Hey everyone!

The New York snow is melting to mud, the L.A. sunshine is…sunny, and the fleet of vans and trailers is slowly edging southward and westward. As I write this for what seems to be the 115th time in a row, it starts to feel like the hours of schedule-staring and band-plugging that comprises this list is almost my own form of rain dance— the incantation that unlocks the experience of SXSW, for me at least. That said, I’m also conscious of the fact that from year to year it’s hard to say anything exactly new about SXSW itself. Aside from the annual barometer of “how overblown and crazy is the branding and stunting this year?” there’s not necessarily a novel narrative to something so ritualized. But what there is is new music—lots and lots and lots of new music. And, for what it’s worth, this year seems like it may be a step back to a place where the standard fare of SXSW is less the Gagas and Timberlakes of the world playing secret-but-not-really-secret shows but emerging artists making themselves more proportionally visible, albeit in a still crowded space. In a sense, it’s the truest challenge for an artist— throwdown in 30 minutes without a soundcheck and see if you can win some hearts and minds in one of the more jaded pools of people at one of their least focused times. It’s that gritty two-yards-in-a-cloud-of-dust thing that the blur of celebrity at the top inevitably obscures, but that makes the rockin’ world go round, to nab a phrase.

In a year like this, it’s somehow weirdly appropriate that Snoop Dogg is the keynote speaker. Snoop has overwhelmingly become the Willie Nelson of hip hop, and what that means, aside from the obvious recreational affinities between the two of them, is a perennial presence— the consistency of a form of creative statesman who will collaborate with anyone, appear anywhere and yet somehow stay the institution they are by keeping on keeping on. That’s SXSW in a nutshell. You can bag on it, complain about corners of its catalogue, skip it from year to year, but it stays and churns and keeps being worth revisiting.

So let me help you plan your visit. For those new to this, I’ve got a few featured artists profiled below that I’d nudge you to go see in particular, and then I open up my daily schedule— rife as it is with geographical and temporal impossibilities— to the world. As has also become the custom, the fine folks at Hits Magazine will graciously be running my daily coverage and updates on their lovely redesigned website. My only hope is that continuing to give them copious copy keeps me out of the cartoon, or at least keeps me clothed in the cartoon.

As usual, the firm has approximately 2,345.73 bands playing, all of which deserve your full attention. This year the shock troops from my shop on the ground with me will be Peter Lewit, Richard Grabel, Jonathan Koby and Josh Binder. Buy them each a drink every time you see them!!!! Moreover, virtually every other magazine or outlet I’ve ever written for (Paste, Revolver, Pitchfork, AP, Aquarium Drunkard, etc.) is having some form of party, so please fly the flags and support the cause.

Now for the standard boilerplate disclaimers: Apologies if I seem to be missing your band/your showcase/your party, etc. If you’re getting this by email you’re allowed to have my cellphone number (310-388-7048). A text that starts with an identifier of who you are is the winning communication move. You can also hum the intro to the Replacements’ “Alex Chilton,” and I may just materialize in a cloud of clashing plaids. I’ll do my best to be everywhere I can so hit me on the fly and I’ll try to pull it all off!

LET’S KICK OUT THE JAMS!!!!!!!!! [Easy tiger—Ed.]

FEATURED ARTISTS (alphabetical):

Fantastic Negrito: In what is sure to be one of the year’s most exciting discoveries for many attendees, Fantastic Negrito comes to Austin on the heels of winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert with an approach that, frankly, is pure truth. At a moment where there’s a crop of admittedly talented but maybe cynically over-polished blues guitarists, he brings an honest edge of punk and hip hop intensity to the blues tradition— cross-pollinating the spirit of industrial Oakland with the musical history of the south. Having survived both a bad old days record deal experience and a brutal car accident, his musical rejuvenation comes from a powerful place, and his voice and distinctive playing style make it all the more undeniable. This week in Austin is just another chapter in a succession of very, very exciting things to come.


Wednesday, March 18: 2pm, Container Bar (90 Rainey St.)

Thursday, March 19: 12:00pm, Guero’s (1412 S. Congress)

Thursday, March 19: 2pm, Sofar Sound (1105 E. 3rd St.)

