The music portion of the SXSW 2014 festival officially starts on Tuesday, March 11th, but it is already clear and refreshing that the many of the best bands with official (and unofficial) showcases are from the Austin area. With some late announcements and many surprises, this year’s SXSW has been one giant adventure and has made narrowing down a list of must-see bands more than daunting. With more 2000 bands from around the world playing venues all over Austin, locals and visitors may find separating the truly greats bands from the less than great overwhelming. This year, many of Austin’s bands have made that task easier. These are the bands that locals and visitors cannot afford to miss.
With an impeccable musical sensibility and the swagger to match, Not in the Face! is the best rock band on the Austin scene right now. Just four years after their formation they have gone from a garage band to a serious contender for national stardom. Last year alone, they embarked on a successful tour of the country, headlined at ACL Festival, and graced the pages of Rolling Stone. They have just released their new self-titled EP, and it is a beauty. Music fans who complain that there aren’t enough great rock bands in Austin need to stop complaining, and head to the band’s show case at midnight on Tuesday, March 11th at Dirty Dog Bar.
Haunting and mighty, The Black Angels have taken psychedelic rock and turned it on its ear. Their CD, Indigo Meadow, was one of the most interesting and innovative of 2013, and showed up on many Top 10 lists last year. The Angels take their name from the Velvet Underground track, “The Black Angel’s Death Song. “ Lead singer Christian Bland displays vocals that are positively sublime and call to mind those of Alan Wilson from Canned Heat. Drummer Stephanie Bailey is a muscular, powerful drummer who is joy to watch and to listen to. Unforgettable and mesmerizing, the Black Angels are not to be missed, and will be gracing the outdoor stage at the Mohawk on Wednesday, March 12th, at 10:45.
Sassy and swinging, The Jitterbug Vipers are a good time wherever and whenever they play. Featuring the stunning voice of Sarah Sharp and the classic guitar of legend Slim Richey, this is Texas Swing at its best. The Vipers just joined forces with Asleep at the Wheel’s Elizabeth McQueen on the playful and utterly infectious tune, “Stuff It.” Although they have a uniquely Texas sound, The Vipers have clearly gained countrywide appeal. Most recently, they were featured on KCRW in Los Angeles and NPR’s Song Travels. Catch them in their natural habitat for a guaranteed good time on Thursday, March 13th at The Elephant Room at 8pm.
Austin favorite Elizabeth McQueen was with the legendary band Asleep at the Wheel for eight years before making the decision to go solo. With her sultry, beautiful voice she is already making quite a splash on her own with her new CD, The Laziest Remix. She has already been featured in the Austin Chronicle, Texas Monthly, and Austin 360. With a national tour underway, Elizabeth will be playing her official showcase with The Brothers Lazaroff on Thursday, March 13th at Shotguns at 9PM.
In a SXSW year in which nothing is certain, one thing is assured—Austin’s local bands have given our city a lot to be proud of. It is truly gratifying to see so many of them receiving the exposure they deserve during this year’s festival.