is getting ready to release her career-cementing CD "Stranger Me."

11 p.m. The Kills at Emo's Main Room. This might be the wrong room for this couple's moody art throb, but then again the strip-mined look could fit.

Midnight MNDR at Buffalo Billiards. The Mark Ronson protege in the saucer-sized glasses takes us back to early house and newer stuff. Amanda Warner: Say her name.

1 a.m. Oh Land at Buffalo Billiards. Danish chanteuse has dreams you can dance to. On tour with OMD.

FRIDAY

8 p.m. Blue October at Auditorium Shores. The Austin area's most underrated platinum artists have a slew of new songs to unfurl.

9 p.m. Skrillex at Emo's Main. Commissioned by Gaga, La Roux and more for remixes, my boy Skrilly is one of the hottest beatsmiths in the biz.

10:15 p.m. Hunx and His Punx at Red Eyed Fly. Free Phil Spector! The Dictators half off.

11 p.m. Lance Herbstrong at the Beauty Bar Backyard. The surprise hit of ACL keeps the party jams going without a drop of pretense.

11:50 p.m. The Bellrays at Rusty Spurs. The garage-soul destroyers said last year was their final SXSW. They lied (thank goodness).

1 a.m. Beats Antique at Beauty Bar Backyard. Been hearing great things about a live show that mixes organic with orgasmic.

SATURDAY

8 p.m. Eliza Doolittle at Tap Room at Six. Infectious pop from the 22-year-old singing model from the U.K. who just might have a big career.

9 p.m. Creep at Barcelona. A couple of Brooklyn lasses named Lauren get their Portishead on.

10 p.m. Bobby Rush at 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn. A bonafide Mississippi blues/soul legend. Gotta have it on the Sat.

11:10 p.m. Big K.R.I.T. at Buffalo Billiards. Produced by OutKast's Organized Noize posse, this Mississippi rapper could be Kanye South.

Midnight. Syd Straw at Creekside at the Hilton Garden Inn. Very funny and warm singer; she had me at "Madrid."

1 a.m. Deer Tick at Lustre Pearl. The last slot of SXSW is for rocking out, and these guys from Little Rhody can take you there.

PETER MONGILLO

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper at Swan Dive. Singer-songwriter Aly Spaltro combines her appealing voice with edgy folk songs.

9:15 p.m. James Blake at Stubb's. British dub-step artist travels across the Atlantic hauling a Titanic-sized load of buzz.

10 p.m. The Vaccines at Club de Ville. British garage-rockers should infuse some energy into an evening that skews toward the mellow.

11 p.m. The Black Angels at La Zona Rosa. Homegrown psych-rockers represent some of the best music Austin has to offer.

Midnight Tennis at Club de Ville. Indie rock couple wrote songs while out at sea for a year.

1 a.m. Surfer Blood at Beauty Bar/Palm Door. 2010's super-young, super-buzzy garage rockers have had a year to polish their act.

THURSDAY

8 p.m. The Strokes at Auditorium Shores. The free, open-to-the-public show is one of the biggest events in SXSW history and should be a crazy scene.

9 p.m. Cults at Central Presbyterian Church. Catchy, twisted pop from Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin.

10 p.m. Oberhofer at the Bat Bar. Brooklyn-based pop/rock band is riding a wave of momentum from last year's free, self-released EP.

10:50 p.m. Lupe Fiasco at La Zona Rosa. The charismatic Chicago rapper's third album, "Lasers," dropped last week.

Midnight Bear Hands at the Victorian Room at the Driskill. Brooklyn indie rockers make upbeat psych rock with sounds from the '80s.

1 a.m. Toro y Moi on the 512 Rooftop. South Carolina sample master has harnessed a more accessible, pop-driven sound on his latest album, "Underneath the Pine."

FRIDAY

8 p.m. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears at ACL Live. One of Austin's best bands, sure to light up our newest venue.

9 p.m. Sarah Jaffe at Momo's. Texas singer-songwriter brings the alt-country with an indie-rock sensibility.

10 p.m. Gayngs at Lustre Pearl. Weirdo Minneapolis yacht rock collective includes Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and members of Megafaun.

11 p.m. Yuck at Kiss and Fly. Another super-buzzy band from the U.K., this time with a late '80s/early '90s rock vibe.

Midnight Chromeo at La Zona Rosa. '80s dance party!

1 a.m. Okkervil River at Antone's. Austin indie rockers are back with their first album of new material in three years.

SATURDAY

8 p.m. Donald Glover and Childish Gambino at Red 7 Patio. "Community" funnyman Donald Glover has a rap group. Enough said.

9 p.m. Carl Broemel and Special Guests at St. David's Bethel Hall. My Morning Jacket has a new album this spring, and their guitarist books a solo show with special guests. Huh.

