While SXSW can be the time of your life, it can also be a particularly stressful and chaotic week if you're not sure where to go or what to do. Knowing what bands to see (and where to see them) can make all the difference. To help, we've selected eight of our favorite buzzworthy bands coming through town for this year's festival. Some are still waiting to release an album, while others have been around for years, but they all have one thing in common: live shows you can't go wrong with. If you happen to be around for any of these bands' sets, do yourself a favor and listen up (or better yet: Seek them out). That said, you'll probably have a great time wherever you end up. Happy showcase hunting!
This Canadian duo may share its name with a 1961 Elvis Presley flick, but its crisp tropical pop is a far cry from the King's kitschy misadventures. While Blue Hawaii's first singles dropped a few years back, this year's Untogether looks to be a breakout for the band with warped vocals, syncopated beats, and cooley entropic synths. First single, "Try To Be," is a particularly pleasing earworm of a track. The band is playing a lot this week, so check them out if you can.
Tuesday, March 12, 9:30 to 10 p.m., Mohawk Indoor, 912 Red River St (between 9th and 10th), Austin, TX; No phone.
Wednesday, March 13, 9:55 to 9:30 p.m., Elysium, 705 Red River St (between 7th and 8th Streets); No phone.
Friday, March 15, 11 to 11:40 p.m., Swan Dive, 615 Red River St (between 6th and 7th Streets); 512-614-4235
Keep Shelly In Athens
Keep Shelly In Athens is indeed Greek, and one might see its island-inspired pop as a result of its Mediterranean heritage. While the somewhat mysterious band has been around the blogosphere for a quite some time, its newly announced signing to alt-pop mainstay Cascine portends good things for the duo's future. See it now and look for its debut full-length LP later this year.
Wednesday, March 13, TBD, The Tap Room At Six, 319 Colorado St (between 3rd and 4th Streets); 512-472-6662
Amherst, Mass., trio California X makes unabashedly guitar-heavy rock music — the type that many people assume doesn't even exist anymore. But for those worried that synths have permanently supplanted indie rock, you can now rest easy: These guys are holding down the slacker ethos of the '90s for the next generation.
Wednesday, March 13, 10:20 to 11 p.m., Holy Mountain, 617 E 7th St (between Red River and Sabine Streets); No phone.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Okay, Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren't exactly a new band. Still, after more than a decade, this quintessential New York threesome is still as on top of its game. After an extended break following its last album, Karen O, Nick Zinner, and Brian Chase are back with the soon-to-be released Mosquito. If first single, "Sacrilege," is any indication, it hasn't slowed down a bit. It'll be interesting to hear what new material it throws the audience's way in Austin.
Wednesday, March 13, 11 p.m. to 12 a.m., Stubb’s, 801 Red River St (between 8th and 9th Streets); 512-480-8341
"Singer/songwriter" isn't a description you hear very often these days, but to describe Eddi Front as anything else seems an injustice to her ability. The Brooklyn-based chanteuse has a way of wrapping melody and atmosphere around her voice with such carefully wrought intensity, you can't help but remain transfixed. It's been ages since we've heard a new artist that can captivate a room with just a voice and a piano, but Front makes it look easy.
Wednesday, March 13, 10:15 to 10:55 p.m., St David's Historic Sanctuary
By now you probably know this Swedish duo from its star-turning track Charli XCX-penned track "I Love It," which was featured in a particularly awesome scene this season on Girls. Still, seeing Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt perform their life-affirming brand of electro-pop is a force of nature that must be experienced live.
Tuesday, March 12, 12 to 12:35 a.m., Mohawk Indoor, 912 Red River St (between 9th and 10th), Austin, TX; No phone.
For those who can't enough synth-pop in their life (think Passion Pit, Purity Ring, The Knife), Chvrches turn its gleeful keyboards into its own religion. The Glaswegian trio has tons of early buzz, and SXSW could be the moment the band really takes off (this will be the first time most people have seen it outside of Europe). Watch for its first-ever EP, Recover, in March 26.
Wednesday, March 13, 12:30 a.m. - 1:10 a.m., Red 7 Patio, 611 East 7th Street (between Red River and Sabine Streets); No phone.
Montreal's Mac DeMarco took a big leap forward with last year's 2, and it's paid off. The Canadian artist's lackadaisical guitar rock tells tales of boredom, apathy, and woe, all in a wry, self-effacing style. It's music that feels out of time — like it could have been written 20 years ago or today in his living room. Demarco doesn't have anything to prove, and he's going to sing about just that.
Friday, March 15, 7:30 to 8 p.m., Swan Dive, 615 Red River St (between 6th and 7th Streets); 512-614-4235
Friday, March 15, 10:10 to 10:40 p.m., Hotel Vegas Patio, 1500 E 6th St, Austin (between Onion and Comal Streets); 512-524-1584
Saturday, March 16, 10:30 to 11 p.m., The Parish, 214 E 6th St (between Brazos Street and San Jacinto Blvd); No phone.
Yeah Yeah Yeah Photo: Tom Watkins/Rex/Rex USA