South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual treat for fans of all media in Austin, Texas. One of few festivals to serve as a major player in the music AND film industries, SXSW features plenty of big name performances from the likes of Green Day, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This is in addition to movie screenings and events that range from big-budget pictures like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to indies with barely a four-figure budget. The festival organizers’ love for independent art is one reason for SXSW’s continuous notoriety, and its wide spectrum of lesser-known music acts is particularly noted. Sure, it’s a no-brainer to see showcases from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Billy Bragg, but the list of hundreds of other artists at the festival can be daunting for anyone attempting to organize a schedule. Here are a few who, despite lesser fanfare, have the capability to produce sets that are just as captivating:
3/12, Buffalo Billiards, 9PM
Lord Buffalo play like a haunting ghost, their slow trickling acoustics and wisps of sonic ambience producing a sound that is both breathtakingly beautiful and anxiously climatic. Their track “Yellow Wallpaper Project” shows this Austin-based group of mainly-bearded members as having outstanding chemistry and a grasp for cinematic brooding. A perfect fit for SXSW.
3/13, International Day Stage (Austin Convention Center), 2PM
The Suzan are a fun rock group from Tokyo that combine exotic string-led fervor with bouncy keys and excitable vocal deliveries. A track like the fleeting “Home” is perfectly representative of The Suzan, who at times sound more like a Swedish pop group than a mainstay in the diverse Japanese rock scene. As “Home” is produced by produced by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn & John fame, the knack for sugary-sweet pop hooks makes sense.
3/13, Metal & Lace Lounge, 7PM
Before checking out Nick Cave at 7:45, fans can get even more pumped up by checking out PC Worship at 7. This self-proclaimed “mutant soul band” lives in a Bushwick, Brooklyn warehouse together, as they constantly come up with new sounds based in a hybrid of punk, grunge, and avant-garde folk. “Back in Time” is a venomous blast of energy that mixes nonchalantly grungy vocal deliveries with wailing guitars and improv-friendly brass. It’s the sort of music that warehouse parties are made of, where energy and intensity reign supreme over conventional cohesion or structure. It’s easy to lost in PC Worship’s waves of distortion.
Murder By Death
3/13, Continental Club, 9PM
Speaking of Nick Cave, the Indiana-based Murder By Death apply many similar concoctions, namely the integration of dark folklore-ish imagery into lively arrangements that range from string-tinged ballads to raucous blues, especially accentuated by cellist Sarah Balliet’s Kentucky bluegrass roots. Named after memorable 1976 whodunit film Murder by Death, their tunes provide plenty of suspense and unexpected turns within enriching melodies and accessible rock.
3/13, Copa, 9PM
Although Rattletree Marimba are based in Austin, Texas, their hearts are in Zimbabwe. Their reputation for high-energy live performances earned them a spot at SXSW, along with an inventive approach led by authentic Zimbabwean style Marimbas. Incorporating aspects of modern electronica, their custom-built Marimbas aid a colorful and invigorating performance that’s a nice refresher from the indie-rock acts that typically dominate SXSW.
3/14, Radio Day Stage (Austin Convention Center), 3PM
Zach Yudin named his music project, Cayucas, after a town known for its love of surfing, especially in the ’60s when the surfing culture and music collided in enjoyable fashion. While Yudin’s music isn’t exactly a surf-pop replica, it provides a certain nostalgic whimsy that recalls summer nights where a full moon reflects serenely on a calm ocean.
3/15, Hotel Vegas Patio, 7:15PM
Their band’s name sounds like an energy drink, and Turbo Fruits produce an excitable vein of rock ‘n’ roll that produces similarly aphrodisiac effects, at least in a live atmosphere. SXSW crowd-goers will be smitten with the Nashville-based four-piece, who are fronted by ex-Be Your Own Pet Jonas Stein. Their newest release was produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, who found Turbo Fruits’ excitable interpretation of garage-rock to be destined for the spotlight.