8:00am

Sat March 12, 2011
Music News

South By Southwest: 2,000 Bands In Five Days

The annual music conference based in Austin, Texas, kicks off this coming Wednesday. It's the festival's 25th year, and some things have changed since it began.

For starters, there are more bands — a LOT more. Over 2000 bands will play on 90 stages. But for those bands, the goal is the same as ever: to play in front of as many hard core music fans as possible and try to make an impression before they overdose on five days of music.

The Internet has also changed the festival. "South by," as it's known, used to be a place to hear new bands. Now you can hear them online before a single Telecaster is plugged in on an Austin stage. So for many bands, South by Southwest is now about making good on the promise of a couple of well-hyped mp3s circulated to just the right music blogs. Two bands who did that last year were Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells — who make aggressive electronic pop — and Surfer Blood — a Florida band that plays fuzzy guitar rock.

But there are always surprises. Last year, power pop legend Alex Chilton passed away on the Wednesday before his band's scheduled performance. So the slot turned into an impromptu tribute concert, where fans of Chilton — and SXSW was full of them — could sing along with his songs one more time.

This year there are three bands poised to make waves: the oft-blogged rap collective Odd Future; a pair of rockers called The Cults, who are still riding on the strength of one single released a year ago and the British electronic producer James Blake, who will try to reproduce with a live band his soft-spoken, heavily processed electronic music.

Blake will play at a concert broadcast and webcast live by NPR Music this Wednesday night. You can hear more concerts and follow all of our South by Southwest coverage here. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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