Over the past few years, North Texas has been a model of consistency at the annual South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin.
It's the same, it seems, every year, as the region has seen somewhere between 30 and 40 bands score official showcases at the mid-March affair for much of the past decade. This year is no different: Thirty-seven acts from Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton and all points around and in between saw their performance applications approved by the discerning folks on the SXSW selection committee. And that's saying nothing of the countless bands from the area that will head down Interstate 35 next weekend to play a bevy of unofficial showcases.
It does, however, say this: Once again, there will be a distinct North Texas flavor at the festival, which launches on Wednesday, March 16, and runs through Sunday, March 20. Indeed: After the obligatory Austin adds, it's North Texas that gets represented best at the annual showcase of about-to-break and established talents.
Josh T. Pearson
So, then, which North Texans will fare best at this year's SXSW? Funny you should ask...
Wednesday, March 16
Josh T. Pearson
9: 30 p.m. at Central Presbyterian Church (200 E. 8th St.)
After the 2001 release of his legendary Denton space-rock band Lift to Experience's double-disc opus, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, Josh T. Pearson kind of fell of the map, at least stateside. Aside from a few appearances here and there and a much-discussed opening performance for My Bloody Valentine at the Palladium Ballroom in 2009, he mostly retreated to Europe, and there he found a new inspiration. These days, Pearson's penning sprawling tales that unravel across extended folk ramblings—impressive stuff that caught the ear of the influential UK label Mute Records, which will release his first solo album, Last of the Country Gentlemen, later this month.
12 a.m. at The Parish Underground (214 E. 6th St.)
It's taken a few years to get to this point, but Denton-based ethereal rock quintet Sundress really do appear to be on the verge of blowing up. After tinkering with their sound, their lineup and even their name (fervent local music fans may know this outfit by early monikers This Old House and ODDYSSEY), Sundress finally seems to have their shit figured out. Good thing, too, since people are watching: The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne is a fan—he accosted the band about potential opening slots for the Lips after catching the band perform recently at The Loft—and the band has also scored choice gigs for later on this year at various festivals around the state. Considering how alluring and hypnotizing a sound this band boasts, though, none of this should come as a surprise.
Thursday, March 17
12 a.m. at Valhalla (710 Red River St.)
True Widow has a lot riding on their South by Southwest appearance this year. Signing to Kemado Records, as the band prepares to release its sophomore full-length, As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth, raises the stakes. The album isn't even out yet, and the band already has scored more national press with the new disc than they ever earned with their phenomenal 2008 debut. Expect that to continue: After SXSW, the band will embark on an East Coast tour with fellow Texans ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and buzzing Floridian rockers Surfer Blood. If this trio's unique "stonegaze" offering of heavy, unrelenting noise and subversively gorgeous melodies scores well at South by, that tour will be among the most sought-after tickets this spring.
12:30 a.m. at Antone's (213 W. 5th St.)
So you think Old 97's shows in Dallas are parties, huh? You clearly haven't seen the alt-country darlings perform before their adoring Austin crowds, then. Proof? How about the fact that the 97's scored one of the premier time slots at one of the festival's premier venues? Still riding high off the fall release of their best record in years, The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1, the first in a series of two releases (the second of which will earn its release later this year), the 97's are currently enjoying the biggest acclaim of their career—since the No Depression era, at least.
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Saturday, March 19
8:45 p.m. at Easy Tiger (709 E. 6th St.)
There wasn't much anticipation for Mind Spiders' self-titled debut EP last summer—mostly because, well, no one was expecting it. Here it came regardless, like a blast of retro-leaning, lo-fi garage pop-punk to the head, proving once more the talents of Denton's Mark Ryan, formerly of Denton's much-beloved punk heroes The Marked Men. Easily the biggest surprise of 2010, and among the best area releases to boot, the EP featured only four songs and barely lasted 10 minutes—and yet that's all it needed. Concise and hook-filled, it showcased Ryan's home production talents and unquestionable ear. His self-titled, full-length debut, released in January, only built upon this strong base. Utilizing the same elements of the EP (and recycling some melodies), the LP expands even into borderline New Wave territories. And the live show hardly disappoints: Backed by two drummers and a cast of Denton punk rock all-stars (featuring members of Bad Sports, High Tension Wires, VIDEO and the Uptown Bums), Ryan blasts through his material with the same fervor that he does on record. It's brash and fast—and yet more than enough to stand out among the blur of SXSW's other offerings.