Your Field Guide to the 101 Essential Acts at SXSW

Scroll eternal through the best and buzziest artists at the fest

Maxo Kream (Photo by Fr8nkMorales / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Maxo Kream


As ever, SXSW has been impelled to augment its predominantly indie hip-hop lineup with a major-label ringer. But old heads and backpackers grouse not! Even from a Triple A vantage, Maxo Kream's journalistic eye remains trained upon his hometown of Houston. The rapper's half-decade of granular, street-life storytelling (with Kream's immediate family its frequently recurring characters) has manifested a discography whose narrative consistency is unrivaled in popular music. Last year's Weight of the World might be the most sorrowful, harrowing chapter to date – a disaffected opus of trauma, cynicism, and survival. – Julian Towers

File Under: Potent Lyricist


Fri 18, 11pm, Lucille

Sat 19, 1am, Sellers

A visionary funk group from South London, Cymande cut three unforgettable records that have been sampled by everyone from De La Soul to the Fugees. The band's 1972 eponymous debut remains the landmark, a crate-digging classic of Afro-Cuban grooves, Rastafarian tranquility, and deep jazz-psych fusion that casts an unmistakable spell. Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande, a new documentary premiering at SXSW and prompting this rare reunion, brings their legacy into focus, with testimonials from Jim James, Mark Ronson, and Khruangbin, among others. Down to three original members – vocalists Ray Simpson and Aika Grace and guitarist Ciyo Brown – opportunities like this don't come around too often.  – Austin Powell

File Under: Cult Classic

Park Jiha

Wed 16, 8pm, St. David’s Bethell Hall

Sat 19, TBA, Hideout Theatre

Formerly leader of the Korean duo and SXSW 2015 veterans [su:m], composer/multi-instrumentalist Park Jiha now travels her own uniquely paved road. Combining home country instrumentation like the yanggeum, saenghwang, and piri (variants on hammer dulcimer, mouth organ, and flute, respectively) with contemporary production and recording techniques on a pair of albums acclaimed by the likes of Mojo and Pitchfork, Jiha stakes a new claim as the music maker to beat when it comes to melding tradition and futurism. Showcasing the glittering sonics of her brand-new third LP The Gleam, Jiha should turn heads gently but firmly. – Michael Toland

File Under: Avant AF, Instrumental Wonder

Cassandra Jenkins

Tue 15, 10:55pm, St. David’s Historic Sanctuary

Thu 17, 8pm, Stubb’s

Cassandra Jenkins can draw up a quick universe from a friend's Instagram post (like on her song "Haley"). On her sophomore album, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, a security guard's musings on form and feminism bloom into the wondrous "Hard Drive." After years playing with indie acts like Eleanor Friedberger and Lola Kirke, the New York-based artist supports ambient folk with atmospheric chamber-pop arrangements and soft, scruffy drums on the standout 2021 record. Fluidity across hypnotic scenes, from driving lessons to chatty psychics, perhaps flows from her childhood playing folk festivals with her parents as a family band. – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: Potent Lyricist

Marina Herlop

Wed 16, 10pm, St. David’s Bethell Hall

Thu 17, 7:30pm, Central Presbyterian Church

Spanish phoneme-thrower glitches past the classicism of her first two albums for Björk-like delicacy and Indian electro on an upcoming third LP for Berlin imprint Pan. – Raoul Hernandez

File Under: Avant AF

Brown Penny

Thu 17, 8pm, Sellers

With roots in saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi's SEED Ensemble and pioneering early Aughts fusionists Parshmaune, eclectic jazz assemblage Brown Penny positions themselves to be the next breakouts from the annual Jazz re:freshed Outernational showcase. – Michael Toland

File Under: Instrumental Wonder



Petey doesn't enclose himself in a performer's image, music genre, or even a specific side of comedic TikTok. The multifaceted entertainer expands beyond the realms of indie-rock and electro-pop, ultimately forming his sound through blunt lyrics on mental health, relationships, and masculinity. By combining personal reflections with shouted words accompanied by distorted edits, the native Midwesterner creates a year-round playable vibe of relatability and transformative experiences, especially on appropriately titled debut Lean Into Life. The singer-songwriter showcases his range through 13 tracks of uplifting, empathetic, and engaging themes and beats, accomplishing one unique adventure. – Morgan-Taylor Thomas

File Under: As Seen on TikTok

Annie Blackman

Fri 18, 11pm, Velveeta Room

I've long suspected there must be some contaminant in the North Jersey water that traps its indie artists in their heads. As with Montclair's last big introvert export, Pinegrove's Evan Stephens Hall, 23-year-old Annie Blackman isn't prone to writing songs that traverse complete, linear routes through difficult human feelings. Rather, with lyrics that gather together shards of situational memory, more than a few lingering questions, and a presiding tone of arch self-scrutiny, Blackman's gentle dream folk invites listeners to float alongside her, each song a submersion chamber overflowing with unresolved malaise ... and also, I guess, contaminated North Jersey water. – Julian Towers

