S.F. at SXSW: Six Bay Area Artists to See in Austin

John Vanderslice
It's 2004, and S.F. indie-folk figurehead John Vanderslice is midway through a set at the Parish in downtown Austin, trying to make sense of the mayhemic music carnival that is South by Southwest. “It's pretty overwhelming,” he said, according to Paste Magazine. “It's like when you take a bunch of acid and realize it's a lot stronger than you thought it was: Whoa, I've got 12 more hours of this?” The festival is indeed an endurance test, but nobody has sturdier legs than Vanderslice, now 11 years into his solo career. He's touring now in support of his latest album, the lush, orchestral White Wilderness; the SXSW shows will be the first of his nationwide tour. Chris Trenchard

Zion I
Oakland elders Zion I (that's a letter, not a numeral) have been around since 1998, crossing paths and exchanging knowledge with a bicoastal who's who of backpack hip-hop. Most recently, the duo — MC Baba Zumbi and DJ and producer AmpLive — has joined forces with the Grouch, a member of the venerable pan-Californian indie-rap collective Living Legends. The team-up started with the 2006 album Heroes in the City of Dope, a coolly soulful mixture of slick beats and conscious rhymeplay that stays positive without being naive, and continues with the release of Heroes in the Healing of the Nation. Daniel Levin Becker

Mark Eitzel
Few adornments of any local scene are quite as buoyant or necessary as Mark Eitzel. As founder of indie-rock resurrection men American Music Club, the fellow may be presumed to know a thing or six about moving listeners by a variety of means: punk, Cali country, electronica, and, yes, even pop standards. (No one croons a spacier “Wichita Lineman.”) He's the closest thing to an actual blue-collar poet (as opposed to Dylan manqué) in contemporary music since Jim Croce, and he wears the core world-weariness of indie rock like a party hat. Tony Bennett only wishes he had this much heart. Ron Garmon

Ash Reiter
Bay Area songstress Ash Reiter is a study in contrasts. Her voice is willowy and bittersweet, like a shot of potent whiskey in a glass of crackling ginger ale. Stylistically, Ash Reiter the band is indie-pop or minimalist folk-rock (depending on your frame of reference), full of pinging, ringing electric guitars and winsomely melodic hooks, her sweet-tart singing sprinkled with sly jazz-flavored phrasing that evokes Jolie Holland and Rickie Lee Jones. Standout songs on her debut, Paper Diamonds, include the spunky, Lovin' Spoonful–like “Blue Eyes” and the sparkling, magnetic, old-school R&B–flavored “Français.” Mark Keresman

Beats Antique
Belly dancing has been crucial to the gestation of Beats Antique. David Satori, Tommy Cappel, and Zoe Jakes began collaborating to make belly-dancing music, presumably because Jakes is an accomplished dancer and particularly fond of the form. During Beats' shows, she is the center of attention, artfully sashaying, spinning, and belly-rolling as Cappel and Satori supply a soundtrack of Middle Eastern–cribbing electronica. While they're able to use sizzling dubstep beats and dulcet guitar samples to alluring results, Beats could stand to get even freakier. The trio has kept busy since 2007 debut Tribal Derivations, so there's a chance it'll issue more material this year. Reyan Ali

Grass Widow
Punk trio Grass Widow played its first SXSW in 2010, and boy, what a difference a year can make. Formed in 2007 by former members of Shitstorm, the women released Past Time in August on Kill Rock Stars. Their surf-tinged punk recalls the Riot Grrrl aesthetic, but they also reach further back for inspiration (they claim the Kinks as their greatest influence). For their second SXSW, with a year and an album under their belts, and having just played the Rickshaw Stop with No Age, the members of Grass Widow can probably expect a much bigger audience this time around. Certainly they deserve one. Mike Orme

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