Once again, I’m going to miss the 2014 South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. This year it runs from March 11th through the 16th. I used to attend back in the day, and I know the former coziness has become more busy, congested, and as overwhelming as ever — but it’s still the best collection of music in one place you can possibly hear. It’s difficult to get your head around which bands to see, what kind of strategy to use, and where to go. Really that’s up to your own personal music tastes. Do you want to see some good rap acts, chill with some electronics, hear some country music, rock, or are you there primarily to have a few drinks and catch good music in the process? It also depends on how patient you are with lines, and what sort of venues you like. I can only offer you some of the choices I’d make if I was there. So, before going any further, please don’t trash me for missing your favorite band or label’s party. This is a quickie post. You’ll notice I’ve more or less skipped over some bands and styles of music that I tend to avoid. (I’m not a huge live-rap fan.) I also don’t list the playing time for the same band at all the venues they play at. I figure, unless you’re an obsessive, it’s better to hear something new than repeat. Since I passed up rap this time around — here’s a short heads up for you junkies: Try The Gatsby on Thursday, March 13th to hear People Under the Stairs, Mobb Deep, and Tyler the Creator. Could be up your alley. For my money, one band I’d run my yellow highlighter over is in the photo below.
Some shows are about the bands combined with the atmosphere of the venue or the people that host the event. Hey, maybe you only want to go to free shows. Or maybe a few of you will be like me and watch some of the shows online. (The Apple-sponsored Kendrick Lamar show will be streaming for free.) Other options are better because you can stay in the same place and hear multiple bands without having to bar hop, or walk to another area to hear a 50-minute show. Many of the bands play multiple places, like Kurt Vile, or if you’re the Dum Dum Girls, you can play twice in the same day at the different venues. Mostly, just go to hear good music. Make sure to pick one place or band you’ve never heard before. That’s the beauty of the festival. That was its original purpose. Listen to the buzz. Often a band may put on a great show, and they’ll be playing the next day too at a different venue. I remember being happy about hearing that a band I was a big fan of, The Noisettes, were getting a lot of publicity from word-of-mouth from their SXSW shows, even catching the ear of a music writer for the New York Times. Of course, they didn’t quite catch on from there. But so what. For fans it’s the experience. For bands it’s catching ears and showing off their chops. The other cool thing is meeting like-minded folks who love music as much as you. Or going to a venue and catching a band in the audience, standing like fans, watching a band they love too.
Below is a list of shows that I’d keep on the radar. Notice there are some days, like March 12th, where you can see a number of good bands at the same venue. No need to leave your spot. Spend the night at Stubbs and you’ll get a chance to take in Perfect Pussy, St. Vincent and Damon Albarn. Remember too that at some shows, you might have that rare chance to see artists join other bands on stage. One year And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead was playing a gig and Blur showed up. And then there’s the secret guests, which in the past have included the likes of Bruce Springsteen. This is just a cursory list I made based on my own musical preferences, bands I may have seen before that I know put on a good show, or those I’d want to see and never have. This list may be my own “can’t-miss” shows, but the truth is you’re going to miss many of them. The trick is in trying to get to those few shows where the band is playing that you’re dying to hear. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Banks at Haven, 12 a.m.
Tokyo Police Club at Hype Hotel, 12 a.m.
Chance the Rapper at Red 7 Patio, 1 a.m.
Wolf Alice at Latitude 30, 9 p.m.
Poliça at Bangers, 10:20 p.m
Tokyo Police Club at Bungalow, 10 p.m.
Flo Morrissey at Glassnote, 10 p.m.
Kurt Vile at Cheer Up Charlie’s, 12 a.m.
Lucius at The Chevrolet Courtyard at Cedar Street, 10:45 p.m.
Lucinda Williams at The Chevrolet Courtyard at Cedar Street, 11:45 p.m.
Aloe Blacc at Haggar, 12 a.m.
Charlie XCX at The Gatsby, 11 p.m.
Casket Girls at Half Step, 10 p.m.
Yellow Ostrich at Maggie Mae’s, 9 p.m.
Painted Palms at Maggie Mae’s, 11 p.m.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Maggie Mae’s, 1 a.m.
Tennis via KCRW Radio Stage, 2 p.m.
Perfect Pussy at Stubb’s, 7:50 p.m.
St. Vincent at Stubb’s, 11 p.m.
Damon Albarn at Stubb’s, 12:30 a.m.
Timber Timbre at Swan Dive Patio, 12:30 a.m.
Aloe Blacc at 1100 Warehouse, 12:15 p.m.
Little Dragon at Banger’s, 10:20 p.m.
Parquet Courts at Bar 96, 11:30 p.m.
Tennis at Buffalo Billiards, 11 p.m.
Kurt Vile at Clive Bar, 10 p.m.
Cody ChesnuTT at Clive Bar, 11 p.m.
Jacques Green at Elysium, 9 p.m.
Shlohmo at Elysium, 12:45 a.m.
Banks at Hype Hotel, 12 a.m.
Speedy Ortiz at Parish Underground, 12:10 a.m.
Cloud Nothings at Parish Underground, 1 a.m.
Dum Dum Girls at Radio Day Stage, 3 p.m.
Kurt Vile at Red 7, 12:50 a.m.
Dum Dum Girls at Red 7 Patio, 1:10 a.m.
Timber Timbre at St. Davis’s Nethell Hall, 11 p.m.
Eleni Mandell at Stephen F’s Bar, 12 a.m.
Blondie at Yahoo’s Brazos Hall, 12 a.m.
Hospitality at Parish, 9:45 p.m.
Wye Oak at Parish, 11:45 p.m.
Bob Mould at Parish, 12:45 a.m.
Gems at Buffalo Billiards, 11 p.m.
EMA at Central Presbyterian, 7:20 p.m.
Angel Olsen at Central Presbyterian, 8:10 p.m.
Poliça at The Chevrolet, 9:45 p.m.
The Pains of Being Pure Heart at The Chevrolet, 10:45 p.m.
Dum Dum Girls at The Chevrolet, 11:45 p.m.
Lucinda Williams at The Gatsby, 12 a.m.
Warpaint at Mohawk Outdoor, 11:30 p.m.
Damon Albarn at Radio Day Stage, 11 a.m.
Lucius at Radio Day Stage, 12 p.m.
Phantogram at Radio Day Stage, 2 p.m.
Perfect Pussy at Red 7 Patio, 11:20 p.m.
Angel Olsen at Red Eyed Fly, 12 a.m.
Andrew Belle at Rowdys Saloon, 9 p.m.
No Joy at Swan Dive, 12 a.m.
The Casket Girls at TenOak, 1 a.m.
The Tontons at Dirty Dog Bar, 12 a.m.
EMA at Elysium, 11:30 p.m.
Love Inks at The Hideout, 8:25 p.m.
Peanut Butter Wolf at The North Door, 12:30 a.m.
Madlib at The North Door, 1 a.m.
Secret Colours at Parish Underground, 10 p.m.
Japanther at Parish Underground, 1 a.m.
Willie Nelson at Moody Theater, 8:45 p.m.