My favorite time of year is SXSW, a week where my inner music fiend tears through its cage past the scraps of long-since-eaten Replacements boots and Lemmy knock-offs and runs amok in the streets and tents of Austin to forage for fresh musical quarry. And each year before barking at the proverbial moon, I nerd out and plan this intensely detailed monument to unreasonable scheduling and excessive expectations, which goes to a few hundred of my closest as well as the long-suffering readers of Hits Magazine, where this initial schedule plus dispatches of varying quality will run all week.

Some years my preamble to this whole thing waxes personal, while other years I go topical and still others I kind of toss a mix at the wall. For me, a theme of SXSW is always a sort of Spring rejuvenation. On the tail end of a very amicable divorce, having made the titular jump to co-managing partner of Davis Shapiro Lewit Grabel Leven Granderson & Blake, LLP and having pushed hard on the launch of our 414 Media Advisors, um, advisory business, all on top of parenting, the occasional continuing magazine writing (most notably Paste) and just trying to keep my shoes tied, this year I come to Austin on the heels of a lot of heavy sledding, and to get metaphorical I feel many in the music business have done the same. At a time when both hallowed artists and much-loved business people are leaving us at an alarming rate and the business struggle continues to be real on a relative scale, there are signs of cracking ice. I’ve just come off a few days of Paramore’s Parahoy cruise, and it’s inspiring to see how deeply an engaged fan will dive into an experience their favorite artist creates. Sixth Man runs boat-after-boat full of such fans around the Caribbean, all while the festival ecosystem continues to expand and enrich—witness the Lollapalooza anniversary or the maturing of Governor’s Ball. While we’re not at the true maturity point for streaming revenue, the wealth and quality of independent artists that continue to flow into Austin annually say something about the volume and health of the discovery process. With fewer of my own clients playing fewer times this year, a big goal for me this week will be exactly that: discovery. While there are a few favorites that I’ll inevitably have to and want to see (RYAN ADAMS!!!!!), part of my plan this year is to break pattern, see more things once and catch a bit more on the edges. SO -- hit me up!!!!!! If your band or your party or your new musical crush isn’t on the list below—find me, tell me and let’s have at it!!!

Another big goal for me this year is not to get beaten up (again). [The guys in Highly Suspect had a fantastic idea btw—they suggested I wear “STAFF” shirts to stay incognito and out of trouble and if you happen to see me in one, well…] For those that didn’t track my saga last year or hear through the telephone game that I got decapitated by samurai sword at high noon on 6th street, the basic story is that on Tuesday night of last year I got jumped by a bouncer going in the wrong door at a venue on Rainey St. A hospital trip, twelve stitches to my lip and two chipped teeth later I was at a police station doing a lineup on the guy, and after a day and change of wallowing in relative facial pain I crawled out and about looking like I’d gotten my ass kicked because, well, I’d gotten my ass kicked. As a 38-year-old lanky attorney who doesn’t look like much of a brawler it was admittedly a fun conversation piece, but also a distressing twist on a facial and, in a sense, emotional level. So here’s what ultimately happened: surprisingly, my mild injuries were not the Austin PD’s biggest problem that week, so I didn’t exactly get a task force assigned to work the case. I did line up one of Austin’s best civil litigators and started doing the legwork to seek a different kind of justice. And then something happened: I actually found the guy on Facebook. He’s ex-military and most of his photos are him doing judo training. On one level seeing that he’s just generally big on violence should have riled me up, but on a different level I couldn’t help but wonder if there was really value in probably ruining this guy’s life—it’s hard to be a civil defendant on a bouncer’s income and then what—I’ve pummeled him back, in this case financially? And? As someone who has been both party and counselor in acrimonious business litigation and seen the toll it takes even when you have the moral high ground, it only took one wise friend to convince me that putting more aggression out into the cosmos wouldn’t accomplish much and so, mostly for karmic reasons, I decided to drop it. Then the question became—do I look the guy up and have a drink with him? As much as I’d like to be a walking dalai lama on this stuff and make this the perfect afterschool special, there was part of that tended to assume my attempt at closure would bring a different disappointment. He’s Latino so he’s probably not a Trump voter or anything, but what if it turns out that he just kind of actually IS a steakhead asshole bully? Would I still feel so good about my turn towards peace and love? In the end, the slight benefit of the doubt I’m willing to give him from a distance (PTSD? Bad night?) may just be a rationalization worth preserving, and so there will be no assault and battery reunion, at least not this year…

