When you're in Austin, Texas, surrounded by people, music, bars, bands, Lone Star beer, tattoo parlors, musicians, burrito stands, rock fans, pizza shops and, amazingly, even more bands, I'm not sure it gets any better.
We're talking about the South by Southwest music festival, which begins on Wednesday in Austin. SXSW is a magical time when tens of thousands of people converge in the Texas capital city to see thousands of bands perform in hundreds of venues.
It isn't like Coachella or Lollapalooza or other festivals where several stages sit in one open space. This takes place in bars, museums, churches, clubs, parks and any place you can build a stage and a sound system.
And it's a place where artists can get a big break, either with record labels, fans or music bloggers. Just ask John Mayer and James Blunt, who were unknown singer-songwriters before performing at the festival.
Even for established bands such as the Foo Fighters, SXSW can be huge. Last year, the band kicked off with a documentary film and a preview of its new album. The band's huge year only snowballed from there with a big concert tour and five Grammy wins.
This year will be no different. And, as in the past, I'll be there to document the whole thing. I head down to the festival on Wednesday and will file blog posts, photos, columns, video and more until the festival concludes next weekend. Of particular note are the many Nebraska artists performing at the festival. Here's a look at those bands as well as some of the other highlights.
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Expect a lot of coverage of South by Southwest while World-Herald music writer Kevin Coffey is in Austin. Starting Wednesday, Kevin will be writing blog posts, reviews and comments on his music blog, Rock Candy, at rockcandy.omaha.com.
And starting on Thursday, check The World-Herald or Omaha.com/music for Kevin's daily column recapping the previous day at the festival.
>> Interviews with Nebraska artists performing at the festival.
>> Photo slideshows.
>> Videos of Kevin's interviews and footage of bands performing at the festival.
>> Follow Kevin's at twitter.com/owhmusicguy and like his page at facebook.com/rockcandyomaha.
These bands will perform this week at South by Southwest in Austin:
Popular Lincoln band Eagle Seagull was left behind and frontman Eli Mardock now goes simply by his own name. “Everything Happens for the First Time” is Mardock's debut solo record, and has as much dreamy synth and as many pop elements as his former group. The album was recorded in Boston, Seattle, Omaha and Lincoln, and we'll see it sometime later this year.
Former members of The Faint — Todd Fink, Clark Baechle and Jacob Thiele — moved on to a new project, Depressed Buttons. It's more electronic and dance-based and sure to get you out on the floor.
Laura Burhenn recorded her soulful debut album as The Mynabirds with producer Richard Swift. Liking what came out of it, she went back to him to record her followup, “Generals.” Burhenn wrote the album as a protest album and concept album based on her political frustrations, and wanted to pay tribute to women in history who got their hands dirty while making a difference. Her SXSW performances come in the middle of a tour to promote the album.
Justin Lamoureux is one of the best songwriters in Omaha and he's bringing Midwest Dilemma to SXSW once again. Lamoureux is fantastic solo, but also great surrounded by a full band, which transforms his singer-songwriter tunes into full-on Americana.
Orenda Fink of Azure Ray and O+S got together with Nina Barnes of the Apollinaire Rave Art Collective to create Harouki Zombi, a sort of DJ/VJ art performance and musical collaboration with a zombie geisha twist. A video for the duo's “Harouki Swamp Theme” debuted on RollingStone.com. This duo's SXSW performance should be interesting.
SXSW isn't just home to music, but comedy, too. Cody Hustak got his start in Omaha before relocating to Austin. He's a favorite in the Austin comedy scene and has won “joke of the night” at the last two Funniest Person in Austin contests.
Saddle Creek Records' most recent signee, Icky Blossoms, is Tilly and the Wall's Derek Presnall, filmmaker/musician Nik Fackler and vocalist Sarah Bohling. The band was recently holed up in Los Angeles making its debut album with Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. Its song “Perfect Vision” is hazy, dreamy pop that you could either make you space out or get up and dance.
BANDS WITH NEBRASKA TIES
The Envy Corps
They're from Des Moines, but the band is a favorite in Omaha, where it plays often. The rock band's recent album, “It Culls You,” is a followup to its major-label debut. What does it sound like? Well, one of the band's most popular T-shirts reads “The Envy Corps: Radiohead for Coldplay fans.”
Daniel Pujol released several garage rock EPs last year, including one on Saddle Creek Records. In June, he'll release his debut full-length album, “The United States of Being” on Saddle Creek.
He's from Portland, but his Nebraska buddies have him coming around here from time to time. Ward recorded parts of his most recent solo album, “A Wasteland Companion,” at ARC in Omaha and Nebraska native Mike Mogis also performs on the album. You may also know Ward as a member of Monsters of Folk along with Mogis, Conor Oberst and Jim James as well as Ward's work with Zooey Deschanel in the band She & Him.
This pair met while on tour. Stefanie Drootin-Senseney was part of The Good Life and Chris Senseney was in Art In Manila. The pair has since married, had children and moved to California, but that hasn't stopped them from putting out an album on Saddle Creek Records or touring across the country. The duo's album, “White Hat,” is full of folksy, singer-songwriter-style tunes.
Jake Bellows has long been known as a member of Omaha band Neva Dinova and for his solo work, but lately, he has been playing with indie rock band Whispertown. The Los Angeles band has a new album, “Parallel,” coming out March 20. Bellows also is working on a new solo album that includes work from Ben Brodin, Ryan Fox, Todd Fink and others.
This Saddle Creek duo is back together after members Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel released solo albums. The folk rock group is playing SXSW and we're hoping they'll have new material to show off.
You've probably heard the song “Animal” by Neon Trees on your pop and rock radio stations. The Utah-based band has turned some heads in the last year and though no Nebraskans are in the band, you'll catch Omahan Neal Duffy behind the sound board whenever the band performs. Duffy started running sound for the group at last year's SXSW and continues to join them on the road.