File Under: As Seen on TikTok

Pillow Queens

Tue 15, 1am, Cedar Street Courtyard

Thu 17, 12mid, Velveeta Room

Fri 18, 11:20pm, Valhalla

Pillow Queens are a fourpiece band from Dublin making impassioned indie rock. The band charges behind braided guitar tones and the twin Irish lilts of vocalists Pamela Connolly and Sarah Corcoran. Where the band's previous full-length, In Waiting, surges behind bass-heavy production, the two singles from their forthcoming album, Leave the Light On, sound like a concerted effort to create some space. The intertwined guitars and heart-pumping drums are still there, but on songs like "Hearts & Minds" the band sounds effortlessly synced – musically and spiritually. – E. Ryan Ellis



Fri 18, 1am, Lucille

W.I.T.C.H. (We Intend to Cause Havoc) laid the foundation for Zamrock in the Seventies. Enamored of the rock coming out of the states and England, the band members took advantage of the open atmosphere of post-independence Zambia to combine blues rock, funk, psych, and homegrown melodies for a regionally specific sound. Though the band moved into disco and traditionalist folk before its Eighties dissolution, tastemaking label Now-Again's reissues (including the masterstroke Lazy Bones!!) re-established the band's reputation, leading to its 2012 reformation. Now consisting of original singer Emmanuel "Jagari" Chanda and a group of European rockers, W.I.T.C.H. makes a rare, highly anticipated stateside appearance. – Michael Toland

File Under: Cult Classic

Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band

Thu 17, 1am, Hotel Vegas

Nolan Potter's Nightmare Band orbits in the same hyper-prolific, gonzo-psych universe as Thee Oh Sees, King Gizzard & the Wizard Lizard, and Ty Segall. A self-proclaimed bedroom wizard, Potter released three records last year alone. His latest, Music Is Dead (Castle Face) is a tightly wound Rubik's cube of homespun prog, breezy jazz, and existential psychedelia. If it doesn't blow your mind, the album credits will: Potter wrote, produced, mixed, and performed every instrument on the record. Backed by his Nightmare Band, Potter's funhouse vision truly comes alive. – Austin Powell

File Under: Rising Local, Instrumental Wonder

Broadside Hacks

Fri 18, 1am, Sellers

When the talented indie kids start reviving deep folk music roots, interesting magic happens. Broadside Hacks emerges as a true collective around Campbell Baum of the London band Sorry, and wrangles in a wide range of artists (Thyrsis, Katy J Pearson, Naima Brock, Brigid Mae Power) to exhume British Isles folk tunes with a decidedly modern flair. A series of recorded collections, including last September's mesmerizing Songs Without Authors Vol. 1 capture the loose collaborations that provocatively expand the tradition through a more inclusive lens, but the rolling live experience best encapsulates the combined reverence and raucousness. – Doug Freeman



Picking a random track on a Pink Siifu album feels like being dropped in the middle of a busy intersection. Siifu is often jaywalking across subjects, telling a story but doing it in multiplicity. Frequently working with collaborators, Siifu builds tracks that are full of tumult and push-and-pull even though, many times, he's produced the beat. His SXSW pull-up links with Richmond rapper Fly Anakin, with whom he jointed on a textural and comedic album in 2020 that merged East Coast rap classicism with a psychedelic Southern fever dream.  – E. Ryan Ellis and Kevin Curtin

File Under: Character Driven

Mike Melinoe (Photo by Hannah Lesure)

Mike Melinoe

Wed 16, 1am, Pour Choices

Fri 18, 9:55pm, Vaquero Taquero

It's quite the headstrong rapper who will flee Detroit's dynamic scene to seek his fortunes in Austin. But that's Mike Melinoe – an artist who thrives out of time and place, stubbornly devoted to crafting smoked-out, California angst raps as though he were on Top Dawg in the early 2010s. In his songs, it's inevitable the plug always be late, the hook-up away from her phone, and all grinding be without certain payoff. Still, the struggle-bars end up sounding like boasts anyway – Melinoe's dexterous flow-hopping is simply too confident, too effortless. For someone playing the rap game at maximum difficulty setting, the guy's making Austin hip-hop look pretty easy. – Julian Towers

File Under: Rising Local


Thu 17, 12mid, Sellers

London's nine-person-strong Colectiva pumps new blood into Afro-Latin jazz with infectious melodies, diverse instrumentation – violin and electric piano? Absofrigginlutely! – and the kind of rhythms that would make John Lithgow's Bible-stymied preacher dance in Footloose. Dubbing their style jazz tropicaliente, these ladies use their lone single "Under The" to pull the diaspora of one of the world's most multicultural cities together as the most boisterous social studies lesson imaginable. You'll shake your booty and learn something valuable about diversity, even if it is by osmosis. Presented by Jazz re:freshed as part of their annual Outernational showcase. – Michael Toland

File Under: Instrumental Wonder

Nova Twins

Wed 16, 12mid, Cedar Street Courtyard

Hailing from London, vocalist/guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South shake the patriarchy and industry norms with their fervid rap-singing over fiery basslines. Since the release of their 2016 self-titled EP, Nova Twins charge ears and speakers with complex progressions informed by their own diverse bloodlines and music communities – having collaborated with alt-rock and metal outfits Fever 333 and Bring Me the Horizon. Pre-release singles for June's sophomore LP Supernova are already turning heads. – Alyssa Quiles

File Under: New Nu-Metal


Mon 14, 8 & 10pm, Central Presbyterian Church (HYDROVOX 2.0 installation)

Fri 18, 9:05pm, 3Ten (performance)

