Ah yes, the annual week of debauchery and good times is upon us once again. No, not Mardi Gras – South By Southwest (SXSW) y’all – that annual time of year when the music community convenes to give itself a collective and drunken pat on the back and also where we all look towards the next big thing. It is a week of incredible music and incredible unpredictability, which is precisely why it has always been so goddamn exciting.
As always, there are well over a thousand bands playing this year’s SXSW. I can’t promise to cover even a fraction of what’s out there, and believe me when I say I’m hitting SXSW to discover new bands as much as you are. This list, which I will admit is heavy on the rock, is composed of acts I know you’ll love and acts I think I’ll love when I get to see them for the first time. Hopefully these picks will get you excited and help guide your planning, but I encourage you to do some digging of your own. Shit, if you come across something you really dig, let me know on Twitter! If you want some tips on how to navigate SXSW properly, we have an article for that.
Low Cut Connie
Straight up rock and roll with enough piano boogie to make ol’ Jerry Lee one happy fella. Since barnstorming SXSW nearly three years ago, these delightfully sleazy Philly rockers have been a favorite of this writer and should be at the top of your must-see list.
Follow Low Cut Connie on Facebook to find out show details.
Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires
Hard-hitting, politically charged rock and roll from Alabama. This ain’t your shitkicker Southern rock, but rather what would happen if Bernie Sanders wrote songs, jumped on tables, and cranked up the volume as loud as possible. In these turbulent times where daily resistance is absolutely necessary, the Glory Fires are an essential band.
Follow Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires on Facebook to find out show details.
Nashville’s next big thing? Charming and talented songwriter crafting gorgeous Americana tunes with a new album Canyons of My Mind on the way.
Follow Andrew Combs on Facebook to find out show details.
Bash & Pop
Tommy Stinson’s Replacements side project is back, and his recently released Anything Could Happen finds this legend returning to his bar band roots with a collection of tight, catchy rockers. He’s also touring with Steve Selvidge, a masterful axman perhaps best known as of late for his work in The Hold Steady.
Follow Bash & Pop on Facebook to find out show details.
Another group of Nashville guys making country-tinged rock. Glide contributor Scott Zuppardo summed it up best when reviewing their latest EP Vista Bent when he described them as “a cacophony of titular sounds that shouldn’t work together but do; Lucero meets Spoon but had a few drinks with Lambchop on the way.”
Follow Blank Range on Facebook to find out show details.
With a massive sound that is both poppy and psychedelic, the Portuguese-speaking group bring to mind modern psych acts like Tame Impala as well as legends like Pink Floyd circa Ummagumma.
Follow Boogarins on Facebook to find out SXSW dates.
The Burning Peppermints
Explosive rock outfit from Birmingham, Alabama that throws psychedelic, surf, and punk into a bubbling cauldron of uninhibited madness. As far as live bands go, this one is a must-see. Here’s proof:
Visit The Burning Peppermints website for SXSW shows.
Who said rock and roll was dead? This young trio have just released an early contender for album of the year with Heavy Meta and you can bet they will be taking SXSW by storm. Gallo and co. make the kind of no frills, in your face bluesy rock that would make Dan Auerbach do a double-take.
Visit Ron Gallo on Facebook for SXSW shows.
Durand Jones & The Indications
There’s no question that this Bloomington, IN-based musician has found influence in artists like Charles Bradley and Lee Fields. Durand’s sound is funky, soulful, and simultaneously retro and modern. He delivers plenty of punch with a message of overwhelming positivity, and though he is still well below the radar, there is little doubt he will make a splash at SXSW.
Follow Durand Jones & The Indications on Facebook to find out show details.
If you’re smart, you’ve already heard of this Mississippi songstress. But, at the same time, if you missed the boat that is totally fine considering the fact that her 2014 release garnered attention but was not backed up by much press. Well now Valerie June is back is an impressive new album that showcases her deep heartfelt devotion as a songwriter as well as a storyteller and someone with a voice that is truly unique.
Visit Valerie June on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
A Giant Dog
It’s always been tough to choose between the prog-rock influenced Austin act Sweet Spirit and their more garage-rock oriented sister act A Giant Dog, but when it comes to true rock and roll the latter wins out. Charismatic and wild front woman Sabrina Ellis pushes this group towards explosive breakdowns and wild on-stage antics. Truly one of the most underrated acts out there right now.
Visit A Giant Dog on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
Sunwashed alt-country from LA. Sort of like the twangier younger brother of Dawes. This is the side project of the project of The Sister Ruby Band frontman, Marlon Rabenreither. He’s got kind of a desert-tinged sound that is also reminiscent of Blue Mountain minus the harmonies.
Visit Gold Star to see SXSW shows.
Texas crooner brings to mind artists like Lou Reed, Warren Zevon, and Lyle Lovett complete with dry, straightforward vocals and also has plenty of twang. Phillips has a massive amount of talent and here’s to hoping he knows what to do with it.
Visit K Phillips on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
Quintin Tarantino and David Lynch would smile if he heard these cats. Their sound is a wild combo of surf rock, rockabilly, punk, and California grooving. It’s sort of what you could expect if the hippies and greasers met in film school and decided to drop out and start a band. They also inject a touch of soul, which of course is always welcome.
Visit The Buttertones on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
Here’s a fact: there are not enough rock and roll bands channeling the rowdy, guitar-driven goodness of Thin Lizzy in their prime. While these cats may lack the prowess of Phil Lynott, they more than make up for it with feel good songs that make you want to do a shot, high five your pal, and get back to that beer-soaked game of pool you were playing without any chicks in sight.
Visit Telephone Lovers on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
Psychedelic jazz in the vein of Sun Ra is making a comeback, and these Brits are definitely paying their dues to the legacy of the king.
Visit United Vibrations on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
Straight out of Houston but with a clear foot in the bounce craze of New Orleans, Vockah Redu is a force to be reckoned with. This cat dresses like some sort of modern member of P-Funk, and lays down tracks that are as much about the crunk as they are about tripping you the fuck out. Bottom line, any set you see will be a dance party.
Visit Vockah Redu on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
The finest swamp pop band in all the land. Jovial ex-Gourds member Kevin Russell leads a large band creating dance party vibes in the vein of New Orleans R&B and Gulf Coast Soul. Much like their Predecessor The Gourds, Shinyribs have been known to bust out mean covers of 90’s slow jam.
Visit Shinyribs on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers has repeatedly cited these guys as one of his favorite bands, and for good reason. With the release of their long lost LP Teenage Hallelujah last year, the group gave us “a rock 101 lesson in how three guitars can weave skillfully, reawakening the full rock band sound at its most ragged and pure. “
Visit The Dexateens on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
Southern cello player Ben Sollee has been at it for some time now and has always been a massively underrated talent. This is heartfelt Americana with an intellectual and always insightful edge, and this year Ben Sollee will be showing off his new Kentucky Native at two SXSW showcases. This is good stuff, so don’t miss it.
Visit Ben Sollee on Facebook to see SXSW shows.
Neil Ferguson will be hitting the pavement all week at SXSW. For live updates, drunk tweets, and snarky commentary of the madness, make sure you follow him on Twitter: @musicjournzo
Stay tuned to Glide Magazine for more coverage of SXSW 2016!