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2012 SXSW Guide

James Murphy, Adam Duritz, James Mercer, Jack White
Simone Joyner/Mike Coppola/Karl Walter/Jeff Gentner, Getty Images

Although the film and interactive portions of South By Southwest have been in full swing since last week, the music part of the annual festival officially kicks off on Tuesday, March 13. As always, an overwhelming number of day parties, unofficial gigs and official showcases are scheduled for the six-day bacchanal. (And that’s not even counting speculation about potential appearances: Members of Arcade Fire are doing a lecture called “Hope, Haiti and Service” at the University Of Texas on March 19—the day after the music festivities end—which has fans hoping an impromptu performance might happen.) To make the SXSW experience a little less daunting, Diffuser has put together this guide to some of the more notable official showcases and events.

Monday, March 12

‘The End of Business As Usual’ panel, featuring Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan
(Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D, 500 E Cesar Chavez St., 3:30PM)
Author Brian Solis and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan will use the former’s new book, ‘The End of Business As Usual,’ as a jumping-off point for an hour-long discussion. On the agenda: Details about Smashing Pumpkins’ new album, ‘Oceania’ and conversation about the changing nature of the music industry.

Tuesday, March 13

Built To Spill
(The Belmont, 305 W. 6th St., 1AM ET)
The veteran Boise, Idaho, indie-jam outfit are one of the most reliable live acts around. To prove their mettle—and perhaps keep themselves limber as they prepare to record a new album—the band are doing several official SXSW showcases.

Santigold
(La Zona Rosa, 612 W. 4th St., 10:10PM ET)
One-woman wrecking crew Santigold is back with a new album, ‘Master Of My Make Believe,’ due May 1. Judging by new singles ‘Big Mouth’ and ‘Disparate Youth,’ expect more punky electro pop full of quirky rhythms and funky inspirations.

Wednesday, March 14

Alberta Cross
(Sony Club @ Red 7, 611 E. 7th St., 12:05AM ET)
Brooklyn-based Alberta Cross are a ferocious, stormy live act indebted to Neil Young’s guitar howls and Led Zeppelin’s thundering presence.

Fiona Apple
(Stubb’s, 801 Red River St., 7:45PM)
Enigmatic songstress Fiona Apple is releasing her fourth studio album allegedly titled–deep breath–‘The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do’ later this year; these SXSW appearances mark her first shows outside of L.A. since 2007.

Andrew Bird
(Stubb’s, 801 Red River St., 12:30AM)
The veteran whistler/violinist/composer’s new album, ‘Break It Yourself,’ is a gorgeous, well-orchestrated collection; live, expect these songs to twist and turn into something even more beautiful.

Built To Spill
(IFC Crossroads House at Vice, 302 E. 6th St., midnight)

Neon Trees
(1100 Warehouse, 1100 E. 5th St., midnight)
After the success of their 2010 debut, ‘Habits,’ the Provo, Utah, synthrockers are gearing up to release a new album, ‘Picture Show,’ in April.

Punch Brothers
(La Zona Rosa, 612 W. 4th St., 9PM ET)
Neo-bluegrass darlings Punch Brothers have a heavy presence at SXSW this year, likely because their latest album, ‘Who’s Feeling Young Now?,’ arrived in February.

‘Shut Up And Play The Hits’—LCD Soundsystem documentary
(Vimeo Theater, 201 Trinity St., 2PM)
The documentary about the end of beloved dance rockers LCD Soundsystem is playing several times at SXSW. Watch a preview of ‘Shut Up And Play The Hits’ here; for a full schedule of showings, go here.

M. Ward
(Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E. 8th St., 11PM ET)
The quiet guitar maestro is switching gears from She & Him back to his solo career with the release of a new album, ‘A Wasteland Companion.’

Thursday, March 15

Alberta Cross
(Bar 96, 96 Rainey St., 11:30PM)

Fiona Apple
(Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E. 8th St., 8PM)

Brendan Benson
(Cedar Street Courtyard, 208 W. 4th St., 11PM)
The Raconteurs’ vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Brendan Benson, has a stellar pop-rock solo career of his own—and a new album, ‘What Kind of World,’ due April 21.

Big Star Documentary Screening + ‘Third’ Concert
(Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave., 7PM)
At 7PM, an in-the-works version of ‘Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me’—a documentary on the power-pop legends—will screen. After that, an all-star group of musicians—including R.E.M. members Peter Buck and Mike Mills, and their long-time pals Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey—will be performing the Big Star album ‘Third’ in its entirety.

Girls
(Stubb’s, 801 Red River St., 10PM)
Psychedelic indie-rockers Girls earned rave reviews with their bewitching, heavier second album, 2011’s ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost.’

Gossip
(Maggie Mae’s Rooftop, 323 E. 6th St., 1AM)
Ferocious dance punk/electro trio Gossip have been keeping a low profile recently. Still, expect this gig to be nothing less than a sweaty, crowded, debauched good time.

The Jesus And Mary Chain
(The Belmont, 305 6th St., midnight)
Psych pop/shoegaze/noise rock innovators the Jesus And Mary Chain reunited in 2007, but haven’t done much touring Stateside. Expect this to be one of SXSW’s buzziest—and hard-to-get-into—shows.

Nada Surf
(Red Eyed Fly, 715 Red River St., 11:10PM)
Although the Brooklyn trio’s latest album, ‘The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy,’ brims with ragged power-pop, this appearance will be an acoustic performance.

