The most overwhelming, exciting, hectic week of the year is nearly upon us, which means more than 300,000 musicians, thinkers, artists, comedians and creative types of all stripes will soon flock to Austin, Texas for 10 days of music, panels, film and breakfast tacos. South By Southwest is the annual convergence of artists and industry folks that takes over Austin, and this year’s festival kicks off Friday, March 8, and continues on through Sunday, March 17. If you can’t make it to Texas this year, don’t fret: Paste will be there amid all the Lone Star consumption and 70-degree temperatures covering the action. We’re also relocating our NYC studio setup for the week to the Riverview Bungalow, where we’ll be live-streaming artist sessions straight to you from Austin. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check back daily for all the best of SXSW 2019.
In addition to our live sessions, we’ll be scouring the artist showcases in search of great new music. Below, we’ve rounded up 20 of the many, many artists (listed in alphabetical order) we’re excited to see at this year’s SXSW. Carve out an hour or two and check them out—you might even find your new favorite band.
For the full lineup, check out the official SXSW schedule.
1. Bad Moves
Long live power-pop! I can’t get enough of that spry, shreddy sound, and Washington D.C.’s Bad Moves put their own superb punk spin on it. Their debut LP, Tell No One, is heaps of fun, even as these four friends sing about the mundanity of young adulthood, failed relationships and the long arm of childhood. But these part-time punks make it all sound like a hoopla as opposed to a drag, churning out the cathartic, jubilant kind of rock ‘n’ roll that never goes out of style. —Ellen Johnson
2. Black Belt Eagle Scout
As subgenres bloom and bloom, it seems a greater number of more diverse identities are being spotlighted than ever before. One of those storytellers is Portland-based Katherine Paul, who released her debut album, Mother of My Children, as Black Belt Eagle Scout in August. Paul has a knack for making very specific, personal anecdotes feel universal. She grew up on a tiny Indian reservation in Washington, and her indigenous identity is perhaps what informs her musings on nature and our relationship to it. Paul says something of the sort herself in a press note: “My music and my identity come from the same foundation of being a Native woman.” On album standout “Indians Never Die,” Paul begs us to look up and pay attention. “Do you ever notice what surrounds you?” she asks. And on lead-off track “Soft Stud” a marvelously fuzzed-out rock lean-in, Paul goes for the personal, singing “Need you, want you” over and over, perfectly summing up the desperate feelings surrounding new, perhaps forbidden, love. If the onslaught of new subgenres means we get to hear more voices like Paul’s, bring. them. on. —Ellen Johnson
3. Black Midi
A year ago, word was spreading like fire about the live shows of a London band called Black Midi, despite their lack of any studio recordings and a nonexistent social media presence. Since that time, Black Midi released their debut single, signed to Rough Trade, recorded a KEXP session and released their first EP, Speedway. Their sullen mix of noise and math rock, marked by freakishly intricate guitars, is unparalleled—they make you rethink everything you thought you knew about guitar playing. —Lizzie Manno
Nigerian-born and London-based MC Flohio spits bars with a scrappy, menacing force. With glaring beats and glitching synths inspired by techno, grime and hip-hop, Flohio’s recent singles and 2018 EP, Wild Yout, embody a raging energy. While her lyricism reflects an unwavering confidence in her talent (“Smash glass ceilings and I’ll take my cut”), it also underlies her shy outsider status (“I’m like this carpet, I’m faded / Feedin’ my ego, should wanna be famous”) and her embrace of her inner city upbringing (“Grenfell tower couldn’t burn me out”). —Lizzie Manno
5. Fontaines D.C.
Irish post-punk outfit Fontaines D.C. recently announced the details of their highly anticipated debut album, Dogrel, out April 12 via Partisan Records. With singles like “Too Real,” “Chequeless Reckless” and “Big,” Fontaines D.C. make brisk, snappy post-punk with the heart of a lion. You shouldn’t write off frontman Grian Chatten’s speak-sing vocals—he packs just as much gritty ardor into his impassioned, poetic proclamations as throaty punk howlers. —Lizzie Manno
6. Honey Lung
London four-piece Honey Lung have consistently churned out hyper-melodic rock with heart and bite, and it’s not a stretch to say they’re writing fiery, tender rock better than any young band out there today. Memory, their recent 12-inch release via Brooklyn’s Kanine Records, consists of eight well-crafted songs—half of them singles and half demos—each with mind-bogglingly dynamic hooks and punchy riffs. —Lizzie Manno
7. illuminati hotties
On their Facebook page, illuminati hotties’ “genre” description simply reads “post-naptime burrito-core.” To that end, the L.A. band’s jubilant rock would probably pair well with Mexican foods of all varieties, but not so much a midday nap. Jokes aside, illuminati hotties make extremely likeable indie-rock seeped in millennial joy and angst. The group, a relatively new project from longtime studio musician Sarah Tudzin, released Kiss Yr Frenemies, Tudzin’s first record under the moniker, in May of last year. Now, Tudzin and “a rotating selection of her bffs” (guitarist Nathaniel Noton-Freeman, bassist Dean Kiner and drummer Tim Kmet) are sharing bills with artists like Lucy Dacus and American Football. —Ellen Johnson
8. Laura Stevenson
Laura Stevenson is now in the business of making inquisitive, intimate folk music, a slight departure from the bigger sounds on her most recent album, 2015’s Cocksure. The tunes we’ve heard so far from her forthcoming LP, The Big Freeze, are delicate and searching, though not-at-all lacking. “Living Room, NY” is a beautiful, full-bodied pursuit of connection, enough to convince me of both her observational and instrumental intuition. I can’t wait to hear her voice fill up some small, crowded room in Austin. —Ellen Johnson
9. Matt Maltese
British singer/songwriter Matt Maltese’s piano-centric, self-described “Brexit pop” is both brutally relevant and playfully retro. His Jonathan Rado-produced debut album Bad Contestant is filled with failed nightclub romances, post-modern gripes and velvet-cloaked metaphors of apocalypse, all through the lens of sultry, retro pop and delivered with his baritone croon and distinctly British wit. —Lizzie Manno
10. Miya Folick
It’s not often that a singer has such a powerful voice that they transcend whatever genre they’re unwillingly lumped into. Los Angeles pop singer/songwriter Miya Folick is a rare, welcome example. Her 2018 debut album Premonitions showcases her ability to handcraft everyday situations into something angelic yet relatable and celebratory yet poignant. Her appeal extends well beyond the realms of pop as there’s a distinct, developed lyrical voice and a dynamic, extraordinary literal voice that makes 2018 feel much less scary and isolating and much more pure and magical. —Lizzie Manno