Once the excitement of scoring a pass wears off, we understand that a wave of anxiety can overcome any attendee of SXSW, a festival that answers the question “What would happen if every single band currently in existence played sets at the exact same time within the space of a few city blocks within the 11th most populous city in the United States?” I mean, obviously you’ll need to try to catch New Order, Sudan Archives, Indigo De Souza, Tangerine Dream, Killer Mike, and Be Your Own Pet, but otherwise the festival cruelly burdens us with the week-long task of weighing showcases against each other without nearly enough time to fully research which ones to prioritize.
We figured since the festival is now in full swing, the stragglers out there could use a little direction these next few days. Below are 20 artists that have caught our eye—some so much so that we had to book them for our own showcase—over the past few years, and 20 names you’ll almost certainly beat yourself up over later in life if you didn’t see them back when they were playing 2 p.m. sets once they’ve graduated from viral hip-hop hits to a weirdo prog-rock album. You’re welcome, future you.
If you subscribe to the annual thinkpiece-floated idea that rock and roll is dead, how do you explain this [slams a vinyl copy of Blondshell’s self-titled debut on the table in front of you]? What Sabrina Teitelbaum accomplishes with Blondshell is an utterly streamlined take on good-times rock music without getting hung up on genre. Plus, she wrote a new theme song to Veronica Mars.
I’m not gonna credit Josh Shaw for having foreseen the COVID pandemic—nor, by extension, the utterly antisocial behavior we all engaged in upon returning to social gatherings when those became relatively safe again—but it does seem like a strange coincidence that their LP If You Feel Alone at Parties dropped right around the time we were soft-launching our social lives again. Now that festivals attended by a literal infinite number of people (and that’s just counting band members) are back in full swing, Blvck Hippie are ready to impress us once again with how not-alone their live set can make us feel.
Robert Tilden can’t seem to stop releasing albums. There have been seven BOYO albums in as many years, with a sprinkling of EPs (five in 2019 alone) maintaining our attention in case it should wane at any point. More impressively, those albums bounce back and forth from intimate, warm, lo-fi hypnagogic pop to icy, upbeat, borderline-funk psych pop. We can’t guarantee which of these two Robert Tildens secured a badge this year, but either way you won’t wanna miss it.
Find BOYO’s set times here.
Before Catbite arrived on the scene, it made you a square to be mad about ska having a moment again; after Catbite arrived on the scene, it became a party crime punishable by wedgie if you still expressed anti-ska sentiments. Ska takes aside, anyone who makes that Neon Trees song palatable is more than OK in our book.
Find Catbite’s set times here.
If you’ve spent any time digging into the Sacred Bones discography, you may not be surprised that a band they’ve signed called “Constant Smiles” isn’t as upbeat as their name may suggest (you may, however, be surprised that “Kenneth Anger” is the name of an album rather than one of the many artistically inclined film directors whose music projects are associated with the label). The Massachusetts group’s new LP brings a certain gray-skies post-punkiness and cold-waviness to the festival’s general vibe of regular-punkiness and/or warm-waviness. Make sure to pack at least one long-sleeve top.
Find Constant Smiles’s set times here.
Debby Friday is a week out from pulling a clipping.—that is, proving that her experimental electro-rap material released through underground labels like Deathbomb Arc is so entirely marketable that it’s worthy of the attention of widely adored indies like Sub Pop, with whom she’s releasing her debut full-length, Good Luck. As in “good luck” tearing yourself away from her set.
Find Debby Friday’s set times here.
Further proving that “bedroom pop” is the musical genre equivalent to “bachelor’s degree” in its nebulousness, if not its virtual uselessness, Divino Niño have slowly evolved their sound from that general tag to the slightly more specific “neo-psych” before ultimately winding up at reggaeton and Latin house on their latest LP, Last Spa on Earth. It’s probably about time we stop categorizing them alongside Alex G and Mac DeMarco.
Find Divino Niño’s set times here.
I mean, you probably know what you’re getting into just by reading their band name. Fuck Money specialize in intense acid-punk injected with blown-out noise and an inherently anti-capitalistic energy. If you like money, this band is probably not for you.
Find Fuck Money’s set times here.
Being “kind of a shoegaze band”—and who isn’t these days?—is just one of the many appeals of Goon. But perhaps more importantly and distinctively and can’t-miss-them-ly, that influence is powerfully counterbalanced by both psych rock and grunge, landing them somewhere fairly indistinguishable on the genre map once you factor in the constant string section embedded in their newest album, Hour of Green Evening.
