Can't-Miss Dallas-Area Bands to Catch at SXSW

Well, it's mid-March, so it must be time again for South by Southwest, that annual rite of spring, and all that it entails—barbecues, beer, badges, buzz bands and, ah yes, big-ass blisters on your feet from standing around all day watching music and hightailing it from one part of downtown Austin to the other.

Which reminds us: If you're heading down to Austin this year for the festival or any of the surrounding day-parties and non-sanctioned events, remember to bring comfortable sneakers. And keep these local acts in mind. By our account, they're the ones best-positioned to create some buzz at this year's event.

Bosque Brown (Fort Worth)

Genre: Americana

Just one more time, for clarity's sake, let's point it out: Bosque Brown? That's the band's name. Mara Lee Miller? That's the name of Bosque Brown's frontwoman.

It's easy to understand why there's some confusion: On 2005's Bosque Brown Plays Mara Lee Miller, the songs were somewhat subdued, wholly contingent on the strength of Miller's strong, twangy voice. But on the just-released Baby, the band showcases a different side: Namely, the fact that it holds more members than just Miller. Produced by The Baptist Generals' Chris Flemmons (who you can also see at SXSW this year), Bosque Brown's sophomore effort finds Miller's captivating drawl adorned by lush piano, pedal steel and acoustic guitar flourishes. It's a fuller sound, for sure, but it hardly overwhelms Miller's vocals; rather, the disc bolsters her voice and shows just how strong her songwriting is.

Live, too, the band fascinates with its instrumentation and performance—surprising, maybe, because it appears to do so effortlessly.

Fat Pimp (Dallas)

Genre: Hip-hop

Of all the Dallas hip-hop artists whose stock has risen substantially over the past year with the regional and national successes of the D-Town Boogie (The GS Boyz, B-Hamp, Lil Wil, T-Willz), Fat Pimp stands out because, well, his voice doesn't need the sometimes-gimmicky sound to rely upon.

With a voice that comes across as assertive and powerful on record, Fat Pimp's future looks pretty solid at this point: His lone Boogie track, "Rack Daddy," was perhaps the biggest of the local D-Town Boogie smashes in '08, but he's still yet to release his debut album. Why? Because he's still working on it, making sure his run goes past the Boogie craze. If anyone's got a chance to outlast the Boogie, Fat Pimp's odds are as good as anyone else's.

Sarah Jaffe (Dallas)

Genre: Folk

Most every Dallasite with even the slightest amount of local music scene acumen is already familiar with the charms of Jaffe's vocals and finger-picked guitar. And if her recent successes are any indication of what's still to come for the local folk singer, well, the future is quite bright.

Jaffe's debut Even Born Again EP, released last summer, proudly declared to those who've come to adore her stage show that Jaffe's voice translates quite nicely to record too, thanks. NPR thought so when it gave her a Song of the Day nod in early autumn. And, as Jaffe prepares her debut full-length for release later in 2009, surely she and her fans can expect more accolades to come. This SXSW date should only further cement that hope.

Matthew and the Arrogant Sea (Denton)

Genre: Folk/psychedelic

Equal parts Flaming Lips and Fleet Foxes, Matthew and the Arrogant Sea's debut release, last year's Family Family Family Meets the Magic Christian, blends oddball wordplay, mature vocal harmonies and a washed-out recording style so well that it's almost unbelievable that the band hasn't yet found fame outside of the North Texas circuit. Perhaps, though, that's simply a matter of the band not having yet played too many dates outside of the metroplex.

That gets rectified with this Austin date where the band should find itself playing to a whole new crowd of interested ears—some surely drawn in by the positive press the disc has earned in the blogosphere and from Paste magazine.

True Widow (Dallas)

Genre: Rock

Now for something completely different: After years of alt-country and other brands of twang taking the dominant regional role, and with the dearth of quality area rock bands becoming more and more evident in the day-to-day of the local music scene, finally—finally!—locals with a heavier taste have a respectable talent to call their own. True Widow—Dan Phillips, Nicole Estill and Timothy Sta—has crafted a sound that blends the slowcore and shoegaze sounds of yore to great success; late last year, the band's debut, self-titled release reached as high as No. 11 on the CMJ radio charts.

And, impressive as the record may be, the live show is even more so. Wave upon wave of bass and droning guitar lines engulf you—and the entire room for that matter—so much so that it's almost unbearable. And then, ever so faintly, you hear the subtle, hauntingly beautiful melodies that make the record such a pleasing listen. It's impossibly compelling, and, at this point, criminally underappreciated. Look for SXSW to change that.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman