There's talent hidden in those early time slots
You know the Cure and Cardi B, but do you know the ACL Fest undercard?
You're likely familiar with the acts at the top of the bill for this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival, but who's lurking underneath in afternoon time slots that might be well worth catching? Here's a handful of discovery-worthy artists you might not have heard yet.
Erin Rae (1 p.m. Friday, Tito's): Signed to John Paul White's influential Single Lock label, which released her second album "Putting on Airs" last year, singer-songwriter Erin Rae McKaskle and her band travel the terrain between Americana and indie music that plays well in their home base of Nashville. A recent NPR Tiny Desk appearance highlights McKaskle's achingly sweet vocals set against guitar-and-keys instrumentation that supports her songs with a smartly subtle touch. — P.B.
Black Pistol Fire (2:45 p.m. Friday, Miller Lite): The Austin duo of guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen has been gaining momentum gradually since relocating here from Toronto about a decade ago, releasing five albums since 2011. They beefed up their down-and-dirty garage-blues sound on a handful of new singles released this past spring. — P.B.
Weyes Blood (4:30 p.m. Friday, BMI): Singer Natalie Mering’s hauntingly beautiful voice and enchanting folk-pop songs could well transcend the indie realm that was her launching pad. After an early-career stretch as a member of bands in Portland and Baltimore, she began recording as Weyes Blood in 2011. She moved from New York to Los Angeles as her profile gradually rose with three albums before her Sub Pop debut "Titanic Rising" earlier this year. — P.B.
Sigrid (2 p.m. Saturday, American Express): Do not make the mistake I did, reader, and sleep on Sigrid for too long. The Norwegian pop singer-songwriter is giving us the infectious bops we crave deep down in our soul on her album “Sucker Punch,” released this year. “Don’t Feel Like Crying” is the plucky little sister to Annie Lennox’s “Walking On Broken Glass,” with a little Michelle Branch mixed in. The defiant “Don’t Kill My Vibe” showed up this year as an Elle Fanning-sung cover in the excellent film “Teen Spirit.” Then there’s the rave-fuel sugar of “Strangers.” Sigrid will be heaps of fun at the fest. — E.W.
Tierra Whack (3 p.m. Saturday, T-Mobile): When the video for the 24-year-old Philly rapper’s “Whack World” dropped, it instantly established her as the most stylistically adventurous rapper in the game. In her brilliant 2018 work, she whiplashes through 15 one-minute tracks that morph from sing-song nursery rhyme grooves to moody club bangers to expressive confessional pieces. She shifts styles on a dime and masters each one with stunning skill. Watching her inhabit each character to recreate the work live is mesmerizing. — D.S.S.
Pink Sweats (4 p.m. Saturday, Tito's): The Twitter bio for the artist (aka singer-songwriter David Bowden) reads, “If it doesn’t make you feel can you even call it music?” This philosophy is at the core of his songwriting, and it translated beautifully in his South by Southwest sets earlier this year. He used sparse musical accompaniment to spotlight his skills as a songwriter, wringing complex emotions out of simple turns of phrase and using the spaciousness of the arrangements to explore the power of his formidable vocal range. He drew capacity crowds throughout the festival and at the end of his week in Austin, he took home the Grulke Prize for developing U.S. act. — D.S.S.
Nilüfer Yanya (12:30 p.m. Sunday, American Express): “Do you like pain?” Nilüfer Yanya asks over and over in her song “Baby Luv,” a tense and catchy tune unlike much you’ve heard before. The British singer’s work is brash and thorny, concerned with the hard questions you wish you could ask. “I'm praying you'll waste my time,” she throws out into the universe on the limb-swinging “In Your Head.” Yanya’s voice is mystical in its deep end and blissful in its high end. She’ll be an ACL Fest discovery of which you’re proud. — E.W.
Duckwrth (1:15 p.m. Sunday, T-Mobile): The Cali rapper rolled into SXSW 2018 with a suave, sexy vibe; smooth moves; and trunk bumpin’ West Coast funk for days. With irresistible verve, he charmed the pants off an audience of industry cynics. Since then, he’s been on a steady upward rise. His new release, “The Falling Man,” takes darker turns than his earlier work, with urgent verses spilling over bass rattling club cuts. He was raised in a strict Pentecostal household; in May, he told NPR that he thinks of his music as a form of missionary work. "It's me revealing, like, the realities right now. And it's also being able to speak to people, but with their language," he said. — D.S.S.
The Japanese House (1:15 p.m. Sunday, Vrbo): English indie-pop singer Amber Bain has Austin fans out the wazoo. Her show at the Parish earlier this year got moved to the larger Scoot Inn, and she’s come through for SXSW, too. “Dream-like” can seem like an easy descriptor for music, but it’s a go-to for a reason. That reason is acts like the Japanese House. Take Bain’s most-streamed song on Spotify, “Saw You In a Dream,” a silky vapor of a sway-maker, or the silvery earworm “Maybe You’re the Reason.” Her set will be a nice Sunday slow-down. — E.W.