From Jack White to John Mayer, five acts who made their name at South by Southwest
South by Southwest is the thunderdome of music: Literally thousands of bands will enter, but only a select handful will leave with record deals, booking agents, or that most coveted of assets up for grabs: hype.
A legendary set at SXSW, performed at just the right time for just the right people, can be the kind of thing that’s talked about for years. It happens far less frequently than you might imagine, but when a new artist manages to cut through the noise it can sometimes lead to an entire career. Here are a few examples. Could The StubHub Music Experience at SXSW produce just such a breakout artist?
The White Stripes
With White Blood Cells dropping later that same year, The White Stripes (pictured above) performed at South by Southwest in 2001, just as the day party scene was starting to heat up. Can you imagine watching the band responsible for hits like “Seven Nation Army” on a tiny stage in a parking lot?
He was just a baby-faced guitar prodigy when he was plucked out of the crowd of SXSW hopefuls and signed to Aware Records in 2000. A year later. Columbia released Room for Squares, which went on to sell a measly 4.5 million copies.
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Before he was an arena-packing Vegas mainstay, EDM DJ Steve Aoki was a label-owner with a sweet record collection. At SXSW 2005, he performed to a small cohort of revelers in the backyard of an abandoned Austin warehouse.
The Black Keys
Ever heard of this little two-piece act? Not many people had when the band drove 24 hours to Austin in 2003 in advance of releasing its sophomore album Thickfreakness.
The double-threat musician/comedian got his start playing drums in alt-rock outfit Trenchmouth before going on to the Saturday Night Live Hall of Fame and later putting a bird on it in Portlandia. One of his first comedic forays? His homemade 1998 video “Fred Armisen’s Guide to Music and South by Southwest.”