I Folking Love SXSW 2012: Acts to Watch After the Fest

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There's an electricity in the air around certain bands. It's the ionic charge of a precise, practiced act on the cusp of becoming huge. Alabama Shakes are a lightning bolt. Just as the Shakes finished their knee-melter set at the Aquarium Drunkard day party, a friend put his hand on my shoulder and said, "This is one of those 'remember when you were there' moments."

Truth.There were a few stunners from day two who, like the Shakes, burned past the hype. A stiff breeze is waiting to push these acts into full-on stardom. If not, they were just the acts that blew the living doors off their respective SXSW shows. Either way, they're worth following.

The Futurebirds This Athens, Georgia group proudly wears their country rock badge. They're a straightforward American rock band, and their performance at the Hype Hotel (at 504 Trinity), was enormous. Songs like "Yur Not Dead," from their 2010 album Hampton's Lullaby and "MJB" from their EP were thunderous gifts from the folk rock gods.

Joe Pug Pug'll be around Dallas on April 20, opening for Jason Isbell at Club Dada. It's a must-attend show, and here's why: Pug is the real deal. He's a hard working, boot-stomping performer. A raw talent, and his late-night performance at St. David's Bethel Hall held every indicator. Pug worked brand new songs and blasted country music stereotypes with "Nation of Heat" and "Messenger."

Cotton Jones In the wake of ocean-washed bands like Real Estate, it's a damn mystery why Cumberland, Maryland's Cotton Jones haven't become as popular. They have the same dreamy sound, and they're as musically reliable as the denim they wear.

Alabama Shakes Mark it: This band is about to be big, if they're not already. Like, My Morning Jacket big. Lead singer Brittany Howard has a can't-miss, soul-brightening howl. At the Aquarium Drunkard showcase, where Hype Machine's live feed had mislabeled the band "Alabama Snakes," it was an unforgettable showcase of the band's many blues-rock talents.

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