Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s performance will most likely be the big story of this year’s South by Southwest. But another part of the SXSW tradition is discovering and championing new talent. Breaking away from the pack at a festival that features nearly 2,000 bands isn’t easy, but Texas-based acts—there are close to four hundred on the schedule—have some advantages. Fans of the local scene talk enthusiastically about these bands to music industry insiders when they’re waiting for a cab together, but almost more importantly, these acts have cultivated hometown crowds and spent months motivating devotees to travel to Austin and support their homegrown talent. Here are picks from showcasing Texans, from the obvious to the relatively obscure.
Bright Light Social Hour
WHO At last year’s SXSW, this funky band of hirsute rock ‘n’ roll throwbacks cleaned up at the Austin Music Awards with six wins, including Band of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. It has since become a dependable room-filler across town, including a free show in Austin’s Zilker Park that drew nearly nine thousand people.
START HERE “Back and Forth” is a herky-jerky funk workout flush with muscular hooks.
WHO Late in 2010, after a pair of well-received albums of smart, sometimes ambient, alternative rock, three members of the sextet of college friends left the band. Frontman Brandon Kinder powered on with the remaining members yielding Build Anyway, which was subsequently shined up by a high-profile mixer, CJ Eiriksson (U2, Live, Phish), and is scheduled for a June 5 release.
START HERE “Bloodless,” the first single from Build Away, sounds like an amped-up Death Cab for Cutie, with strong Coldplay-style melodies.
WHO Frye rushed to put a band together after being accepted to showcase at SXSW in 2009 on the strength of a homemade demo. Last year she earned strong reviews and a slew of Metroplex radio play for her EP Fireworks Child.
START HERE On “Prepared,” Frye confidently holds her own against distorted guitars and a thunderous beat.
WHO The socially conscious but hilariously self-deprecating duo of Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy piled up accolades for its 2011 release, When Pigs Fly. Last month, they toured the state on the Red Bull Skooled Tour, which paired young Texas acts with shows and mentoring sessions from established heavies like Paul Wall and Chingo Bling.
START HERE “Can’t Come Down” chronicles heading to work under the influence, illustrating both the duo’s breezy and provocative sides.
WHO What started as a side project for Mark Ryan from the Marked Men has grown into a six-piece collective fusing lo-fi indie rock and classic garage rock sensibilities. Just as with their raucous live shows, their just-released sophomore set, Meltdown, features a booming bottom end driven by dual drummers.
START HERE “On the Radio” sounds like the Ramones 2.0 in all the right ways.
WHO Lucas Gorham, a lap steel player, designed his group as a soul collective that mixes sultry gospel with punk rock aesthetics. New West Records will release the band’s self-titled national debut on June 10.
START HERE “Waiting for You” builds to a frenetic climax that sounds something like Donny Hathaway leading Bad Company.
WHO The versatile hip-hop crew—composed of an M.C., a deejay, and two producers—is led by the nimble-tongued Yves Ozoude. After meeting at the University of Houston in 2006 and releasing a slew of underground singles, they emerged nationally with their proper 2010 debut, The Show, which earned them Best Rap Group honors at the 2011 Houston Press Music Awards.
START HERE To promote its SXSW appearance, the group has posted a YouTube clip for “Ari Gold (Remix),” an homage to the “Entourage” powerbroker, highlighted by a cameo from Bun B.
WHO A favorite of the rapper Bun B, this hard-touring quartet trades in smart, hooky pop songs built around the glimmering blues growl of bandleader Asli Omar. “Golden,” the band’s latest EP, features its most pointedly alternative rock and radio-ready set of songs yet.
START HERE “Golden” features Omar’s convincing kiss-off that “You weren’t ever strong enough to break me down.”
WHO Considering the Black Keys’ recent run of success, it bodes well for this four-piece family band that all three of its full-length efforts have been produced by Dan Auerbach, the Black Keys’ guitarist. Shake Down, their latest collaboration, will be released June 19 on Collective Sounds.
START HERE The loopy, keyboard-driven, “Savage” is trance-like and instantly catchy.