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SXSW Cheat Sheet: Performances, Panels, Palette-Pleasing Eats

Even the most tech-savvy festival goers could use some help navigating the music capital of the world.

Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen

This story originally appeared in the March 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.


Has the fest's music conference gotten too big for its cowboy britches? The answer in 2012 is a resounding yes as several arena-worthy acts descend on Austin.

March 12, Austin City Limits Live
310 West Willie Nelson Blvd.

The superstar rapper will hit South By early, with a Monday night bow that will be live-sreamed courtesy of YouTube and American Express. The concert will also be available for viewing on VEVO's mobile and tablet platforms, with an on-demand replay set for March 13 through 19. Conference attendees can also watch the show live on a digital billboard on the corner of 6th Street and Red River in Austin. Want to see Hova there in the flesh? Set your Twitter to Sync and head over to the Amex booth at the Austin Convention Center for credential info.   

Bruce Springsteen
March 15, Location TBA

The Boss delivers the keynote address March 15 at the Austin Convention Center. Hours later, Springsteen and his E Street Band will take the stage at an "intimate venue" with a capacity of several hundred. By comparison, his previous tour in 2009 included five sold-out nights at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where he played to about 400,000 people. His 2012 trek promoting the new album Wrecking Ball kicks off in Atlanta on March 18.

VIDEO: Bruce Springsteen Performs "Wrecking Ball"

Fiona Apple
March 15, Central Presbyterian Church
200 East 8th St.

The elusive and often controversial singer is scheduled to make several South By appearances ahead of her much-anticipated new album. Apple headlines Pitchfork's showcase but also will perform at NPR's Stubb's kickoff March 14, joining buzz band Alabama Shakes and indie stalwarts The Magnetic Fields on the bill.

March 16, La Zona Rosa
612 West 4th St.

Fans of the British hitmakers will have multiple opportunities to catch them in Austin. It's the band's first time at South By Southwest and they're making the most of it, performing at the Filter Magazine party on March 15 at Cedar Street, hitting the Rolling Stone bash on the 16th and their own slot at Stubb's on a highly competitive Friday night. Their new album, Strangeland, is due out in May. 

Norah Jones
March 17, La Zona Rosa
612 West 4th St.

Ten years after becoming a household name (thanks to the eight Grammys won for her 2002 album Come Away With Me), the jazz singer takes a musical turn, enlisting producer Danger Mouse (The Black Keys, Gnarls Barkley) for her album Little Broken Hearts. Typically booked in traditional theaters, Jones will play at this club in Austin's industrial area, among several SXSW stops.

John Mayer
March 17, Stubb's
801 Red River

Marking his first time back at SXSW since a career-launching bow in 2000, Mayer will debut songs from his forthcoming album, Born and Raised (due out May 22), on St. Patrick's Day. The show also will serve as a warm-up for Mayer's upcoming theater tour, which kicks off April 9 in Bloomington, Ind. David Crosby and Graham Nash appear on the record, prompting some to wonder whether they might make a cameo at the iconic barbecue joint.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show
March 17, Paramount Theatre
713 Congress Avenue

Following the theatrical premiere of Big Easy Express, a documentary that chronicles the sights and sounds of the 2011 railroad tour featuring last year's biggest-selling rock act (Mumford) along with music-supervisor darlings the Magnetic Zeros and Nashville string outfit Old Crow Medicine Show, all three bands will hit the Paramount stage for an acoustic set.

Big Star Tribute
March 15, Paramount Theatre
713 Congress Ave.

When Big Star singer Alex Chilton died of a heart attack in 2010, fans scrambled to organize a SXSW tribute. This year, after a screening of the Big Star doc Nothing Can Hurt Me, disciples such as R.E.M.'s Mike Mills and Peter Buck and The Posies' Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow will join Big Star drummer Jody Stephens for a proper celebration of the seminal band's songs.


… BUT IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT BIG ACTS: 5 small(ish) bands making a big buzz.

Big Deal: Since the band's debut in the fall on Mute, the U.K. has been abuzz with praise for this boy-girl guitar duo. SXSW will host their first U.S. shows, but already their raw, grungy torn-up love songs have aired on NBC's Parenthood.

Milo Greene: The four-song EP The Hello Sessions put the folksy pop quintet on the map, while a tour with Grammy winners Civil Wars spurred radio play for the single "1957." A full-length album is on tap in the summer via music supervisor extraordinaire Alexandra Patsavas' Chop Shop Records, with Atlantic Records' major-label support sure to give it a boost.

STORY: The Indie Darlings

Grimes: The quirky Canadian chanteuse, performance artist and blogger darling will be one of SXSW's not-to-be-missed acts. Since she released her third album, Visions, on 4AD in February, the web has been buzzing over whether this singer and beatmaker, whom some have compared to Lady Gaga, might be the next big thing. If indie tastemakers have their way, it will be so.

