Making and breaking plans at SXSW -
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Making and breaking plans at SXSW
By Kevin Coffey

Read all of Kevin Coffey's updates from Austin at his blog, Rock Candy. Or you can follow him on Twitter.

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AUSTIN, Texas — The first thing you should do when preparing for South by Southwest is make a schedule of all of the bands you want to see.

The first thing you should do upon arriving is remember that it's OK to forget the schedule.


Kevin Coffey's blog, Rock Candy, has moved to a new home on

You can find the latest updates from South by Southwest at

Rock Candy began almost three years ago with Kevin's coverage of Lollapalooza and continues with regular posts featuring exclusive interviews, reviews, news, lists and more that you won't find in the paper or elsewhere on


Jack White

The White Stripes alum is back with a solo album after performing with various bands and projects. “Blunderbuss” will drop in April, but the lovely “Love Interruption” is available now at and on iTunes. Listen to it. You won't be disappointed.

Bruce Springtseen

The Boss is the keynote speaker of the festival with a big panel speech planned. He's also playing with the E Street Band at a small venue, but tickets are limited and available only though a raffle.

Miike Snow

The electro-pop band will show off some new material from its coming album, “Happy to You,” which comes out March 27. It was one of the best bands from SXSW 2010, so it will be great to see what the members have been up to since then.

Magnetic Fields

Led by Stephin Merritt, the indie rock-pop group is back with “Love at the Bottom of the Sea,” an album of 15 short songs that have a wonderful blend of acoustic guitar and synths.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

A few years ago, the indie rock band took a break. In 2011,it released a brand new album, “Hysterical,” and fans and critics are happy it's back.

We Were Promised Jetpacks

Not only do they have one of the best band names ever, but they're pretty darn good, too. Hailing from Scotland, the rock band is from the same scene as labelmates The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit. The group's second album, “In the Pit of the Stomach,” was released last year. They kick off their U.S. tour at SXSW.


He won't perform during the music portion of the festival, but will during the interactive portion Monday at a promotion for a credit card company. Still, it would be great to see one of the best rappers out there.

The Shins

One of the most anticipated (and best, so far) albums of the year is The Shins' “Port of Morrow.” The first single, “Simple Song,” from the indie rock band is anything but simple with its crashing melodies, guitar chords and drum beats. We also recommend watching the song's fantastic music video.

After getting my badge and picking up a slice of Hoek's Death Metal Pizza (some of the best in town), I ventured out to see a band at noon. As it turns out, my schedule had it wrong: They played at midnight, not at noon.

So, the first band I saw on Wednesday was not one I expected to see. In fact, they weren't on my schedule at all. I just wandered into a venue I was familiar with and there they were.

The band is River City Extension, a folk-rock group from New Jersey. After watching River City Extension play the first set of any group I'd seen at the festival, I already knew they'd be one of the best bands I'd watch during the whole week.

My initial impression was of a down-home bluegrass band backing a singer-songwriter. That's something I'm inclined to like, but it got better. Much better.

As they went on, I liked them more and more. They were like folkers the Head and the Heart, but louder. And the singer had a Conor Oberst-like quality to his voice, but more passionate. And for every ounce of passion the singer had, the rest of the band had pounds of it.

As the band members played along, they also sang like they'd just heard their favorite song on the radio. A more enthusiastic bunch I don't think I've ever seen.

It was a great set, but the group pounded it home with the finale. "We have one more," announced the singer as all eight members of the band marched into the center of the crowd and began playing a new tune.

They only had two drums, a guitar, tambourine and a banjo, but their eight harmonious voices filled the outdoor area with the song "Bone Marrow Twist & Shout."

I've never seen anything like it.

But I couldn't call it quits, so onward I went. Later in the afternoon, I caught a tired performance from dance-punk band The Chain Gang of 1974. I really like the band, but you could tell they were tired from having performed earlier in the day. They just didn't have it in them.

I also watched Alabama Shakes, a soulful blues group led by Brittany Howard that's one of the most buzzed-about bands here in Austin.

To finish off the day, I decided to catch a trio of groups with ties to Nebraska. Midwest Dilemma hails from Omaha and played a showcase for Paper Garden Records, which is operated by a former Saddle Creek Records intern. Midwest Dilemma, fronted by Justin Lamoureux, delivered a strong set, but I wish more people would have been there to see what great stuff we have coming from Nebraska.

Another surprise came in the form of Foy Vance. The Irish singer-songwriter has been featured on "Grey's Anatomy," but I didn't know much more about him. He ended up delivering a memorable, moving solo performance at the Central Presbyterian Church that blew me away.

At one point, Vance led the crowd in a singalong of one of his songs. The audience sang the refrain several times while Vance sang other lyrics over the top. All those voices coming together in the church sounded downright spiritual.

More bands with Omaha connections were up next. Singer/guitarist M. Ward is half of She & Him with Zooey Deschanel. For his upcoming solo album, he recorded parts in Omaha. And on the road as a guitar tech for Ward right now is Omahan Phil Schaffart, who fronts the band Con Dios.

After that is Neon Trees, a rock band that performed on "Saturday Night Live" last year. Their resident sound engineer is Omahan Neal Duffy.

In just one day, I've already heard enough amazing music — and been surprised several times — to gush to you readers about for months.

With three days to go, I'm not sure it can get much better. But I know it will.

Contact the writer: Kevin Coffey    |   402-444-1557    |  

Kevin covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally covers other entertainment, including video games and comic books.

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