This is a delicate list pared down from my Basic Top 400, so rest easy knowing I’ve done all the work for you (unless you really like fusion jazz, because I really can’t help anyone there).
For your planning convenience, I’ve included official SXSW Showcase dates and times. PRO TIP: Wednesday at 1AM is technically Thursday at 1AM but is listed as Wednesday because of late night excellence.
Charli XCX (Hertsfordshire, UK)
I was lucky enough to be asked to listen to submissions to SXSW’s 2012 Music Festival, and Charli XCX was the one that made the biggest impression. It was her first time submitting, and I was the first one to make any notes on her submission. I like to give myself credit for introducing her to America, though I am sure lots of other people deserve that credit.
I’m really excited to watch Charli XCX’s career – the girl’s got mad chops, and is finally breaking Top 40 with a feature in Icona Pop’s sugary jam “I Love It.”
Watch 2011’s “Nuclear Seasons” video, my Number One CXCX track since forever.
Tuesday 3/12 – The Belmont at 8:00 PM
Wednesday 3/13 – Club DeVille at 1:00 AM
Act Rights (Austin, TX)
I am totally biased on this one because this is the band I toured with in January, but their showcase is not undeserved. After being signed to Grammy-winning producer Andrew Scheps’ record label during last year’s conference, the guys have released a tight album, toured the East Coast, and are writing new songs just about every week. Keep your ears out y’all: with vocals like Kings of Leon meets James Brown and guitar like Buddy Guy, it won’t be long until they’re all over the radio and you can brag to your friends about liking them before they were cool.
Get on the “Mind Train”:
Tuesday 3/12 – The Jr at 1:00 AM
Alt-J (Leeds, England)
If you’re familiar with my work – and I’m assuming you’re not – you would know how ape I go for Alt-J. I haven’t been moved by an album this much since I was 13 and was introduced to Taking Back Sunday. This is a true piece of art and it seems America is noticing the radical talent burning around the country. I’m seeing them in Houston on the 10th and I’m so excited I could cry.
Watch their mega-trippy video for “Breezeblocks” below:
Wednesday 3/13 – Stubbs BBQ at 12:30 AM
Thursday 3/14 – The Belmont at 11:10 PM
Natural Child (Nashville, TN)
I wrote about these guys not too long ago; we met on tour in Nashville, their hometown, at a crazy show with very, very talented locals. They’re playing three official showcases, so don’t be a dumb and miss them. You have plenty of chances, and they are WILD live.
Watch their video for “Ain’t Gonna Stop” here:
Wednesday 3/13 – Hotel Vegas at 1:15 AM
Wednesday 3/13 – Lustre Pearl at 9:00 PM
Saturday 3/16 – Hotel Vegas at 12:30 AM
Mikal Cronin (Los Angeles, CA)
Mikal Cronin rocks! In a similar vein to Natural Child, but with less fringe and country swing. He is often lumped together with Ty Segall, because they are friends and bandmates, but writes songs strong enough to be his own category. Perfect songs to drive around to, and shake your hair to, and walk down the street to, and to be pensive to, and to get married to, and to get bat mitzvahed to, and to write term papers about, and to heal your achin’ heart when your girlfriend breaks up with you.
Listen to his new single “Shout It Out” on his new album MCII below:
Thursday 3/14 – The Parish at 10:00 PM
Friday 3/15 – Hotel Vegas Patio at 8:25 PM
DIIV (Brooklyn, NY)
This is another band I’ve reviewed for the Mood blog! Sensing a theme? Their album Oshin is awesome and brilliant and you should see them and bring earplugs.
Tuesday 3/12 – Red 7 Patio at 12:00 AM
Friday 3/15 – Lustre Pearl at 10:00 PM
Friday 3/15 – Mohawk Indoor at 1:00 AM
The Virgins (New York, NY)
The Virgins first made the scene back when I was in high school with a swell, mod, minimalist EP. Shwayze sampled their song “Rich Girl” for his song of the same name, and the only reason it was any good was because of The Virgins’ bangin’ bass line. On the real. They’re finally back playing live, and the single that got debuted this summer is SO GOOD I can’t wait to hear it live.
Dance around your house to “Venus In Chains” and thank based god for pop music:
Wednesday 3/13 – Lustre Pearl at 12:00 AM
Shakey Graves (Austin, TX)
This guy has been gently tearing up Reddit and other Internets for the past year, but he doesn’t owe the hivemind sole credit for his success. Stomping away at a suitcase drum with his feet, strumming away at a guitar in his hands and singing away with a voice in his mouth, Alejandro Rose-Garcia can be found at the Parish at one of his famous residencies, drinking beer in someone’s backyard house party, or in the pages of local magazines that don’t know what a good thing they really have. Best listened to in the dead of summer on your way to Hamilton Pool.