But there will be bands, bands, bands, so let’s get into that, yeah?


One artist I’m particularly excited about this year is JMR. Signed to Republic after his self-produced track “Closer” sizzled the viral circuits, Joshua Michael Robinson has been incubating a body of work that has been evolving at an astounding clip and complexity. With a powerful, nimble voice and subtly great guitar chops, he’s one to watch and this year’s BMI Brunch spot will likely be a breakout performance.

SXSW 2016 also has a number of veterans returning on the crests of big waves. Ray LaMontagne has made the record of his (still young) career in Ouroboros, with the help of the musicians of My Morning Jacket (aka the modern Band). In the open air on the Lake, the unit’s public debut promises to be a special moment. Much has already been written about Iggy Pop’s upcoming effort with Josh Homme and several of his fellow travelers in Queens of the Stone Age (including the amazing Troy Van Leeuwen), and they are treating the Moody Theater to a rare first look as well. After a too-long hiatus Santigold returns to SXSW this year, while Coheed and Cambria celebrate a career album while the Deftones tease one.

This year there’s also a crop of just great gnarly guitar rock bands. Philly’s Beach Slang have grabbed the mantle of gritty, anthem-driven heartland punky rock, while Dilly Dally are the modern Hole in the best possible way. Citizen add a layer of emo might to their fuzztones, while Dallas’ Power Trip slays the metal/punk line with skater style. Other notables include Bleached, Diet Cig, Plague Vendor, Mean Jeans, Ezra Furman, Slothrust, No Parents (!!!!) and Big Thief. This year’s lineup is generally a little lighter on metal, but there are still a few windows to catch the real deal—the perennial Lord Dying, NOLA’s pummeling Crowbar and the emerging Wild Thrones are just a few examples.

This year also sees a high watermark of Americana music—from absolute legends like Loretta Lynn and Leon Russell, modern perennials like Hayes Carll and James McMurtry, pop winners like Kacey Musgraves as well as up-and-comers like Rayland Baxter and Jamestown Revival. In electronica, heavy hitters like Richie Hawtin and Jamie XX join undersung units like HEALTH (whose latest record is an absolute powerhouse) and a heavy heavy slew of DJs from all corners.

Other points of intriguing variety—Nashville’s glistening Keeps, the party horns of Lucky Chops, the sinuous grooves of Pumarosa, indie anthems from the DMA’s, glittering electro-pop from Porches and St. Lucia. A special shoutout is due to Chvrches, whose performances on Paramore’s Parahoy cruise were special moments each and every time, and whose basic pleasantness and decency as individuals simply can’t be overstated. Alongside Glassnote labelmates Tor Miller, GIVERS and Oberhofer they’ll be making numerous high-end appearances.

I could go on and on and on and on and on, but maybe it’s best for you to just get out there and see it:


Monday, March 14

1pm—Curtis McMurtry (Spider House)

110pm—Dale Watson (Continental)

3pm—Lee Bains III (Hotel Vegas)

4pm—Slothrust (Hotel Vegas)

5pm—Car Seat Headrest (Barracuda)

6:15pm—Miguel (Spotify House)

715pm—Amplified Heat (Swan Dive)

8pm—Harvest Thieves (Antone’s) or Bleached (Barracuda)

9pm—Rayland Baxter (Antone’s)

1030pm—Night Drive (Empire Control Room)

