20 Bands to See at SXSW 2017

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20 Bands to See at SXSW 2017

South by Southwest’s annual music week invades Austin March 13- 19 this year and Paste will be on the ground in Texas for it all. With each passing year of tacos and tequila and more shows than can actually be seen, we poll our editors on which bands are impressing them at the moment. It’s not an easy task, however, as we try to avoid including bands from previous years’ lists (last year’s selects like Lizzo, Julien Baker and Beach Slang received votes this year, among others), as well as the 40 artists who will be playing our own studio shows. So, with all those factors in place, here are 20 bands Paste recommends catching at SXSW in 2017.

1. Ryan Adams
SXSW is so often filled with short, half-hour sets and running from venue to venue, but sometimes it’s worth it to treat yourself to a longer performance where you can post up (and maybe even sit down, if you’re lucky). Ryan Adams’ two-hour set at the Moody Theater on Friday is one of those cases; it’ll be worth carving out the chunk of time in your schedule to catch Adams performing tracks from his recently released Prisoner. —Bonnie Stiernberg

2. Cherry Glazerr
Now this is a solid L.A. band. Born from one of the nation’s most saturated scenes, Cherry Glazerr manages to make you feel like getting kicked out of a Silver Lake bar, only to make your way to Echo Park for last call, then a 2am taco truck, only to accept the fate of your hangover the next day, but be ready to do it all over again while wearing the same clothes. All of the jams on the group’s latest LP, Apocalipstick, have nasty shreds and dizzying effects. “Nuclear Bomb” builds into a menacing crescendo before descending into madness, while “Only Kid On The Block” is a powerful climax for the trio. This band will surely pair with many cans of Lone Stars. —Adrian Spinelli

3. Stef Chura
Stef Chura’s star is definitely on the rise: The Detroit native recently released her debut, Messes, via Urinal Cake Records, an 11-song set of warbling guitar-pop anthems that showcase her husky, perpetually downturned vocals. She’s earned coverage across web on Stereogum, Pitchfork and NPR, and she can count Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me) as a fan; the noted indie-rock vet produced and played bass on her first LP. Reflecting a post-adolescent period of trial and error, Chura’s debut appears to writhe with growing pains as she quavers to an unwilling crush, “Right when it starts to feel like home / It’s time to go” on album opener “Slow Motion.” The conflicts repeat on the withered follow-up, “You,” where Chura trills like skeptical Dolores O’Riordan: “Sick and tired / Always admired you from afar.” Chura’s internal debates, which are featured prominently on Messes, can also spill out in person. She admits to sometimes wishing she’d put more effort into music earlier in her 20s, despite her blossoming visibility (she’s about to tour with Washington D.C. punks Priests next). Then, just as suddenly, she changes her mind. “I think a lot of people think there’s these picture-perfect stories of someone getting really successful when they’re young,” she tells Paste. “There’s no right age to be doing anything.” —Rachel Brodsky

4. Delicate Steve
Steve Marion has been making voiceless guitar-based rock songs as Delicate Steve since 2011, but this year’s This Is Steve is poised to be his breakthrough album. The album’s rhythm guitar work is reminiscent of surf rock and garage rock, but Marion’s lead lines mimic the phrasing of vocalists. Although “no shirt, no shoes, no problem” might be the motto for some places during this crazy week, you’ll realize at a Delicate Steve show: no lyrics, no problem. —Hilary Saunders

5. Dude York
The Seattle power-pop trio’s easy, rambunctious rapport, is as genuine as the title of their Hardly Art debut, Sincerely. The 13 tracks on Sincerely, are, in contrast to their booming, brash arrangements, plainly vulnerable, truthful and deal with familiar feelings of quarter-life malaise. Kicking off with chanting bombast, opener “Black Jack” is an open call for harmony: “Too afraid to ask for help / I tried to do it all by myself / Still believe in myself… As far as I can tell / Nobody does it all by themselves.” On the twisting “Tonight,” England matter-of-factly moves on from a relationship: “Clearly, we’re too different / I guess that means it’s the end… Let’s wrap this up, there’s somewhere else I’ve got to be tonight.” But the forlorn “The Way I Feel” directly contradicts the straight-up tone of “Tonight,” with Richards sounding despondent as he whines the titular lyrics. It just goes to show: it doesn’t matter what tone sincerity takes — as long as nothing is obscured. —Rachel Brodsky