Saturday, March 21: 8pm, Lucky Lounge


Highly Suspect: This is the rock band that’s about to kick your door down. Shredding the corners of SXSW last year with killer romps (particularly at their Indegoot show at Yard Dog), now Cape Cod-invades-Brooklyn’s Highly Suspect arrive on the heels of having recorded an absolutely stunning debut album for 300 that takes their mix of charisma, danger and raw chops to the redline. As amazing as the energy of their playing is and as much swagger as they infuse it with, maybe the most exciting part of it is that it’s comprised of actual songs. The transplanted Texan in me can’t help but think of them as the stomping man’s reincarnation of the great power trios of rock’s past—ZZ Top, Cream, Rush—but with less pomp and schtick. As they mount their assault on rock radio and stages anywhere, this is the cycle’s first big beachhead, and this is your chance to have seen them when…MCID!


Wednesday, March 18: 2:30pm, Brew Exchange (706 W. 6th)

Wednesday, March 18: 10pm, Trophy Room (310 E. 6th)

Thursday, March 19: 4:45pm, AMLI (201 Lavaca)

Thursday, March 19: 10pm, Amped (300 E. 6th)

Friday, March 20: 2:30pm, Tiniest Bar in Texas (817 W. 5th)

Saturday, March 21: 1:30pm, Trailer Space Records (1401 Rosewood Ave.)

Saturday, March 21: 10pm, Monster Outbreak


HOLYCHILD: For those wondering what the utterly catchy backdrop of the new Apple watch commercial is, HOLYCHILD’s “Running Behind” is just the tip of the iceberg. Their debut The Shape of Brat Pop to Come drops on Glassnote June 2, and it’s harder to find a musical unit to be more excited about. For all the infectious moments on their album, the meta story of the band remains unrelentingly intelligent, using pop dazzle to lure listeners in to a deeper commentary on the state of art and culture – something cerebral and subversive in the very best ways, all while being exceedingly fun and musical. With spots on Governor’s Ball and a tour with Passion Pit ahead, HOLYCHILD is poised to be one of the big success stories of 2015 and beyond.


Wednesday, March 18: 4:10pm, Holy Mountain

Thursday, March 19: 6:25pm, Nylon Party at W Hotel

Thursday, March 19: 11:00pm, Velveeta Room

Saturday, March 21: 5:40pm, IFC at Palm Park


The Lonely Wild: With great new music under their belt (exemplified by the beautiful, pastoral new single “Running”) with the help of uber-producer John Vanderslice, The Lonely Wild take light and shade and package them for maximum impact. Having shared stages with artists from Beck to Phosphorescent, Austin marks the first stage of their next chapter, with a host of shows that will stick with you long after you leave.


Tuesday, March 17: 3:00pm, Clive Bar

Wednesday, March 18: 4:00pm, Conscious Immaturity Party

Wednesday, March 18: 10:00pm, Esther’s Follies

Thursday, March 19: 12:00am, Velveeta Room

Friday, March 20: 2:15pm, Licha’s Cantina (1306 E. 6th)

Friday, March 20: 7pm, Cheers Shot Bar


Lucette: With a gorgeous voice and powerful songs, Lucette bridges the traditional songwriter scene to also touch elements of Nashville’s growing and innovative country rock fringe, led by Lucette’s producer Dave Cobb. Hailing from central Canada by way of Nashville, Lucette has toured with Texan stalwart Joe Ely, among others, and now comes to Austin to showcase her talents in an irresistible setting. Lucette’s another artist that will be a welcome discovery to lovers of effortless talent and natural songcraft.


Wednesday, March 18: 10pm, Lucky Lounge

Thursday, March 19: 12:35pm, Blind Pig Roof

Thursday, March 19: 8:00pm, Maggie May’s

Friday, March 20: 6:00pm, Embassy Suites (300 S. Congress)

Saturday, March 21: 1:30pm, St. Vinney’s (1327 S. Congress)


Night Riots: Riding high on the momentum of their, ahem, contagious single “Contagious” (hoowah!), which is rocketing up the Alt Nation charts, Night Riots route to SXSW on their way through a lap around the country that has seen fast-growing crowds and a wave of activity. With placements in the Vampire Diaries, mentions in Billboard and a spot for their EP on the Heatseekers chart, they’ve come out of the box poised to be an alternative band that matters, with a warmth and an energy that’s hard to resist.


