These are the artists you need to know at SXSW Music Festival 2022 in Austin
As the South by Southwest Music Festival returns to Austin for the first in-person event in two years, the biggest star to grace an Austin stage will be an international icon of country music and kindness.
Dolly Parton’s interview and performance on March 18 at ACL Live will be restricted to SXSW badge-holders, but anyone can tune in live on the new online platform she’s launching, welcometodollyverse.com.
Austin’s biggest spring break turn-up, meanwhile, will be a three-day party with chart-topping rappers Gunna and Young Thug; electronic artist Kygo; and pop artists Shawn Mendes and Sebastián Yatra on March 17-19 at Waterloo Park. Part of the 5,000-capacity amphitheater will be reserved for SXSW attendees; tickets for uncredentialed fans are $95 per night. Expect to see more big names from the world of rap, as the roving festival Rolling Loud takes over Stubb’s March 18-19.
Don’t sleep on hometown talent during the festival. The biggest local show, and one that’s free to the public, is March 17 at Auditorium Shores with Golden Dawn Arkestra, Heartless Bastards, Trail of Dead, Kalu & the Electric Joint and Croy & the Boys. A few others:
• Indie-rock heavyweight Spoon plays a Rolling Stone-sponsored set at 800 Congress on March 13.
• Drop by Patricia Vonne’s Latinapalooza for sets from Gina Chavez, the Tiarras and more, March 19 at Cooper’s BBQ. And Hotel Vegas has a cumbia night March 16 with new cumbia-funk project El Orbito and the mighty Superfónicos.
• Nine Mile Records & Touring presents a blockbuster lineup with glam-pop stars Sweet Spirit, indie-rock outfit Go Fever and bedroom-pop standout Star Parks on March 19 at the Creek and Cave Backyard.
• Music patronage nonprofit Black Fret presents rapper Harry Edohoukwa, pop artist Primo the Alien and more on March 18 at Sheraton Backyard.
• KUTX show "The Breaks" presents a night of excellent Austin hip-hop with Deezie Brown and Cha’keeta B on March 16 at Pour Choices.
• If you want to close your SXSW experience stomping down racism, fascism and the patriarchy, drop by Swan Dive Patio on March 19 for the Punk Black showcase that includes a set from Austin standouts Pleasure Venom alongside fellow Afro punks Howling Star, Lesibu and more.
And yes, there’s lots more music. Here are some artists our SXSW vets think you should check out at the fest this year. SXSW Music runs March 14-20.
Deborah Sengupta Stith's picks
A couple weeks after Mardi Gras, we’re still floored by the jaw-dropping beauty of the R&B singer’s Instagram. Richards, a New Orleans native who first grabbed the national spotlight as a member of Diddy-engineered girl group Danity Kane, marched with her Mardi Gras Indian tribe in a stunning gown that paid tribute to her Haitian and Creole roots, honoring Erzulie Dantor, the Voodoo goddess of love, romance and art. Richard's 2021 release “Second Line” is an exuberant collection of club bangers that folds in elements of her hometown bounce and futuristic remixes of classic NOLA rhythms. (6 p.m. March 16 at Container Bar)
The breakout R&B singer scored a hit last year with “Good Love 2.0,” a woozy ode to romance with a slick club backbeat. She told Hello magazine that the song was inspired by the “love marriage” of her parents, who fled Sri Lanka during civil war in the 1980s. Raised in Switzerland, where she grew up singing in her father’s Tamil band, Ragu is now based in London. She also told the U.K. publication that she wrote many of the songs for her debut mixtape, “damnshestamil,” a smooth selection R&B bops, at the Brooklyn studio of her friend, rapper Oddisee. (10 p.m. March 16 at Augustine; midnight March 18 at Cedar Street Courtyard)
The Bay Area artist calls her sound "Femmetón." It’s a joyous blend of reggaeton, cumbia, hip-hop and the folkloric Mexican sounds she grew up playing in the family conjunto. Her sharp lyricism comes from the perspective of a queer brown woman. She conjures rich drama with a velvety singing voice then breaks out rugged and raw rhymes. For extra blasts of brassy power, she also packs a trumpet. What more could you want? (9:15 p.m. March 16 at Scoot Inn; 10 p.m. March 17 at the Venue ATX; 9 p.m. March 18 at the Creek and Cave)
Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard
The Welsh four-piece makes “New Age Millennial Magic” sound retro with power chords, pounding drums and jangly guitar. In the U.K., steady buzz has been building around the band for several years. One of their pandemic releases was the love-in revival “John Lennon is My Jesus Christ.” The song was released as a four-song maxi-single that included a pastel polyester prayer version with church organs. Their debut album, “Backhand Deals,” dropped in late February. They arrive in Austin ready to lead a new British invasion. (1 a.m. March 14 at Cedar Street Courtyard; 5 p.m. March 17 at International Day Stage at Brush Square Park; 1 a.m. March 17 at Swan Dive; 3:50 p.m. March 18 at Cedar Street Courtyard)
Don’t expect to see the daughter of international pop sensation Michael Jackson moonwalk or bust out any spectacular spins during her SXSW set. She recently told luxury fashion publication LVR Magazine, “I make acoustic folk singer-songwriter music and now delve into grunge. You don’t dance to sad folk music.” Her new release, “the lost ep,” is an introspective collection from the young model, actress and singer. Side note: If you’re a fan of celebrity offspring, come to this showcase early to see Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich’s sons in Taipei Houston, as well as Calder Allen, grandson of legendary Texas singer-songwriter Terry Allen. (10 p.m. March 16 at Scoot Inn)
Kosha Dillz Oy Vey Showcase
Forty-year-old rapper Kosha Dillz scored a viral hit last year with “Hannukah Song 2.0,” a remix of the Adam Sandler classic featuring Nissim Black. But he’s been making moves at SXSW for years, presenting excellent rosters of underground hip-hop and rap-adjacent sounds on this annual showcase. This year’s artists include gender-demolishing singer-songwriter Shamir, Atlanta’s booty-rocking electro-funk outfit Flynt Flossy and Turquoise Jeep and Tennessee rhyme-destroyer bbymutha. (8 p.m. March 17 at Empire Control Room)
Sanelly headlines the March 16 Beats from Africa showcase at Houseparty, where you can sample an array of artists from the African diaspora producing the dancefloor-banging Afrobeats music that has become a global sensation. Sanelly made a name for herself spitting sexy rhymes over South African gqom beats — ominous, echo-chamber techno. Packing superstar charisma, fierce sass and easy glamor, she’s logged recent collabs with Gorillaz and Beyoncé, the latter of whom tapped her for a feature on her “Lion King” soundtrack. (Midnight March 14 at Cedar St. Courtyard; 1 a.m. March 16 at Houseparty; midnight March 18 at Swan Dive Patio)
The British YouTube sensation who started busking on the streets of Brighton at 15 got a big career boost a few years back when Ed Sheeran signed her as one of the first artists on his Gingerbread Records label. Now at 21, she just dropped her debut, “You Signed Up For This.” It’s an impossibly catchy collection of astute earworms that includes the hit song “Psycho,” which she co-wrote with Sheeran. Could she be this year’s Billie Eilish, who played to small rooms at SXSW 2018? I wouldn’t rule it out. (8 p.m. March 19 at Cedar Street Courtyard)
When the singer and violinist played SXSW in 2018, she had a self-titled EP of loop pedal compositions under her belt. Her talent was evident and her presence powerful. Her potential seemed limitless. A year later, she released the astonishing full-length “Athena.” With gorgeous violin textures shaping rich soundscapes, it’s a collection of ethereal soul pop that is both hooky and profound. This showcase, which was supposed to happen in 2020, will be like healing balm to our pandemic-weary souls. (Schedule TBA)
A bombastic big band from Montreal that combines surf rock and psychedelia with Japanese balladry? Yes, please. (1 a.m. March 16 at Swan Dive; 6 p.m. March 17 at International Day Stage at Brush Square Park; 9:10 p.m. March 18 at Cheer Up Charlies)
