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Five Acts to Watch From SXSW

In Clubs, Music
Bass Drum of Death

Bass Drum of Death

Bruce Springsteen, Jay Z and 50 Cent grabbed headlines at SXSW this year, but at its core, the music festival is still a great place for music discovery. This year, the festival seemed particularly active as it peaked into a full-blown Mardi Gras style street party with thousands of St. Patrick’s Day revelers merging with the SXSW crowd at Sixth Street on Saturday.

We spent last week in Austin avoiding most of the high-profile performances and wandering among the hundreds of bars, warehouses and other venues hosting music. Below are our five lesser-known favorites.

Off!
By far the most energetic and chaotic set we caught at SXSW, Off! is bringing California ’80s hardcore back with some of the genre’s originators. The band was created at the end of 2009 by vocalist Keith Morris (a founding member of Black Flag and Circle Jerks), guitarist Damitri Coats (Burning Bridges), bassist Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Earthless, Hot Snakes, Rocket From the Crypt). What emerged is a frantic collection of songs released as four EPs in 2010. The band’s first full length—16 songs, clocking in at 16 minutes and recorded over just a few days—is due May 8 on Vice records. Bodies were flying through the pit and over it throughout the band’s set at Thrasher’s Texas Style Death Match Party.
For fans of: Black Flag, Circle Jerks

Lucius
Vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig could easily be mistaken as sisters. In addition to having a similar look, their voices complement each other perfectly. They stand face to face as they sing, each with a synth, and harmonize over a rich sonic bed of drums, percussion, bass and guitar. With the February release of their debut EP, they’ve already caught the attention of some national media outlets. Next year, we expect them to be on to much bigger gigs than the mid-day dive bar show that we caught them at.
Fore fans of: Band of Horses, Feist

Reggie Watts // Photo by Chris Ellis.

Reggie Watts
Reggie Watts seemed to be everywhere in Austin, we first caught him at a free Under the Radar showcase on Sixth Street and later entertaining the crowd between sets at a warehouse party headlined by Diplo, Questlove and A-Trak. He’s well known for comedy—and his songs are funny—but his range and musicianship is also impressive. With a small collection of musical gadgets and his voice, he creates beatbox drum loops on the spot, mixing genres and shifting anywhere from traditional African music to dance music. One moment he’s singing falsetto for a song about boners and minutes later he’s channeling his inner Issac Hayes over a break beat.
For fans of: Flight of the Conchords

 

Bass Drum of Death
Bass Drum of Death neither has an increased presence of said instrument or any signs of deadly misadventure. The Mississippi duo’s stripped rock has just the right mix of distorted guitar, reverb-drenched vocals and surfer-slack attitude. The added bass guitar at the band’s SXSW show filled out the band’s sound nicely.
For Fans of: The White Stripes, Jay Reatard

Cairo Knife Fight
Another explosive duo, this time via New Zealand, Cairo Knife Fight builds on the the Black Keys’ model of pounding drums and riff heavy guitar work and kicks it into overdrive with more distortion, live bass and drum loops, and references to 70s rock, instead of the Keys’ blues roots influences. The band is known as a top Kiwi rock—the duo was recently recruited to open for the Foo Fighters in front of 50,000 people there—but 2012 could be the year we see them break out in the U.S. and beyond.
For fans of: Queens of the Stone Age, Black Keys

Matt Crawford is the Director of Digital Media for Metro Newspapers. Follow him @Metro_Matt.

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