Every year, they descend on Austin like locusts with bedhead — the musicians, booking agents, writers, labels, dotcommers, and corporate sponsors looking for their Next Big Thing fix at the annual live music marathon, South by Southwest.
This year the Bay Area is making an especially strong showing, with San Francisco acts playing more than 50 gigs during the four-night blowout between March 18 and 20. We want to make sure our hometown studs don't get lost in the racket of hundreds of bands from around the world, so here's a way for those of you heading to Austin to keep track of the local talent.
One easy way to get an earful of one specific scene — and narrow down your choices curatorially — is to schedule your evening by showcase. There are plenty of noteworthy Bay Area organizations hosting parties in Austin. Aquarius Records is, of course, a pre-eminent tastemaker here, so any lineup with the store's stamp of approval should be worth checking out. The Mission shop is teaming up with East Coast radio station WFMU on Friday at Spiro's. They'll host two rooms of the heavy and the weird, with San Francisco acts Ovens and Slough Feg, ex-locals Wildildlife, and sorta locals (Sacramento) Mayyors, who should test the speakers with voluminous, artsy hardcore. Also on Friday, SF x SWSF crowds the stage at Wave Rooftop with our leading pop acts, from the electronic-leaning Lovemakers and Loquat to the bouncy, Beatles-loving Morning Benders and Scissors for Lefty. Oakland's Antennae Farm label pulls out its star attractions on Saturday at Radio Room — worth particular attention is the dancier side of that bill, which includes Sugar & Gold and Gravy Train!!!! Indie rock finds a home on Friday at the joint venture of Take Root Records and Noise Pop. They're sending to the Mohawk stage folkster Adam Stephens of Two Gallants and one of our new favorite local acts, Sleepy Sun, which combines the best elements of Brightblack Morning Light, Black Mountain, and Led Zeppelin.
Some of our more notable acts have been invited on prestigious national showcases. Case in point: Ty Segall, who, after finding much success with his local garage blooze solo project, gets a coveted slot at Tennessee punk outpost Goner Records' Saturday night show at Red 7. Quarterstick/Touch and Go spent February hyping two San Francisco acts: experimental post-punkers Mi Ami and Sholi, both of whom released records on the venerated label. They're part of Touch and Go's Friday showcase at Flamingo Cantina.
Girls are a local group of guys who are barreling toward the national spotlight for good reason. They open for Grizzly Bear at the Central Presbyterian Church as part of the eMusic showcase on Thursday night, when they'll be spreading the gospel of noisy, feedback-loaded pop (à la My Bloody Valentine meets Teenage Fanclub). Also on Thursday, AmpLive crowns the bill at Speakeasy Kabaret. Amp isn't part of any specific showcase, but the Zion I turntablist, Bay Area producer, and Radiohead remixer needs no official endorsements: The dude has plenty of cred on his résumé as it is. Other genre hoppers to check out: electronic composer Christopher Willits, who brings his laptop/live show to Mohawk on Wednesday as part of the Anticon showcase, and Clipd Beaks, which scrambles minds and machines at that same venue on Saturday.
San Francisco's garage/folk pop revival has shown no sign of slowing over the last couple of years, and we're exporting our top noisemakers from that scene to Texas next week as well. Thee Oh Sees bring psych-skewed rock 'n' roll to Emo's Jr. on Thursday, when they'll be sure to highlight songs from their anticipated new record. Devendra Banhart cohorts Vetiver also have new music for 2009, and the band will be playing the beautiful campfire tunes off Tight Knit twice — on Wednesday at Emo's Jr. and Thursday at Radio Room Patio. Free spirit popsters Still Flyin' should be previewing material from their April release on Friday at the Independent.
Of course, just as SXSW is the opportunity for folks in the industry to connect after a long year, the Texas bender allows fans to reconnect with locals whose performances have been rare in recent years. The biggest of those recluses is DJ Shadow, who hits the decks at Stubb's on Friday for an "exclusive" DJ set.
So now that y'all hitting the big Austin adventure have your basic Bay Area tip sheet in place, don't forget SXSW also carries with it the important element of surprise — meaning this is only the beginning of the San Francisco scene that'll be transplanted down south. Add in all the street corner, skate ramp, clothing shop, and record store appearances that'll be crammed into next week, and homesickness really won't be an option.