SXSW: Eight Must-See Texas Acts
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After last year’s South by Southwest, post-festival talk focused largely on a pair of superstars. It’s not every day that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Jay-Z drop into Texas to play relatively intimate venues. Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 other acts were showcased, including fun., Ed Sheeran and the Lumineers, who all went from being virtual unknowns to Grammy performers just ten months later.
This year (the festival runs through March 17), Green Day and Dave Grohl’s star-studded Sound City Players are expected to fulfill the big-name quotient. The artists on the underbill include nearly 400 Texas-based acts, each hoping to walk away with new fans, a handful of press clippings and music-industry contacts.
Here are some of the Texans being showcased, from the obvious to the relatively obscure:
As a teenage singer-songwriter, she wrote and recorded demos with one of her city’s most successful musical exports, the Grammy-winning producer Clif Magness, who had previously worked on hit records with Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. Now 21, Vasquez did an EP in 2011 and will release her full-length debut album this spring. The collection, as yet untitled, was produced in Austin by Matt Noveskey of Blue October.
Start Here: On the gloomy “Wear You Thin,” Vasquez’s voice covers some impressively wide emotional territory, from provocative to vulnerable.
Fueled by two singers, Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swamm, this quintet has built a reputation for sold-out hometown shows and indie-pop that is jangly, bouncy and efficient. The original nine-song version of their 2010 debut, Skin Collision Past, clocked in at just over a half-hour. After two years of intensive touring, the band recently told fans on Facebook that they had begun recording their sophomore set.
Start Here: The band released two new songs in 2012: “Gag Reflections,” a sparkly singalong, and a lushly orchestrated cover of the B-52s’ “Summer of Love.”
In May, these headbangers will release their national debut album and head north to play Rocklahoma, a hard-rock festival featuring bands like Guns N’ Roses, Dokken and Korn. They should fit right in, with their huge-sounding guitar rave-ups that fuse punk, glam and metal.
Start Here: With a chorus punctuated by “Whoa oh! Whoa oh! Whoa oh,” their new single, “Pomona,” is a muscular anthem that seems unapologetically tailor-made for the Hair Nation station on Sirius XM.
Last year, this three-time winner of the Houston Press Music Awards’ best underground hip-hop title teamed with the producer Tom Cruz for “Double Dragon,” an eighteen-song mixtape that featured sampled blips and beeps from the soundtrack to the eighties video-game series of the same name.
Start Here: “BKNY,” the summery-sounding first single from his forthcoming Smart Ass Black Boy, is a sexually charged tribute to Brooklyn, N.Y., and its female residents.
An accountant by day, Fauss is a rootsy Americana-leaning singer-songwriter by night, the kind who writes songs as memorable as their titles are clever, e.g., “I Can’t Remember (What You Can’t Forget).” His first full-length album, I Am the Man You Know I’m Not, was released last year on Normaltown Records, an imprint of New West.
Start Here: Less twangy and more autobiographical than the songs preceding it, the album-closing “With Love” is an intricately detailed meditation on his father’s death.
Snow Tha Product
Claudia Feliciano’s hip-hop alter ego slings her rhymes with a rapid-fire flow, much like a harder-core Missy Elliot. Strong reviews for her Unorthodox mixtape (2011) and nearly 1.3 million YouTube views for her “Drunk Love” single earned her a deal with Atlantic Records. Last year, the label released a 10-song mixtape, Good Nights & Bad Mornings, with a proper debut planned for later this year.
Start Here: “Hola,” a spry party starter on which Snow pays tribute to herself and the joys of “Patrón and vodka.”
Every few years, an Austin act picks up steam and has everyone talking just in time to enjoy the home court advantage. This year it’s a bluesman, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, who makes the one-man band approach look effortless. He simultaneously sings, finger-picks an intricate guitar lead and stomps out a beat with foot pedals striking a Samsonite suitcase turned kick-drum.
Start Here: The rambling blues of “Unlucky Skin,” from his home-recorded debut, Roll the Bones (2011), recalls Townes Van Zandt and early-period Chris Whitley.
This bilingual accordion-fronted quartet is committed to the notion that old-school punk rock and old-school Latin border music can be fused into something thoroughly modern. And very loud. They have toured with a diverse set of Texans from Reverend Horton Heat to Los Skarnales—and recently recorded El Valiente, to be released soon, with the Austin producer Chris Smith (the Toadies, Jet).
Start Here: A seamless transition between back-to-back squeezebox and guitar solos highlights “Campesino” (2010), a Spanish-sung tune built around a blitzkrieg pace that seems more inspired by the Misfits than Los Tigres del Norte.