Interstellar Transmissions

SXSW 2013 Preview: So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star

Interstellar Transmissions

Interstellar Transmissions was ready to blast off from SXSW 2012, but they first had to get out of the Austin traffic.

The TV is telling us to “spring forward” our clocks this weekend, meaning we lose an hour of sleep. That’s scarcely enough preparation for some of us who in the next few days will enter the swirl of madness and music known as South by Southwest.

That South by Southwest thing (let’s call it SXSW from now on) is a week-long event in Austin, Texas. It’s a conference, kinda, and a festival, sorta – it has conferences on interactive technology, film and music and a whole lot of entertainment to keep attendees interested.

For our friends and readers, we are set to attend the music portion of the SXSW maelstrom which officially runs from Tuesday through Saturday, although like everything else in Texas it tends to spill out at both ends.

SXSW started modestly in 1987 as a way for up-and-coming music acts to get noticed by big shots (and not-shots) in the music bidness. Since then it has mutated madly into spring break on weapons-grade steroids, with literally thousands of music acts playing in more than 100 official venues as well as in every nook and cranny that can accommodate a microphone and a beer tap.

So imagine you are a struggling singer or band, begging online – excuse me, Kickstarter – to pay for a ticket to Austin. And you’ve managed to book a handful of venues to get your name out there. OK, sounds like a plan – who else is playing?

Green Day. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Iggy and the Stooges. Depeche Mode. Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters/Nirvana refugees with John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks and Rick Springfield. The Mavericks. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Steve Earle. The Zombies (yeah, from the British Invasion). Eric Burdon (yeah, from The Animals). Snoop Lion. Diddy.  (Deep breath)

Passion Pit. Big Sean. RZA. Ghostface Killa. Tenacious D. LL Cool J. They Might Be Giants. Richard Thompson. The Flaming Lips. Jim James. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The Levon Helm Midnight Ramble Band. 50 Cent. Public Enemy. The North Mississippi All Stars. Tegan and Sara. Roky Erickson. Dawes. Billy Bragg. Robyn Hitchcock. The Airborne Toxic Event. And, probably some guy named Timberlake.

If you don’t like those names, there are few thousand more we can run past ya. The point being, maybe there are a ton of big acts playing all over Austin next week but if you can get your music in front of the right audience and the wrong people, you never know. Spin the video below, for a taste of some fresh-faced youngsters performing in a backyard or parking lot during SXSW 2009:

Well then, who are the fresh-faced youngsters we’re rooting for this year? The next biggest band in the world? We can only guess – last year we picked the Alabama Shakes, the same band that performed on “Saturday Night Live” a few weeks ago. So let’s run through some of our favorites.

The Lone Bellow – We like this Brooklyn folk-pop trio after hearing their music on the wonderful Radio Woodstock. Their harmonies go down like honey, and lead singer/writer Zach Williams really knows how to sell a song. This band’s music has very deep roots, think the Louvin Brothers crossed with The Band.

Chelsea Light Moving – This band might be a bit of a ringer, considering the singer/guitarist is Thurston Moore, on a long (permanent?) hiatus from Sonic Youth. The Los Angeles Times called the foursome’s music “pointedly dissonant work and goofy fun,” and yeah. Word is they do NOT perform Sonic Youth songs. We know they are ready to play parking lots and bicycle shops in Austin, because here they are at a birthday party in somebody’s basement:

The Tontons – When this quartet came together six years ago in Houston, the homies didn’t know what to make of them at first. But gradually H-Town embraced the Tontons’ blend of Zep-rock and Pixies-roll. Melted into that ball of wax is the soaring voice of Asli Omar, who has an R&B/jazz thing goin’ with her singing. This band has been ripe to bust out of Texas for a while now, and we think this may well be their year.

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Keep an ear out for The Tontons. (Photo by Megan Tipps)

Ronnie Fauss – His album is called I Am The Man You Know I’m Not, and with a handle like that you can probably guess he has a country pedigree. And yes, you would be right … although Ronnie likes to rock out his Texas-style storytelling. This Dallas boy deserves to be heard by more people, particularly those who like a little Gram Parsons-style sincerity in their musical cup of tea.

Blue Sky Riders – Easily the slickest outfit in the bunch, it’s possible that CMT fans may be way ahead of the rest of us. Well, this trio hails from Nashville and they sing radio-ready stuff that could pass as country rock … but, wait – who’s that tall guy with the spiky hair? It’s Kenny Loggins, with spiky hair. Yeah, Kenny Loggins. No word on if they perform “Footloose” but we’ll guess they do.

Thanks for being with us, follow us throughout SXSW here and on our home blog 30 Days Out. We’ll dump our extra photos on a new Flickr account and you can also keep tabs on us through Twitter. It’s gonna be fun!

Thanks to mandrick for the loan of the Mumford & Sons video.