On top of the thousands of must-see bands and acts for those attending South by Southwest / SXSW in 2015, I've compiled another list that attendees might find useful as we plot out our days and nights of many music genres playing across Austin next week. We don't have festival badges as they remained beyond our budget, which means we won't be able to get in to every show, but I'm still thrilled to roam the streets of Austin, see some of my favorite musicians and discover some new favorites along the way. Austin 360 and The Austin Chronicle list many of the hundreds of "side" parties, and shows that we hope to get in to without badges, and we've been RSVPing to dozens of events found on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere online.
This is my first SXSW, but I'm attending with five local music fans who have been seeing amazing shows for years in Austin, including my wife and her mom Valarie, whose nickname, standing at a towering five feet tall, is "Big V." I'm pretty sure Big V is unfamiliar with the Wu Tang Clan, but I love them and am starting a completely unsubstantiated rumor that they're doing a secret show with complete speculative details below.
As usual, just about every music blog and magazine that ever wrote about music has lists or have sponsored their own great shows that include some of the more than 2000 bands playing at the sprawling festival and beyond its boundaries. NPR Music picks 100, and Rolling Stone picks 30. Now for my 9 must sees on top of the many others we know and don't know yet that we can't wait to see:
Bridges oozes old school soul. If we can see Bridges and former James Brown impersonator Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires all will be good with the world. Newport Folk Fest producer Jay Sweet has seen fit to book Bridges for this summer's festival already. In an interview I heard Bridges give he says he gave up on writing hip hop because he wasn't good at it. I'm grateful he's sticking with old school soul right now, because he's nailing it, but if he wanted to drop some rhymes in the future, I think he's got enough talent to do both.
One of the biggest earworms I heard last year was Houndmouth's Penitentiary. NPR Music is currently streaming their album, Little Neon Limelight, that comes out on March 17, and compares them to The Band. Anyone who gets compared to The Band by the always reliable NPR Music crew, and whose sound draws me in so consistently is a must see.
One of my colleagues with a great ear pointed this duo out to me when she told some us around the lunch table how amazing they sound. We're going to try to catch these nineteen year old French Cuban twins before every hip hop producer adds their voices to a multitude of albums and they charm everyone in the French, Spanish, and English speaking world for starters with their lush, gorgeous voices in the coming years ahead.
Neil Young had a Motown period with Rick James as a bandmate. This band of Laura Burhenn's making is in part a tribute to that bit of wonderfulness. We saw her open for AC Newman at the Black Cat in Washington, DC, a couple of years ago. He was great but that night she lit the place up.
Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros
My father-in-law has discerning musical taste, but mostly goes to shows Big V tells him to go to. Two of the bands I've heard him talk about the most are the Rolling Stones and Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros. We can't wait to get to see these guys again either in New Braunfels or in Austin. All of the guys in this band are talented in their own right, and most of them write and produce for many others who are lucky to have them, as is every audience that gets to see them. Their sound is country, folk, rock, and Americana. Last night, we started our trip out with the last couple of songs by these guys over at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, and it was the perfect start to the trip.
Sons of Bill
The three brothers and two others from Charlottesville, VA, who make up the literal sons of Bill Wilson came to The Hamilton in Washington, DC, three days after the release of their fantastic 2014 album Love & Logic produced by Wilco's Ken Coomer. We heard traces of Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, and detected a nice bit of Beatles influence. We'll be thrilled to see them again. One of their shows, on Thursday afternoon, at Waterloo Records, also has one of our favorites, Robert Earl Keen, playing a set.
Foot stompin' hollerin' fun with a side of hipster. Looking forward to catching these guys in a gig. This Austin based group apparently call their style "trashgrass," which doesn't sound nearly as awesome as they do. These guys play this afternoon with the Dirty River Boys, a band we love who we saw open for Willie Nelson a couple of years ago at the ACL Moody Theater. Willie also has a show, The Heartbreaker Banquet, with a stellar lineup, at his ranch in Luck, TX, on March 19.
The Wu Tang Clan
I spent a great many weekends on the Isle of Staten in my youth, and if what I hope is true, the Shaolin and the Wu Tang coming to Austin, could be incredible. I've seen two of the Wu confirmed for SXSW shows: Ghostface Killah and Raekwon have a bunch of confirmed sets together and separately. And RZA aka Bobby Digital is confirmed to speak at SXSW Film. I'm basically starting a completely unsubstantiated rumor driven by my hopes and dreams that I can see the Wu, who dropped a great new album in the fall, wow the SXSW crowds. Two possibilities for the Wu Re-U - Ghostface is playing Saturday afternoon at a Vans party with a group called BadBadNotGood, who sound pretty great, but who I can only dream are accompanying Inspectah Deck on the ones and twos. In another venue, Raekwon is showing up for Rachael Ray's lineup on the same day.
Long before zombies came to gain their most recent popularity on television and movies, this band was defining British rock. They started playing in 1961, with some break ups and make ups along the way. Hold Your Head Up, Time of the Season, and She's Not There number among their hits, and I'm hoping we can get just a little taste of their timeless genius while looking for some other new bands who might have the staying power of these incredible guys.