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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, big number one hit. And this is not some unknown band.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Still, Macklemore and Lewis are one of a couple of thousand bands performing this week at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The festival may be considered a hotbed for discovering new acts, but these days, you're just as likely to hear rapper Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion, as you are that random band you can't pronounce the name of that your blog-crazy cousin told you about. Like this band...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Our NPR music team is listening to that music and a lot more in Austin to find out about some of the tunes that are making waves. And we're joined from Austin by our own Stephen Thompson, who's out on the street taking in the scene. Hey there, Stephen.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Hello, Audie.

CORNISH: So I hear the concert started yesterday and you went out to shows last night and this is one, The Mother Falcon. Tell us about them.

THOMPSON: Yeah, this is one of the bands I was most excited to see. You know, I spend months leading up to South by Southwest trying to listen to all the bands that are playing and I got through about 1,500. And so I feel like I've spent a lot of time discovering music. Now, I want to discover the spectacle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

THE MOTHER FALCON: (Singing) And we will...

THOMPSON: So, Mother Falcon is - they're from Austin and there are 17 members. So, it's basically a sort of rock orchestra almost. Not with necessarily an orchestral vibe, but this big joyous, just - there are waves of joy are sort of emanating off this band. And so I like to look for bands that are going to do something live that they can't do on record.

CORNISH: And is there a little bit of a trend with that? I mean, are we seeing smaller bands who are aspiring to a bigger sound?

THOMPSON: Well, yeah. I mean, I think if you're looking for prevailing trends, I think a few years ago, a lot of independent music was very inward facing. And I think now with the success of a lot of bands like Arcade Fire or even, like, even almost like a Mumford and Sons, there's this very big outward facing, stompy, clappy, bigger, brasher sound.

You got a rock band, you better throw in some horns, better throw in some strings and split the money eight ways instead of four.

CORNISH: Now, does the band The Soil and the Sun fall in that category? They are another one of your picks.

THOMPSON: Yeah, The Soil and the Sun is four men and four women and they have an album out called "What Wonder Is This Universe." And, you know, I spend a lot of time listening to a lot of sad music and I'm a mopey music aficionado. But when you have a band that is that celebratory surrounding sort of life and existence, I've got a soft spot for that. And, you know, when you're seeing live music, if you can actually be uplifted, there is never anything wrong with that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

THE SOIL AND THE SUN: (Singing) (unintelligible)

CORNISH: All right, Stephen. Sounds like its coming to a movie soundtrack near you, right?

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: Or a Bing commercial.

CORNISH: Now, how does a band like this compete with, say, a headliner, you know, like a Snoop Lion or even the band we heard earlier, Macklemore? You know, is this a festival that's about discovering new bands or has it become just another big kind of pre-summer music fest?

THOMPSON: I think South by Southwest, more than any other music festival, is what you make of it. It is designed to be about 50 different music festivals all happening on top of each other. And you can spend an entire time at South by Southwest almost listening to nothing but music from Asia or listening to nothing but hip-hop or nothing but metal. And so, you can also spend that time standing in line for headliners. And it can be a festival experience sort of like seeing, you know, a Lollapalooza or a Bonnaroo or a Coachella and - where you see gigantic headlines.

I mean, Prince is rumored to be playing South by Southwest. And if you want to see Prince, which I do, you have that opportunity to do that. But at the same time, for me, the greatest joy of South by Southwest is to go and just have this one-stop shopping where you're just doing nothing but taking in things you've never heard before and to kind of be as notionally open as possible to as much music as possible in order to become a more well-rounded music enthusiast.

CORNISH: That's Stephen Thompson of NPR Music. Stephen, thanks so much for talking with us.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Audie.

CORNISH: And if you want to hear more music from Austin, head to nprmusic.org tonight. You can hear and see live performances from South by Southwest.

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