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SXSW 2014: 25 Must-See Acts

The shows everyone will be talking about once the dust (and BBQ sauce) settles

South by Southwest — the annual music-industry hob-nobber convention that brings together more bands than you could ever dream of seeing in a single city — starts on March 11th. Whether you're headed to Austin or just rubbernecking on Twitter, here's the 25 shows people will be talking about when the dust settles.

By Gavin Edwards, Will Hermes, Christian Hoard and Nick Murray

Sarrah Danziger

Hurray for the Riff Raff

Why You Can't Miss Them: Born in the Bronx and receiving a musical education at all-ages shows in Lower Manhattan, Alynda Lee Segarra formed Hurray for the Riff Raff after skipping town and winding up in New Orleans. With songs that cross the country, starting in the Blue Ridge Mountains and moving west to San Francisco and south to her adopted home, Hurray's recent Small Town Heroes is Americana in the truest, most open-hearted sense of the term. This is a band – and a songwriter – that is only improving, and seeing them in an intimate venue is going to get harder and harder.

Tee Murphy

Bunji Garlin

Why You Can't Miss Him: Famous in Trinidad for tracks like "Down in the Ghetto" and "Blaze the Fire," Bunji Garlin finally entered American radio playlists with 2013's "Differentology," the song of the year not just for Trinidad but the whole Caribbean. Performing a week and a half after Carnival, Garlin will be entering South by Southwest in his peak form, and "Differentology" is the perfect track to help you reach yours. With its massive builds, Spanish guitar, and celebratory lyrics, it could very well become your festival anthem.

Courtesy Future


Why You Can't Miss Him: The robo-croon star has one of the most impressive recent résumés in hip-hop, from hooks he's sung for Miley Cyrus and Rihanna to a solid run as a songwriter (including a co-write on "Body Party," a hit for his fiancée, Ciara). But he saves his most spaced-out material for his own records, and Honest — which he told Rolling Stone will "shock the world" when it arrives later this year — will hopefully propel him to new levels of delicious weirdness.

Leif Shackelford


Why You Can't Miss Her: Her bracing second Matador LP shows a singer/songwriter of a scope miles beyond even what her astonishing 2011 bedroom-noise-rap single "California" ("Fuck California/You made me boring. . .I'm just 22 and I don't mind dying") suggested, like some fierce hybrid of Kim Gordon and Cat Power. Her intense, matter-of-factly goth live show has likely grown more awesome as well.   

Sandy Kim


Why You Can't Miss Them: Because while this British five-piece is most famous for online screeds attacking other bands ("you are the type of people who take drugs yet have never met a drug dealer"), their debut album is due in 2014 after years of spaced-out guitar singles. If they don't prove themselves, they'll have to start a fight.

James Orlando

Dum Dum Girls

Why You Can't Miss Them: The Los Angeles group revolves around frontwoman Dee Dee's beautifully disparate influenes: girl-group pop, new wave and garage rock. On their latest, Too True, the group sounded clearer and fuller than ever, a combination that will likely make their already excellent live show even better. If they brought the house down at when they played on David Letterman, imagine what they'll do here.

Courtesy Backspin Promotions

DJ Rashad

Why You Can't Miss Him: The mastermind of Chicago footwork exploded the scene's profile and flavor palette with last year's deep, fractured, soul-jazzy Double Cup, released by the tastemaking avant-bass U.K. label Hyperdub. But of course, he makes his real magic in da club.

Pooneh Ghana

Cloud Nothings

Why You Can't Miss Them: The first single from their next album (due in April), "I'm Not Part of Me," suggests that after five years as a band, this Cleveland trio have found the perfect balance between a spiky guitar attack and melodies as sticky as warm peanut butter.

Dan Curwin

Charli XCX

Why You Can't Miss Her: Because this 21-year-old Brit was the brains behind Icona Pop's megahit "I Love It" — and she wants to use that success to get weird, not to churn out assembly-line pop hits. Live, she's a hair-flipping, mic-eating super-performer.

Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

Chance the Rapper

Why You Can't Miss Him: Because he's got talent coming out of his ears. Released just two weeks after he turned 20, Acid Rap mixes up cartoon flows, Day-glo drug songs, showoff wordplay and rants about the media's indifference to Chicago's murder epidemic ("Where the Fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric up in here"). He'll roll into SXSW with a slew of post-Acid Rap gigs under his belt, including a stint opening for Eminem.

Lee Cherry


Why You Can't Miss Him: Because this Harlem rapper, who won "Rookie of the Year" at last year's BET Hip Hop Awards, always grabs your ears, even when he's just chanting "Shabba Ranks."

Linda Brown Lee

Damon Albarn

Why You Can't Miss Him: The forthcoming Everyday Robots is, remarkably enough, Albarn's first proper solo set. It's a handsome, meditative set, with cameos from Bryan Eno and Bat for Lashes' Natasha Khan; expect previews alongside picks from his remarkably deep back catalog of group projects, Blur and Gorillaz included.