This year’s South by Southwest Festival is sure to be the biggest and best yet. From the panel discussions during the SXSW Interactive week (Notables: “Building Your Shelter Dog’s Brand Through Twitter,” “Can Your iPad Love You Back?”) to the metric tons of music acts, it’s hard to know what’s worth watching. With over 16,000,000 bands performing on over 143 stages, there’s almost too much to take in. Here’s a guide to help you catch the Next Big Thing and avoid the shows that are No Big Deal.
Band Name: The Tiny Kings
Bio: The Tiny Kings is a trio of toddlers that were fed nothing but Ecstasy pills and breast milk since the day they were born. Their live shows involve each child sitting in front of a laptop and pounding at the keyboard with Garage Band and iTunes open. Their first album Mommy is the seminal recording in the microgenre of “Babymash.”
Signature Lyric: “No no no no no no no no pascetti.”
Famous Fans: Strangely, The Tiny Kings’ frantic beatmaking is a siren song for former child stars. Last month, Dustin Diamond, Jodie Sweetin, and Emmanuel Lewis were all seen holding each other and crying at TTK’s album release show at Terminal 5 in Manhattan.
Verdict: Not to be missed.
Band Name: The Kelseys
Bio: Sisters Kelsey and Kelsey Thurmon, founders of pansexual commune “Gropetown,” front this power-pop trio that also features their percussionist/ concubine Ross Geldon-Thurmon. The three run an old-school Vegas-style revue that is frequently hampered by their backup dancers’ and musicians’ leaving the group, citing “too much drama in this love nonagon, or whatever you call a nine-sided orgy.” The Kelseys are finalists for this year’s prestigious Mercury Prize.
Signature Lyric: “I wanna love you and you alone/ All of you”
Famous Fans: Bret Easton Ellis is reported to have escorted Kelsey, Kelsey, Ross, an unnamed man holding a cello, the Vassar College women’s rugby team, and Michael Jackson’s skeleton past the doorman of a swanky SoHo apartment building one night last fall.
Verdict: A must-see.
Band Name: &$#@% (Pronounced “Charlie Brown’s Curse”)
Bio: All the band members sport shaved heads, with one squiggly strand of hair curled across the forehead. &$#@% is not to be confused with Homer and the Simpsons, a white supremacist nationalist punk band whose members each have three long strands of hair combed over the scalp from left to right. &$#@% plays pretty standard “ghost twee,” the genre wherein the lead singer makes kissy sounds directly into the microphone while the rest of the group makes spooky cooing noises in the background.
Signature Lyric: “(Wooooooooooo) mwah!/ (Wooooo) mwah mwah!”
Famous Fans: Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal sat in on slide whistle on &$#@%’s last tour. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips produced their first EP The Bathtub Sessions.
Verdict: See this show even if you have to sell your own mother’s kidney medicine.
Band Name: Blaqfais
Bio: A 19-year-old Ottowa rapper who performs in actual blackface, Blaqfais is making waves outside the typical hip hop establishment. Born and raised in the suburbs of Canada’s capital, the young artist (nee Trevor Anderson) has garnered legions of adoring, Caucasian fans. While Jesse Jackson has decried Blaqfais as “the most racist thing to happen in America since Hurricane Katrina,” the rapper’s supporters defend his lyrics, which are rife with racial and homophobic slurs, as “satire.”
Signature Lyric: “Beats is dope/Lyrics is sick/Any &$#@% who disagrees can choke on my &$#@%” (Curse words redacted not to be confused with the band &$#@%.)
Famous Fans: Though Blackfais is signed to Eminem’s Shady Records label, no one at Shady was available for comment. Tyler the Creator calls Blackfais “a wack ass style biting chump.” But admits the video where B-Fais crucifies a fat, gay Jesus on a cross made of human bones was “pretty dope, yo.”
Verdict: Biologically imperative you see this act.
Band Name: Demon Fart
Bio: Demon Fart was formed when Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell’s weekly jam sessions blossomed into a full-fledged death metal side project. Sandler plays guitar. Ferrell plays cowbell, obviously. Legendary axe man Yngwie Malmsteen shreds on the album (Fart Cave). Dave Grohl often joins the crew on drums. Needless to say, Rob Schneider and Steve Buscemi switch off on bass.
Signature Lyric: “You’ll be headed to an early grave/ Once you enter THE FART CAVE!”
Famous Fans: Jack Black and Barack Obama
Verdict: A vanity project. Must see. Seven stars out of five.
Band Name: Oceana
Bio: Oceana is an eleven-piece group consisting of ten guitar players and one guy with an iPad. During live performances, all ten guitar players simultaneously improvise riffs, chords, and melodies directly into the iPad’s hard drive. The audience sits in silent anticipation. Then, after an hour of quiet, the band’s last member presses play. The audience is treated to sixty minutes of ten-guitar cacophony (a sound they call “beyond thunderdrone”) while the band leaves the stage to use heroin in the green room.
Signature Lyric: One hour of bone-crunching feedback.
Famous Fans: Beck, the guy from Wavves, Drew Barrymore, Stephen Hawking, Deep Blue, Miranda July, Mel Gibson, Slimer from Ghostbusters
Verdict: Transcendent/ Sublime