Korean electro-pop renegade-turned-soundscape performance artist Cifika brings her mesmerizing new multimedia collaboration with lighting designer Alex Griff, HYDROVOX 2.0, to church for SXSW. Dark, lucid visuals coupled with subtle rhythm-driven lighting, all taking their lead from Cifika's improvised ethereal expressiveness, culminate in a tranquil, sensory submersion. Watching her spontaneously create this intensified calm alone from within a small glass case, giving the impression that she's someone's prized pet, with nothing more than a sample pad and two microphones, it's clear that her talent is mature beyond her years. Not a pop star longing to be seen, this is an atmosphere longing to be shared. – Gary Lindsey

File Under: Extra Experimental

Katy J Pearson

Tue 15, 8pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Fri 18, 12mid, Sellers

During last year's virtual SXSW, Katy J Pearson proved a Zoom highlight of the stacked British Music Embassy showcase. 2020's Return, Pearson's solo debut following the breakup of her band Ardyn, styles highly hooked pop on songs like "Tonight" and "Take Back the Radio," alongside the quake of powerfully quiet ballads like "Return" and "Something Real." The result fluctuates the English songwriter's distinct nasal-pitched croon between the wildly kinetic energy of Cyndi Lauper and the vulnerable shiver of Stevie Nicks, capable of both tightly soaring falsetto and uptempo kicks with an unfaltering defiance. – Doug Freeman

File Under: Standout Songwriter

Wet Leg

Wed 16, 12mid, Half Step

Thu 17, 10pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Fri 18, 2pm, Convention Center

One of SXSW's buzziest acts, Wet Leg bestows idiosyncratic indie rock with feminine spunk and a flair of elegant grit. Hailing from Isle of Wight, Rhian Tessdale and Hester Chambers command that hearts beat alongside their upbeat, subtly grooving tempos, while embracing lyrics of relatable woes and social confusion. Exploding onto the global music radar with the irresistible 2021 viral smash "Chaise Longue," late November followups "Too Late Now" and "Oh No" bloom complete insanium in the cranium experienced by a young person drenched in the Internet Age. A fist grips flowers picked righteously from Gaea's sacred garden and presents a bouquet of striking tempo and unabashed feminal expression. Debut LP arrives April 8. – Mars Salazar

File Under: Buzzy

Buffalo Nichols

Thu 17, 9pm, Continental Club

Buffalo Nichols landed locally during the pandemic, but the Houston-born, Milwaukee-raised songwriter has traveled the world mining folk sounds into his eclectic, powerful blues. Last year's eponymous debut marked the first solo blues artist signing for Fat Possum in nearly two decades, earned not only in deep traditional reverence of Nichols' sound, but his pushing the genre forward though his scorching guitarwork that flows at times with an almost mystical atmosphere. Sharp realities barb his uncompromising lyrics through a low, gruff howl, while live Nichols entrances with a controlled fury that can resound like a full band. – Doug Freeman

File Under: Rising Local

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard

Mon 14, 1am, Cedar Street Courtyard

Thu 17, 1am, Swan Dive

Thu 17, 5pm, Brush Square Park

Fri 18, 3:50pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard operates in the space between a wink and a nudge. The Welsh band doesn't just stand on the line between Seventies genres; they lay their body down spread eagle, touching styles like power-pop, glam rock, AM soft-pop, British hard rock, and even scummy New York rock. Perched on the sweaty, beating brow of Marc Bolan, the band's newest record, Backhand Deals, is full of squeaky-clean production, power chords, and a heavy helping of sass and whimsy. – E. Ryan Ellis


Thu 17, 9:20pm, Cheer Up Charlies

First featured in these pages for assembling a 2019 tape called Lonestar: A Texas Friends & Family Compilation, the spaciously ambling indie folk of Alex Montenegro, aka Skirts, sounds just as familial to her home state. A Dallas native, the singer-songwriter would tap into the city's DIY scene while working at Good Records, eventually honing an endearing knack for immediately familiar melodies. Double Double Whammy, Brooklyn label host to likeminded Texas acts Hovvdy and Lomelda, caught up to Skirts for 2021 sophomore Great Big Wild Oak. Southern guitar licks, weaving with everything from clarinet to banjo, find depth in all things gentle and just-enough. – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: Potent Lyricist

Clarence James

Fri 18, 9pm, House Party

Breaking out virally a couple years back with the irresistible chill-out track "Ronson Princess," the 21-year-old central Texan followed up with 2020 full-length emotional salvo Fucked Me Up, which blended an overall bedroom pop feel with elements of jazz and lo-fi hip-hop. In late 2021, the artist – previously known for languid vocal delivery and oceanic guitar fingerpicking – released a stone-cold double single with "Target/quota time" and "Freedom Comes" that not only expanded his compositional palette, but also thrived on strong social messages. – Kevin Curtin

Sinead O’Brien

Tue 15, 11pm, Seven Grand

Thu 17, 9pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Fri 18, 10pm, Sellers

Hailing from the Emerald Isle, fashion designer-turned-recording artist Sinead O'Brien's unique vocal stylings can best be described by the German word Sprechgesang: "a style of dramatic vocalization between speaking and singing." Walking the line between speech and song, the Limerick native and her band's art-rock sound is assertive and stylish, evoking both joy and melancholy, calm and aggression. Her records push you to stop and ponder the thoughtful wordplay like a post-punk poetry reading, while her live show is sure to pull you onto the dance floor to move to the beat. – Robert Penson

