Every March, tens of thousands of fans (and a couple thousand bands) descend on the annual music festival in downtown Austin, Texas, eager to both see their favorite stars as well as discover some new acts. As the festival has expanded through the decades (more than 25,000 people lined up in 2013 to see 2,278 groups), SXSW has emerged as a must-stop destination for up-and-comers. Today, it’s where bands launch their national tours and unveil their newest album.
Even if you’re not heading to Austin for the party (set to run March 11-16), you can still use the occasion to scout new talent. Here’s an early playlist of 14 bands (listed alphabetically) that caught our attention, an eclectic mix that reflects the many sounds and styles of SXSW 2014:
1. Ava Luna
The New York-based funk-rock ensemble performs at SXSW March 13. Above, their song “Daydream.”
2. Damon Albarn
The English musician and producer (of Blur and Gorillaz fame) will be performing tracks from his first solo record (Everyday Robots) March 14. Above, the album's title track.
3. Dum Dum Girls
The Los Angeles-based synth-rock group (part garage band, part new wave), plays SXSW March 14. Above, their new song "Lost Boys and Girls Club."
4. Good for Grapes
The Canadian indie-folk group plays SXSW March 14. Above, their new song "Skipping Stone."
5. Ha Ha Tonka
The southern rock band with Missouri roots performs March 13. Above, their song "Colorful Kids."
6. Hurray For The Riff Raff
The New Orleans folk-rock group plays SXSW March 14. Above, their song "Look Out Mama."
7. The Kite String Tangle
The electronic solo effort of Australian artist Danny Harley storms SXSW March 15. Above, the new song "Given the Chance."
8. Lost In The Trees
The North Carolina-based folk-pop band made a big splash at last year’s SXSW; this year they return with a much bigger (and richer) sound March 12. Above, the title track to their new album Past Life.
9. Mutual Benefit
The Brooklyn collective helmed by Jordan Lee will perform its mix of fleeting pop ballads March 12. Above, the song "Advanced Falconry."
The Wisconsin indie pop band performs March 14. Their new song "Espeon" (above) showcases singer Monica Martin's impressive range.
11. Sleeper Agent
The kinetic Kentucky pop band performs March 13. Above, their song "Waves."
12. Sturgill Simpson
The Tennessee-based honky-tonk crooner performs March 15. Above, his catchy new tune "Railroad of Sin."
13. Sylvan Esso
This North Carolina duo (built atop Amelia Meath’s lush vocals and Nick Sanborn’s subtle electronics) plays SXSW March 12. Above, their debut "Hey Mami."
14. Touch Sensitive
The Australian electronic dance troupe performs March 15. Above, their song "Pizza Guy."
–With reporting by Nate Jones and Katie Kauss