Now in its 24th year, the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas is the nation’s largest and most formidable industry event. It is also the place where new talent is discovered and old talent reinvents itself. The conference, which takes place at the same time as many a spring break (March 16-20), brings thousands of music fans, college students, industry movers and shakers and nearly 2,000 musicians to Austin. SXSW also has Interactive and Film components leading up to the music portion. But unquestionably, the big kahuna and signature of SXSW is the music. With a cacophony of thousands of bands, parties, trade show and educational panels that are the hallmark of SXSW, I thought I would break it down to the Top 10 events you will most likely find me at this year.
1. Visqueen – NPR party at Stubb’s on Thursday, March 17th. Visqueen co-founder and front-woman Rachel Flotard is a well-known fixture in Seattle. She’s also one of Neko Case’s charismatic back-up singers. Now, thanks to some great coverage from NPR, the word on this whip-smart, hilarious songwriting siren is spreading. Don’t miss the chance to see the pride of the Northwest at Stubb’s.
2. She and Him – 10 p.m. at Cedar Street Courtyard, Thursday the 17th. Not only is Zooey Deschanel a popular actress (Almost Famous, Elf, 500 Days of Summer), Mrs. Ben Gibbard and the spokesperson for cotton, she’s also half of the duo She and Him. (Him is M. Ward.) Usually when film stars try to be musicians it comes off as ridiculous and a bit desperate. But Deschanel pulls off the music side off her career flawlessly. Check it out.
3. Hole – 1 a.m. at Dirty Dog Bar, Friday the 19th. Courtney Love is no longer a solo artist. And though none of the original members of the ’90s Hole remain, there is a brand new album, Nobody’s Daughter, about to be released. Courtney has not performed state-side in many years so this appearance is one of the most highly-anticipated of the conference.
4. Austin Music Awards – Want to see what Austin is really like? SXSW’s kick-off event at the Austin Music Hall moves to Saturday night this year with performances and home-town pride galore.
5. Women Write Women’s Experiences in Music panel – 3:30 in the Convention Center, Friday the 19th. Five veteran female journalists (Holly George-Warren, Jaan Uhelszki, Jessica Hopper, Laina Dawes and Amanda Petrusich) discuss the double whammy of being a female music writer in a man’s domain and answer the question: Why are there so few books about the experience of being a woman in rock?
6. Rachael Ray’s Annual BBQ – noon- 4:00 p.m at Stubbs, Saturday the 19th. Rachael Ray at SXSW? What better place for the queen of the kitchen to cook up some promotion for her husband John Cusimano’s band, The Cringe. She also has her own record label, Listen Records. Get there early as the food should be stellar – and free.
7. Macy Gray – 1:15 a.m at The Phoenix, Saturday the 19th. We haven’t heard much from Macy Gray since she was voted off Dancing With the Stars. But all that will change when she takes the stage at The Phoenix, rising once again.
8. Thursday night at Buffalo Billiards – from 10:00 on. Margaret Cho is always outrageous and hilarious. But it’s well worth hanging out after her performance to enjoy San Antonio’s Girl in a Coma and LA’s The Dollyrots. Both bands are signed to Joan Jett’s label, Blackheart. Following the Dollyrots is GRAMMY-award winner, Shelby Lynne. A great way to save your shoe leather from hoofing it all over Austin.
9. Quasi– 11 p.m at Antone’s, Friday the 18th. If you find yourself waxing nostalgic for the late, great Sleater-Kinney, check out Quasi, featuring former SK drummer Janet Weiss, her ex-husband Sam Coomes and bassist Joanna Bolme.
10. Kimya Dawson – 3 p.m at Auditorium Shore Stage, Saturday the 20th (all ages). If you liked the music from Juno, don’t miss Kimya Dawson as she perform her wistful, nursery-rhythmic tunes for children and adults alike.