By Sarah Bennett
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Make no mistake, it’s still a serious honor to perform at South by Southwest (SXSW). The supersized music fest and conference—taking place March 17 to 21 in Austin, Texas—dates back to 1987, but it takes shit these days for being too big (nearly 1,500 performers) and for including acts that need no introduction. (Smokey Robinson, Nas, Stone Temple Pilots and the Crystal Method are among the veterans scheduled to perform this year.) But new acts continue to get “discovered” there by the gaggles of music-biz big shots and scribblers wielding comped badges, which cost the general public anywhere from $550 to $1225, depending on when you register and what kind of access you want. Here’s hoping our talented slate of OC/LBC acts receive their propers in the Lone Star State.
The barely legal singer/songwriter/guitarist also known as Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg will be all over the map this year—and in good company. After SXSW, he plays Sasquatch, held at the Gorge in Washington (two hours outside of Seattle), over Memorial Day weekend. Pavement, My Morning Jacket, Massive Attack, Ween, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, She and Him, and many more are also in that lineup. Avi Buffalo is signed to Sub Pop and, yes, shares a similarly indie-rustic sound with label mates the Shins and Band of Horses. The Long Beach act’s self-titled, full-length debut for the famed label is due out April 27; a record-release show is set for the Troubadour on May 1.
She’s a West Coast punk-rock icon who hasn’t slowed down much since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year. The fiery front woman for X, the Knitters, Auntie Christ and the Original Sinners has also crafted exceptional solo records, including the acoustic offering Somewhere Gone, which met with rave reviews upon its release last October. Although Cervenka is typically associated with LA, her publicist at Bloodshot Records has confirmed she now calls the city of Orange home, which makes us suddenly feel more-than-slightly cooler. Cervenka played to a packed Detroit Bar in November and will surely draw plenty of attention in Texas.
Long Beach neo-psychedelia purveyors make their second consecutive stop at SXSW, having already garnered much-deserved love for their debut full-length, Tentacles, which came out last year on Touch & Go (former home of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On the Radio). “You envision stranger places: circuses, deserts, big blue oceans, saloons—the old-timey, Wild-West kind, not the kind where you get jacked on Red Bull and mosh to Bleeding Through,” reads Weekly staffer Spencer Kornhaber’s review. “The album’s a mess. Luckily, it’s a mess you can jump around to.” Following SXSW, Crystal Antlers will make a magnificent mess through Europe.
The Long Beach genre benders melded emo and Americana on their 2007 Rounder debut, Ode to Sunshine, which earned favorable reviews from PopMatters.com, Filter and Spin (which dubbed the record a “thrilling ruckus”) and hit No. 16 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart (yeah, we’re not really sure what a “heatseeker” album or album survey is, either). Delta Spirit will drop down in Austin to drum up support for their second full-length, History From Below, reportedly due out in May.
Go back, back to a 1960s commune in the desert where whites, wine and acid accompany twisted folk-jam sessions. There, that should give you an idea what this Costa Mesa six-piece sound like. Their terrifically trippy sonics landed the band on LA’s Everloving Records, which last October released their album Are You In or Are You Out? The Growlers recently hit the road with Dr. Dog in a modified-biodiesel school bus designed to house and transport the band through the cold-ass Northeast. The warmth of Texas should be welcoming.
They’re based in Silver Lake, but singer/keyboardist Kelcey Ayer, guitarist/singer Ryan Hahn and guitarist/singer Taylor Ricer are from Orange County, where the band originated—so, yeah, we’re claiming ’em. The five-piece play stirring, organic indie rock marked by close vocal harmonies. They spent the winter touring Europe in support of their debut disc, Gorilla Manor, released in the U.S. Feb. 16 via Frenchkiss Records. The album is named after the OC house the band shared before relocating to LA in December 2008. “It was insanely messy, and there were always friends over, knocking around on guitars or our thrift-store piano,” Hahn has said. “It was an incredible experience, and I’ll never forget that time.” Local Natives will return to California to play Coachella.
For more info, go to www.sxsw.com.
This article appeared in print as "Austin City, No Limits: OC/LBC Bands Head to South By Southwest."