6. Future Islands
Here at Paste HQ, we’re eagerly awaiting Future Islands’ follow-up to Singles, The Far Field, and SXSW will be the perfect opportunity to watch Samuel T. Herring and company debut some new tracks live. If “”Ran is any indication of what we can expect, their set’s a must-catch. —Bonnie Stiernberg

7. Girlpool
Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker have signed to ANTI- for the forthcoming Powerplant, their follow-up to 2015’s Before the World Was Big, out May 12. This time around, the minimalist duo has added percussion to the mix, fleshing out their sound on tracks like the recently released “”123. —Bonnie Stiernberg

8. Half Waif
“[I wanted] this EP to be a record of what my moods sound like, if I could pull them out of my insides and amplify them,” Half Waif’s Nandi Rose Plunkett has said of her latest song collection, form/a. The Pinegrove affiliate certainly gets her message across on the six-song set, which follows three prior extended plays (2013’s Future Joys, 2014’s KOTEKAN and last year’s Probable Depths. Each track comes straight from Plunkett’s unrepressed inner-monologue, with opener “Severed Logic” wryly noting, “My mood is a pendulum / I don’t think you could handle it” and the arrhythmic “Cerulean” returning to theme: “My mood has no form / It sits on my chest heavy and warm.” But it’s the Brooklyn singer’s glittering synth arrangements that tie the work together: “Wave” pulses with determination before devolving into a warm wave of vocal harmony, sonically signifying how quickly one’s temperament can shift. — Rachel Brodsky

9. Har Mar Superstar
Har Mar Superstar never disappoints live, and SXSW always presents a unique opportunity to catch him at weird venues (like last year’s McDonald’s Loft). Come ready to dance to favorites like “Lady, You Shot Me” as well as material from his latest, Best Summer Ever. —Bonnie Stiernberg

10. Hurray for the Riff Raff
Alynda Segarra and company releases The Navigator today, and we’re excited to see how these songs translate to a live setting. The concept record is an exploration of identity, featuring new tracks and previously released one like “Rican Beach,” “Hungry Ghost” and “Pa’lante” (on which Segarra admits, “lately it’s been mighty hard to sing, just searching for my lost humanity”). —Bonnie Stiernberg

11. Jay Som
After she drunkenly released her first album, Untitled, through Bandcamp on Thanksgiving 2015, Melita Duterte’s project Jay Som saw instant success—so much so that it overflowed straight into the following year. In 2016 she rereleased said bedroom-pop album as the retitled Turn Into via Polyvinyl—a record on which she plays every instrument—and toured with Japanese Breakfast and Mitski. Her 2015 releases, plus hazy breakthrough track “I Think You’re Alright” and her 2017 Polyvinyl debut, Everybody Works, not only reveal a heady combination of fear and uncertainty, but also showcase a foggy, mature-beyond-her-years style that recalls classic and contemporary greats like My Bloody Valentine and Real Estate. —Ross Bonaime

12. La Dame Blanche
South by Southwest is, of course, known, for showcasing the best up-and-coming music in the U.S. But, tons of bands fly from around the world for this weeklong event, so don’t limit yourself to just English-speaking bands when you get to Austin. Cuba’s La Dame Blanche (née Yaite Ramos Rodriguez) is a singer, flautist, percussionist and overall musical force. Although her father, Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos, has played trombone with Buena Vista Social Club, La Dame Blanche looks ahead to the future of Cuban music. Her most recent album, 2016’s La Dame Blanche 2 is a mix of lyrically progressive hip-hop and Caribbean cumbia. —Hilary Saunders

