SXSW Music: Must-See Indie

11 essential indie bands at SXSW

Hamilton Leithauser

Pwr Bttm

Wed. 15, Stubb's, 7:30pm; Thu. 16, Cheer Up Charlies, 12mid
Glam pop-punk by way of upstate New York, Pwr Bttm plied guitar and drums rock with an added layer of glitter on 2015 debut Ugly Cherries. The duo promises a more varied sound on its forthcoming sophomore LP, relying on humor and flamboyant guitars while churning out queer anthems and tackling gender in subverting the punk canon. "Ugly Cherries" opens on a hair metal riff, before the vocals kick in: "My girl gets scared, can't take him anywhere."

Chastity Belt

Wed. 15, Barracuda Backyard, 10pm
Tongue-in-cheek slacker rock from this Seattle feminist foursome spotlights vox reminiscent of Nico's husky affectation. "Cool Slut" assures listeners, "It's okay to be slutty."

Hamilton Leithauser

Wed. 15, Banger's, 11pm
After fronting NYC's beloved Walkmen 2000-14, Hamilton Leithauser struck out on his own with 2016's I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, his second solo album. Written and recorded with Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij, it yielded dreamy indie-pop juxtaposed with Leithauser's gruff, soulful vocals.


Wed. 15, Bungalow, 11:10pm; Fri. 17, Maggie Mae's, 10pm
Last year's eponymous debut from Toronto's Weaves dropped a tour de force of chaotic, high-energy, deconstructed indie pop. From frantic, theatrical "Human" to poppy, rolling "Coo Coo," Jasmyn Burke's confident, malleable vocals draw the work together, a cross between Thao Nguyen and Karen O.


Wed. 15, Mohawk Outdoor, 11:45pm
Dark, foreboding, danceable synth-pop from Minneapolis combo deals with womanhood and post-apocalyptic worlds over the course of three full-lengths. Channy Leaneagh's distorted, cut-up storytelling went political on 2016's United Crushers.


Wed. 15, Sidewinder Outside, 12:15am; Thu. 16, Elysium, 11pm
An intense, musically minimalistic duo from Los Angeles, Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker started Girlpool as a project in high school and released debut Before the World Was Big in 2015. Brief, repetitive songs made up of only a handful of guitar chords and both women's shrill voices intermingled for a sound akin to a darker, self-aware Kimya Dawson.

Downtown Boys

Wed. 15, Sidewinder Outside, 1:15am; Fri. 17, Cheer Up Charlies, 1am
Recently signed to Sub Pop, explicitly political Providence outfit Downtown Boys challenges the heteronormative male whiteness of punk, channeling Seventies punks X-Ray Spex's sound. Utilizing blaring saxophones, singing in both Spanish and English, frontwoman Victoria Ruiz is a brilliant hurricane of power onstage.


Thu. 16, Cheer Up Charlies, 9pm; Fri. 17, Barracuda, 9pm
Based out of Kittery, Maine, Jess Abbott's grungy, dark pop-rock conjures Nineties alternative staples Veruca Salt and the Breeders amongst its sonic touchstones.


Thu. 16, Velveeta Room, 11:50pm
Quintessential act out of Boston's DIY scene thanks to Pile's intense, crushing live shows and a raw, grungy Jesus Lizard attack, its founder/frontman Rick Maguire performs from the discography solo and stripped down, a quiet ferocity.


Fri. 17, Barracuda Backyard, 12:15am
Kristine Leschper's haunting warble wanders through a personal, vulnerable musical landscape combining breezy folk and indie guitar rock in this Athens, Ga., outfit. Live, the band becomes more brutal, the electrified sound of falling apart.

Future Islands

Fri. 17, Mohawk Outdoor, 1am
Eleven years and four full-lengths in, Baltimore's Future Islands still churn out earworms. Hooky new single "Ran" from April's forthcoming The Far Field juxtaposes Samuel Herring's strange, soulful voice over bubbling, synth-heavy pop.

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