03/10/2011 03:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Electronic Music Acts to Catch at SXSW

With Miami festivals WMC and Ultra hogging the electronic music scene this month, Austin isn't exactly the first place you'd target for a deejayed dance party that can press on til sunrise. It's a thick scene for the indie rock bands and raspy guitar-strumming folk singers, but nestled between them -- in the time separating dinner from breakfast -- the DJs, and those hungry to hear them, turn to the tables. Here, the talent known by blogs and Beatport charts, or the talent that has yet to be discovered, serves up everything from booty bass to hyped-up electro, even creating new genres in the musical breeding ground of SXSW.

Leading up to a festival known for showcasing some of the best of the unknowns, there's a certain buzz already upping the anticipation for DJ sets throughout the week. I've had my eyes and ears seduced by a few unique-sounding electronic artists online, but what I'm really seeking are the scratch action heroes who can render my feet useless in the AM. The blogs may all boast the Ableton skills of some teenager cranking out mixes from his basement, but if he can't close out a party at Barcelona with the staff scrubbing scuff marks off the floor, his hyped-up skills might just get stuck somewhere in the suburbs.

On a less sardonic note, there are those guys I've heard raves (no pun intended) about whose sets I'm banking on being wow-ed by. They've already caught my attention online, and with the right crowd in attendance and the right dance-inducing set on the lineup, they could easily launch from a B-side cameo or a heavy buzz to a full-blown electronic epidemic.


Maybe I was just snoozing on this guy for a while, or maybe he likes to surf beneath the radar, or maybe it just took an Austin music festival to bring us together from opposite coasts. I first heard of Baths through working with YAK Films, who have featured a couple of his songs in their videos. I've seen the name elsewhere -- on music festival lineups or opening for the Cold War Kids at Radio City Music Hall -- other places than between the words "Bed" and "Beyond." The music is mesmerizing, tangible and sometimes uneasy, but every track has the ability to make me feel something.

03/16 - Anticon SXSW Showcase @ The Mohawk
03/16 - Impose Mag SXSW Showcase @ Longbranch Inn
03/16 - Austin Pets Alive! Benefit SXSW Showcase @ Epoch Coffee
03/17 - Prefix Day Party @ ND@501 Studios

Keys N Krates

Keys N Krates epitomizes the potential of the unsigned blog DJ. They've been written up numerous times and written about consistently in the same light -- as the re-inventors of the remix. I was admittedly skeptical upon first hearing that bold claim, especially since they're from Canada (joking!) but these guys are truly like nothing I've heard before. The trio made up of turntablist, keyboardist and drummer, have inspired a new wave of live instrumental remixes that are sure to be a big plus for their live show.

03/18 - Beauty Bar

Chrissy Murderbot

I can always appreciate an artist who is described best by a long list of genres separated by slash marks. Jungle/booty/footwork/quintessentially Chi-town seem to be the most repeated ways of categorizing Chrissy Murderbot, but best not to categorize and hear his stylings for yourself. Press "play" on the track below -- the first single by Chrissy for Planet Mu -- and you'll start to feel the funky bass-thumping vibe he's after. And for his debut SXSW performance? "Fans should expect me to cover a wide range of territory," said Chrissy. "I really love juke, footwork, bass music, bashment, garage, etc., and I hate restricting myself to just one thing. Plus my recent trip to Venezuela has me stocked up on loads of insanely good cumbia and merengue electronico."

03/17 - KVRXplosion SXSW Showcase @ Cheer Up Charlie's
03/18 - Broken Teeth SXSW Showcase @ Loft718
03/19 - Reggie's Rock Club SXSW Showcase @ The Jackalope

Auto Body

While some artists come jaunting into town wide-eyed and bushy-tailed for SXSW, the boys of Auto Body, who are already familiar with the Austin underground, return for a good ol' homecoming party. "If you stumble into one of our parties, you will be showered with gold bullion, gallons of some rapper's new flavored vodka, and slap bracelets," said Tibaut Bowman, Austin native and one half of the DJ-duo (whose other half is Future Rock's Felix Moreno). "There will be many sponsors --- many, many sponsors. The party will have a clever name that incorporates the sponsor. We will also play music."

