This will be my fourth South by Southwest festival in a row, and that does not an expert make. Still, I have a relatively decent grasp on the way things go down in Texas this week and am not afraid to throw some guesses into the wind.
1. The fest continues to burst at the seams
You know you’ve got a crowd problem when companies are strapping Wi-Fi hotspots to homeless people and having them wander around to crowded areas. Last year, I spoke to a cab driver who has lived in Austin for over 30 years and she says SXSW keeps getting crazier and crazier. I’ve felt the crowds grow in the short period I’ve been attending: lines grow longer, hotels get snapped up a year in advance and trying to get one of those taxis late at night is harder than getting into the Bruce Springsteen show this year. Eventually, something has got to give. Will this year be that year?
2. The Lumineers begin their year of domination
Locals the Lumineers are set to release their self-titled debut on April 3. But, before they do, they’re got some industry folks to impress in Austin. I’ve had the chance to check the record out and fans of everything from Mumford & Sons to Edward Sharpe or even Bill Monroe will find something to jiggle a cowboy spur to. It’s catchy and approachable, and might just win them fans across the country.
3. The celeb du jour will be Todd Barry
Last year Aziz Ansari was everywhere. The year before Bill Murray was as ubiquitous as Lone Star tall boys. This year, I’m betting on Todd Barry to be all over Austin. He has a few stand-up gigs at the fest and, according to his site, his next show isn’t until March 23 in New York. Additionally, Barry is a music fan (his Fugazi send-up is classic) and when I lived in New York, I would see the dude at bars on a monthly basis. He has the ability to just be there. Here’s hoping he and his deadpan humor are all over SXSW.
Side note: If you’re not familiar with Barry, check out his Twitter feed. He frequently participates in trending topics and, in one fell swoop, subversively skewers the subject, participants and creators. Example Tweet: #SongsThatCancelEachOtherOut “I Like Chinese Food” – The Beatles // “I Don’t Like Chinese Food” – The Rolling Stones.
4. And you shall know her name is Claire Boucher
Grimes has been around for a bit, but Claire Boucher’s act is about to become a household name. Her recent release, “Visions,” is chock full of fresh beats and has already been critically-lauded. But the current tour has only taken her to a handful of cities in the South. Before she hits the East Coast and plots a full summer sojourn, the national press at SXSW is going ramp up their drooling. I count at least four performances in Austin as well as one awesome new music video:
5. Punk rock is king
If 2011 was the year of the ladies, perhaps this year will be dominated by groups like the Men. That Brooklyn outfit plays SXSW, as does Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings; both have released excellent albums already this year. Titus Andronicus and Off! play, too, and both are expected to unveil new full-lengths in 2012. Some of them play concise, angular tunes while others favor epics. All have roots in punk and are a breath of fresh air after the Year of Adele.
Going to Austin this year? RSVP to the Reverb Party @ SXSW!