File Under: Potent Lyricist, Character Driven


Wed 16, 11pm, Half Step

Fri 18, 4pm, Convention Center

As a fantastic New York Times headline recently declared, "Sasami Wanted to Appropriate White, Male Music. She Landed on Metal." Recalibrating from a celebrated 2019 downcast indie rock venture, the Los Angeles artist's sophomore Squeeze explores all manner of heavy music through an unflinching "anti-toxic positivity" stance. For Austin ears, the former Cherry Glazerr member finds metal as an ideal conduit for Daniel Johnston's "Sorry Entertainer," a blowout on artistic desperation. The multi-instrumentalist concocted her album in a home shared with Hand Habits' Meg Duffy and King Tuff's Kyle Thomas, while concurrently producing both of their new records. – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: New Nu-Metal

Baby Queen

Wed 16, 9pm, Augustine

Fri 18, 11pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

In a world of reproduced pop and love rhymes, Baby Queen cuts through with originality. The South Africa-raised Arabella Latham seamlessly meshes varied genre elements into her realm of Gen Z heart pop. The rap-informed verses of "Want Me" ignite into a big pop hook, while production touches of dance music and rock interplay underneath. Reminiscent of Taylor Swift's early days, the now London-based pop singer uses her own memoir to connect with charismatic lyrics about heartbreak, crushes, and life as a monarchial reign in training. – Morgan-Taylor Thomas

Chris Patrick


"Dreams" off late 2020 mixtape From the Heart, Vol. 2, vividly paints an image of a talented, yet constrained artist yearning to chase a passion with lyrics deeply relatable to anyone contemplating a lunge into the relative unknown. The New Jersey native left his role with Best Buy's Geek Squad the month before dropping that project and directly references his old job in the song. New single "Up Now" showcases the Rider University alum's captivating versatility: a melodic hook spat over a flute sample instrumental supports a verse still packing more unexpected wordplay. – Derek Udensi


Wed 16, 1am, Swan Dive

Thu 17, 6pm, Brush Square Park

Fri 18, 9:10pm, Cheer Up Charlies

Atmospheric, playful, mysterious, 2021 Kill Rock Stars debut LP Shirushi eventually orbited Canada's prestigious Polaris Music Prize. From watery ebbs and flows to full-on swells and curls, its lysergic surrealism and carny noise rock sets the Montreal septet at least a bridge or two afar. Led by guitarists Serge Nakauchi Pelletier and Hidetaka Yoneyama, but punctuated by bamboo flutist Yuki Isami and trombonist Etienne Lebel, Teke::Teke began in 2017 as a tribute to Japanese Mosrite shredder Takeshi Terauchi. "Bears a manic energy that bleeds into even the ballads," pronounced The New Yorker, but string-draped closer "Tekagamy" blooms like a cherry blossom. – Raoul Hernandez

File Under: Instrumental Wonder

Alexalone (Photo by John Anderson)


Thu 17, 9pm, Cheer Up Charlies

Sat 19, 9pm, Lucille

After a lengthy new-music hiatus brought on by touring with acts like Hovvdy and Lomelda, Alex Peterson reopened their post-rock universe as Alexalone last year. Alexaloneworld brings together years of guitar-centric output dating back to 2016 through waves of drone, noise, and shoegaze. Alexalone marked the first local Polyvinyl Records signing after opening an Austin office, where one employee likened the songwriter to cult Nineties alt-rock act Hum. The immersive unit now includes players Sam Jordan, Mari Maurice, Andrew Hulett, and Hannah Read – who shares band members with Alexalone in her celebrated folk outlet Lomelda. – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: Rising Local, Actually Heavy

Ian Sweet

Thu 17, 11pm, Cheer Up Charlies

Meditative, enticing, and heartbreaking – three words to sum up Ian Sweet's third LP Show Me How You Disappear. Written and recorded during the California native's time in an outpatient mental health therapy program and quarantine, the 10-track selection spins a mindfully crafted transition from an ambivalent psyche to acceptance of rebirth over indie rock instrumentation and pop delivery. From grunge opener "My Favorite Cloud" to soft, angelic closer "I See Everything," the vocalist otherwise known as Jilian Medford recounts her days of regimented healing, providing a space for understanding and advocacy. – Morgan-Taylor Thomas

Kiwi Jr.

Thu 17, 5pm, Convention Center

Fri 18, 9pm, Lucille

Kiwi Jr. are a Toronto quartet making idiosyncratic pop built upon modern day malaise and miscellany. The band's music is straightforward enough, often led with inventive and crunchy jangle guitar and an unhurried, nondescript vocal delivery by lead singer Jeremy Gaudet. But Kiwi Jr. really sets itself apart by framing its melodies around cracked lyrics and narratives. Self-mythologizing, self-referential, and mundane, with sports references and pedestrian conspiracy theories, the band bombards the listener with a finger-flicking Twitter timeline of subjects. It would be too weird if it wasn't so good. – E. Ryan Ellis

