It’s that time of year again, when almost literally ever band ever makes their annual pilgrimage to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest. What started as a tiny local music festival in 1987 has ballooned to massive proportions, as we all know—I mean, the President just spoke at South by and I hear the First Lady just did a keynote with Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah, both awesome things, but not exactly…indie?
Lament as you might about the days when the festival wasn’t full of douchey brahs, selfie-takers, and worldwide-recognized bands, the music festival is still a tastemaker and, if you can cut through the massive noise of a festival that features this many bands, it can do a lot for your music.
We won’t be in attendance this year, but, were we, these are the 25 bands we would make extreme efforts to catch live, some of whom we even saw just last week—they’re that fucking good. List presented in alphabetical order for maximum fairness along with pithy snippets that fall vastly shortly of fully describing each band and images that click through to the bands’ SXSW page with showtimes or the bands’ site/Facebook page. Check bands’ site or FB pages for additional showcases in Austin though—most will play many sets in the next week or so, not all official South by showcases that’ll be listed on those pages.
Bavarian weird-pop band that you should really check out—they barely ever make it stateside. We also did a 2014 interview with the band—seem like nice guys.
Beautifully crafted pop; solo project of Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio, featured on last month’s mixtape.
Go see her. Saw her again last week and she only gets better; simple, driven pop music built smartly around Sumner’s husky distinct voice; some validity in comparing her music to early stuff from her dad’s band, The Police…that’s a good thing.
Rightly much-buzzed about, vocally driven electronic music; featured on last September’s mixtape.
Frank, folk-infused indie pop some might call cute…for which I hope they’d get kicked; featured on this month’s mixtape.
Straight up catchy indie pop out of the Bay Area. We did an interview with primary Geographer, Mike Deni, last year.
Jack Garratt this month’s mixtape; slightly glitchy, R+B-y, smooth-vocal-forward electronic out of England.
Solo bedroom pop project from Little Big League front woman Michelle Zauner outta Philly/Brooklyn; featured on this month’s mixtape.
More awesome vocal-centric electronic out of England.
Caught Little Simz in Los Angeles last week as well and, like Eliot Sumner, cannot be missed. Quick, sharp, energetic rap that’s heartfelt with a really great live show. You will be asked to make some noise if you are inside. Make it.
Liz starts off this month’s mixtape with a stellar dance track that would be great to see live; energetic hip pop out of Minneapolis.
Lightly emo, post-whatever, dramatic boy rock with a good bit of keys and electronics out of London that’s somewhat reminiscent of Bon Iver’s better stuff. They end out our current mixtape.
We’re longtime fans of Brad Oberhofer + co.—here’s a somewhat bizarre 2010 interview with him to prove it. Jangly, guitar-driven pop that’s constantly catching you by surprise.
We first wrote up Cape Town’s Petite Noir—AKA Yannick Ilunga—in 2012 and more recently included his excellent debut full-length as an honorable mention in our 2015 best albums. His music pulls from syncopated rhythms, statically melodic guitars, and his own sonically deep vocals to create something new in the world of pop.
Again, featured on this month’s mixtape; electronic indie pop out of Brooklyn.