Ah, South by Southwest. It's that time again when seemingly the entire new-music industry descends upon Austin like a plague of locusts, leaving nothing but shards of empty margarita glasses and dried taco shells in its wake. Day and night, bands play every hour on the hour at endless showcases, hoping to get a manager, a recording label, or hell, even just a blog mention.
Yes, it's a jungle out there at SXSW. But it's an essential boot camp for any seriously ambitious artist. And this year, five fierce South Florida warriors are headed west to play official festival showcases.
Awesome New Republic
After tirelessly toiling away on the Miami dance-party scene for years, the punk-funkers of Awesome New Republic might finally see the moment they break through. The duo has long been prized on the local scene for eminently upbeat anthems that combine a serious love for Prince with a loose New Wave energy. Recent sonic forays, however, have seen the band getting more atmospheric and out-there, and it's even played frequently with laptop-birthed acts such as Millionyoung and Washed Out.
Don't worry about ANR going chillwave, though. This twosome is still as weird and experimental as ever, but boasting enough pop chops to score it BBC radio airplay during a recent trip across the pond. The band headlines a showcase in a sweet slot right after Wallpaper, Thursday, March 17, at the Ghost Room (304 W. Fourth St., Austin).
Dreaming in Stereo
Miami's Dreaming in Stereo is led by guitar whiz Fernando Perdomo, who made his name around South Florida as a multi-instrumental wunderkind who wielded the axe for Latin-industry stars such as Paulina Rubio. However, Perdomo has long been a mature, English-language songwriter in his own right, and this is the first bona fide band of his own.
Dreaming in Stereo draws heavily on the influence of power pop legends such as Todd Rundgren. But it also incorporates the kind of multilayered, prog-rock flourishes that only a truly talented player can pull off. It all comes together in eminently hummable, feel-good tunes that aim to bring quality rock songwriting back to a mainstream audience. The band opens for Elizabeth and the Catapult, Friday, March 18, at Creekside at the Hilton Garden Inn (500 N. Interstate Hwy. 35, Austin).
Locos por Juana
Nobody gets a Miami dance party going like Locos por Juana, a longtime favorite on the Latin alternative circuit. With a lineup at any given time of up to seven players (or more), nearly all representing different countries of origin, LPJ's sound is appropriately a stylistic soup. There's reggae, hip-hop, rock, salsa, funk, cumbia, and even Colombian vallenato. Somehow it all works, thanks to smart pop songs that aren't afraid to wander into a little jam. No two Locos por Juana shows are alike, and Austin won't know what hit it when the band plays Thursday, March 17, at Momo's (618 W. Sixth St., Austin) and Friday, March 18, at Prague (422 Congress Ave., Austin).
Coral Springs songwriter/singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Diaz was South Florida's first bona fide chillwave success — although he might now shy away from the term. Whatever the case, he scored national attention last year when his nostalgic take on funky electronic pop dovetailed well with a certain blog-driven musical Zeitgeist. Though his earliest compositions were loopy laptop works that sometimes ran in circles, he has widened his musical sweep this year, adding in his own nimble guitar work and beefing up his sound with additional live musicians. His new showcases will be a proving ground to see if he can distinguish himself from the rest of 2010's favorite pack. Millionyoung plays Friday, March 18, at Malverde (400 W. Second St., Austin).
It's exactly this sort of festival that helped Surfer Blood break through on a national scale. Both CMJ in 2009 and SXSW in 2010 scored the band accolades, deals, and tours aplenty. Now it's approximately a million blog light years later and the band finally has some new material to air out in advance of its forthcoming major-label debut. They'll likely focus on those new songs during these performances, as well as material from their much-lauded Astro Coast, which by now they could execute in their sleep. Let's just hope they don't. Surfer Blood plays three showcases at SXSW this year: Tuesday, March 15, at Emo's main room (603 Red River St., Austin); Wednesday, March 16, at Beauty Bar (617 E. Seventh St., Austin); and Thursday, March 16, at Habana Bar's back yard (708 E. Eighth St., Austin).