Poppy Ajudha

Fri 18, 10pm, British Music Embassy

Sat 19, 1pm, Convention Center

Briton of Caribbean descent, Southeast London seductress Poppy Ajudha boasts the working-class boom of Adele/Amy Winehouse extraction. Pandemic-born, issue-minded, BLM-forward, March's full-length bow The Power in Us led with inaugural single "London Burning" reappraising English Colonialism, while "Playgod" pivots on Alabama's anti-abortion bill. Having reinterpreted Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" into postmodern urban soul with EDM, the crossover R&Bist and bandleader walks the talk. "We're taught to be so individualistic and I want to undo that. It's important to uplift the people around you," she told The Face. – Raoul Hernandez

Surfbort (Photo by Pooneh Ghana)


Wed 16, 1am, Augustine

Fri 18, 2:30pm, Austin Chronicle Hair of the 3-Legged Dog Party, Hotel Vegas

Sat 19, 1:05am, Hotel Vegas

Ready to pull the ripcord on stockpiled repressed ecstasy is the fivepiece punk crusaders of Surfbort. Visceral frontwoman Dani Miller and company come ready to spoon feed the head with a necessary dose of jubilant hedonism through ripping eclectic riffs and commanding vocal howls. A recent batch of Jam in the Van live recordings spout unabashed indulgence and longing atop winding melodies that pack the punch of a roundhouse kick to the temple. Nothing will halt the unstoppable force of a punk's relentless energy, and a splash zone of grime and charisma lay ready to be kicked by the leather boot of the now-L.A.-based band! – Mars Salazar

Cameron Knowler

Wed 16, 10pm, Hideout Theatre

Cameron Knowler follows firmly in the tracks of American roots music from the past. While the movement of new American primitivism is alive and well, full of fresh operators, Knowler chooses a more simplistic approach focused on back-up acoustic guitar traditions (backing up a fiddle) in the line of folks like Norman Blake. Knowler's songs drum up mythologies around campfires in the desert and traveling wagons, but having studied jazz guitar at University of Houston's Moores School of Music, he's quick to eschew prescriptive guitar forms. He views his education as a base on which other old-time music structures might be built. – E. Ryan Ellis

W.H. Lung

Wed 16, 5:30pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Thu 17, 12mid, Hotel Vegas

Fri 18, 11pm, Green Jay

On a lark in 2017 Manchester, three friends debuted as W.H. Lung with a tense single called "Inspiration." It's motorik beat and vocals of simmering discontent were like a weather report for the strained shouts and feathered whispers soon to ride the group's balanced, danceable post-punk. Quick studies on the drum machine and other electronic music accoutrement for the first official LP Incidental Music, the trio added two members and grabbed hefty inspiration from DJ/producers such as America's Avalon Emerson and England's late Andrew Weatherall for second LP, Vanities. Only a mistake could improve Lung's clean perfection. – Christina Garcia


Thu 17, 11:40pm, Stubb’s

Fri 18, 11pm, Swan Dive

Melting shoegaze and surf-rap with contemporary and even classic-rock rhythms, Blackstarkids are genre-bending masters. The alt-rockers dropped several LPs and mixtapes prior to the release of their first "official" album, 2021's Puppies Forever. With each release, the band matured not only sonically, but lyrically as well. Raised on the outskirts of Kansas City, Mo., the trio have used their smooth grooves to remark on their frustrations with systematic racism, oppression, and police brutality. It's not all serious with the 21-year-olds though, which is as it should be. When you're making music meant to make people dance and relax, having fun is just part of the job. – Alyssa Quiles

Yard Act

Tue 15, 11pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Wed 16, 12mid, Augustine

Fri 18, 3pm, Convention Center

Fri 18, 4:20pm, Austin Chronicle Hair of the 3-Legged Dog Party, Hotel Vegas

Fri 18, 1am, Swan Dive

If D. Boon of the Minutemen had lived past 1985 and somehow became good friends with Fatboy Slim in the Nineties, this would have been their first pet project together. Raw, honest vocals belt out humorous yet socially aware lyrics, supported by infectious bass lines and stripped down dance beats, countered with guitars so jankety you'd think the tuning keys were coming loose – not that you'd notice because you'd be too busy dancing your ass off. British post-punk-poets Yard Act will be bringing their relentless tongue-and-cheek political agenda from Leeds to Austin on the wings of their powerful debut Overload. This pandemic success story broke out during the worldwide shut-down and now plays sold-out shows. Elton John is a fan. – Gary Lindsey

File Under: Buzzy

Tami Neilson

Fri 18, 10pm, Lamberts

Tami Neilson should be this year's Yola. The Canada-born, New Zealand-based singer has boots made for walking, a beehive hairdo fit for a Sixties girl group, and a voice that can take a door off its hinges. While Yola leans toward neo-soul, Neilson, who grew up touring with her namesake family band alongside the likes of Johnny Cash and Tanya Tucker, favors classic country, snarling rockabilly, and vintage R&B – and is at her best when she finds a way to do all three. She's overdue for a new album. Or maybe she's just waiting for the rest of the world to finally catch up. – Austin Powell

Liam Kazar

Sat 19, 11:30pm, Lamberts

An acclaimed chef and former touring guitarist for Jeff Tweedy and Steve Gunn, Liam Kazar's long-awaited solo debut, last year's Due North (Woodsist / Mare), dazzles with slick synth-pop balladry and country flair. It's Roxy Music for the Bandcamp generation.  – Austin Powell


Wed 16, 10am, KUTX Live at Studio 6A

Partisan-signed Brooklyn teen fivesome whose vein of thumpy, melodically colorful post-punk would sound good in a basement – even if Cameron Winter has a main stage voice. See: 2021 debut, Projector. – Kevin Curtin