03/16 - Virgin Mobile Party @ 508 House
03/17 - Lose Control III @ Vice
03/18 - The Blackberry Recharge Zone @ Republic Live

Shit Robot

Marcus Lambkin (Shit Robot) did everything right for his debut release, Cradle to the Rave -- he perfected his style for 21 years, nailed the disco-tinged DFA sound and somehow got it onto my desk and into my ears. I've become a full-fledged Shit Robot groupie since the album came out last year, but like most of his fans, I've yet to see him live. In the past, Lambkin has claimed to be a musician, not a DJ. "I can barely pilot my own studio on a good day, never mind doing it live in front of hundreds of people," he said in an interview back in August of last year. Whatever changed in the past seven months, I'm happy that it did. Now all there's left to hope for is a Nancy Whang cameo during his set.

03/19 - La Zona Rosa

Paper Diamond

If you're a fan of Pretty Lights, you'll be an instant fan of Paper Diamond (hint: his debut EP came out in January via Pretty Lights Music). Melting hip-hop, syncopated synths and the kind of dub that makes your head nod, Paper Diamond's sound has the capacity to make a packed dancefloor vibe as one. "There are a lot of musicians whose music I've respected for so long and this will be a great opportunity to catch them all in one place," said Alex (Paper Diamond) on playing the festival. "On top of that, there is a lot of new Paper Diamond music that I can't wait to showcase!"

03/17 - Bassmaxx Outdoor Complex
03/18 - Beauty Bar

Gemini Club

Although Gemini Club haven't blown up on the live music circuit as much as I think they will soon, their name has been one that I've spotted all over the place -- and that's really quite a feat for an unsigned trio who released their debut EP, Future Tidings, in August of 2009. Their synth-heavy, dance-meets-rock sound isn't anything revolutionary, but it's a sound that is hard not to like. The Chicago trio has already shared the stage with some of my favorites, including Juan Maclean and Hercules & Love Affair, and word on the street is that their live show, including vocals and instruments too, is one worth checking out.

03/15 - Cedar Street Courtyard
03/16 - ASCAP Showcase @ Dirty Dog Bar
03/18 - 21st Street Co-Op
03/19 - Kenny Dorham's Backyard
TBA - Lose Control Afterparty

Unicorn Kid

Okay, so Unicorn Kid is not one of the unknown heroes dwelling in the electronic underbelly of SXSW. He's signed to Ministry of Sound/Ultra, has experience supporting and remixing big name acts like the Pet Shop Boys and is already familiar with the SXSW scene. However, I still think there is more to come from this 8-bit, dubstep 19-year-old out of Edinburgh. His music, especially the below track "Dream Catcher," conjures up images of Mario and Luigi swirling glowsticks in the air. Hopefully the live show will live up to my imagination.

03/17 - The Phoenix


A few quick tips for DJs looking to break out, based on Brenmar's quick ascendance to blog-adored artist: take a Rihanna track, add some bass, chop up the vocals and brand your name to the beginning with a sultry female voice. The next time someone sees your name on a concert schedule -- the way I saw it on the SXSW lineup -- they will recall the song that made them bounce at their work desk and itch to see it live. Since I first heard that acclaimed Rihanna remix, the Chicago-raised DJ/producer has popped up everywhere, including FACT magazine's list of artists to watch in 2011. If you haven't "watched" him live just yet, SXSW provides the perfect stage to do so, as he's got seven gigs lined up over three days of the fest.

03/16 - Impose Party @ Longbranch Inn
03/16 - Xlr8r SXSW Party @ Frank
03/18 - Fader Fort
03/18 - Firehouse Lounge
03/19 - The Hook Up! @ Loft 718
03/19 - SXSW @ Prague
03/19 - Pop Manifesto/Dummy/Transparent party @ Lanai


Last on the list and last in the alphabet, Zedd's show is one you won't want to be first in line for. Mau5trap (Interscope/Atlantic) has already scooped him up, but the name is just starting to circle around the States -- mainly due to his remix bangers and choppy, amped-up beats a la Skrillex. Don't drink a Redbull before either of his sets or you'll probably have a heart attack.

03/18 - AM Only Showcase @ Mohawk
03/18 -Bloodcompany Showcase @ Maggie Mae's