Aside from being a really grassroots-type of affair, one thing South By Southwest is known for is being an absolutely massive festival. Thousands of bands perform the event every year, and with that sort of quantity, it can be challenging to pick out the quality. SXSW just announced 500 of the bands that will be performing this year, bringing the total of announced bands so far to somewhere around 900 (via Stereogum).
There are almost certainly more groups to come, but before we take another bite, let's chew on what's already in our mouths. Of the ~900 acts that are already confirmed to be gracing a stage somewhere in Austin, Texas this spring, we decided to highlight a few of our favorites below. We have cerebral hip-hop, a certain electronic band that's connected to a certain Netflix hit, and a couple performers we've talked about before (Magnolian, MC Lars), among a few other hand-picked options.
SXSW is about discovery, so let's get a head start and look at seven of the groups we're most looking forward to seeing, beginning with:
Open Mike Eagle
Fun fact about rapper Open Mike Eagle: He was comedian Hannibal Buress' RA at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Since Buress is famously a big hip-hop guy, they made a music video together. Mike doesn't need a big-time comedian to prop himself up, though, as his style, which sometimes verges on spoken word, is as clever as it is musically sound.
S U R V I V E
We heard of them because of Stranger Things, but it turns out the synthwave group is more than just the one soundtrack two of its member created. We really dug their new album from late last year too. Ideally, they'll be playing in a room illuminated only by minimal stage production, so they'll be able to adequately take us on a creepy, retro-leaning trip.
A co-sign from Grimes didn't hurt, and it was good enough to turn Dollanganger's 2015 album Natural Born Losers into a modest success. Her style is akin to that of a more intimate Lana Del Rey, her airy and childlike voice delicately gliding over reverb-heavy and simple instrumentation in a way that's truly sublime.
Feeder never seemed to blow up stateside like they did in the U.K., which is a bummer because they're flat-out a super fun rock band. You may remember the 2000 post-grunge hit "Buck Rogers" if you followed English music around that time, but their 2016 album All Bright Electric featured some fiery cuts as well, like "Eskimo," above.
The Japanese House
They've been on tour supporting The 1975 in recent days, and it's easy to see why the group elected to bring The Japanese House along: They're equal parts The Cure, Imogen Heap, and The 1975 themselves, which sounds like a winning combination to us.
Minus The Bear
It's been five years since Infinity Overhead (and seven since my personal favorite album of theirs, Omni, from which the above song is taken), but Minus The Bear is readying their sixth studio album, VOIDS, for release in March. We don't know what the new record will sound like yet, but based on their previous efforts, everything's gonna be alright.
The Cool Kids
The duo of Sir Michael Rocks and Chuck Inglish fizzled out way too soon, which is a shame because 2008's The Bake Sale is an absolute classic of a hip-hop EP, which sounds as simple as it does exciting. They're back together for some shows now (and hopefully a new album), so here's an opportunity to hear some of the finest rap of the late 2000s live in Texas.
Others we're into: Avi Buffalo, Beach Slang, Hippo Campus, Kweku Collins, Tim Darcy, GoldLink, Lisa/Liza, Magnolian, Tkay Maidza, MC Lars, Bridgit Mendler, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Christopher Paul Stelling, Smino, Trapo.
Featured image: Dangerbird Records/YouTube