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SXSW 2009: 10 Bands to Watch

It's been said that this year's South by Southwest Music Festival might not attract as many attendees as past years -- blame an economic recession and a national shift in priorities -- but there's no shortage of big names assembling in Austin. Everyone from Andrew Bird and M.Ward to St. Vincent and PJ Harvey all have their place in the Texas sun this year, and it's hard to imagine these headliners having any difficulty drawing folks to their showcases. Still, true music fans know that as great as it is to watch the bigger acts perform, part of the reason to go to SXSW is to find out what's on the music horizon. No one can predict which band will be the Next Big Thing, but here are ten groups poised and ready for the coveted indie spotlight.



The Wire taught us plenty, but maybe most of all is that it’s not easy being from Baltimore. But rapper Blaqstarr levels the playing field with his million-dollar connections. He’s collaborated with M.I.A. and continues to work with Diplo, who shares some of his most esoteric, endearing beats with the rapper. Blaqstarr’s been inching toward a commercial breakthrough of his own for years; he’ll try to seal the deal with a midnight showcase performance at Friends on Saturday, March 21. ~Evan Rytlewski

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/blaqstarrmusic


Champagne Champagne 

Say what you will about “hip-hop rock,” this Seattle-based group plays five SXSW shows this year, among them an 8 p.m. showcase with Suicide Squeeze at Red Eye Fly on March 18. I like "Tropical Trina," with its Paul Simon “Obvious Child” sample and offhanded urban lyricism.~ Gwendolyn Elliott

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/champagnechampagne


Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers

This 22-year-old roots singer from Oklahoma had her second album produced with Danny Kadar (of Grizzly Bear fame). Her youthful conviction and strong songwriting is a thing to hear and behold. She plays two shows: Friday at 11:30 p.m. at the Victorian Room at the Driskill, and on Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Ale House.~ Gwendolyn Elliott

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/samanthacrain


Des Ark

Around the blogosphere there's been positive (but little) chatter about Des Ark, a.k.a. Aimee Collet Argote. The North Carolina-based artist has been performing since 2001 and recorded her first album with J. Mascis, and her imperative, guitar-driven show is likely to draw fans who favor PJ Harvey, Scout Niblett and Cat Power. Des Ark plays March 21 at 10 p.m. at Spiros. ~Gwendolyn Elliott

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/desark


Great Lakes Myth Society

It’s always refreshing to hear an indie-pop band deviate from the soft, baroque template that’s dominated the genre since Belle and Sebastian hit the scene. Drawing from rootsy, Celtic sounds and XTC’s shifty sonics, Ann Arbor’s Great Lakes Myth Society infuses its sweet pop songs with a little bit of the Pogue’s barroom punch. The group will fill a prime 1 a.m. spot Friday, March 20, at the Soho Lounge. ~Evan Rytlewski

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/greatlakesmythsociety

Larkin Grimm

A Young God recording artist now touring with label founder Michael Gira and Vetiver, Larkin grew up in a cult, which helps to explain the ambient, folk orientation of her sound. Her voice is commanding and solid, years beyond her late-20-something age. A 2009 SXSW showcasing artist, she plays Wednesday, March 18 at 9 p.m. at Emo's Jr.~ Gwendolyn Elliott

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/larkingrimm


This Portland, Oregon, electro-pop trio has seen a good amount of play on KEXP recently; in October, “Holly” was the show's Song of the Day. “Rawnald Gregory Erickson 2nd” is the holy, perfect union of Hot Chip and Air. They play the My Old Kentucky Blog showcase March 18 at 9 p.m. ~Gwendolyn Elliott

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/starfuckerss

The Tallest Man on Earth

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other young folk singers enamored by mid-20th century Americana, but few capture the spirit of the era more authentically than the Tallest Man on Earth’s Kristian Matsson, a Swede troubadour with a knack for wild, finger-picked guitar and a voice that recalls an even bluesier, even reedier Bob Dylan. Bon Iver tastemaker Justin Vernon is using his considerable megaphone to plug Matsson, his one-time tourmate, a sign that bigger things may be in Matsson’s future. In the meantime, the Tallest Man on Earth plays Buffalo Billiards at midnight on Thursday, March 19, and the Austin Convention Center at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 20. ~Evan Rytlewski

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/thetallestmanonearth


Wave Machines

Since the Madchester scene two decades ago, the British have fused alternative music and dance music together as well as anybody. That tradition lives on in Liverpool’s Wave Machines, a group that grounds their pop songs in coked-out disco grooves and headier beats than the average NME-endorsed flavor of the month. They’ll appear at Friends at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18. ~Evan Rytlewski

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/mywavemachine  


White Denim

One of the biggest joys of South by Southwest is checking out the native music from Austin’s thriving scene. An experimental blues-garage band with an unusually soulful side, White Denim lives in the shadow of city giants like Okkervil River, Spoon and Trail of Dead, but the band's odd little songs are eminently catchy, and its records grow stronger and more assured by the year. White Denim will play the Radio Room Patio at midnight on Friday, March 20. ~Evan Rytlewski

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/bopenglish


Week in Preview - [March 10, 2009] Heading to the record store? Here's what's new. Week in Preview [March 17, 2009] Heading to the record store? Here's what's new.
SXSW 2009

too many bands.. so little time. i'm so ready!!

/site_media/uploads/images/users/WilliamTrinity/william.jpg WilliamTrinity

i really wish i was going to this :/

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thesesoreribs/2960628550_5df91ab665.jpg thesesoreribs

And Chikita Violenta


Holy crap, I had no idea that Des Ark was making a return! I loved Loose Lips Sink Ships so much but this blurb makes me think that she's gone from slanted art-rock to solo chicky stuff. Say it ain't so!

/site_media/uploads/images/users/narfish/HeadbangSquare.jpg narfish

Don't forget Suckers! They've got a bunch of shows down there, too...

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Johnmel/P1270021.jpg Johnmel

Narfish, Des Ark is still doing her thing, and doing it damn well. I won't be in Austin to catch her, but anyone who is there should.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/mfiander/profile.jpg mfiander

The Tallest Man on Earth! Des Ark! YES!1

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Frosty/Kyle.jpg Kyle Lemmon

The Canon Logic have a new album coming out in March. Check them out myspace.com/thecanonlogic


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