10 p.m. Jesse Woods at the Saxon Pub. Singer-songwriter is one of Austin's best-kept secrets.

11 p.m. Givers at Emo's Jr. Pop-psych-rockers follow in the footsteps of the Dirty Projectors.

Midnight Odd Future at Buffalo Billiards. Can this young rap collective live up to the insane hype?

1 a.m. Jean Grae at Karma Lounge. New York-based rapper was a highlight at last year's Fun Fun Fun Fest.

DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH

WEDNESDAY

8:50 p.m. The Echocentrics at Scoot Inn. Fuzzed out psyche-soul atmospherics from Grupo Fantasma's Adrian Quesada.

9:40 p.m. Calibro35 at Scoot Inn. Vintage Italian soundtrack grooves so funky cool they make a girl want to slip into a swanky cat suit and catch a ride on the getaway Vespa.

11:15 p.m. Raphael Saadiq at Stubb's. Suave, debonair, soulful. The classiest crooner you'll hear all week.

Midnight Marianne Dissard at St. David's. A dramatic mix of moody French pop and gypsy swing from the Arizona-based chanteuse.

1 a.m. It's a toss-up: crafty multicultural mashups from Mexican Institute of Sound (Elysium) or Talib Kweli (Emo's), one of the smartest rappers on the planet. The clubs might be close enough to hit both.

THURSDAY

8 p.m. Francis Mbappe at Elephant Room. A smooth fusion of Afrobeat, Cuban soul and jazzy grooves.

9 p.m. Awesome tapes from Africa at Momo's. Ethnomusicologist/casette tape DJ Brian Shimkovitz collects and shares rare African gems that might otherwise be lost.

10 p.m. Mexicans With Guns at Mellow Johnny's. Mexican indie pop melodies recorded in an echo chamber and laid over a bed of sparse but groovy electro blip.

10:50 p.m. Fishbone at Austin Music Hall. Bummed about missing Lupe Fiasco, but I've got to cut for the '90s thrash-funk champions.

11:45 p.m. Wu-Tang Clan at Austin Music Hall. Sorry, Cee-Lo, but following the rave reviews of their recent Emo's show, I have to go with one of the greatest rap groups of all time.

1 a.m. Do you really think the Wu's gonna go on at 11:45 p.m. sharp and be done by 1? Really?

FRIDAY

8:05 p.m. Black Joe Lewis at ACL Live. Austin's own garage soul superstar plays the spankin' new crown jewel of the local music scene.

9:30 p.m. The Suzan at Beauty Bar/Palm Door. Self-proclaimed Japanese riot grrls who swap grime and grit for hard-driving groovy beats.

9:50 p.m. Gamebouy at Tenoak. Straight outta Soweto, a 13-year-old hip-hop wunderkind with a refreshing `Feel Good' style.

10:45 p.m. Collie Buddz at Venue 222. Bermuda-based reggae artist whose hip-hop friendly herbal hooks blur the line between dancehall grind and rock steady rhythm.

12:15 a.m. HHP (Hip Hop Pantsula) at Tenoak. The don of South African hip-hop rhymes over everything from old-school funk to Zulu traditional styles.

12:40 a.m. EPMD at Venue 222. "Strictly Business." Funky, old-school styles as these hip-hop originators close out the night.

SATURDAY

8 p.m. Donald Glover + Childish Gambino at Red 7. The up-and-coming comedian has a crisp rhymestyle marked more by clear-minded passion than witty quips.

9 p.m. Cambodian Space Project at Habana. The fuzz and jangle of '60s-'70s psych-rock given an otherworldly spin by Khmer-rock revivalists from Phnom Penh.

10:15 p.m. Ze! at Kiss and Fly. Malaysian electro-disco diva rocks a riot grrl's swagger and a fashionista's flair.

11 p.m. Rocky Business at Habana. Righteous urban roots music from Australia. One-drop rock with serious heart.

Midnight Basketball at Soho Lounge. A furiously paced, trance-inducing mashup of Middle Eastern rhythm and electronic blip.

1 a.m. Chico Trujillo at Maggie Mae's. Looking to close out your fest dancing with reckless abandon? This ska-punk fused Chilean super cumbia outfit will shake that thang.

JOE GROSS

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. Esben and the Witch at ND. The new wave of British quasi-Goth.

9 p.m. BLACKIE at Barcelona. Harsh electro, tough beat science and hellish rapping sounds like no other Houston hip-hop act.

10:15 p.m. Smith Westerns at Stubb's. Nth generation Jesus and Mary Chain: brother act, lots of T-Rex, all the songs sound the same, not all that charming in interviews. Perfect!

11:35 p.m. Cave Singers at Red 7 patio. Modern folk rock takes a (welcome) dark turn on their newest - not that they have any bad records.

