Music industry veterans, budding tech entrepreneurs, and sharp-witted movie critics have descended upon Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest, the ever-growing music and media conference. While SXSW has increased its scale to include everything from film screenings to conferences on tech and multimedia, music is still its core. The festival has a history of helping to catapult relatively unknown artists to mega-stardom, with acts like John Mayer and The Lumineers getting their first big breaks at SXSW. Who's getting the coveted SXSW buzz this year? Here, eight musical acts to watch:
This Los Angeles-based duo of scruffy indie rockers makes psychedelic-tinged classic rock with an unmistakable Rolling Stones vibe. Between the group's critically acclaimed album We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic and "off the cuff" live shows, look out, says Fuse: "Foxygen could turn into one of SXSW's breakout bands."
Even if his name doesn't sound familiar, Baauer's music almost certainly does. The DJ/producer's rowdy electronic track "Harlem Shake" is the soundtrack of the increasingly baffling viral video craze of the same name, catapulting him to the top of the Billboard charts. If there's ever a perfect moment for a rising artist with some name-recognition to solidify his fame, this is it.
3. Icona Pop
This Swedish synth-pop duo's music may be party-ready, but it won't give you a hangover. Icona Pop's dance floor anthem, "I Love It," is slowly becoming inescapable. But so far, it hasn't overstayed its welcome. And don't forget about indie cred: "While there's no shortage of synth-pop bands at SXSW this year, only one's soundtracked a pivotal dance floor scene in HBO's Girls," says David Greenwald at Billboard.
Idiosyncratic rapper Le1f was a standout at last fall's CMJ Music Marathon in New York, says Michael Katzif at WNYC, and it's quite likely he'll become "one of the breakthrough hip hop artists at SXSW." The "out and outspoken" rapper-producer's music is weird yet accessible — something he demonstrated in his viral music video for "Wut," which has over a million views and features him humping a Pikachu.
This trio of sisters has been steadily building buzz after opening for Mumford & Sons last summer. And while HAIM's vibe is more "Fleetwood Mac meets En Vogue" than their banjo-strumming tour mates, the band has the potential to garner the kind of indie-crossover success that Mumford & Sons enjoys. And if SXSW doesn't help in this department, there's always their newly announced opening slot on Vampire Weekend's U.S. tour.
Alabama's Katie Crutchfield crafts quietly brutal and affected bedroom rock under the name Waxahatchee. While her first album was well received, says Rolling Stone, "the buzz has grown much louder" upon the release of her sophomore album, Cerulean Salt, which puts a slightly heavier and more polished sound behind her hardened-yet-delicate voice.
7. Parquet courts
Brooklyn quartet Parquet Courts' penchant for singing about inane events like stoned bodega runs may lead you to believe that their brand of brazen garage-punk is too simple, says Rolling Stone. But their music, which is filled with "knotted riffs" and "bursts of noise," is actually deceptively complex. With a few rowdy live performances already under their belt, Parquet Courts is likely to bring the noise (and probably a few stage divers) to Austin.
8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren't exactly an up-and coming band — their debut album was released in 2003 — but their four-year hiatus means they're one of the most anticipated headliners to come to Austin, says Michael Katzif at WNYC. Their newly announced album, Mosquito, will be their first since 2009, so it's likely that SXSW audiences will get a taste of some of their new material. If their excellent first single, "Sacrilege", which employs a full gospel choir at its climax, is any indication, Yeah Yeah Yeah's are "one set to see."