Wednesday, March 18: 8:30pm, Emo’s

Thursday, March 19: 4:20pm, Blind Pig

Thursday, March 19: 10pm, Buffalo Billiards


Pity Sex: Aside from the fact that Pity Sex are one of the best and most exciting bands in the buzzy periphery of today’s indie rock scene, they manage to be fun, unassuming and memorable somehow all at once. Anyone who likes anything cool that 120 Minutes ever played or that Brooklyn Vegan ever posted won’t be disappointed. Truly not just a clever name (although I have to admit one of the fun things about being involved with them is that the jokes write themselves: “Q: What was great in Austin?” “A: Pity Sex!”)


Wednesday, March 18: 2:15pm, Converse/Thrasher party at Gypsy (1504 E. 6th)

Thursday, March 19: 8:30pm, Longbranch Inn (1133 E. 11th)

Friday, March 20: 2:15pm, Red 7

Friday, March 20: 10pm, Hole in the Wall (2538 Guadalupe)

Saturday, March 21: 4:10pm, The Liberty (1618 ½ E. 6th)

Saturday, March 21: 1am, Holy Mountain



Burger Records/Wiener Records: It was their compound at Hotel Vegas at SXSW in years passed that fully impressed on me how widespread and powerful a youth culture movement Burger Records has become. I mean, yeah, they are awesome guys and have incredible taste and spot literally dozens of bands before everyone else does, but it goes further than that, and it’s honestly more a “movement” than a “brand.” None of the bands playing their four (!!) parties this week are household names, but the quality ratio is utterly stunning, and there’s a lot to choose from. On Thursday the 19th you can catch both the Burger Pool Party at the Pearl St. Co-Op and the Love at First Bites showcase at the Whip In (in conjunction with Lollipop Records), while on Saturday the 21st the Burgerama IV takeover happens at Hotel Vegas. Also catch Burgerama affiliate Wienermania’s extensive, extensive offering at the Spider House on Wednesday the 18th. Standouts across these shows include No Parents, Wax Witches, Gap Dream, Sarah Bethe Nelson, Levitation Room, King Tuff, Memories, The Aquadolls, White Fang, Guantanamo Baywatch, La Luz and Bad Vibes to name just a few!!!

Red Bull Records: Having built AWOLNATION into a true alternative smash, Red Bull Records brings a great crop of acts to this year’s SXSW, including not only AWOL but Blitz Kids and New Beat Fund. With their international reach and eclectic vision, the label continues to grow into a powerful mini-major with a high success rate and a great reputation. With the label as its flagship, Red Bull continues to be a brand that dives into music as not just a sponsor but as a very active participant and contributor. To get a taste of the roster and likely a taste of their sisterco’s Austin-essential product, swing by their Spring Breakdown at the Empire Garage on Thursday.

OTHER FEATURED ARTISTS: While this year’s crop of more household-name artists is less overloaded than the Kanyes of years past (although don’t rule that one out), the upper-middle tier of the acts on this year’s festival circuit are well-represented, in many cases with new material. Now-established “indie” artists like Best Coast, The War on Drugs, Spoon, TV on the Radio, Ingrid Michaelson, Run the Jewels and Future Islands are always great to catch on outdoor stages and technically-too-small rooms, and the ACL Theater will also host a few pop superstars like J. Cole and the aforementioned Snoop while emerging mass audience acts like Milky Chance and Tove Lo will also be in abundance. While presumably not pairing specifically, both brothers Butler from Arcade Fire will be playing around town, Will Butler playing as Will Butler and Win Butler DJ’ing under the fantastic name DJ Windows ’98. DJ culture continues to grow at SXSW, as notables like A-Trak and Ryan Hemsworth make stops presumably en route to Winter Music, while a host of hip hop artists ranging from Pharcyde to Migos pack multiple venues across town.

