Zoe Cordes Selbin on Thursday, Mar. 10th
South by Southwest; SXSW; South By; no matter what you call it, this media, film, and music conference brings thousands of bands and music companies to Austin, Texas. Every March the “Live Music Capitol of the World,” becomes home to local and international bands alike, all playing showcases in an attempt to catch the ear of an exec and break it big. If you’re taking a trip to SXSW to check out some music, it can be hard to know where to start with all the bands. As a local, I’ve gotten pretty good at navigating the scene—here are a few of my top picks:
-The Appleseed Cast (March 18th: Skinny’s Ballroom, The Liberty, March 19th: Blue Starlight Mini Drive). Although The Appleseed Cast became known as a late 90s emo band, their sound has migrated into a more post-rock, dreamy direction in the last few years. They often range from concentrated noise to sonic wandering in the same song, but their strong melodic core keeps their shows packed.
-Bright Eyes (March 19th: Auditorium Shores) Perhaps Bright Eyes is a no-brainer; most people under the age of 35 will flock to this show. A perennial favorite for anyone who’s ever experienced heartbreak, Bright Eyes is anchored by songwriter Conor Oberst, a master of soft, devastating, and beautiful musical gems. Just be prepared to dodge ladies cooing over Oberst’s perfectly tousled hair.
-Okkervil River (March 16th: Red 7, March 18th: Antone’s, Flamingo Cantina, March 19th: Lustre Pearl). Lately these hometown heroes have been spending a lot of time on the road and on TV garnering a large international fanbase, and their upcoming album may just catapult them into the big time. I predict their new single, “Mermaid,” will emerge as one of the anthems of SXSW 2011. With folk and country undertones, as well as lyrics that paint complex narratives, Okkervil River is indie rock at its finest.
-The Strokes (March 17th: Auditorium Shores). Like Bright Eyes, this one is a bit obvious. However, The Strokes brand of garagey pop-rock is classic, and with a comeback record in the works, they’ll likely preview some new material. If their killer set at Austin City Limits Music Fest last fall was any indicator, their performances are tighter than ever, and they’ll bring out an enthusiastic crowd of teenagers, college kids, and young professionals alike.
-Das Racist (March 16th: Speakeasy, March 18th: Phoenix, Emo’s). It’s still unclear whether hip-hop group Das Racist is more a joke or a musical project. Either way, their often-humorous lyrics are paired with addictive beats, and their mix tapes have been getting a lot of buzz, even though some taunt them for being more hipster than hip-hop. Their set may be worth catching for their breakout single alone—the title says it all—“Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.”
-Balmorhea (March 19th: Lambert’s) Another local favorite, Balmorhea has been a breath of fresh air on the Austin scene for five years. Their gorgeous instrumental arrangements set them apart from traditional genres and musical trappings. Their ethereal, experimental songs are the perfect canvas to project ones own dreams and emotions onto. A Balmorhea set is the perfect way to relax and end a hectic conference week.