11pm—Beach Slang (Barracuda)

1230pm—Twin Scars (Mohawk)

1am—Concrete Robot (Big Bang)

Tuesday, March 15

1245pm—JAHKOY (Spotify)

3pm—Jack Garratt (Spotify House)

420pm—Power Trip (Barracuda)

545pm—Purple (Guero’s)

7pm—Keeps (Nomad)

8pm—Diet Cig (Hype Hotel)

830pm—RAS (Empire Garage)

9pm - Pumarosa (Hype Hotel) or Joon Moon (Trinity Hall) or Girls Names (Latitude 30) or Dead Deads (Dirty Dog) or St. Lucia (Stubb’s)

915pm—Honduras (Barracuda)

945pm—Suicideyear (800 Congress)

10pm—flor (Empire Control) or PARTYBABY (Hype Hotel) or Yuppie Pricks (Valhalla)

1030pm—Lucky Chops (Empire Garage)

11pm—Ume (Sidewinder) or Bear Mountain (Townshend) or Golden Dawn Arkestra (Maggie Mae’s Roof) or Open Hand (Dirty Dog) or Oberhofer (Nomad)

12am—Clean Cut Kid (Latitude 30) or Richie Hawtin (Kingdom)

1230am—Jimmy LaFave (Saxon Pub) or Sizzymack (The Main II) or Keys N Krates (Empire Garage)

1am - Empress Of (Hype Hotel)

1:15am—AUTOBAHN (Barracuda)

Wednesday, March 16

12am—Sun Club (Barracuda) or HAELOS (Flamingo)

1230am—Transviolet (Barracuda)

1pm—Pumarosa (Barracuda)

130pm—Pure Bathing Culture (Swan Dive)

2pm—Keeps (Longbranch Inn)

230pm—Savoir Adore (Barracuda)

3pm—White Denim (Radio Day Stage)

330pm—Dilly Dally (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

4pm—ADA Party (Mugshots)

4pm—Porches (Space 24 Twenty)

430pm—Rayland Baxter (Spotify) or Bleached (Hotel Vegas)

515pm—Hunny (the Yard)

6pm—Thee Oh Sees (Hotel Vegas)

615pm—Kacey Musgraves (Spotify) or Tanlines (Container Bar)

730pm—Deap Vally (Bungalow)

8pm—11pm—Avett Bros./Ryan Adams & the Shining (JW Marriott)

9pm—Iggy Pop/QOTSA (Moody Theater)

1020pm—Twin Peaks (Bud Light)

11pm—Baio (Bangers) or GIVERS (Clive Bar) or Lord Dying (Dirty Dog)

11:15pm—Into It. Over It. (Bud Light) or Anderson Paak (Stubb’s)

1130pm—Leon Russell (Antone’s)

12am—Ra Ra Riot (3Ten ACL Live) or Lucky Chops (Buffalo Billiards) or Big Thief (Sidewinder)

1210am—Chairlift (Bud Light)

1255am—Dandy Warhols (Bungalow)

1am—Monuments (Dirty Dog) or Mercury Rev (Elysium) or The Big Pink (Lucille) or Porches (Sidewinder) or Rooney (Soho Lounge)

Thursday, March 17

12pm—White Reaper (Cheer Up Charlie’s) or the Heavy (GSD&M Courtyard) or Low Cut Connie (Empire Garage)

1245pm—Plague Vendor (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

1pm—Dilly Dally (Barracuda) or Anderson Paak (Spotify)

130pm—Peach Kings (Swan Dive)

215pm—Lucky Chops (the Yard)

315pm—Petite Noir (Flamingo)

4pm—Citizen (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

5pm—Power Trip (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

515pm—Vince Staples (Barracuda)

530pm—St. Lucia (Spotify)

6pm—Burger/Wienermania (Spider House)

7pm—Thao with Get Down Stay Down (Lake Stage)

715pm—Chvrches (Spotify)

