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Rocks Off's Must-See Music Picks For SXSW '11

UPDATED to include Adam P. Newton's picks (3/15, 10:02 a.m.)

As you may have heard, there's a teeny-tiny little music festival going on in Austin later this week. Some of the early birds on team Rocks Off are either already there or well on their way, as a matter of fact.

With more than 2,000 artists playing the official part of SXSW alone, trying to figure out who to go see and when is a little daunting, to say the least. So a few days ago, Rocks Off polled our esteemed staff and asked them to tell us - regardless of whether or not they are going; as it turns out, everyone who responded save one will be there - their three can't-miss acts for the festival.

Note: Links of artists' names are to the page at that lists their offical showcase day and time. That may not be their only performance in Austin this week - or even at SXSW, in which case the link is to the first one - and probably isn't.



Emmylou Harris: A no-brainer. Harris has been among my favorite female singers - maybe my favorite female singer - since I got into her via the Portraits box set in the mid-'90s. The silver-haired queen of Americana with the voice of an angel will be previewing songs from Hard Bargain, due out next month and her first since 2008's All I Intended to Be.

Those Darlins: Just saw these three Nashville gals and their dude drummer between Buxton and the Old 97's earlier this month, and their scrappy roots-rock with a dash of Phil Spector-ish pop has me ready for an encore.

Two Star Symphony: I've been on the Two Star Symphony bandwagon after stumbling across the quasi-classical ensemble with the shifting personnel's set at Notsuoh during my very first Houston Press Music Awards showcase. So don't take my word for it... how about The Huffington Post's?


Liz Phair: Because c'mon, it's Liz Phair - and she's been pulling liberally from Exile In Guyville on this mini-tour. I will never, ever grow tired of hearing "Fuck and Run" live. And because she's not coming to Houston. [Ed. Note: Showcase day and time TBA.]

Yuck: Because they're really good and I showed up too late to catch them opening for Smith Westerns last month. I've been kicking myself ever since.

Kurt Vile: I love Kurt Vile... rather, I love his recordings. But I saw him live last year, and it was disastrous. I'm eager to give him a second shot at wow-ing me live.


O'Death: This crew definitely does not sound like they're from Brooklyn, rather they seem to have just strolled away from their moonshine stills in the Appalachian foothills. I've seen them a couple times, and it's always fun. After nearly a year-long hiatus due to the drummer requiring a shoulder replacement, the band is back and the first track "Bugs" from the upcoming record Outside, was released last month.

Damien Jurado: A favorite of mine for years, but I've never managed to catch him in concert. He writes absolutely gorgeous little heartbreakers, songs that are so simplistic they make me break. His voice and minimal accompaniment weigh heavy on the listener, like a thousand years of sorrow has poured into each number. For those not making the trek to Austin, he'll be at The Mink Wednesday, and everybody should check out his recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Deer Tick: I've only heard and seen snippets, but the final number that Craig Hlavaty and I stumbled in on last year was enough to make me an immediate fan. This group is raucous and rowdy, and to top it all off, they'll be playing an entire set of Nirvana songs. Yup. Bonus: Robert Ellis and Dawes both play earlier in the evening.


Screeching Weasel: Because I loved them in high school.

Okkervil River: It's been three years since I've seen them and I want to see their new shit.

Kylesa: I just recently got into them and I really want to see them.

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