Yep, I know all about Lady Gaga’s ridiculous Doritos showcase, and would love to cover it just for the punchlines. I know about Kanye West and Jay-Z having to team up to fill Prince's heels at this year’s Samsung party, which ate up half a night of music for me last year when the little guy played it. I know that iTunes is paying for Imagine Dragons, Pitbull, Coldplay and Soundgarden to all play their fest-within-a-fest, which only seems to encourage people to go see bands they've already downloaded. Heck, I know there are a lot of great bands from past years and tours I’d be happy to see again.
But South by Southwest is still about new artists for me, an old-timer at the fest (this will be my 24th year, going back to high school). Here are the newbies I’m most eager to see at the Austin music conference, which kicks off tonight and lasts through Sunday.
Bo Ningen: SXSW has a great tradition of promoting Asian punk bands -- one of my favorites from past years, Beijing’s Car Sick Cars, is finally coming to Minneapolis at Cause on March 27 – but this Japanese noise-rock quartet might be the one to really break big in America. Or at least it’ll break some ear drums, as seems to be the consensus from its live in shows in London, where the group is now based. This video shows off the members’ kooky ‘70s-psychedelica style as well as their thundering approach.
Hurray for the Riff-Raff: Not to be confused with the cornrow-headed rapper Riff Raff (not even close), this twang-rustic New Orleans ensemble is led by Puerto Rican-rooted, Bronx-reared, New Orleans-based Alynda Lee Segarra, who sounds like a non-kitschy cross between Patsy Cline and Cat Power. She just released her first album for ATO Records, “Small Town Heroes,” an eclectic, soulful treat.
Temples: Probably the most 89.3 Current-ready band on my list, Temples have a psychedelic, flower-pedals-on-our-guitar-pedals retro sound that at times sounds kitschy, but there’s no mistaking the clear, Beatles-y songwriting charm underneath the haze. Their debut album was just issued stateside by Fat Possum Records and they’ve already gotten fat on press.
Eagulls: The other big British buzz band crashing America’s biggest music industry fest, this rather gangly looking quintet from Leeds offers the sonic bombast of early PiL with a little of the Pixies’ stop/go groove, too. They made a good impression on Letterman last month.
Future: Heretofore best-known for a collaboration with Miley Cyrus and as Ciara’s baby daddy, this Atlanta rapper toured with Drake over the winter and is now poised to break out with his second album “Honest,” due next month. The single “Move That Dope” dropped just a few days ago with a guest appearance by the rarely seen Pharrell Williams.
Perfect Pussy: Not sure if I’ll get to write about this one for the print edition – maybe if they put on a Putin protest sometime in Austin this week -- but this Syracuse noise-punk quartet has a riotous, roaring frontwoman and a visceral, frantic sound that should get them more attention in the end than the band name.
Hugh Bob & the Hustle: Butternut, Wis., native Hugh Robert Masterson channels his small-town, North Woods roots with big-time inspiration alongside his pedal-steel-soaked, Milwaukee-based twang-rock band. I don’t expect to see a lot of indie hipsters out for their sets, which makes them all that more attractive.
Jamestown Revival: You gotta give it up for the new Austin bands at the fest, and not just because they’re the hometown musicians who make SXSW possible despite the city’s rocketing rent. This folky, lightly bluegrassy acoustic band is led by two soulful, Americana-harmonizing dudes and has been touring with Wild Feathers.
Dupree: Another cool Austin band to watch, this instrumental, B3-organ-led trio just recorded their debut with Spoon drummer Jim Eno (who also helmed Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears' early work) and started a weekly residency at Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer’s new South Congress venue, C-Boy’s Heart & Soul -- which also might be the new local hangout with the biggest SXSW buzz this year.