730pm—Arkells (the Yard)

8pm—Ray LaMontagne (Town Lake)

920pm—Lost In Society w Dave Pirner (Maggie Mae’s Roof)

940pm—Wild Throne (Empire Garage)

10pm—Sarah Jarosz (St. David’s)

1045pm—Blood Orange (YouTube/Copper Tank)

11pm—Steve Adamyk Band (Valhalla) or Yawpers (Lucky Lounge) or Hayes Carll (Gatsby)

1120pm—VACATION (Velveeta Room)

12am—Pujol (Tap Room) or Holy Esque (Tellers) or CREEPOID (Main II) or Rhymefest (Main) or Killswitch Engage (Empire Garage)

1230am—Soul Asylum (Belmont)

1am—DMA’s (Parish) or TEEN (Swan Dive) or Crowbar (Elysium) or Protomartyr (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

Friday, March 18

12pm—KING (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

1pm—JMR at BMI Brunch (Four Seasons)

3pm—JMR (Scoot Inn) or Deftones (Stubb’s)

4pm—Chvrches (Stubb’s) or Rayland Baxter (Swan Dive)

5pm—Bloc Party (Empire Garage)

515pm—Neon Indian (Barracuda) or Bob Moses (Mohawk) or Yawpers (Yard Dog)

6pm—Beach Slang (Lake Stage) or Waco Brothers (Yard Dog)

615pm—Third Eye Blind (Whole Foods)

7pm—Keeps (Valhalla)

8pm—Coheed and Cambria (Lake Stage) or Savoir Adore (Empire Garage)

9pm—JMR (Buffalo Billiards)

10pm—Fantastic Negrito (Moody) or the Range (Cedar St.)

1030pm—OBN III’s (Hotel Vegas Patio)

1045pm—Jamie XX (YouTube/Copper Tank)

11pm—So Pitted (Blackheart) or Misterwives (Bud Light) or HEALTH (Easy Tiger) or Kevin Gates (Gatsby)

12am—the Cult (Moody) or Bleachers (Bud Light) or Trapper Schoepp (Lambert’s) or Santigold (Stubb’s)

1am—Barry Adamson (Esther’s) or John Congleton (Mohawk Indoor) or Beach Slang (Sidewinder)

Saturday, March 19

So for the first time in almost forever, I’m actually pulling what for most people has become the pro move and I’m leaving Saturday morning. In my case it’s because I’m taking my kids to the last night of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo on Sunday, 3/20, where we’ll see Keith Urban, a bunch of guys harassing various types of hoofed animals, some legit good BBQ, a convention hall full of bass boats, a different kind of drunk Texan than the Austin version, etc. But smart guy here couldn’t make the travel schedule too easy—I leave Austin at 6am, fly to Newark, pick up my kids, drive to Newark and fly to Houston. Yeah. But I love you all, so I did a schedule for you anyway:

1pm—Drowners (Barracuda)

140pm—Capsula (Tiniest Bar in TX)

2pm—BurgerMania V (Hotel Vegas)

250pm—Wild Feathers (Whole Foods)

340pm—No Age (Mohawk)

4pm—Diarrhea Planet (Barracuda)

5pm—James McMurtry (Threadgill’s)

8pm—the Wans (Lucille)

9pm—Big Thief (Bar 96)

955pm—DJ Cuppy (Palm Door)

11:15pm—Andy Clockwise (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

12am—Deantoni Parks (Empire Control Room) or JRocc (Empire Garage) or Lavender Country (the Hideout)

1230pm—Snarky Puppy (Cedar St.)

1am—HEALTH (Hype Hotel)

1:15am—Mean Jeans (Hotel Vegas)

Two heads are better than one. (6/18a)
Bugs is dancing in the street. (6/18a)
Pull up the Brinks truck. (6/18a)
Looks like we have a horse race. (6/17a)
Myriad lawyers, no waiting. (6/18a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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