Aside from some of the artists featured above, breakout candidates include England’s Catfish and the Bottlemen, whose fast-and-fun debut will undoubtedly gain ground as they put in the time Stateside. Buzz also surrounds major label priorities like Young Rising Sons, Milo Greene (great new album in tow), Twin Shadow (ditto) and The Mowgli’s. Vic Mensa arrives on the heels of a huge building story, while critical eyes are also cast to artists like Viet Cong, METZ, Natalie Prass, Stromae, Alvvays, the inimitable Butch Walker and Elle King. While there’s not necessarily as much metal and really vicious punk this year as I’d hope (although, let’s face it, there’s never as much metal and really vicious punk anywhere as I would hope), those in the mood for something heavier should cherish the rare appearance of the Pete Stahl-lead Goatsnake, the emergence of Code Orange, a visit from Dillinger Escape Plan and a proper thrashing from smart metal acolytes KEN Mode. There’s also some great action on the more cinematic edge of the punk scene as bands like Pianos Become the Teeth, Creepoid and Chon layer the grit with some glances at the sky.

A personal highlight for me will inevitably be a dose of Swervedriver, whose new album maintains the virtues of their already immaculate legacy – if the band had only written “Last Train to Satansville” alone, it would have been enough! Exciting, too, will be Swervedriver disciples Gateway Drugs, who join Twin Peaks, Kopecky and my cherished Diarrhea Planet and the amazing Meatbodies in the ranks of just damn good rock bands who made great new music in the last year. Also check out Badflower, Dear Boy, The Family Crest, Rubblebucket, iLoveMakonnen, Trapper Schoepp and emerging S.F. phenoms Cathedrals.

Also, don’t forget to sample Texas music itself – personal hero James McMurtry (gracious enough to play my high school when I asked about seven decades ago) has just made what might be the album of his career, while local legend Robert Earl Keen has a few plays on the calendar, as do various and sundry local legends ranging from Guy Forsyth to Jimmy LaFave. The Austin Music Hall will be featuring tributes to the tragically departed Ian McLagan and Texas rock spiritual godfather Doug Sahm, all with an all-star house band and an impressive array of guests.

Obviously the whole thing has an air of “choose your own adventure,” but here, friends, is mine:



Tuesday, March 17

1pmish – land in Austin

3pm – The Lonely Wild (Clive Bar)

4pm – Twin Peaks (Buffalo Billiards)

5:30pm – Cathedrals (Clive Bar)

7pm – Hard Proof (Empire Control Room)

745pm – Riverboat Gamblers (Main II)

8pm – Son Little (Blackheart) or Parlour Tricks (Hype Hotel)

8:25pm – Hand Job Academy (Flamingo’s)

8:30pm – Dreamers (Main II)

9pm – Steve Gunn (Mohawk Outdoor)

950pm – Jukebox the Ghost (Bungalow)

10pm – Badflower (Bat Bar) or Night Drive (Iron Bear) or Unlocking the Truth (Dirty Dog)

11pm – Future Islands (Clive Bar) or Sons of Bill (Red 7)

1140pm – Rare Essence (Bungalow)

12am – Catfish and the Bottlemen (Latitude 30) or Natalie Prass (Cheer Up Charlie’s) or Milky Chance (Yahoo’s Brazos Hall) or Royal Thunder (Dirty Dog)

1230am – Dry the River (Buffalo Billiards)

1am – Vic Mensa (the Main) or Until The Ribbon Breaks (Latitude 30)


Wednesday, March 18

10am – bfast meeting

12pm – Cathedrals (Hype Hotel) or James McMurtry (Dogwood)

1pm – Caroline BBQ

2pm – Fantastic Negrito (Container Bar – 90 Rainey)

2:15pm – Pity Sex (Gypsy – 1504 E. 6th)

2:30pm – Highly Suspect (Brew Exchange – 706 W 6th)

3:45pm – Pianos Become the Teeth (Gypsy Lounge) or Youtube (Coppertank)

4:10pm – HOLYCHILD (Holy Mountain)

5pm – Viet Cong (Red 7)

5:35pm – Natalie Prass (Weather Up – 1808 E. Cesar Chavez)

5:45pm – Levitation Room (Hotel Vegas)

6:15pm – Guantanamo Baywatch (Weinermania – Spider House – 2908 Fruth Street)