Jazz re:freshed showcase
Over the past few decades, the U.K. jazz scene has become a hotbed of innovation and fusion as young artists reclaim and redefine the form for the era of electronic music and global community. This year's showcase highlights women in jazz with a majority-female showcase. Highlights include the all-female Afro-Latin jazz outfit Colectiva; Jas Kayser, who plays drums for A-list U.K. artists like Jorja Smith and vocalist CHERISE. (8 p.m. March 17 at Sellers)
Lose yourself in gauzy pop daydreams from the Kansas city trio. Their summery grooves cut warm nostalgia with laid-back spoken word verses and big sing-along hooks. (11:40 p.m. March 17 at Stubb's; 11 p.m. March 18 at Swan Dive Patio)
Peter Blackstock's picks
At 24, Bird already has an auspicious history with SXSW, having won its coveted Grulke Prize for developing non-U.S. act in 2018. When she played a limited-attendance Sun Radio broadcast last March, a rare in-person event during SXSW 2021, the big news was that she’d just moved to Austin from her native England. Last year’s Glassnote Records release “Different Kinds of Light” further testifies to her penchant for high-energy tunes filled with pop hooks. (9 p.m. March 14 at 800 Congress)
Continuing coverage:Our 2021 interview with Jade Bird
The New York singer-songwriter hit it big when her 1987 sophomore album, “Solitude Standing,” spawned two big hits: “Luka,” which reached No. 3 on the pop charts, and “Tom’s Diner,” which electronica duo DNA remixed into a dance-club smash. More recently, she’s delved deep into the works of Southern Gothic writer Carson McCullers, writing a musical play that led to a 2016 album and, now, a film that’s premiering at SXSW this year. Expect a lot of music from that project plus some classics from her past. (10 p.m. March 18 at Central Presbyterian Church)
Perhaps you first became familiar with DeLisle when she was the voice of Emily Elizabeth in the PBS animated children’s program “Clifford the Big Red Dog” two decades ago. Or you may have heard the handful of singer-songwriter albums she released shortly thereafter. If you follow DeLisle’s frequently hilarious Twitter feed, though, you’ll know that lately she’s been pursuing stand-up comedy. Expect a focus on that endeavor in her unusual SXSW appearance, which will feature three 10-minute performances sprinkled between sets by several Americana acts. (8:45, 9:45 and 10:45 p.m. March 17 at Lamberts)
Has Dando ever really gotten his due as one of the great power-pop singer-songwriters of his generation? If not, it may partly be of his own doing, as he seems to prefer the underground to the spotlight. Regardless, he’s accumulated a significant and admirable body of work since his band, the Lemonheads, arose from Boston’s fertile 1980s alt-rock scene. He’ll get some version of the band back together for a Lemonheads show that will feature the group’s 1992 breakthrough album, “It’s a Shame About Ray,” played in its entirety. He’ll also do a solo set at a different venue earlier the same night. (Lemonheads: 1 a.m. March 17 at Stubb’s; Dando: 8:30 p.m. March 17 at Hotel Vegas Patio)
The Lemonheads’ “It’s a Shame About Ray” set is one of two full-album presentations at SXSW by vanguards of the 1980s/'90s heyday of alternative rock (before indie rock became the prevailing term for such music). Rocker Steve Wynn has continued making acclaimed albums for several decades with outfits including the Miracle 3 and the Baseball Project, but the Dream Syndicate’s run as key figures in Los Angeles’ 1980s “paisley underground” scene remains one of his primary calling cards. They’ll play 1982’s “The Days of Wine and Roses” start to finish for one of their two official SXSW shows. (Full album: 10:20 p.m. March 18 at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary; additional set 10 p.m. March 17 at Hotel Vegas Patio)
