Here we are again. It’s SXSW Music time, and an impossibly promising schedule stretches before us. Of course, the best bet, always, is to go to the source; instead of perusing the endless lists of critics and bloggers, ask the rock stars which performers they can’t wait to see.
Below is the best of the fest, in no particular order, from some real music experts — you know, the ones who play the music.
Co-founder, lead singer and guitarist of Spoon
Daniel weighed in with a tight list of the hits, "a few things I'm looking forward to at SXSW this year," as he put it. Daniel's picks include films in the 24 Beats Per Second program, open to Music badgeholders (Danny Says, THE DAMNED: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead); parties and showcases (Swearing at Motorists present: All Tomorrow's Tacos volume II at the Lost Well and the Consequence of Sound Showcase at St. David's Bethell Hall); and, of course, performers: Thee Oh Sees, Hamilton Leithauser and Courtney Barnett.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, co-founder of Austin band Charlie Belle
At 16, Bonds is already a music vet who has recorded a great EP, Get to Know, with her band, Charlie Belle, not to mention toured, performed and received accolades and notice from everyone from NPR’s Ann Powers to Amy Poehler to Buzzfeed.
Bonds' age limits her show-hopping and she likes to keep her schedule loose to discover new things. She says she’s "always really excited about [the free SXSW shows at] Auditorium Shores, just because the atmosphere is great, and the lineup is, too (it's Spoon this year on one night!!)."
She also plans on hitting the NoiseTrade party (partly because her band is playing there, but also because of the lineup). "Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop is always fun," she adds, "and so is the Waterloo Records party. And the Ting Tings are playing South by San Jose this year — wow. It'll be a fun SXSW for sure."
Brooklyn-based DJ deluxe, record producer, musician, writer, historian and creator/host of the internationally beloved New York Night Train Soul Clap and Dance-Off
Ever the historian and enthusiast, Toubin divides his picks into "Classics" and "Newer Stuff."
The first group includes Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires ("The voice of voices — plus the splits, sweat and tears!"), The Spits ("One of the best punk bands of all time"), Bloodshot Bill ("One of the top entertainers in showbiz for eons"), Thee Oh Sees ("John Dwyer’s bands always rage full-on"), ESG, Jacuzzi Boys and The Pop Group.
Newer acts include Vockah Redu ("Vockah and his Cru single handedly made me appreciate choreography again"), La Luz ("well-constructed jams, surfy sway, breezy harmonies, solid rock rhythm, wet guitar and a raw aesthetic"), The Mystery Lights ("High-flying, garagey rock 'n' roll with psychedelic tinges"), Yonatan Gat, Jacco Gardner, Shockwave Riderzand and Daddy Long Legs.
Portland-based singer, multi-instrumentalist, founder and editor of She Shreds magazine
She Shreds is putting on four events at SXSW 2015, which means Reyna will be holding it down there — but she swears that nearly all of her favorite bands are playing them. They include collaborations with Hardly Art, Panache, Earthquaker Devices and Tom Tom magazine featuring Girlpool, Nots, La Luz, Slothrust, Fea, Thelma and the Sleaze and many more.
As far as the shows she’s "going to miss and am actually bummed out about missing," Reyna names Panache’s Bruise Cruise, this year with Juan Waters, and notes that "anything Burger Records does is raging, and you will come out drenched in yours and everyone else's sweat." Spider House has a "fantastic lineup the whole week," she notes, and adds with a laugh that Bomba Estéreo at Auditorium Shores is "one of the only bands playing that I will leave my shows to see!"
She adds a festival darling to her list, too. "Plus, if you haven't seen Courtney Barnett live, do yourself a favor and track her down."
Austin-based pop songwriter and musician who recently released acclaimed Western Vinyl debut Sun Marquee
Between working and playing shows, Shook says he never gets as much time as he’d like to take full advantage of SXSW and naturally gravitates toward "supporting local bands that I know well. I find it comforting to be among familiar faces during the chaos of South by." When he’s not otherwise engaged though, he’s looking forward to "hanging at Spider House. It’s enough out of the fray of downtown, easy to get a beer, and there's always a ton of good music."
Out-of-towners he’s looking forward to seeing include "Ava Luna, who are playing right after me at the Western Vinyl showcase. Their new record is unreal! Also excited to check out Ibeyi on Friday at Waterloo." For the rest of the time, he says, he’ll "stay in the relative quiet south of the river at spots like Radio, Strange Brew and End of an Ear."
Austin singer, guitarist, songwriter, writer and former member of the Shindigs whose work includes the excellent Return of the Woman
"Belfast’s Protex was one of my favorites at SXSW last year, and I’m looking forward to rekindling our love," says Bryan of the group that "reformed a few years ago and is now playing shows to a new gang of kids who love their punk with a power-pop sheen."
Bryan's east side picks include day parties at Street Legal Guitars, Trailer Space and Counter Culture. She hopes to catch local legend Tim Kerr’s "old timey project Up Around the Sun" at Billy Reid, The Pop Group ("another one back from the dead"), Grace London ("chops, great songs, and a musical style all her own") and Skating Polly at the Girls Rock Camp Party.
Her favorite party of the week? Sunday's Uncle Doug’s Chili Dog Fest at Empire Control Room and Garage: "Free chili dogs, killer silent auction for HAAM," she says. "The stellar lineup includes the Flesh Lights, the Ugly Beats and personal fave The Golden Boys, who I’ll follow to the end of the earth, no matter how wildly they stagger."