Midnight Sharon Von Etten at Swan Dive. Elegant singer-songwriter craft.

1 a.m. Yuck at Club de Ville. Indie rock revivalists owe really quite a lot to Superchunk, shorter Dinosaur Jr songs.

THURSDAY

8 p.m. Rwake at Valhalla. Brutal New Orleans sludge, the sound of a written-off city and people.

9 p.m. Big Freeda at Beauty Bar Backyard. The other side of underground New Orleans: high-octane bounce music in heels.

10:20 p.m. Rayon Beach at Headhunters. Frantic, modern, vaguely psychedelic garage punk from Austin.

11 p.m. Christian Mistress at Valhalla. Old school sounding metal: plenty of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and hooks.

11:45 p.m. Agalloch at Barbarella Patio. Pacific Northwest black metal that sounds like rolling fog and hidden beasts.

1 a.m. YOB at Barbarella Patio. Doooooooooom.

FRIDAY

8:10 p.m. Red Fang at Dirty Dog Bar. Punk-metal, complicated yet raw-sounding.

9 p.m. Liturgy at Emo's Jr. Artsy black metal from Brooklyn. Their new one, "Aesthetica," is one of the year's best.

10:15 p.m. Screaming Females at Buffalo Billiards. Brilliant power trio rock from New Jersey.

11:15 p.m. Tamaryn at Klub Krucial. The new wave of American quasi-Goth - less filling, tastes great.

12:35 a.m. Saint Vitus at Dirty Dog Bar. Massively influential, Sabbath-ish '80s metal band. Wear denim, pump fist.

12:45 a.m. Wild Flag at Parish. Buzz for this '90s indie supergroup's (ex-Sleater-Kinney, Helium) live show now officially deafening.

SATURDAY

8 p.m. Cough at Scoot Inn. These dudes are in Richmond, Va.'s stellar tradition of messed-up punk/metal.

9:10 p.m. The Bubble Puppy at Austin Music Hall. Every psych nerd will want to see a reunion from founding fathers of trippy Texas rock.

10 p.m. Castevet at Valhalla. A little prog rock riffing, a lot of hideous noise, a soupçon of mid-tempo hardcore.

11:10 p.m. Big K.R.I.T. at Buffalo Billiards. Mississippi's newest hip-hop messiah made waves with brilliant mixtape debut.

Midnight. Spoek Mathambo at Malverde. Impossibly hip South African electro, perfect for dancing SXSW away.

1:30 a.m. Vockah Redu at Kiss & Fly. Close out your SXSW with some high-energy New Orleans bounce

CHAD SWIATECKI

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. The Burning Hotels at 512. Ringing, hooky punk that throws off any emo trappings.

8:30 p.m. Lia Ices at Red 7 Patio. Majestic, pristine vocalist made for breaking, healing hearts.

9:50 p.m. Off! at Emo's Main Room. Songs from punk all-star team's iffy record should sizzle live.

11 p.m. Telegraph Canyon at Esther's Follies. Soaring roots rock perfect for My Morning Jacket fans.

Midnight Beans at Mohawk. NYC rapper swims upstream against the beat, with words as paddles.

1 a.m. Parts & Labor at Red 7. Anthemic post-punks with plenty of Mission of Burma DNA.

THURSDAY

8 p.m. Dinosaur Pile-Up at Latitude 30. If Teenage Fanclub were a punk band...

9 p.m. Bright Light Bright Light at the Ghost Room. Obvious but smart dance pop in the Robbie Williams tradition.

10:30 p.m. Diamond Rings at Beauty Bar Backyard. Proof that eye makeup, dance music and masculinity can coexist.

11 p.m. Jukebox the Ghost at Maggie Mae's. Urgent, bouncy piano punk from Washington, D.C..

12:40 a.m. Hieroglyphics at Scoot Inn. Old-school rap crew that gave us Del the Funky Homosapien.

1 a.m. Oh Land at Buffalo Billiards. Spritely Dane comes on like a disco-infused Björk.

FRIDAY

8 p.m. The Brother Kite at BD Riley's. Surfer Blood with less Weezer, way more Brian Wilson.

9 p.m. Skrillex at Emo's Main Room. One of three Friday night shows for this dance music climber.

9:30 p.m. Riders Against the Storm at the Marq. Husband-wife rappers focus on inspiring, room rocking.

10:40 p.m. The Cool Kids at La Zona Rosa. So-so on record, but "Black Mags" crushes in concert.

11:50 p.m. The Bellrays at Rusty Spurs. Life-affirming garage-soul stomp led by the firey Lisa Kekaula.

1 a.m. The Fleshtones at Continental Club. NYC rockers going on 30 years of making crowds dance.

