There are no limits in a city like Austin, and a music festival like South by Southwest, where Romanesque hype is easily built and destroyed in a day. Thousands of musicians, fans, journalists and industry types will flock to this annual rite of spring (which kicks off March 12), including more than a dozen acts with San Diego ties.
Local icons like A.J. Croce and Steve Poltz have little to prove—or gain, really—with their SXSW appearances. It's less predictable what acts like Tristan Prettyman, Earthless, Roses on Her Grave and Kush & Bloodfiyah Angels will take away from Austin, other than a gold star on their résumés. But there are several artists with local affiliations who have a lot to gain (and, in some cases, lose) in the Texas sun. Here they are:
It's somewhat fitting, in an off-kilter “Austin, Massachusetts” kind of way (no, I'm not ashamed to quote from Road Trip), that the San Diego musicians who struck gold with “Boston” would use Austin to stage a resurgence. The band's single—and its piano-surfing video—seized the airwaves in 2005 but eventually got lost in The Fray. Now, with a new EP on iTunes, a new album on the way and two SXSW shows (including one with Old 97's), Augustana can prove they're not a one-name, one-town, one-hit wonder.
Delta Spirit may ambiguously claim “The core of the Earth” as their hometown on MySpace (and, less ambiguously, “Orange County” in the SXSW program), but they're going to have to do better than that to sever their San Diego connection. In the meantime, with the band's debut Ode to Sunshine getting Daytrotter props and four SXSW shows lined up (including stage-sharing with Nada Surf, Be Your Own Pet and The Black Keys), we'll claim Delta as hometown kids done good and poised to do even, uh, gooder.
Let's be honest. San Diego treats the mainstream success of acts like P.O.D. and Switchfoot with a conflicted mix of regional pride and haughty dismissal. That same (often contrived) contempt for “commercial” artists is pervasive at SXSW. Foreman couldn't distance himself from Switchfoot if he tried—he's billed in the festival program as “Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot)”—but he can prove his singer/songwriter mettle (and promote his solid, if a tad self-indulgent, four-part EP project) with a SXSW slot opening for Nicole Atkins and The Vines.
Grand Ole Party
Touring with Rilo Kiley and opening for New York Dolls might be small 'taters compared to the kind of buzz GOP could generate in Austin. Locals might be getting a little hype-weary, but the band is nevertheless poised for national attention with a new album (Humanimals), an upcoming Coachella slot and at least six SXSW shows that will pair GOP with the likes of The Von Bondies, Helio Sequence, Rogue Wave and The Lemonheads. In addition, the band is on a monster bill that includes The Breeders, Yeasayer, NOFX, Black Mountain and Kimya Dawson for a splinter festival called Mess With Texas 2. In short, if ever there were a time for a breakout, this is it.
This is all about momentum for Laswell. After racking up critical acclaim for the 2006 album Through Toledo and earning song placement on various television shows (including Shark, The Hills, Without a Trace and Smallville), the multi-dimensional singer/songwriter can use his brief SXSW stop as a touchstone for his current, highly popular Hotel Café Tour (with Ingrid Michaelson, Cary Brothers and Sara Bareilles, among others) and as a launching pad for his just-released EP, How the Day Sounds.
The Muslims are seemingly the least equipped for making a big splash at SXSW, considering they have no direct label or publicity support, no official album to peddle and relatively little name recognition outside San Diego. And yet the band has ample opportunities to create self-generated buzz with five shows in four days, including an in-store at Cheapo Discs, an all-ages acoustic show at the University of Texas, a party sponsored by Vice Records and an official showcase with the likes of Jaymay, Young Lords and Blacklist.
The Night Marchers
After fronting Rocket from the Crypt and Hot Snakes, John Reis is looking to catch lightning in a bottle for a third time (or 10th, if you count his numerous other projects) as he and The Night Marchers hit up SXSW (playing a bill with Dan Sartain and The Boss Martians) and the Mess With Texas 2 festival in advance of their upcoming debut, See You in Magic.
Transfer has more foundation to work with (U.K. tour, BBC Radio One airplay, the newish Sunken Eyes EP) than The Muslims, but they're floating in a similar DIY boat. Their chances to shine include slots at another splinter festival (Texas Rockfest) and a SXSW party (featuring fellow up-and-comers The Crash Moderns) hosted at a taco bar. The bottom line for Transfer (and, really, all the fledgling San Diego acts) is to generate as much interest this year as GOP did last year so that they can be squarely in the SXSW spotlight next year.