By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
After last year's crop of 40 area acts playing at South by Southwest and 2008's total of 39, yes, this year's number of 28 area acts on the annual music festival and conference's official bills sure appears something of a letdown. Even when you factor in the kinda locals—area ex-pats The Riverboat Gamblers (now based in Austin), The Strange Boys (ditto), This Will Destroy You (times three!), and Alan Palomo's VEGA and Neon Indian projects (now based in Brooklyn)—it's still a smaller haul than we've become accustomed to around these parts. But what the area may be lacking in quantity this year, it sure makes up for in quality—and, better yet, some serious star power, as the below spotlight on four of the area's bigger SXSW acts shows.
Dorrough. 2009 saw Dallas achieve what previously was thought near impossible: After years of trying (Thanks, D.O.C.!) and failing (thanks, Vanilla Ice!), Dallas finally got its moment in the hip-hop sun, due to a new sound the city could call its own in the D-Town Boogie. Party music paced somewhere between Houston's slow-as-a-snail anthems and Atlanta's breakneck offerings, the D-Town Boogie found an audience mostly because it was different—and, more important, because it's unabashedly fun. Case in point: leader of the movement Dorrough and his smash I-love-my-car hit "Ice Cream Paint Job," which, by the time this goes to press, will probably just have gone platinum. With a new mixtape just released and a new full-length on the way, Dorrough's out to prove that the D-Town Boogie is here to stay. And he's earned enough shine and publicity (check this month's XXL and The Source) to make that seem pretty damn likely at this point. 11 p.m. on Wednesday at La Zona Rosa (612 W. 4th St.).
Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights. The next couple of weeks and months should prove quite telling for Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, long a favorite in the Dallas market. But, now, having already toured as openers for the likes of Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Black Crowes (not to mention a particularly badass display in the pouring rain at this past summer's Austin City Limits festival), this good-time Southern party-rock band seems primed for the big time. Good timing too: On March 31, the band will perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and on April 27, its major-label debut for Atlantic Records, Pardon Me, will see its official release. If it's half as well-received as the band's well-oiled machine of a live show, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights won't be opening shows for too much longer. 12 a.m. on Thursday night at Maggie Mae's (323 E. 6th St.).
Midlake. How long is your attention span? That's really the core question posed by Midlake's early 2010 release, The Courage of Others, the follow-up to its break-through 2006 release, The Trials of Van Occupanther. Because, for those who can sit still for more than five minutes, Courage is a beast of a disc, an overwhelmingly affecting and impressively depressing listen centered around man's coming to terms with his place in the world. Ornately instrumented and adorned with gorgeous harmonies and dark melodies, Midlake's take on '70s folk is as impressive a listen as you're likely to find this year—if you're willing to allow it to be. Live is another story entirely: There's no debating the playing talents of this band, and in a live setting, it proves its mettle with amazing ease. 1 a.m. on Thursday night at Buffalo Billiards (201 E. 6th St.).
Telegraph Canyon. Telegraph Canyon's 2007 release, All the Good News, was a pretty good effort from a ramshackle outfit of Fort Worthians with too little time, too many instruments and an affinity for some Arcade Fire-inspired fare. It earned the band some gigs—not necessarily highly attended gigs, but gigs nonetheless—and maybe a few fans along the way. Funny what a few years can do: With last year's The Tide and the Current, produced in Austin by Centro-matic's Will Johnson, Telegraph Canyon immediately launched itself to the top of the North Texas heap. Anchored by lead singer-songwriter Chris Johnson's broken wail, the album's intricately arranged cuts and soul-baring themes proved this act to be perhaps the region's most underappreciated gem. Still influenced by Arcade Fire, but now with a more distinguishable Texas bent, Telegraph Canyon's also established itself as a show-stopping, inspiring live act—and one that can turn new listeners into immediate super fans. 8 p.m. on Saturday night at The Ale House (310 E. 6th St.).