SATURDAY

8:30 p.m. The Electric at Habana Bar Backyard. Trans-global rap/soul hybrid piloted by DJ Vadim.

9 p.m. Cheap Girls at Barbarella. If Craig Finn grew up on power-pop instead of hardcore punk.

10:15 p.m. Eddie Spaghetti at Red Eyed Fly. More cow, less punk from Supersuckers front man.

11 p.m. Ezra Furman and the Harpoons. Chicago foursome holds jagged rock songs together with guitar strings.Midnight Dennis Coffey at Beauty Bar/Palm Door. A chance to hear the ever-funky "Scorpio" live? Duh. WINNING.

1 a.m. Whitey Morgan and the 78s at Red Eyed Fly. Tear-in-beer country sway straight from the rust belt.

PATRICK BEACH

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. Brent Amaker and the Rodeo at the Velveeta Room. Cowboys from Seattle? OK. Scoopy vocals, guitars with lots of reverb and twang. Yee-ha!

9 p.m. J Mascis at La Zona Rosa. There's violin on this indie god's mostly acoustic new album, "Several Shades of Why," which includes help from Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) and Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses)

10:15 p.m. Smith Westerns at Stubb's. Heavily influenced by Britpop and glam, this Chicago outfit's new "Dye It Blonde" is less garage and more arena.

11 p.m. Smoking Popes at Maggie Mae's Gibson Room. Maybe the slogan should be "Punk's not dad?" These guys have been together off and on since the early '90s and are careening headlong into middle age without slowing down. Check out "Punk Band," their ode to the DIY life.

Midnight Chickasaw Mud Puppies at Speakeasy Kabaret. Brant Slay and Ben Reynolds were minimalist and low-fi before those terms existed. One of those acts from the original Athens scene that should have been bigger.

1 a.m. Dash Rip Rock at Speakeasy Kabaret. Because you need to wrap up opening night with a sure thing, and there's no surer thing in the killer live band department than these swampabilly veterans.

THURSDAY

8 p.m. Cee Lo Green, Lupe Fiasco and Wiz Khalifa at La Zona Rosa. The song politely titled "Forget You" made everybody's year a little more tolerable. His new single, "Bright Lights, Bigger City," is every bit as good.

9 p.m. The Snowdroppers at Velveeta Room. Unaffected and unpretentious old-school blues rock from Sydney, of all places.

10 p.m. Dave Alvin at Dirty Dog. Songwriters as good as Alvin aren't always bracing live. Alvin is.

10:30 p.m. Portugal. The Man at Stubb's. Smart, straight-up pop-rock from the land of Sarah Palin.

11:45 p.m. The Bangles at Cedar Street Courtyard. I'm just curious, OK?

1 a.m. Trampled by Turtles at Swan Dive. These guys have a fresh and vigorous take on alt-country.

FRIDAY

8:45 p.m. Banner Pilot at Scoot Inn. There's bratty and exuberant punk rock coming out of the Twin Cities? Who knew?

9 p.m. Hayes Carll at ACL Live. This onetime rising Americana star has officially risen.

9 p.m. Dreaming in Stereo at Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn. Bandleader Fernando Perdomo plays pretty much anything lying around, and his layered, intricate sound is someplace between power pop and prog.

10:30 p.m. The Airborne Toxic Event at Stubb's. Their self-titled CD three years back put them on everybody's watch list, and they're supposed to kill live.

11:45 p.m. Scala and Kolacny Brothers at Stubb's. Yes, the Belgian girls' choir you heard covering "Creep" in the "Social Network" trailer. Stunning arrangements.

12:20 a.m. Prima Donna at Black and Tan. Fun, high-energy, a little glam, like Iggy Pop fronting Hanoi Rocks. Which would actually be a pretty great idea.

SATURDAY

8 p.m. Taddy Porter at 18th Floor at Hilton Garden. Because the world can never have too much chest-thumping Southern rock.

9 p.m. Head for the Hills at Momo's. The trouble with bluegrass is it's too polite. These cats scuff it up enough to make the CMJ charts.

9:50 p.m. Meat Puppets with Roky Erickson at Austin Music Hall. What are the odds that Roky Erickson and Cris Kirkwood would be healthy enough at the same time to share a bill? (Or: 10 p.m., Vulture Whale at Speakeasy. You want to hate them because of the fake British accents. But you loved Guided by Voices.)

Midnight Kenneth Brian Band at BD Riley's. Real by-God Southern rock. The songs will get you to a-hollerin', but pay attention to Brian's tasty guitar work.

12:50 p.m. Jay Rock at Venue 222. The fiercest voice in hip-hop? (or 1 a.m. Army Navy at Swan Dive. Proof that an American band can be influenced by Britpop and come out not looking stupid.)