13. La Vida Boheme
Another Spanish language band, Venezuela’s La Vida Boheme serves up socially conscious rock. After relocating to Mexico for a change of scenery and industry (not to mention some political concerns), the band finished up its third full-length LP, La Lucha, due out on March 24. The title, which translates to, “The Struggle” represents frontman Henry D’Arthenay coping with the death of his mother, as well as the collective band’s sense of displacement and identify. —Hilary Saunders

14. Lisa Prank
Seattlite Robin Edwards calls her solo pop-punk project Lisa Prank, a play on the name of ‘90s graphic and style icon Lisa Frank. The lo-fi songs on her second LP, last year’s Adult Teen, place heavy emphasis on her alternatingly revealing and sarcastic lyrics. But as a one-woman-show, expect Lisa Prank to bring a minimalistic, but bold performance. —Hilary Saunders

15. Noname
Noname’s Telefone wasn’t supposed to slap this hard. Before this, the artist formerly known as Noname Gypsy’s claim to fame was a silky verse on Chance The Rapper’s “Lost,” but the Chicago singer has firmly established herself as a force in hip-hop and R&B on her debut. Released with essentially no press leading up to it, Telefone sees Noname rekindling the youthful fun that Chance and co. brought back to hip-hop on Acid Rap, but in her own distinct style. Take “Diddy Bop” as a prime example, a jazzy single that highlights an album filled with sounds born from the pulse of Chicago hip-hop. —Adrian Spinelli

16. Priests
The first album to completely blow me away in 2017 was Priests’ Nothing Feels Natural. The D.C. punk outfit can give you an accessible hint of balladry on the album’s title track, but come for blood on the Dick Dale-like twang of “Jj.” Singer Katie Alice Greer might as well be standing at the podium when we damn all the bullshit societal constructs to hell, with pianos and horns backing her every decree. —Adrian Spinelli

17. PWR BTTM
Wear as much glitter as possible to see PWR BTTM. This queer, glam-punk duo is sure to shred, as Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins switch instruments and lead vocals for their two-to-three-minute songs set to power chords. But the genius of PWR BTTM remains in their lyrical doses of real life—from hilarious new single and 21st-century dating lament “Answer My Text” to the breakup song “C U Around” about seeing your ex in public off of 2015’s debut Ugly Cherries—that anyone anywhere on the gender spectrum can understand. The band’s newest, Pageant, is due out May 12. —Hilary Saunders

18. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Melbourne quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever shows that there’s a distinct difference between American surf rock and the Aussie breed. There’s an utter lack of slackerdom in their polished riffs and vocals from this band, which also sounds like it took influence from Morrissey and Rachel Aggs of Brit-punk outfit Shopping. This determination, emphasized on the the eponymous single from their upcoming The French Press EP hints that they may be the next big thing to come out of Melbourne’s rich scene. —Adrian Spinelli

19. Eric Slick
Philadelphia’s Eric Slick no doubt has a lot of local name recognition thanks to his percussionist gigs with City of Brotherly Love standouts Dr. Dog, not to mention his work with co-founded power-pop project Lithuania. But now Slick, who recently moved to Asheville, N.C., is taking a turn away from the kit and releasing a solo debut called Palisades, out on April 21 via EggHunt Records. The result is a compendium of easy pop melodies encircled by discordant guitar-work and affable piano. Such good vibes should be a welcome respite from the near-anarchy that encircles SXSW at any given moment. (I’m not bitter.) —Rachel Brodsky

20. Vagabon
Few debut albums in recent memory have been as immediately impressive as Vagabon’s Infinite Worlds. Laetitia Tamko was born in Cameroon, but moved to New York in her teens and her music is filled gorgeous ruminations on where exactly she fits into this mess of life. A first listen to the album opener, “Embers,” for example, showcases what feels like a natural echo in Tamko’s voice, which serves as a spiritual guide through the rest of the album’s rattling drums and inquisitive distortion. —Adrian Spinelli

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