A Nashville domestic-abuse attorney turned singer-songwriter, Ramey taps into a deep vein of twangy alt-country on her 2020 album, “Shallow Graves.” Recall the more spaghetti-western ventures of Neko Case’s collaborations with Canadian band the Sadies, and you get some idea of Ramey’s turf, though she’s equally at home with more traditional honky-tonk fare and heart-tugging balladry. (10:30 p.m. March 16 at Lamberts)
Based in her native Toronto after stints in Montreal (for college) and New York, Cornfield has released four acclaimed albums over the past decade that testify to her insightful lyricism and keen ear for memorable folk-rock melodies. Her latest, last year’s “Highs in the Minuses,” features contributions from members of Broken Social Scene and Suuns. (11:20 p.m. March 17 at Cheer Up Charlies inside)
More at the fest:26 things you need to see at SXSW Film Festival 2022
Born in Wales and based in Liverpool, Strawberry Guy – aka Alex Stephens – creates mesmerizing psychedelic-pop soundscapes that draw upon classical and orchestral influences. Fans of Harry Nilsson and Scott Walker may find familiar touchstones in these enchanting melodies. His new album, “Sun Outside My Window," follows up on the YouTube/TikTok sensation he created in 2019 with the song “Mrs. Magic,” after tenures in the bands Trudy & the Romance and the Orielles. (10 p.m. March 14 at Cedar Street Courtyard; 4:40 p.m. March 16 at Cedar Street Courtyard; 9:30 p.m. March 16 at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary)
Nashville guitarist Dante Schwebel is perhaps best known as a side guitarist for the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and City and Colour’s Dallas Green. But he’s originally from the Rio Grande Valley, and he’s done Tex-Mex projects before, with San Antonio band Hacienda and the short-lived Spanish Gold with Adrian Quesada (before Black Pumas took off). This may be his best turn yet toward border sounds, as he teams with rising Austin star David Jimenez (known for his work with Carrie Rodriguez’s Laboratorio) plus members of soulful duo the Greyhounds. (8:30 p.m. March 19 at Creek and Cave)
Last year’s acclaimed “Into the Light” found Austin troubadour Byrne, an Irish native who won his home country’s version of “The Voice” a decade ago, finding his own voice beyond 20th-century masters who inspired him, like Paul Simon and Paul Brady. He holds down a Sunday Saxon Pub residency with the impressive trad-Irish group Ulla, but his national breakout will be on the strength of his original tunes and the compelling voice with which he delivers them. (7 p.m. March 18 at Sheraton Backyard; midnight March 19 at Saxon Pub)
Continuing coverage:Our 2019 interview with Pat Byrne
Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors
Catapulted to MTV fame in the 1980s with the novelty song “Elvis Is Everywhere,” Nixon has been bringing his blend of comedy and raunch & roll to SXSW since its late-1980s origins. As he puts it in his official bio for the event: “Mojo and SXSW are siblings that see each other once a year, have a good time, display their dysfunction, drink too much, yell at each other and then can't wait until they get to see each other next year.” This one is special for Mojo, because longtime Austin musician Matt Eskey’s film “The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon” is showing as part of the SXSW Film Festival. Nixon also will host his traditional “Mojo’s Mayhem” free day party at the Continental Club on March 19. (8 p.m. March 17 at Continental Club)
Alejandro Escovedo & Friends
When Escovedo moved to Dallas a few years ago, he gave up his long-running Sunday SXSW show. Begun as an official event in the 1990s at La Zona Rosa, it became an unofficial closing party at the Continental in the new century. Now, Escovedo is back in Austin, and he’s back in the saddle for this 12-hour marathon with a variety of local and national guests. This year’s lineup includes Kevn Kinney, Lenny Kaye, Elias Haslanger, Deezie Brown, Mariachi Las Coronelas with Patricia Vonne and more. (2 p.m. to 2 a.m. March 20 at Continental Club; $20 benefits Prevent Cancer Foundation)
Eric Webb's picks
