Once upon a time, thousands of bands and artists made the trek to the annual South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas in hopes of “making it.” Those days are long gone—SXSW is more machine now than man—but that doesn’t mean the fest can’t be a load of fun. A chance to go on tour, play in a cool city in front of cool people, and have a good time? What’s not to love? In that spirit, here’s a quick round-up of 10 Milwaukee acts that are performing in some shape or form—either “officially” or “unofficially”—during next week’s music portion of SXSW 2019. (The full fest runs March 8-17.)
Three of the four recipients of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s inaugural “Backline” grant/accelerator program will team up for a showcase that aims to “Connect Milwaukee & Austin.” To that end, Lex Allen, Zed Kenzo, and Crystal Knives will be joined by Austin artists Deezie Brown, Harry Edohoukwa, and Torre Blake. Lex is still riding high on his unstoppable 2018 album, Table 7: Sinners & Saints; Zed is making a play for Milwaukee Artist of the Year with a handful of jaw-dropping new singles; and Mr. Knives just released a new track called “Stranded.”
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Texas, play a bunch of shows. Fresh off a West Coast tour with Smoking Popes, Milwaukee’s exclamatory Direct Hit! will play not one, not two, but four shows in Austin during SXSW. Following those gigs, the band will travel south to the border town of McAllen, and then cross the border and play a handful of shows in Mexico. Also: members of Direct Hit! continue to run the increasingly busy X-Ray Arcade in Cudahy. Sheesh. The group’s latest album is 2018’s Crown Of Nothing.
Has any Milwaukee-related artist put more blood, sweat, and blood into their music than Juiceboxxx? Probably not. The eternally energetic rapper has been following his fucked-up dreams since he was a gangly teenager. He shows no signs of stopping until he’s a gangly octogenarian. In Texas, he’ll play a show for his label, Dangerbird Records; in Wisconsin, we still can’t get enough of his theme song for Racine & Me. Juiceboxxx’s latest release is the Never Surrender Forever EP.
Milwaukee world traveler Brett Newski has always been known for his far-flung shows (how many of us have played Vietnam and the remnants of the Berlin Wall?), though these days he’s better known for getting flung out of shows. Well, getting kicked out of Walmart, to be exact. Hopefully things go better at these SXSW shows. Newski’s latest album is the endlessly charming Life Upside Down, which is not available at Walmart.
The burn-it-to-the-ground intensity of Fox Face is always a breath of pissed-off air here in Milwaukee, so it’s only fair that the rest of the country should get a chance to inhale it, too. Dirtnap Records released Fox Face’s Spoil + Destroy LP in 2017; in 2019, it will pair the band with label mates Mind Spiders, Proud Parents, Radioactivity, Drakulas, and Ten High for a loaded showcase on the 14th. Fox Face will follow that show with two more gigs, both on the 16th.
“I wrote a lot—mainly because it’s my way of making sense of my world.” That’s Zach Pietrini on his latest EP of B-sides, Denver Sessions. Playing live seems to be the singer-songwriter’s way of making sense of his world, too, if his three SXSW shows—and a full tour throughout March—are any indication. That tour includes hometown shows at 88Nine (March 28) and the Ivy House (March 29).
You may know earnest Milwaukee troubadour Ian Ash as the frontman of earnest Milwaukee group Ian & The Dream. Well, make that former frontman. Ash recently retired “The Dream” in order to make music under his own name, as well as with his new group, The Last Bees.
Playing bars and clubs in Austin during SXSW is one thing—playing a dentist’s office is another. For one of his three dates, Milwaukee singer-songwriter Tyne Darling will play Authentic Smiles, the only venue on this list that offers “the latest in dental technology by providing our clients with comfortable, comprehensive dental care with the most advanced treatments available in reconstruction, aesthetics, neuromuscular, orthodontics, periodontal, myofunctional therapy, sleep apnea and general dentistry.” Is the show dubbed “Mouth By Mouthwest”? You bet it is. Darling’s upcoming LP, Youth Or Something Beautiful, will be released this spring.