Tue 15, 11:30pm, Swan Dive

Effectively employed subgenre "Moccasin-gaze" reflects Daniel Monkman sonically focused, emotionally epic shoegaze compositions, heavily influenced by his First Nations ancestry. – Kevin Curtin


Wed 16, 9am, KUTX Live at Studio 6A

With a nom de plume connected to Cuba's cimarróns, Cubans descended from former enslaved African people, Cimafunk (Erik Alejandro Iglesias Rodriguez to his family) exploded out of his home country with a heady mix of Afro-Cuban, funk, hip-hop, and Caribbean music. A rock star at home thanks to his 2018 single "Me Voy," Cimafunk's set his sights on bringing his Latin fusion dance party to the world. Given collaborations with Lupe Fiasco and George Clinton and endorsements from Rolling Stone, NPR (for whom he recorded a sizzling Tiny Desk Concert), Billboard, and the Latin Grammys, that ambition looks likely to succeed. – Michael Toland

Fuck Money (Photo by Lars Wolfshield)

Fuck Money

Sat 19, 9pm, Swan Dive

Discordant scrape-rockers transmitting straight from the psychedelic center of a glitchy electromagnetic cloud, these brand-new local noisemakers are also quite the rabble-rousers. Fiery, heartfelt agitprop bleeds from the band name down. – Julian Towers

File Under: Actually Heavy, Rising Local

Strawberry Guy

Mon 14, 10pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Wed 16, 4:40pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Wed 16, 9:30pm, St. David’s Historic Sanctuary

From his gradient blending to his optical mixing, Strawberry Guy – Alex Stephens – paints minutes-long masterpieces of romance wrapped in psychedelic bedroom-pop. Wales-born, the TikTok star weeps art. – Morgan-Taylor Thomas

File Under: As Seen on TikTok


Wed 16, 11pm, Esther’s Follies

Having gone viral on TikTok with 2019's "Loverboy," the Aaron Paredes' breakout into the mainstream was abrupt but not unearned. Mixing EDM and hip-hop, the 22-year-old bedroom-pop star delivers groovable beats dressed in synthetic waves. – Alyssa Quiles

File Under: As Seen on TikTok


Tue 15, 1am, Iron Bear

Dossey, Primo the Alien, and Lady Heartwing merge, creating an Austin electric-pop supergroup, blending girl power adoration and instrumentally sound compositions. – Morgan-Taylor Thomas

File Under: Rising Local



Taking accents and twangs from the layered primordial past of R&B, gospel, and soul, Reginald Helms Jr. (stylized as "reggie") has released a series of singles over the past year that evade definition. Instead, the Houston-born rapper and singer's music emanates atmosphere and mood, associated with smooth-as-butter forebearers like D'Angelo and Texas' own Erykah Badu. With super-stylized music videos, reggie's wit wanders through the dark and light of life. On songs like "Avalanche," he laments the hard times while staying grateful on lines like, "I been left out in the rain too much/ I might fuck around and put my whole mind in rice."   E. Ryan Ellis

Perfume Genius

Wed 16, 11:05pm, Central Presbyterian Church

Seamless integrator of guttural and sleek, minimal and dazzling, Mike Hadreas built a universe of turbulently gorgeous baroque-pop movements as Perfume Genius over five albums (latest: Matador's Set My Heart on Fire Immediately), as well as a fervent Twitter following. – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: Standout Songwriter, Character Driven


Wed 16, 9pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Already possessing elite vocal command, the stylistic leap between the Stormzy-approved R&B singer's two EPs – 2019's lovely Phases and last year's intimidatingly masterful Full Circle – establishes a high ceiling for the 23-year-old Londoner. – Kevin Curtin

Luna Luna

Tue 15, 12mid, Speakeasy

Wed 16, 5pm, Convention Center

Thu 17, 12:15am, Hotel Vegas

Relocated from Dallas to Austin, the swoony, extra-smooth sounds of bilingual synth-pop quartet Luna Luna bloomed from iPhone recordings of Colombia-born songwriter Kavvi, created while working at Walmart.  – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: Rising Local, As Seen on TikTok


Thu 17, 12:40am, Empire Control Room

Fri 18, 11pm, Cheer Up Charlies

Endlessly sincere indie-pop diarist comes cathartically full-circle. Shamir's latest music inverts the queer-quirk extroversion of his early career electro-disco for a series of raucously confrontational meditations on identity. – Julian Towers



Houston based avant-prankster channels his drooling carnal thirst into hilariously obnoxious cartoon madness – an unholy brew marrying simpleminded mid-2000s snap beats (Chingy revival?) to brain-scattering internet-trap flows. Call it dadaist ringtone rap. – Julian Towers

File Under: As Seen on TikTok

Sir Woman

Wed 16, 11pm, Continental Club

Sat 19, 12:30pm, Creek & the Cave

Wild Child oracle and Glorietta choirista Kelsey Wilson "leans full-tilt into R&B and soul impulses," opined this periodical about Sir Woman's debut Bitch EP, Austin's Joplin-esque singer tilting into glitter funk and disco balls. – Raoul Hernandez

File Under: Rising Local



Upstart hip-hop artist from Houston's Missouri City who parlayed a bad breakup into breakout single "Beating Down Yo Block." Her growing discography features rattling bass and shoulder flicks toward detractors. – Derek Udensi

