Whether you're a long-seasoned South-by-Southwestie, or whether you're headed to Austin's largest week of music industry insanity for the first time, you've probably at least been clued into the fact that it's a bit of an event
. There is a lot going on at SXSW and it's easy to get swept away quickly. In fact, I recommend it. It's the only way to keep your wits about you. But, before you get swept off into the waves of music, be sure you have five artists you refuse to leave Austin without seeing.
Here are my suggestions for 2012. (Note each of these artists is likely to add more showcase appearances as SXSW draws nearer. Check your schedule and/or their websites for up-to-date venues and times.)
Folk Uke promo photos
You know you've got big shoes to fill when you've been born into the Guthrie and Nelson families, and you decide to make your way in the music world. But Cathy Guthrie and Amy Nelson (daughters of Arlo Guthrie
and Willie Nelson
, respectively) seem to be up for the challenge. Their music is simple and accessible, falling squarely within the folk tradition, while encompassing the light-hearted good humored realism of their respective family legacies. You won't see these ladies doing any flashy stage antics, but you will get some straight-up great songs...like "Shit Makes the Flowers Grow."
- Saxon Pub - Thursday, Mar. 15 - 8-8:40 p.m.
courtesy Bloodshot Records
No longer a newcomer in the folk and Americana scenes, granted, but Justin Townes Earle is an outstanding performer with some remarkable new material to share. His new album comes out right around the time SXSW goes down, so there's sure to be plenty of buzz around him and it. Besides, it'll be interesting to see how he fares on the giant Stubb's stage outside in that big lot. He's a tall guy with a big stage presence, though, so it should be fine. He'll probably have a band with him, too, likely featuring fellow singer-songwriter Amanda Shires on fiddle. (Shires, by the way, will be playing sets of her own - definitely worth catching.)
- Radio Day Stage at Austin Convention Center - Saturday, Mar. 17 - Time TBA
- Stubb's - Saturday, Mar. 17 - 9-9:55 p.m.
courtesy Righteous Babe Records
Much like Justin Townes Earle, I've been suggesting dedicated music fans check out Anais Mitchell for a while now, and South by Southwest 2012 is no exception. Also like Earle, Mitchell has a fresh new album out - Young Man in America
(Feb. 28) - which is likely going to prove one of the finest folk albums of the year. She is as adept at wielding an audience by her lonesome as she is with a full band behind her (likely there will be a little bit of both at her SXSW performances this year). As of this list only a date at St. Davids was booked, with backing band - definitely a great venue for her latest work.
- St. David's Sanctuary - Wednesday, Mar. 14 - 11-11:40 p.m.
promo photo © Sara Luz
South by Southwest is a great place for discovering bands you might never see or hear of anywhere else. Like this troupe from Portugal, who I'd never heard of until I started listening to all the bands listed in the folk and Americana categories. Similar to Bon Iver
or James Vincent McMorrow
(one of last year's major SXSW highlights), You Can't Win Charlie Brown is clearly quite rooted in traditional and acoustic music styles, but they take it to a somewhat more lush, imaginative space. It's very echoic and beautiful, and I can only imagine their live show will be worth stopping by.
- Karma Lounge - Wed., March 14 - 8-8:40 p.m.
promo photo © Michael Christian
After hearing about Henry Wagons for much of last year, I finally caught his set at the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference (AMAs) this past fall. Let's just say the man has a lot of charisma. Not only is his stage show an infectious explosion of Americanamania, but his music is, too. Looks like he's making plenty of appearances in Austin this year. Catch him at one of the following:
- Tuesday, Mar. 13 - SXSW Convention Centre (SIDESHOW ALLEY / BLOCK PARTY)
- Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Hotel San Jose
- Wednesday, Mar. 14 - The Dogwood (Guitartown / Conqueroo SXSW party)
- Thursday, Mar 15 - BD Reily's (Sound Gallery Showcase)
- Thursday, Mar 15 - SXSW official showcase
- Friday, Mar. 16 - Maria's Taco Xpress (Sin City Social Club 10th Anniversay SXSW party)
- Saturday, Mar. 17 - Threadgills (Music Fog live broadcast)