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Memphis will send bands south for the South By Southwest Music Festival and pick up some action along the way.

Later this month, over 1,300 bands -- most of them some variation on indie rock or alt-country -- will gather in Austin, Texas, for the annual South By Southwest Music Festival, perhaps the biggest showcase for emerging music in the country.

Memphis will have a healthy contingent at SXSW this year, with Midtown's Goner Records hosting their own showcase event, which will include local acts the Dutch Masters, Harlan T. Bobo, and the Final Solutions along with non-local Goner bands. In addition, several other local acts -- the Tearjerkers, Lucero, the River City Tanlines, the Angry Angles, Ron Franklin, and Viva L'American Death Ray Music -- are scheduled to represent the city in Austin.

But don't worry if you don't have the time or money to make the trip. We'll have full coverage of the festival -- focusing on the Memphis bands -- in our March 23rd edition. As for the non-Memphis bands, as always, Memphis' proximity to Austin leads to a portion of the festival coming to us in the form of bands stopping in town on their way to or from SXSW.

Here's our annual cheatsheet to the season's most notable SXSW-connected Memphis shows through the end of the month. (All descriptions are written by Chris Herrington unless otherwise noted.)

The Headlights and The Metal Hearts (with Augustine)

Young Avenue Deli

Sunday, March 12th

The Headlights are a gentle, atmospheric three-piece indie-rock band from Champaign, Illinois, set to release they full-length debut later this year. Metal Hearts are an indie duo from Baltimore that have been compared to bands like Cat Power and Arab Strap.

Healthy White Baby

Hi-Tone Café

Sunday, March 12th

This straightforward three-piece rock band from Chicago boasts a regional connection in the form of bassist/singer Laurie Stirratt, formerly of Oxford faves Blue Mountain. Here she's joined by fellow alt-country notable Danny Black (of Bloodshot band the Blacks), but the result is more roots- and garage-rock than any kind of country.

Crimson Sweet (with Mouse Rocket and The Black)

The Buccaneer

Sunday, March 12th

Although the band is named for a particularly succulent variety of watermelon, there's nothing sugary about Crimson Sweet. On the other hand, fans of ragged rock-and-roll in the spirit of X, Joan Jett, and T-Rex will find this New York-based band plenty juicy. Crimson Sweet's mildly transgressive nature mimics the early Stones, although their sound is informed by gritty Detroit punk and lots and lots of glam. Guitar player and lead vocalist Polly Watson sings like she has multiple personalities, at one moment shrieking with the raspy intensity of Iggy Pop doing a Rod Stewart impersonation then cooing like a nightingale over big glam guitars and manic percussion. -- Chris Davis

Zombi and The Apes


Sunday, March 12th

Pittsburgh isn't just Steeler country: It's also the land of the living dead. Zombie-film innovator George Romero started a gruesome trend when he shot his classic horror tale Night of the Living Dead there in 1968. Inspired by their hometown's long and illustrious legacy of undead cinema, the Pennsylvania duo Zombi play guitar and synth soundtracks for epic monster movies that have yet to be written. -- Chris Davis

Creative to the point of musical de(con)struction, the Apes are a four-piece who have been rocking out of the nation's capital since 1999. Their unique sound is due in part to their atypical line-up -- double bass, Moog, organ, and, behind it all, crushing drums. The organ lines rise cleanly above the chunky thrum of the rest of the band, creating sounds at times reminiscent of the French electro-punks Suicide. This is a good show for those who like their rock brilliant and occasionally difficult to swallow. -- Ben Popper

Dr. Dog, Hopewell,

The Reputation

Young Avenue Deli

Monday, March 13th

Elizabeth Elmore's college band, Sarge, was one of my faves: a nifty little pop-punk answer to the sharp-fanged, male-centered relationship analysis of early Elvis Costello or a less grandstanding alternative to Exile in Guyville. Elmore's lyrics are only slightly less distinct in her grad-school band, the Reputation, but she still rocks out with a surly Chrissie Hynde flair.

Also on tap is Hopewell, a Brooklyn art-rock band featuring brothers Jason and Justin Russo, who also play in Mercury Rev and whose own band has a similar psychedelic bent. Rounding out the bill is Dr. Dog, a Philly-based collective that blends indie and classic rock elements.