File Under: As Seen on TikTok, Buzzy

Branson Anderson

Sat 19, 8pm, the Driskill

Anderson's most recent Lord, Have Mercy EP rolls a raucous vision of Americana, tumbling tunes that sound like Woody Guthrie headlocking Hank Williams as the Utah-based troubadour turns his tenor toward howling yelps and weeping sincerity. – Doug Freeman


Wed 16, 9pm, St. David’s Bethell Hall

Thu 17, 10pm, Flamingo Cantina

Fri 18, 2pm, Brush Square Park

Recontextualizing royal shrine music of the Joseon Dynasty, alongside a traditional Korean vocal form typically performed by men, Seoul drone duo Haepaary mines dark electronica in modern forms. – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: Extra Experimental


Thu 17, 1am, Lustre Pearl

Fri 18, 12mid, Hotel Vegas

Austin's finest purveyors of late Eighties 120 Minutes rock, Blushing hits new heights on its just-released second album, Possessions, as fine an example of shimmering dream-pop songcraft as you'll hear anywhere. – Michael Toland

File Under: Rising Local

Mercy Bell

Thu 17, 11pm, the Driskill

Recognized across Nashville for her sharp songwriting and powerful vocals, as well as her strong queer advocacy, Mercy Bell nonetheless surprised with last year's third LP, Golden Child, which leaned immaculately into a sweeping Nineties-styled country ballad sound. – Doug Freeman

Pom Pom Squad

Thu 17, 11pm, Stubb’s

Fri 18, 1am, Augustine

Embracing individuality and delivering grunge tracks with an indie attitude, Brooklyn quartet Pom Pom Squad are anything but your stereotypical cheerleaders. – Alyssa Quiles

File Under: Buzzy

Kwesi Arthur

Wed 16, 12mid, House Party

This 27-year-old Ghanaian superstar combines a catchy, Drake-esque lover swag with the streetwise grind of a kid who swept floors at a recording studio. The former aspiring lawyer is now the future of Africa's youth music scene. – Clara Wang

Sun June

Wed 16, 10pm, Vaquero Taquero

With sweeping, country-influenced warmth, the Austin-based atmospheric pop group traversed parking lots and apartments thick with ghosts of past selves on 2021 sophomore album, Somewhere. – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: Rising Local, Buzzy


Fri 18, 10pm, Cheer Up Charlies

Portland's Maria Maita-Keppeler takes a confident leap forward on this year's I Just Want to Be Wild for You (Kill Rock Stars), a vulnerable indie rock record brimming with unexpected turns, like the two-part "You Sure Can Kill a Sunday." – Austin Powell

File Under: Potent Lyricist

Katy Kirby


Packed with unexpected shapes and imaginative narratives, Katy Kirby's frank folk debut Cool Dry Place carries a cathartic, spiritual throughline from the singer-songwriter's upbringing in Austin's country cousin, Spicewood.  – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: Standout Songwriter

Pastel Ghost

Fri 19, 12mid, Higher Ground

Last summer, TikTok users found a perfect soundtrack for vintage Tumblr-inspired vids in Austin artist Pastel Ghost's 2013 song "Dark Beach" – combining a driving Eighties beat with the singer's ethereal vocals for her trademark "dreamrave."  – Rachel Rascoe

File Under: As Seen on TikTok, Rising Local


Wed 16, 10pm, Cheer Up Charlies

Thu 17, 11:15pm, Seven Grand

Soft yet noisy, this is post-punk influenced indie rock from a Chicago trio of recent high school graduates representative of the new wave of relatable emotion and melancholy currently absorbing music.  – Morgan-Taylor Thomas

File Under: Buzzy

Good Looks


The Austin-based quartet has found a soft, warm homestead that lies somewhere between Camper Van Beethoven, Greg Sage, the War on Drugs, and The High Lonesome Sound.  – E. Ryan Ellis

File Under: Rising Local

Steve Gunn

Fri 18, 12mid, Lucille

For a decade-and-a-half, Steve Gunn has straddled the line between maestro axeman and easy-listening indie balladeer – filling in the cracks between each pedestal with finger-picking and ambience.  – E. Ryan Ellis

Neal Francis

Thu 17, Luck Reunion

Pianoman Neal Francis' 2019 debut Changes grooves so hard he released an instrumental version (and demos) last year. Followup In Plain Sight (ATO) doubles down on the Silver Bullet vibes. – Austin Powell

Ley Line

Wed 16, 9pm, Stephen F’s Bar

Last year's We Saw Blue, Ley Line's sophomore LP, washed with a healing salve in wake of the Austin multicultural folk quartet's luminous, prayerful harmonies and mesmerizing meditations pulsing world rhythms. – Doug Freeman

File Under: Rising Local

Toya Delazy

Wed 16, 9pm, House Party

Far from home, jazz piano-trained and London-based Zulu royal Toya Delazy foregrounds her roots, singing and rapping exclusively in a Zulu language on Afrorave Vol. 1, a dance LP of percussive, electronic Afrofuturist pride. – Christina Garcia

File Under: Character Driven

Lisa Morales

Wed 16, 10pm, Continental Club

Last year, Lisa Morales lost her sibling and Sisters Morales partner, Roberta, and the Austin-based songwriter's new EP, Rain in the Desert, burns beautifully with a poignant sense of loss and survival. – Doug Freeman

