The other day, I gave my recommendations for which free shows you should attend at SXSW this year. Of course, for those lucky enough to have badges and wristbands, the options are nearly limitless, as laying down the money entitles you to attend every showcase that your heart desires. With unlimited access, though, comes the overwhelming task of deciding which of the hundred or so showcases you should stand in line for. Here are my picks of showcases that will be easily worth the wait:
Wednesday: March 17
NPR Music Showcase; Stubb’s (All Ages): Showcasing their distinct and eclectic music tastes, NPR Music have assembled an eye pooping lineup for opening night. Among New York City’s finest bands, The Walkmen will take the stage after opening act Visqueen. Featuring the masterful guitar work of Paul Moon, an organ, and lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s emphatic vocals, the band have been consistently good on record, and seeing them live is always an experience. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings follow, and their blend of 60′s soul arrangements and Jones’ commanding voice will undoubtedly get the crowd moving. Broken Bells, the side project of The Shins front man James Mercer and Danger Mouse, have created a lot of buzz in recent months. This will only be their fourth live appearance, and SXSW will be the perfect testing ground for them. Capping off the night will be Austin’s very own Spoon, who gave an excellent performance at Waterloo Records in January. The band have played Stubb’s several times before, and they should feel right at home headlining this showcase.
Thursday: March 18
The Bowery Presents; Emo’s Main Room (21+): The main attractions for this showcase seem to occur at the every other band juncture. The second group of the night, LA’s Local Natives, demonstrate that they have studied the best part of indie rock closely over the last few years, as debut album “Gorilla Manor” has received a great amount of praise for striking all the right chords. Rogue Wave have been around for several years, and their pleasant pop sound has garnered them a decent following over the years. Meanwhile, main headliners, The Delta Spirit have a more Americana and roots oriented sound. Though they still have only only one album under their belt, 2010 looks to be a promising year for them. The band will be releasing their sophomore album, “History From Below,” in May. Originally, the album was going to be called “Natalie Portman Says This Album Will Change Your Life.” Also playing will be opening act Peter Wolf Crier, ex-Beulah front man Miles Kurosky (after Local Natives), and former Moldy Peaches member Adam Green (after Rogue Wave).
Friday: March 19
The Billions Corporation; Antone’s (All Ages): Contrary to what it’s name implies, The Billions Corporation is actually a booking agency based out of Chicago. They have assembled a very talented lineup for their Antone’s showcase, hosted by Alt-Country legend Danny Barnes. After the chamber-pop of opening band Lost In the Trees, Montreal’s Plants and Animals will take the stage, showcasing songs that come from a wide variety of influences in support of their new album “La La Land,” which will be released in the US April 20. Singer-songwriter Basia Bulat will then play, followed by indie icons Quasi. The band features Janet Weiss, the drummer formerly of the influential female rock group Sleater-Kinney, and this year marked the group’s first album in seven years. Austin’s Shearwater, which contains ex-members of Okkervil River, will then bring their epic sound scapes and technical prowess to the forefront. Their new album, “The Golden Archipelago,” has received a great amount of praise, containing songs that build on their impressive back catalog. Finally, the night will conclude with experimental rock heavyweights Liars.
Saturday: March 20
Fucked Up & Friends; Red 7 Patio (All Ages): After four days of standing in long lines and dealing with an ungodly amount of hipsters and music industry reps, take the last night of the festival to take out your aggression while still hearing some high quality music. Titus Andronicus, who hail from Glen Rock, NJ, play with an energy that is both infectious and awe inspiring. Their 2008 debut, “The Airing of Grievances,” combined singer Patrick Stickles’ existential lyrics with raw, yet melodic hard rock arrangements for an album that is a joy to listen to. Their new Civil War themed album, “The Monitor,” will be released on March 9. Headliners Fucked Up are one of the few hardcore bands that actually do the genre justice. The Toronto group’s magnum opus, 2008′s “The Chemistry of Common Life” received an immense amount of praise, citing it’s musical richness and Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham’s cerebral lyrics. That energy transfers well to a live setting, as their set at Fun Fun Fun Fest last year saw an enthusiastic crowd. Also playing are J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Rival Schools, Crystal Antlers, and Katie Stelmanis.
(Image: The Walkmen)