South By Southwest (SXSW), that annual spring gathering of the cultural universe in Austin, Texas, is just around the corner. The festival as a whole, which includes, Music, Film and Interactive primarily, stretches March 11-20. Technically speaking (we say technically because there are tons of bands to see beforehand), the Music portion of the festival takes place March 15-20. To put it in perspective, that five days of nearly round-the-clock musical acts playing in every nook and cranny of Austin, all of whom are vying for your attention, whether you happen to be a hotshot A&R guy for Warner Brothers Records or just someone who will get hooked on a new favorite. For anyone who has never attended and even for those who have, SXSW is overwhelming to say the least. Just trying to grasp the sheer scale of it all will make your head spin. Chances are, you probably haven’t heard of a good portion of the acts playing the festival. To help you navigate the craziness, Glide Magazine is here to offer up some recommendations. We have broken it into two parts consisting of 5 acts we think will or could breakout at SXSW, and 5 under the radar picks that are well worth catching. In the first of two installments, Glide Caitlin Wittlif offers up her picks…
Note: Click on each band to see their official SXSW schedule. Please keep in mind that official schedule does not show “unofficial” gigs.
“SXSW Buzz Band” can be the kiss of death — a group skyrockets to popularity on the power of a hit, and then struggles to establish longevity, quickly becoming a defining footnote to a particular year or free-booze memory. As an unintentional preventative measure, Coast Modern have only released two songs to date, and both are riddled with varied influences — catchy and danceable with a rich groove. This leaves their would-be fans wanting much, much more, which leaves them space to stretch out creatively. This L.A. duo beckons you to a live show if you want to know and hear more, and be a real part of their journey.
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Some pop singers just have that “it” factor — their voices are tailor-made for radio, and their songs are begging for sing-alongs. This is the world Daya inhabits, but she’s not just another pop singer. Her production is interesting and unique, with twirling synths and pirouetting snares. There are piano-based ballads and songs about girls being more than just another pretty face. She’s the complete package, poised to break out — and she’s only released a 6 song EP so far. With her single “Hide Away” already acting as a runaway hit (7 million views on YouTube), this may be your last chance to catch Daya in a smaller setting before she takes stadiums by storm.
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Sometimes a lyric can be delivered so powerfully that it stops you in your tracks, and that’s the power of BIRTHH aka Alice Bisi. She starts out almost wistful, singing, “I thought love was enough/But truth is love is dead,” and grows more confident and fearsome as her first single, “Chlorine,” picks up steam. There are echoes of Daughter, with enough originality to qualify BIRTHH as a must-see.
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Brad Oberhofer has already been a “breakout act” of SXSW. He had a big-on-the-indie-scene hit with “Away Frm U;” in fact, his whole first album, Time Capsules II, was perfect. The last time he was at SXSW, Oberhofer was already debuting some of the new material that he ultimately released on 2015’s Chronovision, and it is music magic when it’s performed live. Oberhofer plays timeless love songs with earnest energy, so if you want all of the feels, show up early, get near the front, and close your eyes to ride the waves of “Earplugs” and “What You Know.”
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If you want to fake like you’re a local, get hip to A Giant Dog — fast. These Austinites-made-good have just signed to Merge, and will be releasing a new album on the label this year. With all of the energy that comes from a record deal and new music, this gritty rock quintet will surely give it their all this SXSW.
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UNDER THE RADAR ACTS
When the seasons are changing, sometimes all you want to do is stretch out in the cool grass and lazily daydream, or hop in the car with friends and head to the beach. Either way, Boraj is the perfect soundtrack for spring AND summer. It’s a gentle lullaby, a soothing saxophone, and warm, familiar vocals. Whether you speak this Chilean band’s native Spanish or not, the music is so gorgeous that it transcends lyrical understanding and moves you on a deep level.
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Upon hearing A-Wa’s bio, you might not immediately think that they’re going to be a partying good time. Really, you might not know much at all about what they’re up to, unless you have come across Yemenite folk music before in your life. But this trio of sisters take these folk tunes and make them modern, daring, and danceable. These women are out to transcend borders and language barriers and get everyone on their feet and enjoying music together.
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Sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz make breathtakingly gorgeous music, bursting with strings and vocal harmonies only siblings can create. On their latest record, Keep It Together, these young women grow up lyrically, exploring new themes with a timeless approach.
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Hibou is the creation of Peter Michel, showcasing dreamy surf-rock with warbled vocals seemingly recorded underwater. The band’s self-titled album is calming and lovely, perfect to put on when you’re spending time with friends or cooking dinner; performed live, the music is enveloping, and when Michel and his live crew opened a national tour for Cayucas, they stole the show.
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19-year-old Bibi Bourelly opens video for “Ego” by staring viewers straight in the eye, confident and dangerous. Her music is varied, with hints of R&B, rap, folk and pop rock — but no matter her backing, her vocals are at the center, the eye of this musical hurricane. With so much power, this live show promises to pack a punch.
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Stay tuned to Glide Magazine for more coverage of SXSW 2016!
Cover photo: A Giant Dog