As we've mentioned before, most things involving the music business are subject to change up to the point when they actually happen, and even then, you can't always be sure. There is perhaps no better example of this than the annual South by Southwest Music Festival, which happens this year March 15-19 in Austin. The entire shindig is often overshadowed by rumored performances -- the more unlikely, the better -- that never come off and by scheduled showcases that never happen. Example: A few years ago, a band from Malibu suckered in enough people to pack Emo's on a Sunday night, simply by starting the so-ridiculous-it-might-be-true rumor that it was actually a group featuring Bridget Fonda, Phoebe Cates, and Sandra Bullock, rather than four overweight and undertalented musicians playing below-average bar rock. We're not very proud of ourselves for falling for that one, but, hey, Phoebe Cates was hot in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and we weren't really doing anything else at the time. That is, at least, how we've justified it to ourselves.
It remains to be seen how many of this year's attendees will pull out at the last minute, and for now, the rumor mill has only produced reports of a Flatlanders reunion gig, which doesn't seem so special now that the band has embarked on a short tour. Organizers are probably having too much trouble booking the usual slate of guests to start worrying about the special ones yet. Take one look at the festival's preliminary list of scheduled performers, available at www.sxsw.com, and it's obvious SXSW organizers have quite a bit of t-crossing and i-dotting left before the conference kicks off in a little more than a month. For instance, we couldn't help but notice that the recently departed Buck Jones is still listed among the bands scheduled to perform, though we were under the impression the group played its final show a few weeks back at the Curtain Club. Then again, maybe the group is merely trying to set the record for the shortest breakup, previously held by Hagfish and its six-month stint on the sidelines.
Whether Buck Jones' inclusion on the list was a clerical error or not, there are a handful of other area bands performing at this year's installment of the fest. Also making the three-hour trip are The Adventures of Jet, Brave Combo, Captain Audio, Jason Carney, Centro-matic, Free Agents, Blue Sky Black, Kim Lenz and her Jaguars, Mandarin, The Nixons, Pleasant Grove, Clebo Rainey, Reverend Horton Heat, Shabazz 3, Slobberbone, Speedealer, Stumptone, Sub Oslo, and Sugarbomb. Dallas expatriates Josh and Misch McKay and their Athens-based band Macha will also play a showcase, as will Seattle's Barrett Martin Sextet, which features former Brave Combo percussionist Joe Cripps. They join performers such as Elliott Smith, Mark Eitzel, former Urge Overkill frontman Nash Kato, Catherine Wheel, Screaming Trees, Steve Earle, the Meat Puppets, and Joe Pernice, among others.
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If you're thinking that this year's lineup isn't quite as enticing as usual, well, we've got a gold star for your chart -- you're way ahead of us. And since a handful of Austin clubs have closed since last year's edition (Liberty Lunch and Electric Lounge, to name a couple), we're not entirely sure there is enough room for all of the bands anyway. Wristbands go on sale for $75 on February 24, until the price is raised to $95 on March 10. Unless you have a natural predilection for cell-phone chatter, drunken record-label executives, and wading through shaky sets by sketchy bands, we suggest you stay here; all the bands worth seeing will probably end up playing somewhere in Dallas or Denton that week anyway. As for us, we'll be taking one for the team. We're gluttons for punishment...and free bourbon-and-Cokes.