When she isn’t fronting the dream-pop group Lunarette, Jackie Mendoza makes ukulele music for people who don’t like ukulele music. Maybe a better way of putting that would be that she makes ukulele music for people who do like future-looking electronic music, trap music, and Latin pop music (and also, probably, for people who like ukulele music, sure). Regardless of who it’s for, Mendoza’s ukulele music comes from a cosmos wholly its own.
As if McKinley Dixon’s vocals alone weren’t unique enough to set him apart from the rising tide of rappers cohabiting space with hardcore-punk bands, the Chicago-by-way-of-Richmond emcee’s recent output sees him leaning into an engaging full-live-band sound while his poetic lyrics feel eerily haunted by the ghost of Toni Morrison—even when they’re not directly referencing the late author. Catch him before his new album Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? enters the pantheon of extremely colorfully punctuated titles.
The secret seems to be out on Model/Actriz, but they’re still so fresh off the release of their breakout debut album that if you see them tear shit up at SX there’s still a pretty sizable demographic you could brag to five or so years from now about catching their small showcase before they were doing arena tours. Recommended for killing two birds with one stone: dancing psychotically and having a full-blown meltdown.
Pulling up to SX in their Cadillac, emcees Klevah and TRUTH—collectively Mother Nature—will not only dazzle crowds with their smart verses traded over boom-bap, drill, and trap instrumentals, but also share their infectious confidence which emanates from each and every track to date that they’ve put to tape. Do with that what you will. Maybe tell a local that HEB doesn’t quite stack up to Jewel Osco.
After tricking audiences into thinking his solo output as PENDANT would mine the endlessly fruitful influence of pop-shoegaze with 2019’s debut Through a Coil, Chris Adams revealed his unfiltered musical persona last year with the follow-up, Harp, a kaleidoscopic journey through punk, hip-hop, club music, and skate culture. No word yet on whether his MO for SX still involves deception, but so far such hoodwinkage has only been a welcome surprise.
Find PENDANT’s set times here.
Not that it’s a competition, but of all the wives in attendance this year, Elizabeth Nistico’s Revenge Wife is our official Wife To Watch at SXSW 2023. After launching the project in 2021 following the dissolution of HOLYCHILD, the solo moniker has allowed Nistico to explore new personal and musical themes which will culminate in a debut record later this year. For now, though, she’ll just be exploring Austin.
Find Revenge Wife’s set times here.
Sweet Pill lands in the sweet spot between melancholic Midwest emo and noodly math rock, grungily processing these two influences into their recent debut album Where the Heart Is—a more emo-pop take on the sounds their Philly peers in Mannequin Pussy have been churning. We don’t wanna give away any spoilers, so you’ll have to catch one of their sets to find out where, exactly, their hearts are.
With their recent single “It’s Time,” Truth Club introduced the band’s second chapter following their brooding 2019 debut album Not an Exit. Leaning further into post-punk influences on the still-fairly-overcast new track, SXSW’s most honest band will certainly have you doing whatever it is one does at a post-punk show.
Find Truth Club’s set times here.
Fresh off her debut headlining tour last year, Spanish-American songwriter Victoria Canal’s contemplative, piano-driven chamber pop will likely provide a much-needed breather amongst the chaos of the week-long party that is SXSW. It was no accident that we scheduled her to play a calming set at FLOODfest immediately before CIVIC take the stage.
Victoria Canal is playing FLOODfest at the Mohawk (indoors) on 3/16 at 11:30 a.m. Find Victoria Canal’s additional set times here.
Shortly after having their 2020 LP Last Room resuscitated by Run for Cover Records, the slowcore-by-way-of-dream-pop-with-stops-in-lo-fi-punk-and-industrial-rock outfit recently announced their debut collection of new material for the label. We encourage you to pay them a visit some time this week—and not just because they’re feeling lonely.
Find waveform*’s set times here.
Hip-hop/electronic group 81355—pronounced “Bless,” or, alternatively, “Eight One Three Five Five”—have been waking up Naptown for a little while now, both as a unit and as collaborators on each other’s solo output. Since releasing their debut record This Time I’ll Be of Use in 2021, Sirius Blvck, Oreo Jones, and Sedcairn Archives have been fleshing out their sound with a growing live band and the intent of pivoting from local icons to global recognition, 81355ing us with their presence all week in Austin along the way.