Dig this recording from radio maven Laurie Gallardo’s Good Music Club:
Tuesday 3/12 – The Parish at 9:00 PM
Lil Mouse (Chicago, IL)
Hip-hop heads are touting Lil Mouse as the next great thing, and while I don’t pretend like I know anything about hip-hop, I’d have to say I agree with them. By the way, he’s 13 and is a textbook example of how songwriting is about storytelling and not about literal things that happened or things you did.
Listen to a little kid talk about “Getting Smoked”:
Thursday 3/14 – 404 Austin at 11:15 PM
Norma Jean (Douglasville, GA)
Relive the days you wish the Internet would forget: when Skrillex was Sonny, people took Job For A Cowboy seriously and boys wore hot pink eyeshadow. For some of you, you may remember it more clearly as 9th grade.
Still hasn’t happened, but “Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste”:
Thursday 3/14 – Dirty Dog Bar 11:35 PM
Residual Kid (Austin, TX)
Everyone likes this band because the members are all little kids (12-14 years old), but everyone should like this band because they SHRED. Their songs can stand on their own without having to rely on the age factor – everybody grows up, and at some point, nobody will be impressed with what you’re doing just because of how old you are because age doesn’t necessarily imply experience or talent. To be sure, great things lie ahead, and it is rare to have people this age writing songs you actually want to listen to, but don’t be fooled. These kids know what’s up. You can usually find them crawling all over the stages at one of Austin’s bajillion music festivals, or skating around frightening pedestrians.
Saturday, 3/16 – Palm Door at 12:00 AM (midnight)
Third Eye Blind (San Francisco, CA)
Never Let Them Go:
Friday 3/15 – The Pandora Porch at 11:00 PM
Saturday 3/16 – The Belmont at 11:00 PM
Marmalakes (Austin, TX)
Marma was recently named a Hometown Hero and is currently on tour somewhere for the third or fourth time in two years. Never was there a band that was happier to work this hard, and somehow remain best friends through the whole thing and continue to outdo themselves when it comes to songwriting. This band is tied with Shakey Graves in my buzz opinion, and – no surprises – they are good friends and should totally collaborate. Get on it, guys!
Listen to a track from their Wait/White split with The Sour Notes, “White Height”:
Wednesday 3/12 – 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn at 9:00 PM
!!! (Sacramento, CA)
Aside from frontman Nic Offer’s brilliant dancing and the band’s perfect grooves, they have a new album out, wryly titled THR!!!ER. We see what you did there.
Listen to 2010’s “Jamie, My Intentions are Bass”:
Wednesday 3/13 – Lustre Pearl at 5 PM
Thursday 3/14 – Emo’s at 6 PM
Thursday 3/14 – Clive Bar at 12 AM (midnight)
Saturday 3/16 – Hype Hotel at 1 AM
FIDLAR (Los Angeles, CA)
Spin Magazine faves and rad swell dudes, FIDLAR is lunging and splashing their way from heavy hype to sold-out tours, one 40-oz at a time. Shotgun a Red Bull and jump around in the front, because that is kind of the only real way to experience a FIDLAR show.
Make fun of Max with the rest of the boys:
Wednesday 3/13 – The Main at 8 PM
Orthy (Austin, TX)
Ian Orth – one half of party monster crew Learning Secrets – totally named his band after himself and it’s fine with me. His other DJ half, Jeramy Neugent, plays in the band, and they continue to make sweet music in a totally different way, cementing their talent and making me dance so hard. Best heard everywhere all the time in all the places.
Orth writes most of his songs about his wife Emily, and this one translates to “Dreams”:
Tuesday 3/12 – The North Door (ND) at 9:20 PM
Friday 3/15 – StubHub Live @ Old School at 8:55 PM
Mykki Blanco (New York, NY)
Mykki Blanco oozes art. He will terrify your mom and confuse your square friends and is one of the most important things in contemporary hip hop. A live show is absolutely not something to be missed. Bonus: Brooke Candy, aka chick with crazy pink braids and silver armor in Grimes’ “Genesis” video, is also on the Brooklyn Vegan showcase! Boom, baby.
See for yourself:
Thursday 3/14 – Easy Tiger at 10:45 PM
Friday 3/15 – Maggie Mae’s Rooftop at 9:00 PM
Friday 3/15 – Republic Live at 11:00 PM
Gashcat (Shreveport, LA)
This band rules! Make like a local and go to this show. A staple in the Texas/Louisiana local tour route, Gashcat is hella fun and fresh and real sweet kids. Do it!
Live sessions never sounded this good, either:
Saturday 3/16 – Javelina at 10:00 PM
– Submitted by Tessa Hunt, Audio Engineering