7:15pm – Bad Vibes (Hotel Vegas)

8pm – Ditch Witch (Hotel Vegas Patio) or Dream Koala (Plush) or Girlpool (Mohawk) or the Prettiots (Majestic) or Wolf Alice (Parish)

8:30pm – Night Riots (Emo’s) or Family Crest (St. David’s) or BEGINNERS (Red-Eyed Fly)

9pm – Alvvays (Mohawk Outdoor) or Freedom Fry (Palm Door) or Hiatus Kaiyote (Parish) or Natural Child (Trinity Hall @ Old School) or Young Rising Sons (Maggie Mae’s Rooftop)

915pm – Alex Winston (Red-Eyed Fly)

10pm – Lucette (Lucky Lounge) or Highly Suspect (Trophy Room) or Lonely Wild (Esther’s Follies)

11pm - The Damned (Mohawk Outdoor) or Best Coast (Hype Hotel) or Joywave (Buffalo Billiards) or Cattlefish and the Bottlemen (Blackheart) or Kaleo (Lamberts) or Mew (Red 7) or Stromae (Stubb’s)

1115pm – DJ Windows 98 (Cedar Street Courtyard)

12am – Kopecky (Majestic) or Thee Oh Sees (Mohawk) or Waxahatchee (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

1215am – Memories (Mohawk) or Spoon (Cedar Street)

1230am - TV on the Radio (Stubb’s)

1245am – Mowgli’s (Buffalo Billiards)

1am – BRONCHO (Bungalow) or Delta Spirit (Parish) or Diarrhea Planet (Trinity Hall) or Future Islands (Mohawk) or Real Estate (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

120am – MURS (Javelina)


Thursday, March 19

11am – CAA Brunch

11am - Bloody Mary Morning (828 W. 6th)

1235pm – Lucette (Blind Pig Roof)

1pm – Twilight Sad (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

1:30pm – Red Bull Records party (Empire Garage)

2pm – Fantastic Negrito (Sofar Sound – 1105 E. 3rd St.)

3pm – Gap Dream (Pearl St. Co-Op)

345pm – Chon (Licha’s – 1306 E. 6th – APA Party)

4pm – Deerhoof (Cheer Up Charlie’s) and Secret Road Party (Parish)

415pm – Cathedrals (Red-Eyed Fly) or Particle (Meerkat Club)

420pm – Night Riots (Blind Pig Roof)

4:45pm – Highly Suspect (201 Lavaca St.) or DJ Windows 98 (Mohawk)

5:15pm – METZ (Red 7)

5:30pm – Jacuzzi Boys (Flatstock)

6:25pm – HOLYCHILD (W Hotel)

7pm – Zombies (Stubb’s)

8pm – Lucette (Maggie Mae’s)

8:30pm – Pity Sex (Longbranch Inn – 1133 E. 11th)

9pm – Elle King (Yahoo’s Brazos Hall) or Milo Greene (Velveeta Room)

915pm – Moon Duo (Vegas Hotel Patio)

9:30pm – Dear Boy (Red 7 Patio)

10pm – Highly Suspect (Amped – 300 E. 6th) or Night Riots (Buffalo Billiards)

11pm – HOLYCHILD (Velveeta Room)

12am – Lonely Wild (Velveeta Room) or Butch Walker (Red 7) or War On Drugs (Clive Bar)

1210am - Pharcyde (Blackheart)

1245pm – Cloud Nothings (Swan Dive)

1am – Autre Ne Veut (Hype Hotel) or New Beat Fund (720 Club)

115am – Migos (Main)


Friday, March 20

1030am – BMI Brunch

12pm – Family Crest (Swan Dive) or Twin Shadow (Convention Day Stage)

1230pm – Spin Day Party (Stubb’s) – Viet Cong/METZ

1245pm – Trapper Schoepp (Holy Mountain)

1pm – Son Lux (Mohawk) or Hiatus Kaiyote (Brush Sq)

145pm – Dear Boy (Vulcan Gas Co – 418 E. 6th)

2:15pm – Pity Sex (Red 7) or Lonely Wild (Licha’s)

