Ah, South by Southwest. It's that time again — the middle of March, when seemingly the entire new-music industry descends on Austin, Texas, like locusts, leaving shards of empty margarita glasses and dried taco husks in its wake. Day and night, bands play every hour on the hour at endless showcases, hoping to get a manager, a recording label — hell, even just a blog mention.
Yes, it's a jungle out there at SXSW, but it's an essential boot-camp experience for any artist serious about boosting his or her career. Of course, this year, some fierce South Florida warriors are headed out there for the rigors. Here's the scoop on the future hometown heroes headed west to play official festival showcases.
Awesome New Republic
After tirelessly toiling away on the Miami dance-party scene for years, punk-funkers Awesome New Republic might finally be approaching the moment when they break through. The guys have long been prized locally for their eminently upbeat anthems that combine a serious love for Prince with a loose new-wave energy. Recent sonic forays, however, have seen them getting more atmospheric and out-there, and the band has played frequently with lo-fi laptop-birthed acts like Washed Out.
ANR hasn't gone chillwave, though. The band is still as weird and experimental as ever but boasts enough pop chops to score it BBC radio airplay during a recent foray across the pond. The band headlines a showcase Thursday, March 17, at the Ghost Room, in a sweet slot right after Wallpaper.
Dreaming in Stereo
Miami's Dreaming in Stereo is led by guitar whiz Fernando Perdomo, who first made his name around South Florida as a multi-instrumental wünderkind wielding the ax for Latin-industry stars like Paulina Rubio. Perdomo, however, has long been a mature, English-language songwriter in his own right, and Dreaming in Stereo is the first real band of his own.
It draws heavily on the influence of power-pop legends like Todd Rundgren but also incorporates healthy doses of the kind of multilayered, prog-rock flourishes with which only a truly talented player could get away. It all comes together in eminently hummable, feel-good tunes that aim to bring quality rock songwriting back to a mainstream audience. The band plays Friday, March 18, at Creekside at the Hilton Garden Inn, opening for Elizabeth and the Catapult.
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 seven players (or more!), nearly all representing different countries of origin, LPJ's sound is appropriately a stylistic soup. There's reggae, there's hip-hop, there's rock, there's salsa, there's funk, there's cumbia, there's even Colombian vallenato. Somehow, it all works, thanks to smart pop songs that also aren't afraid to wander into a little jam, depending on the chemistry of the crowd. 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 and Friday, March 18, at Prague.
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Coral Springs songwriter/singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist guy Mike Diaz was South Florida's first bona fide chillwave success — although he might now shy away from the term. Whatever the case, he first scored national attention last year when his nostalgic take on funky electronic pop dovetailed well with a certain blog-driven musical Zeitgeist. While his earliest compositions were loopy laptop works that sometimes ran in circles, he's 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 the 2k10 favorite pack. Millionyoung plays Friday, March 18, at Malverde.
It's just these sort of festivals that helped Surfer Blood first break through on a national scale — both the CMJ festival in 2009 and SXSW in 2010 scored the band accolades, deals, and tours aplenty. Now, it's about a million blog light-years later, and the band's got some new material to air out, finally, in advance of its forthcoming major-label debut. It'll likely focus on that during these performances, as well as, of course, material from its much-lauded Astro Coast, which the band by now could play in its sleep. Let's just hope it doesn't. Surfer Blood plays three showcases at SXSW this year: Tuesday, March 15, at Emo's main room; Wednesday, March 16, at Beauty Bar; and Thursday, March 17, at Habana Bar's backyard.