File Under: Rising Local


Mon 14, 11pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Thu 17, 10pm, Velveeta Room

Fri 18, 1am, Creek and the Cave

Semi-comedic but artistically legit theoretical "pop star" from Dublin just released her Country & Eastern (Ireland) record If My Wife New I'd Be Dead. – Kevin Curtin


Thu 17, 10pm, Sellers

Incubating in London's esteemed jazz musical education program Tomorrow's Warriors, whose alumni power the city's exhilarating jazz scene, Cherise brings swinging inflection to eclectic R&B on her EP Remedy, plus the annual Jazz re:freshed Outernational showcase.  – Michael Toland

File Under: Instrumental Wonder

TC Superstar (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

TC Superstar

Thu 17, 9pm, Lustre Pearl

Coming on like a spell of derealization, this synthwave anti-consumer-culture soundtrack is soothed by leader Connor McCampbell's deep voice and a coterie of classically trained dancers exulting the crowd. – Christina Garcia

File Under: Rising Local

Big Jade


This Beaumont emcee is brimming with a confidence rivaled only by her propensity to rap over booming drums. Even the Game's soulful "Dreams" receives sampling on a two-minute thumper ("I Tell You What"). – Derek Udensi


Sat 19, 11pm, Sellers

London noise rock/post punk quartet with a primal live show, whose recordings could win over disparate fans of the Jesus & Mary Chain and Metz. – Kevin Curtin

File Under: Actually Heavy

exociety (Scuare/Rav/Kill Bill: The Rapper/Airospace)

Thu 17, 10:25pm, Sheraton BackYARD

Post-internet melancholy provides the emotional foundation, pillowy jazz samples the sonic springboard for these introspective beat-balladeers. In a frequently chilly abstract hip-hop landscape, their group hug camaraderie is bracing warmth.  – Julian Towers

File Under: Rising Local

Circuit Des Yeux

Tue 15, 8:30pm, St. David’s Historic Sanctuary

Thu 17, 10:15pm, Central Presbyterian Church

Gliding into the spiritual realm with soaring semi-orchestral compositions and a voice that feels disembodied, Haley Fohr embellishes a soundscape of trancelike melodic vibrations where eerie croons pull your chakra into the fifth dimension.  – Mars Salazar

File Under: Avant AF

Silver Synthetic

Wed 16, 11pm, Valhalla

Fri 18, 9:30pm, Hotel Vegas

As a rule of thumb, any band signed to or recorded live at Third Man Records is worth a glance. Case in point: New Orleans' Silver Synthetic, whose 2021 label debut is chock-full of warm AM rock that beckons for summer BBQs.  – Austin Powell

Tele Novella

Fri 18, 7:20pm, Cheer Up Charlies

Jason Chronis (Voxtrot, Belaire) and Natalie Ribbons (Agent Ribbons) come across like Austin's indie version of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra on 2021's Merlynn Belle, a charmingly off-kilter collection of lo-fi psych-pop. – Austin Powell

File Under: Rising Local

Balming Tiger

Thu 17, 3pm, Brush Square Park

Sat 19, 1:30am, Reina + Rey Rey

Rapping alternative-pop quintet from Seoul that's fun and creative enough to stand as K-pop's Odd Future approximate. – Kevin Curtin

The Shivas

Thu 17, 11pm, Valhalla

Portland's the Shivas emerged from lockdown with 2021's Feels So Good // Feels So Bad (Tender Loving Empire), a witches brew of garage-pop, doo-wop, and bubblegum psych that flies eight miles high. It's the band's best album yet.  – Austin Powell

Working Mens Club

Thu 17, 8pm, Cedar Street Courtyard

Fri 18, 8pm, Green Jay

Persistent, propulsive dance music stained with dour, disaffected punk vocals. Listener: "Hey this is a great groove!" Singer Sydney Minsky-Sargeant: "Die." – Kevin Curtin

Cartel Madras

Thu 17, 11pm, Lucille

Fri 18, 9:50pm, 3ten

Alberta-based, India-born sisters Bhagya "Eboshi" Ramesh and Priya "Contra" Ramesh debuted on SoundCloud in 2018 and fuse hip-hop, punk, and dance music into "Goonda rap," a sound as multifaceted as the immigrant experience. – Clara Wang

The Lemonheads

Thu 17, 1am, Stubb’s

Unlikely stars of Gen X radio, the Lemonheads' "alternative" was really a mixture of Hüsker Dü-style punk, relaxed jangle pop, and folk rock with an observational lyrical thrust. That style coaelesced brilliantly on 1992's It's a Shame About Ray, which Evan Dando and Co. will play in full.  – Kevin Curtin

File Under: Cult Classic



Creator of atmospherically astute, lyrically lonely indie-pop has an emotionally rich voice and was the inaugural signee to Phoebe Bridgers' Saddest Factory label. Get the feels from new single "Tommy." – Kevin Curtin

... And 15 More SXSW Interviews

Moor Mother
The Dream Syndicate
Charlotte Cornfield
Claire Rousay
Los Bitchos
Sloppy Jane
La Doña
Chief Cleopatra
Jackie Venson
Sam Doores
Kareem Ali
Ural Thomas & the Pain
Jerry Paper

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