In a SXSW lineup full of diamonds in the rough, Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin are the Heart of the Ocean necklace from “Titanic.” I first caught the L.A.-based indie-pop group at ACL Fest in 2017, and it’s been love ever since. With sick hooks and devastatingly honest lyrics about being euphoric, sad and euphorically sad, Muna has emerged as an essential band for this era that promises to have landmark staying power. Listen to 2019 album “Saves the World” a couple times, and know why the song “Pink Light” haunts my loneliest moments. (Time TBA March 16 at Mohawk; also 6 p.m. March 17 at the Collide day party at Container Bar)
The artist aka Mike Hadreas is the moment, now come on now. Would that we all lived in a world of Perfume Genius’ making, our bodies draped in lamé and our enemies smothered in velvet — Hadreas’ dark, chameleonic art pop is a queer insurgency. He leads a promising “Song Exploder” showcase (in a downtown church, one of the great perks of SXSW) that also includes Kiwi experimentalist Kimbra. (11:05 March 16 at Central Presbyterian; also time TBA at Flood Fest day party at Mohawk, held March 16-17)
A bona fide indie rockstar, Furman’s resume goes deep, both with her band the Harpoons and her solo work. Rollicking tunes like “Wobbly” and “Restless Year” sound like powder kegs of classic Brit-rock influences, though Furman is from Chicago. I cotton to her particularly lovely music for the soundtrack of the perfect-in-every-way TV series “Sex Education,” which is lower on bombast and higher on strummy aches. (Time TBA March 17 at Mohawk)
This isn’t the Japanese rock band’s first Austin rodeo — Mana, Kana, Yuuki and Yuna are SXSW alums, and they were also just in town opening up for Mitski. After that gig, though, some creep stole their tour trailer. Make it up to the ladies behind sweet-and-spicy songs like “Donuts Mind If I Do” and “Choose Go!” by showing up to support their kick-ass show. (11:45 p.m. March 18 at 3Ten)
Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers are riding a buzz wave from the Isle of Wight to Austin that's about as big as a band could hope for coming to SXSW. The indie-rock act sold out a tour with just two songs in the world, including playlist star “Chaise Lounge” and filthy fun “Wet Dream.” Expect a cocky-cool-collected time and an “I saw them in 2022” memory. (Midnight March 16 at Half Step; 10 p.m. March 17 at Cedar Street Courtyard; 2 p.m. March 18 at Radio Day Stage)
The New York City nightclub is alive in Austin while electro-punk party-starter Rodman is in town. Neither here nor there, the singer-songwriter, artist and showgirl guest-starred on an episode of the podcast “The Bald and the Beautiful” once, and it was hilarious. I do think that speaks to a sense of overall entertainment potential, no? (10:50 p.m. March 18 at Cheer Up Charlies)
Local heartthrob and erstwhile Voxtrot frontman Ramesh is all big, heart-swelling verses and gravity-defying sounds on new song “Eternal Spring,” which comes with a stunning video, too. Recent years have brought “internal wanderlust,” he’s said in press leading up to the release of his new album, out Friday. We can’t wait to see what comes next. (Time TBA March 17 at Elysium)
Number One Popstar
Indie synth pop with clever and sometimes farcical lyrics? I’m weak. Kate Jean Hollowell’s Number One Popstar project ticks a lot of my boxes, and her deliciously unhinged “Psycho” has been a mainstay on my summer playlists during the pandemic. (Midnight March 15 at Iron Bear; 10:30 p.m. March 16 at Elysium)
See the rising rapper who’s earned fans in Erykah Badu and Björk and collaborators in late pop visionary Sophie and fellow star-in-the-making Bree Runway. (1:35 a.m. March 17 at Empire Control Room)
Check out Austin’s talked-about dancing pop band and recreate what my colleague Kelsey Bradshaw felt seeing them at ACL Fest 2021: “Bands like TC Superstar are why people love Austin and this festival so much. Wandering into a random show … and getting to hear something so full of joy and freedom is what live music is all about and I'm so glad we get to do this again.” (9 p.m. March 17 at Lustre Pearl; 11 p.m. March 18 at Easy Tiger East)