Punch Brothers
(IFC Crossroads House At Vice, 302 E. 6th St., 9PM)
(Antone’s, 213 W. 5th St., 11PM ET)

The Shins
(Auditorium Shores Stage (Lady Bird Lake), Riverside Dr. & S. 1st St., 8PM)
With the release of a fanciful new Shins album, ‘Port Of Morrow,’ James Mercer and Co. have plenty of reasons to celebrate at this high-profile gig, which comes on the heels of their ‘SNL’ performance.

The Temper Trap
(Stubb’s, 801 Red River St., midnight)
The explosive Australian pop-rock quintet will debut songs from their forthcoming second album—a self-titled affair due June 5—at their many SXSW shows.

The War On Drugs
(Mohawk Patio, 912 Red River St., 11:30PM)
Although the band’s dreamy melodies are shoegaze-influenced, classic rock is the War On Drugs’ foundation: Vocalist Adam Granduciel is a dead ringer for Bob Dylan, and many twang-dusted riffs conjure Bruce Springsteen.

M. Ward
(Auditorium Shores Stage (Lady Bird Lake), Riverside Drive & S. 1st St., 6:45PM)

Friday, March 16

Blitzen Trapper
(Radio Day Stage, Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St., Exhibit Hall D, 4PM)
Blitzen Trapper’s love of classic rock—especially the Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young—hasn’t waned on their latest LP, ‘American Goldwing.’

Built To Spill
(Lustre Pearl, 97 Rainey St.,11PM ET)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
(Lustre Pearl, 97 Rainey St., midnight)
Taut, new wave-influenced rhythms and synths add pep to the band’s wobbly (in the best possible way) indie rock on their latest LP, ‘Hysterical.’

Counting Crows
(Auditorium Shores Stage (Lady Bird Lake), Riverside Drive & S. 1st St., 8PM)
To celebrate the release of their new covers record, ‘Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation),’ the San Francisco rockers have scheduled some spring tour dates—including this stop at SXSW.

Dinosaur Jr.
(Bar 96, 96 Rainey St., 12:30AM)
Be sure to bring earplugs for this performance by guitar annihilators—and indie-rock demigods—Dinosaur Jr.

Glen Hansard
(Antone’s, 213 W 5th St., 10:30PM)
The Frames/Swell Season member is going it alone this SXSW, right on the heels of his solo trek opening for Pearl Jam.

Ben Kweller
(Radio Day Stage, Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez St., Exhibit Hall D, 3PM)
Easygoing singer-songwriter Ben Kweller keeps churning out one golden pop hit after another. Exhibit A: ‘Go Fly A Kite,’ his newest collection.

The Magnetic Fields
(ACL Live At The Moody Theater, 310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd, 8:45PM)
Back to crafting otherworldly synthpop—and lyrically just as wry and funny as ever—Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields will be showcasing tunes from their newest LP, ‘Love At The Bottom Of The Sea.’

Punch Brothers
(Radio Day Stage, Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St., Exhibit Hall D, 1:15PM)

Andy Rourke (The Smiths)
(IFC Crossroads House at Vice, 302 E. 6th St., 5PM)
Although Rourke held down the low end for the Smiths, these days he’s better known for his DJ skills—which he’ll be showing off during this SXSW appearance/DJ set.

The Temper Trap
(The Parish, 214 E. 6th St., midnight)

The Ting Tings
(Stubb’s, 801 Red River St., 1AM)
The pop-tastic U.K. duo touch on hip-hop, Top 40 and reggae on their entertaining sophomore effort, ‘Sounds From Nowheresville.’

The War On Drugs
(ACL Live At The Moody Theater, 310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd, 7:45PM)

M. Ward
(Frank, 407 Colorado St., 7:45PM)

Jack White
(The Stage On Sixth, 508 E. 6th St., 11:45PM)
Fresh off celebrating Third Man Records’ birthday, Jack White is curating a SXSW showcase featuring the label, which is titled (appropriately) the Third Man Records Texas Showdown. He’ll even do a solo set to close out the night.

Saturday, March 17

A Fine Frenzy
(Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E. 8th Street, 11PM ET)
Spunky pianist/songwriter Alison Sudol (aka A Fine Frenzy) will be releasing a new album this spring—and likely premiering tunes from it at this intimate show.

Best Coast
(Hype Hotel, 504 Trinity St., 11PM)
Cali-pop cheerleaders Best Coast are one of SXSW’s most anticipated gigs, mainly due to the excitement surrounding their forthcoming, Jon Brion-produced album, ‘The Only Place.’

‘Big Easy Express’ Film Premiere + Acoustic Performance
(Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave., 4PM)
The documentary ‘Big Easy Express’ follows Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show on their 2011 U.S. tour, a trek which found them traveling from town to town via train. After a showing of the film, members of the bands will do a special acoustic set.

Great Lake Swimmers
(Swan Dive, 615 Red River St., 9PM)
The jangly Canadian rockers are releasing a new album, ‘New Wild Everywhere,’ on April 3.

Keane
(Stubb’s, 801 Red River St., 10:15PM)
Piano-driven U.K. rockers Keane are reportedly taking inspiration from young’uns such as the Vaccines on their new album—which should make their already-forceful live shows that much more engaging.

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