Though the definition of success in the music biz is up for grabs — gold or platinum sales are meaningless when acts draw thousands of fans in concert on the strength of free downloads — the biggest joy of the South by Southwest festival is that it provides the first opportunity to see bands that almost certainly will become stars in the year to come.
Here are some of my choices for acts that should make a lot more noise — interestingly enough, all with a strong female presence.
An HorseThe Australian duo of guitarist-vocalist Kate Cooper and drummer-vocalist Damon Cox deliver a bounty of exuberant and well-crafted hooks on their recent album “Rearrange Beds,” and they’re even more winning live, thanks to Cooper’s nervous energy but ultimately endearing personality.
The She CreaturesThis all-female quartet from Bristol, England, actually claims to be from Venus; they dress like thrift-store versions of Barbarella in silver spandex spacesuits and phosphorescent blue wigs and play a ferocious but sexy and melodic brand of garage-rock with trashy organ, theremin and delicious girl-group harmonies.
YelleFrench singer Julie Budet debuted last year with the “Pop Up” album, but she’s best appreciated live, where the infectious energy of her electronic dance-pop is undeniable. No wonder her stage name is an acronym for “You Enjoy Life.”
St. VincentIn a not dissimilar vein but hailing from Dallas and more cinematic in scope, Annie Clark isn’t quite as impressive live as she is on record. But this former member of the Polyphonic Spree is nonetheless an indie chanteuse to watch.
Suzanna ChoffelHard-to-pigeonhole singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen in Austin, but Choffel has a unique sound that’s equal parts Beat poetry, smoky soul grooves and indie-pop eccentricity. Think Feist meets Erykah Badu with a hint of Tex-Mex seasoning.
The Vivian GirlsThis Brooklyn trio’s self-titled album was one of 2008’s best, and if their live show is a bit, um, unpolished, that only makes their aggressive ambition more inspiring. (The group performs at the Pitchfork Music Festival on July 19.)