When it comes to South By Southwest, Phoenix's fortunes are always changing. In recent years, as many as 20 local bands have played at the king-making music industry event in Austin, a half-dozen from Phoenix alone scoring official showcases. This year, there are only four Arizona acts showcasing, including one from Tucson.
Don't get too discouraged, though, as the bands in attendance are the cream of our crop. All four acts stand a chance of driving home stained by ink from a big-time record deal. Here's a quick rundown of what you need to know about all four acts, so you can claim to have known them "way back when."
Kinch, a Phoenix piano-based indie pop outfit, is making its second appearance at South by Southwest, having also showcased in 2009. Kinch's first record, Advances, was named the best local record of 2008 by New Times, and their not-yet-released epic, The Incandenza, is even better. The five-piece just wrapped up a month-long residency project in which they did weekly gigs in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Scottsdale. The band, led by cousins Andrew Junker and Brian Coughlin, also wowed a crowd visiting for an independent record store conference. In addition to their official showcase, Kinch will play a huge slate of promotional day parties, including Team Clermont Speed Set, which features "short and sweet sessions with specially selected SxSW showcasing acts" and a party hosted by formerly Phoenix-based label Modern Art Records. Not to jinx the guys, but we'd lay even money that Kinch will come home from Austin with a label that wants to release The Incandenza.
Tempe's Gospel Claws, which features former Dear and the Headlights member Joel Marquard, is another band with a lot to gain in Austin. The band's Bob Hoag-produced debut, C-L-A-W-S, was released last year and was in CMJ's Top 100 for five weeks. The Claws have also gotten love from National Public Radio and Paste magazine and, of course, in New Times, where their record made our top 10 of 2010. We're betting the tastemakers at Southby will love songs like the standout single "Summer Nights Lakeside" and appreciate the guys' energy onstage. They've also got a few day-party slots lined up, so if you're in Austin, be sure to check them out. If not, see them open for New York's Miniature Tigers at Rhythm Room on March 24.
Marianne Dissard isn't a familiar name to Valley ears since she doesn't play here much, but the self-described "Tucson chanteuse," who was born and raised in the south of France before moving to the United States as a teen, is definitely worth checking out. Dissard is a Renaissance woman who writes poetry and makes movies in addition to singing folky country and Western-tinged rock songs in both French and English. Dissard's first record was produced by Calexico's Joey Burns, who tapped her to sing on "Ballad of Cable Hogue," from the band's 2000 album, Hot Rail. Dissard's sophomore record, L'Abandon, will be on shelves any day now and will be accompanied by a film called Lonesome Cowgirls, a "bawdy burlesque remake" of Andy Warhol's 1968 Western film. Dissard hadly needs the exposure from SxSW, since she already has worldwide appeal, having distribution in 20 countries and scheduling shows everywhere from Paris to Perth, Australia, this year. She's got no Phoenix dates in the near future, but Dissard will be back in Tucson for a show at Plush just after South by.
Phoenix rapper Random is no stranger to SxSW, having performed at the event last year. The MC, who also answers to MegaRan, had the second best local album of 2010, according to New Times, falling just behind Hooves, who are playing unofficial shows at SxSW. The Philly-bred schoolteacher's socially conscious rhymes over classic Nintendo samples are just the sort of thing hip industry audiences eat up, so don't be surprised to see him get some big buzz on the heels of the event. Also, not only are Random's studio songs great, but the guy has a gift for freestyle, which can really impress jaded music-biz types. Random is on a national tour right now, playing everywhere from San Francisco to Boston, but he'll be back in time for Phoenix Comicon in May, where he's guaranteed to rock the grungy socks off some Nintendo-loving nerds.