2:30pm – Highly Suspect (817 W. 5th)

3:30pm – Night Terrors of 1927 (Empire Garage) or KEN Mode (Red 7)

4pm – Mac of Superchunk (Red 7)

415pm – Power Trip (Red 7)

4:50pm – Cathedrals (Mohawk) or Love Wookie (Sisyphus)

5pm – United Nations/Swervedriver (Red 7)

6pm – Lucette (Embassy Suites) or Vacationer (Clive Bar)

6:50pm – Priory (IFC Fairgrounds)

7pm – Lonely Wild (Cheers Shot Bar)

730p – Death Valley Girls (Hotel Vegas)

8pm – Gateway Drugs (Cheerup Charlie’s) or Giant Sand (Continental)

825pm – Meatbodies (Hotel Vegas)

9pm – Joe King Carrasco (Javelina) or the Skull (Dirty Dog)

930pm – Ting Tings (Stubb’s) or BRONCHO (Bar 96)

950pm – Field Mouse (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

10pm – Pity Sex (2538 Guadalupe – Hole In the Wall) or The Church (Buffalo Billiards)

1030pm – Creepoid (Brazos Hall) or Clean Bandit (Stubb’s)

1045pm – Milo Greene (Parish)

11pm – Drivin N Cryin (Javelina) or The Pop Group (Maggie Mae’s Rooftop) or Twilight Sad (Red 7) or X Ambassadors (Uproxx)

1115pm – Brother Ali (Mohawk)

1120 – Speedy Ortiz (Yahoo’s Brazos)

1130pm – Bleachers (Stubb’s)

1145pm – Dilated Peoples (Mohawk) or James Bay (St. David’s)

12am – Swervedriver (Red 7) or Funkmasphere (Empire Garage) or Future (Uproxx)

1215am – Failure (Yahoo’s Brazos)

1235am – Cribs (Parish)

1245pm – Atmosphere (Mohawk)

1am – Rubblebucket (Blackheart) or Ceremony (Red 7) or Whitey Morgan (Gypsy)


Saturday, March 21

1230pm – TAG party (Lambert’s)

1:30pm – Highly Suspect (Trailer Space – 1401 Rosewood) or Lucette (1327 S. Congress)

225pm – Shivas (Flatstock)

3pm – Meatbodies (Hotel Vegas)

3:35pm – Swervedriver (Mohawk)

345pm – Goatsnake (Gypsy)

4pm – Iceage (Beerland)

410pm – Pity Sex (1618 ½ E. 6th St.)

430pm – Code Orange (Mohawk)

5pm – Om (Gypsy)

540pm – HOLYCHILD (IFC Park)

6pm – Copper Gamins (MACC) or David Garza (Hotel San Jose)

745pm – Code Orange (Gypsy) or Coliseum (2015 E. Riverside Dr.)

8pm – Fantastic Negrito (Lucky Lounge) or Wax Witches (Hotel Vegas)

910pm – Smallpools (IFC)

920pm – Steve Earle (Paramount Theater)

930pm – Cathedrals (Empire Control Room)

935pm – THEE Satisfaction (Bungalow)

10pm – Highly Suspect (Outbreak House - 213 W 5th)

1025 – Trinidad Jame$ (Palm Door)

1030pm – Ryan Hemsworth (Mohawk) or Trapper Schoepp (Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room)

11pm – Blitz Kids (Red 7 Patio) or Dillinger Escape Plan (Gypsy Lounge)

1120pm – The Church (Emo’s)

12am – Atreyu (Monster Outbreak) or Freddie Gibbs (Palm Door) or Hundred Waters (North Door) or Mini Mansions (Buffalo Billiards) or PUJOL (Red Eyed Fly) or Scott Weiland (Parish)

1230am – White Fang (Hotel Vegas)

1am – Pity Sex (Holy Mountain)

120am – Raekwon & Ghostface Killah (Belmont)


Sunday, March 22

Wha’ Happ’n’d? 

Two heads are better than one. (6/18a)
Bugs is dancing in the street. (6/18a)
Pull up the Brinks truck. (6/18a)
Looks like we have a horse race. (6/17a)
Myriad lawyers, no waiting. (6/18a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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