Cheater Slicks (with The Dutch Masters and Jeffrey Evans & Ross Johnson)

The Buccaneer

Monday, March 13th

The Cheater Slicks are a noisy, three-piece garage-rock band from Columbus, Ohio. They record for the Californa-based garage label In the Red, home to former Memphis bands the Reigning Sound and the Lost Sounds. The addition of SXSW-bound locals the Dutch Masters and Memphis rock royalty Evans & Johnson make this a must for garage-rock fanatics.

Film School, The Cloud Room, Ambulette

Hi-Tone Café

Tuesday, March 14th

Film School is a San Francisco buzz band whose arty indie-rock drew rave reviews at 2005's SXSW festival and who released their eponymous debut on venerable indie Beggars Banquet earlier this year. The sound is tough, echo-y alt-rock that evokes the '80s (Psychedelic Furs, maybe?) without sounding retro. Brooklyn's the Cloud Room are very similar. Their sound is a little looser and a little catchier, but the tone and bundle of influences are otherwise identical. Chicago's Ambulette, the new project of singer Maura Davis, formerly of indie notables Denali, rounds out the bill.

DC Snipers and Live Fast Die (with The Six String Jets)

The Buccaneer

Tuesday, March 14th

Despite their name, the DC Snipers are actually from New Jersey and play grimy, energetic proto-punk reminiscent of the Count Five, the Sonics, and the Stooges, except with keyboards. Brooklyn's Live Fast Die, by contrast, fit their name with a thrashier brand of garage rock.

The Ponys & The Detachment Kit (with Vending Machine)

Young Avenue Deli

Saturday, March 18th

While the Detachment Kit and locals Vending Machine give plenty of impetus to show up early, the payoff here is the headliner, currently one of the most durable and pleasurable rock bands in the land. Though their splendid recent albums Laced With Romance (truth in advertising, there) and Celebration Castle came out on garage-rock label In the Red, Chicago's the Ponys are a simultaneously arty and poppy guitar band whose appeal is far broader than any subgenre. With their open-hearted personality, chiming-and-chugging dual-guitar attack, dance-worthy beats, and yelping vocals that blend an entire generation of punk-era New York frontmen (Tom Verlaine/Richard Hell/David Byrne/Joey Ramone), they're one of the freshest-sounding bands around.

The Minus Five and The Silos

Hi-Tone Café

Saturday, March 18th

The Minus Five was first formed in 1993 as a side project led by Scott McCaughey of the Seattle band Young Fresh Fellows. The band is a rotating collective with McCaughey joined by a different batch of collaborators for each record, with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck as the most frequent member. On McCaughey & Co.'s latest album, contributors include Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt, the Posies' Ken Stringfellow, and alt-country singer Kelly Hogan. Live, McCaughey will be joined by Buck, among others. Roots-rockers the Silos, who were at their peak in the late '80s and early '90s make a simpatico opener.

Dirty on Purpose and The End of the World (opening for The Lights)

Young Avenue Deli

Monday, March 20th

Dirty on Purpose is a crisp, shoe-gazey indie-pop band from Brooklyn with a low-key male/female vocal interplay reminiscent of Yo La Tengo. They're set to release their debut album later this year. Fellow Brooklynites End of the World play a harder-edged, more anthemic brand of indie-rock, albeit with some new-wave undercurrents. Local rockers the Lights, led by former Eighty-Katie frontman Bret Preston, round out the bill.

Deadstring Bros.

Hi-Tone Café

Wednesday, March 22nd

Chicago's Bloodshot label is known as a purveyor of alternative country, but on recent Bloodshot release Starving Winter Report, Detroit's Deadstring Brothers are a straight-up "classic" rock band, with guitars both bluesy and rootsy, horns and piano punctuation, and a lazily insouciant vocal personality that all evoke early-'70s Stones.


Hi-Tone Café

Friday, March 24th

Philadelphia's Marah plays classic-rock tropes with a devotion few modern bands can match. Sometimes (see the best cuts on 2000's Kids in Philly) their Springsteenian anthems connect. Other times they sound too much like attempts to cultivate respect from gatekeepers who'd prefer the planet stop spinning. But live, they're capable of putting all those quibbles aside in an ace display of bar-band basics.


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