SXSW 2008: Three Artists to Watch This week, the South by Southwest music festival brings more than 1,700 bands to Austin, Texas, for a weekend that's all about volume in more ways than one. Narrowing down the seemingly limitless options isn't easy, but here are three acts likely to win some new fans in the coming days.
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SXSW 2008: Three Artists to Watch

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SXSW 2008: Three Artists to Watch

SXSW 2008: Three Artists to Watch

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And in Austin, Texas today, the South by Southwest music festival gets underway. That's a Mecca for music fans with 1,700 bands performing over five days.

Our own Stephen Thompson, who produces's Song of the Day, will be listening for more of those songs at the festival.

And Stephen, how many of those 1,700 bands are you actually going to be able to see?

STEPHEN THOMSON: Well, I don't think I can be expected to see more than 1,200.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: And in the few minutes we have here, how many songs are you going to be able to play for us?

THOMPSON: We're going to do three.

MONTAGNE: Okay. So let's start with one song that you're excited about.

THOMPSON: One of the things I'm most excited about seeing is Bon Iver, which started out as sort of a one-man band, a guy named Justin Vernon, who had his heart broken, had his band fall apart, had his life sort of collapse into ash.

And so he spent an entire winter holed up in a cabin in northwest Wisconsin and recorded all these heartbreaking songs, entirely by himself, and made this record sort of as a document of this journey of rebirth, if you want to be a little corny about it. But the music is absolutely gorgeous. It's like getting punched in the heart, but in a good way.

(Soundbite of song, "Skinny Love")

MONTAGNE Stephen, you didn't say the name of that song, but I'm going to guess it's "Skinny Love."

THOMPSON: That is correct.

MONTAGNE: So Bon Iver.


MONTAGNE: Right. So what else do you have for us?

THOMPSON: On a completely different note, I'm really excited to see this soul singer named Darondo, who cut three singles in the early '70s and then completely disappeared. And those singles were sort of highly sought after by record collectors, but weren't reissued to a large audience until a couple years ago.

He sounds a lot like sort of a less wholesome Al Green, sort of beautiful kind of croaky voice. And this is a terrific song called "Didn't I."

(Soundbite of song, "Didn't I")

DARONDO (Singer): (Singing) Didn't I treat you right now? Didn't I? Didn't I do the best I could? Didn't I?

MONTAGNE: Now that's, I want to say, a flash from the past tune.

THOMPSON: Yeah. It was recorded in the early '70s. He completely dropped off the face of the Earth, and so there haven't been a lot of opportunities to see this guy perform live. And so for somebody who cut three singles and disappeared, it's almost a comeback.

MONTAGNE: And Stephen, we've got time for one more quick hit of music. What would that be?

THOMPSON: Yeah, there's a Canadian singer-songwriter. I stumbled across this song just going through hundreds of songs by acts playing the festival. And I came across this song by a Canadian singer named Basia Bulat. She grew up listening to oldies and it very much informs her stuff. But it's just this very timeless, sunny, pop sound. This particular song is called "In the Night."

(Soundbite of song, "In the Night")

Ms. BASIA BULAT (Singer): (Singing) Of all the hopes I've been holding onto for so long. (Unintelligible) times you spent chasing down that (unintelligible). I can tell you are a long way from the one you love.

THOMPSON: You know, every year artists, you know, kind of come into South by Southwest and there's talk about them, whether it's - you know, in past years Norah Jones has played there. Amy Winehouse played there last year. And people knew that they were possibly going to be a big deal going in. And then coming out, people know they're going to be a big deal. And I actually feel like Basia Bulat is somebody who a lot more people are going to be talking about after this festival. If that song is any indication.

MONTAGNE: Well, Stephen, enjoy yourself.

THOMPSON: Thank you so much. I look forward to it.

MONTAGNE: Stephen Thompson is a music producer here at NPR. And you can hear songs by the artists we just talked about and live concerts from South by Southwest at

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