I could make a list of acts I’m excited to see at SXSW this year: Mark Kozelek, Sylvan Esso, Eagulls, London Grammar, Diarrhea Planet, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Perfect Pussy, Future, Sam Smith, Against Me!, and a lot more I won’t know about until I stumble upon them, tipsily, in the middle of the afternoon.
But half the fun of going to SXSW is improvising when you can’t get into shows or don’t want to deal with lines, in the process seeing artists you normally never would. So instead of focusing on my personal to-do list at SXSW Music, I want to take a look at the topics I expect will garner online chatter this week, once music industry folks and writers alike map out their own highly personalized schedules. Some will focus on the deeply sponsored events, like Lady Gaga performing in a Doritos vending machine, or the entirety of the iTunes Festival, while others will completely eschew the sort of shows that require a badge or even an RSVP. These should cover most of our bases, though.
Damon Albarn “+ Special Guests” @ Fader Fort
Albarn has a new solo album, Everyday Robots, out next month, so it’s pretty obvious why he’s making the trek to Austin this year. But it’s also rumored that Albarn’s SXSW gigs (which include headlining the NPR showcase) will span his career, which of course includes Gorillaz and Blur, the latter of which just recorded new material. On the Fader Fort bill, his 7:30 Friday set is noted as including special guests, so here’s hoping it’s another Blur reunion, or else Gen-X music industry Twitter is gonna be pissed.
Also playing the Wednesday’s NPR showcase at Stubb’s is Kelis, who’s in the midst of promotion for her new album Food, which is out April 18. She’s got a new Cooking Channel show, titled Saucy & Sweet, and there’s talk of her serving up eats out of a food truck at SXSW, as well as three high-profile showcase gigs (Filter x Haggar and Hype Hotel being the others). Kelis has quietly been releasing albums throughout the 2000s, none of which exactly captured the zeitgeist, but this is her first release for four years, and it finds her working with TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek. And there’s the food angle, which has shown a new sign to the singer.
Bitching about Lady Gaga, Coldplay, and other pop stars
As far the music biz is concerned, South By jumped the shark a long time ago. And yet, every year people find it in themselves get annoyed by the presence of massive brands and bands at SXSW. This year it’s the iTunes Festival, which takes over Austin City Limits‘ space at the Moody Theatre, and includes shows by Coldplay, Keith Urban, Kendrick Lamar, and Pitbull. Lady Gaga, meanwhile, was just announced as SXSW’s keynote speaker — she’ll speak on Friday morning, the day after she trades in her life-sized Koons sculptures to perform in a giant Doritos vending machine. Bieber, too, popped up with an impromptu performance over the weekend, and Snoop Dogg, CeeLo, Rick Ross and other major-label stars will play throughout the week. The actual performances are beside the point to the haters, who will also complain about lines, parties that run out of free booze and tacos, the lack of cabs, and pretty much everything else.
The spring of Future Islands continues
Thanks to Letterman, Future Islands dance moves are now a meme, and with a shitload of shows booked at SXSW, the band’s momentum continues. The Baltimore synthpop vets will play high-profile shows including a Pitchfork party, a SPIN party, an Under the Radar party, the KCRW showcase, the 4AD showcase (their new label), a Hype Machine show, the Spotify House, and more. This is just the beginning of what we at Flavorwire are dubbing “the Spring of Future Islands,” as their new album, Singles, doesn’t touch down until March 25.
The Andre 3000/Jimi Hendrix biopic
It feels like we’ve been talking about the new Jimi Hendrix biopic, All Is By My Side, for years at this point. The film premiered last year at the Toronto Film Fest, but few audiences have seen it since then. It screens at SXSW on Wednesday night (9 p.m., Paramount Theatre), and the film badgeholders still left in Austin will flock to it, especiall considering its director John Ridley just won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave. Music fans, however, will see it more for OutKast’s Andre 3000 in the leading role. In any case, maybe we’ll be finally be able to stop talking about this movie after this.