SXSW 2011 Preview – Top Artists To See

Next week down here in Austin, TX will be the great gathering of the tribes known as South by Southwest (commonly referred in type as SXSW). SXSW is like a huge music festival, on top of a huge music convention, on top of a film festival and industry seminar all wrapped into one. There’s no way to make you appreciate the scope of SXSW in the written word. It consumes an entire US city, from top to bottom, east to west, and is the greatest opportunity all year to see top notch bands in one place.

Not every one can be here, but I will be, and leading up to SXSW, I’ll do my best to get everyone ready for the big shindig, including everyone that cannot attend. As I prepare for it, cover it, and then wrap it up, I’ll try to encapsulate the experience for everyone, and through articles, pictures, videos, audio, and interviews, help you live the experience vicariously through me, and through osmosis hopefully turn you on to some great music. I am going to start by naming off my top 5 MUST SEE artists for anyone attending SXSW who is into roots music.

#1 Ruby Jane

This is it folks. In 2011, Ruby Jane is the best, most dynamic live performer on the earth planet, and if you’re down here and miss her, that’s grounds for having your music nerd membership revoked. And don’t take my word for it, wherever and whenever Ruby performs, people walk away in shock. That is why she was named the MVP of ACL Fest by The Austin Chronicle, and a Top 5 performer at Folk Alliance by No Depression. I’d recommend seeing her with the full band, but either way, you can’t pass up this opportunity. Since she doesn’t have a major album release yet, this is your only chance to experience the force of nature that is Ruby Jane. Simply put, she is the future of music.

Performances: Wed 16th: Noon-12:30 @ Lambert’s, 7-8 PM @ Romeos /// Friday 18th: 11:30-11:45 AM @ Four Seasons, 6-6:45 @ Opal Divines /// Saturday 2PM @ Hyde Park, 6-7 PM @ Whole Foods Roof, 1-1:50 AM Official SXSW showcase @ Driskill Hotel

#2 Possessed by Paul James

This is another that is a must see in person, because no recorded format will ever do justice to the ridiculous spectacle that is a Possessed by Paul James show. The best way I’ve heard it described is that he doesn’t play songs, he gives birth to songs on stage. I have never seen a man so consumed by the spirit of music when he performs, and that same spellbinding effect is shared with the crowd. “It’s 50/50” as Possessed says. You will leave this show on a high that will last weeks. His last album Feed The Family was also nominated for the Saving Country Music Album of the Year in 2010.

Performances: Hillgrass Bluebilly XSXSW Showcase Friday 18th @ Hole in the Wall 1 AM

#3 Hellbound Glory

Possessed by Paul James was nominated for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year in 2010, but Hellbound Glory won it. Spectacular songwriting and a high energy show, this is the underground band that was so potent last year, they even got some attention from the mainstream. Leroy Virgil is an outright rising star. They are #1 on my personal “to see” list  because I’ve never seen them live before. This is going to be fun!

Performances: Sat. 19th Rusty Knuckles Showcase @ Dirty Dog Bar 4:40 PM (And more. More info coming!)

#4 Slim Cessna’s Auto Club

Where do I even start with these guys, how do I describe them? I guess I could start off by pointing you to my review from last year’s SXSW, and after that just say that Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is a music experience all to itself. Country-ish, gothic-ish, it cannot be missed.

Performances: Tue 15th Panache Party @ Scoot Inn /// Wed 16th Anso Party @ Spider House /// Thur 17th Panache Showcase @ Red 7.

#5 Trampled by Turtles

Here we go ladies and gentlemen! Bust out the bluegrass instruments and crank the volume and tempo to 10! Their latest release Palomino set my hair on fire the first time I heard it and I can’t wait to see them live for the first time. They are #2 on my personal list to see.

Performances: Tue 15th @ Bat Bar, Campfire Trails Official SXSW showcase, 11 PM /// Wed 16th @ The Stage on Sixth, Paste Magazine Party 3 PM /// Thur 17th @ Homeslice Pizza, 6 PM /// Thur 17th @ Swan Dive 11 PM

Other artists on my “Must See” list:

Caitlin Rose

I just saw her recently opening for Justin Townes Earle, and wasn’t even wholeheartedly impressed. But something about Caitlin wildly intrigues me, her voice is sublime, her soul troubled, and I couldn’t live with passing up an opportunity to see her again. Hope to get an interview this time as well. She’ll be playing at the ninebullets.net showcase among other places.

Brent Amaker and The Rodeo

Have been enjoying the catchy tunes from this Northwest band for years, and finally get a chance to see them live. Performances: 3/16 8pm VeVeeta Room (official sxsw). 3/17 Trophys Austin sxsw party (free) 5:30pm. 3/18 Austin Threadgills Burnside District Party 1:30pm. 3/19 KAOS RADIO 1pm.

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There’s many more where that came from, but these are my tops. And the best part about SXSW is discovering that band you’ve never heard of at at random showcase in a random bar.

Next up, my Top 5 showcases.