Chances are if you're scrolling through this post on our humble little site here, you won't be joining the bombastic corporate-cultural spectacle that is South by Southwest, the annual music, film, comedy and tech festival that swallows up downtown Austin every spring. Maybe you've had one too many years of batting gridlock on I-35. Perhaps you are dismayed by the creep of Silicon Valley-style capitalism that has encroached upon our weird sister city. Or you might be the dumbest music journalist in Houston, who once again forgot to apply for her press credentials in time (just me?).
Nah. We all know the real reason you're not going to SXSW: You're broke. Few of us everyday Houstonians have $700 to blow on SXSW passes, nor do we have $300 a night to stay in someone's quirky Airstream trailer. But that doesn't mean that you have to spend the festival crying into your snap story, mourning all the amazing shows that you are missing. Some amazing up-and-coming SXSW artists are making tour stops here, giving us a taste of the fine music the festival has to offer. Below you'll find a list of the ten best SXSW shows who are coming through H-town. Be sure to check out at least one or two; you know we won't get lineups like this again until ACL.
Downtown Boys (top), Sneaks, Giant Kitty
Walters Downtown, March 10
Downtown Boys are a punk band forged in the crucible of Trump's America; raw, rugged and politically awake, the six-piece bilingual act made a name for itself with its punchy, gritty tracks and its confrontation of SXSW immigration policies. Even though the band hails from Providence, Rhode Island, the group's sound and aesthetic screams Houston. With edgy yet ebullient tracks that critique xenophobia, rising inequality and state-sponsored violence, the group is revitalizing the punk genre by infusing it with the 21st century's most serious political problems. Combine those sounds with the stripped-down lo-fi post-punk of Sneaks and the city's very own Giant Kitty, and this show is sure to rip through Walters Downtown.
March 10, Notsuoh
Austin's Darkbird bills itself as solely a "rock band," but that description wrongly lumps the group in with a genre overwhelmed by meh. Indeed, the extraordinary vocal talents of songwriter Kelly Barnes and the keyboard flourishes of Michael Martinez make Darkbird more than the sum of its rock-genre parts. Their 2015 EP I Remember Feeling My Fingers Slip is tight and creative, demonstrating technical mastery without getting bloated. This band isn't going to be playing hole-in-the-wall venues for very long, so take the chance to see them at Notsuoh while you still have the chance.
Ugly God, Wintertime
March 12, The Studio @ Warehouse Live
Ugly God isn't heading to Houston so much as he is leaving for SXSW. The local rapper has broken out of the beltway, cresting a wave of Internet stardom driven by his queer brand of aggressive self-deprecation. His single "Water" is a trap triumph; released as a Soundcloud stream, it has since amassed more than 72 million streams, registered on the Billboard charts and earned the artist a contract with Asylum. But beyond his beats, Ugly God is a personality worth seeing live. His shameless fetishes (Pokémon, feet, etc.) and his effusive ownership of being fake make for a one-of-a-kind H-town concert.
March 12, White Oak Music Hall
Kane Strang embodies all the best qualities of indie singer-songwriters minus the prissy affectations. His music is upbeat even as it explores familiar sad-guy heartaches, eschewing bitterness for a clear-eyed portrayal of life as a rootless youth. Songs like "Things Are Never Simple" and "The Canyon Her River Carved" off his 2016 album Blue Cheese also recall a '60s Britpop aesthetic, complete with bending harmonies and an analog DIY sound. If you hopped on the Car Seat Headrest bandwagon last year, or if you can't get enough of a white guy singing with a guitar, than Kane Strang is the show for you to see.
Durand Jones & the Indications
March 12, Under the Volcano
If you like your soul music served straight-up with no chaser, then Durand Jones & the Indications is the band for you. The group gives us a fresh take on an old-school style, but they don't reinvent the R&B wheel. Instead, the band perfects the genre's essential elements, creating songs that are deep but still get you dancing up on your feet. The voice of lead singer Durand Jones is sultry and inviting like a Louisiana summer, and the brassy Indications earn their billing as "the baddest soul band in all the land." If you've been missing our beloved The Suffers (who have been jet-setting on their European tour lately), this band is a worthy substitute.
yoke lore, pronoun
March 13, Super Happy Fun Land
yoke lore is the indie dance-party dream boy whom you're bound to fall in love with; his songs are soaring and tender, indulging in electro-ballad tropes with youthful abandon. With each synthesized handclap, with each lo-fi guitar chord, yoke lore is well on his way to creating the kind of anthems that define a generation. His debut EP, Far Shore, demonstrates remarkable range and composition while still staying true to his indie folk identity. His upcoming show at Houston's quirkiest venue, Super Happy Fun Land, alongside the upbeat emo of pronoun, will make for the authentic underground concert experience that the hyper-commodified SXSW just can't muster anymore.
Sad13, Stef Chura, T-Rextasy
March 13, Walters Downtown
The concrete walls of Walters might not be strong enough to contain the righteous feminist talent bursting from this show. There'll be Sad13, the ruminative and bubbly solo alter ego of Speedy Otiz's Sadie DuPuis. There'll be Stef Chura, whose garroted singing style and finger-picked guitar blend into songs both bitter and determined. And there'll be T-Rextasy, the post-adolescent riot grrrls whose music is fearless, friendly and full of good punk fun. All of these artists would be worth seeing in their own right, as all of them offer a unvarnished look at their personal lives as women. But put together, this show will be nothing short of cathartic.
March 14, The Secret Group
MC Lars is a rapper with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. His songs, inspired by the parody genre of Weird Al Yankovic, bounce through a catalog of nerdy topics: Shakespeare, '90s ska music, Internet relationships and ancillary early-season Simpsons characters. Even though MC Lars plays his music for laughs, there's wit and craftsmanship in his work, revealing an endeavor the artist clearly takes seriously. Further, his latest release, Donald Trump Has Really Bad Morals, shows that the rapper's wit is evolving to perform real social critiques. Be sure to see this show if you're looking for a quick-witted musical take on pop culture and politics.
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March 14, White Oak Music Hall
The first time you hear Nick Hakim's voice, you're transported. Mixing soulful tones with Brooklyn-style electronic beats, Hakim creates a sound that you can sink into with enough complexity to merit listen after listen. His debut double EP, Where Will We Go, was wise beyond its years, and the single "Bet She Looks Like You," from his upcoming album Green Twins, is an intriguing harbinger of the artist's music to come. Hakim is sure to deliver a show both intimate and heartfelt, with lots of subtle embellishments that would be hard to catch in the din of SXSW. Go, relax and enjoy the magic.
Eureka California, Feather Trade
March 15, Walters Downtown
When life has handed you too many complications, you need music that simplifies things. That's where the band Eureka California comes in, an Athens, Georgia, group whose stripped-down, amped-up beach-rock could straighten out any twisted listener. Anchored by Jake Ward and Marie Uhler, the band plays songs that are hard and rough in all the right ways, with just enough refinement to keep things interesting. Tack on their fellow Athens rock outfit Feather Trade, who will join them at the Walters show, and you've got a good recipe for a night that will drive everyone to rock out.