Haim: The three Haim sisters grew up singing Fleetwood Mac classics with their parents in a family band. With just three songs from their self-released EP Forever, the soulful rockers have international tour dates lined up as well as major and indie labels knocking at their door begging for more.

Nick Waterhouse: The Bay Area-bred newcomer with a retro-soul sound has seen his tunes picked up for use on CSI, MTV and The CW, among others. A full-length is in the works via up-and-coming label Innovative Leisure. -- Colin Stutz



Where to eat and drink right now between all of those film screenings, technology talks and music sets.

These days, Austin's food and cocktail realm is almost as robust as its live music scene. A pair of restaurants that debuted to national acclaim a little over a year ago are leading the way. CONGRESS (200 Congress Ave.), an elegant 10-table spot in the sleek Austonian high-rise from James Beard nominee David Bull, offers prix fixe three- and seven-course menus featuring haute cuisine dishes such as crisp sweetbreads with green peppercorn curry. Meanwhile, the down-home-goes-refined BARLEY SWINE (2024 S. Lamar Blvd.) finds chef Bryce Gilmore mixing barbecued beans with wagyu brisket and grilled foie gras with sweet potato ice cream. Booked? Try these four other newcomers that have opened since last year's SXSW.

Easy Tiger
709 E. Sixth St.

This sausage spot and beer garden plus bakery has emerged along the infamous "Dirty Sixth" corridor of rowdy college bars. Expect 30 craft brews on tap and house-made sausages on pretzel buns. The goat cheese baguette sandwich comes with pear and fennel mustard, and the beef jerky is smoked on premises. Canned-beer partisans better opt for a Lone Star tall boy.

PHOTOS: 22 Celebrity-Owned Restaurants: The Hits and Misses

Elizabeth Street Cafe
1501 S. First St.

Restaurateurs Larry McGuire and Thomas Moorman, who offer barbecue at Lamberts and seafood at Perla's, have turned their attention to French-inflected Vietnamese at this 40-seater. Expect the requisite banh mi sandwiches and spring rolls, as well as steamed buns holding Niman Ranch pork belly and broiled escargot with Thai basil curry butter, plus profiteroles and macaroons. Elizabeth Street raised quite a few local eyebrows when it opened in late 2011 offering a super-deluxe $22 version of the typically humbly priced soup pho. But recession sensibilities be damned: Its amped-up version -- featuring shrimp, red snapper and Dungeness crab -- is still available on the menu.

3110 Guadalupe St.

A French gastropub that bowed north of the UT Austin campus, it boasts 42 microbrews (Avery Mephistopheles Stout, Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye Ale) and a menu of French home-style bites on the order of salade nicoise and heirloom tomato tart. Swig away under the exposed ductwork and beams in the main room, or visit the back den, decorated with books and bric-a-brac.

Midnight Cowboy
313 E. Sixth St.

Tim League, owner of the vaunted Alamo Drafthouse boutique theater chain (it's the ArcLight of Austin), took over the Midnight Cowboy massage parlor across the street from one of his branches after police shut the place down in a prostitution sting in 2011. Now, on March 9, the opening night of SXSW, it reemerges as a 1920s-themed watering hole whose antiques-heavy design was heavily inspired by Boardwalk Empire. Three former "massage" rooms have been turned into private party spaces for small groups, and the mixology-grade cocktails include the Pisco Sourgrass, involving honey-sorrel syrup, and the Kalamazoo Julep, featuring celery leaves.



R to Z Studios' Randi Zuckerberg (yes, she's Mark's sister) identifies the must-see interactive events.

1) Potterize It! Sharing the Magic of Fan Culture
Fri., March 9, 3:30-4:30 P.M.

The most successful recent brands have grown organically, fostering strong (bordering on rabid) online communities, from Twi-hards to Gleeks. This panel addresses how they come alive.

2) Hacking YouTube: Science & Secrets of Viral Videos
Sat., March 10, 11 A.M.-Noon

It's the million-dollar secret: What does it take to create a successful online video? It's more a science than an art.

3) Backplane's Managers Hack
Sun., March 11, 2-10 P.M.

Lady Gaga's manager and Justin Bieber's manager will be among the judges of a global contest dedicated to developing ideas for the future of digital music distribution. And I'll be there, too.

4) Times Are a'Changin: Digital Storytelling Today
Mon., March 12, 12:30-1:30 P.M.

Panelists such as Yahoo's Erin McPherson and Generate's Jordan Levin will discuss how digital storytelling is changing with the shift to smartphones and tablets.

5) Birth of Interactive Entertainment: Avatar to Bjork
Tues., March 13, 5-6 P.M.
Scott Snibbe will show how Bjork's Biophilia musical app and James Cameron's museum show Avatar Experience have redefined interactivity.



SXSW is an early adopters paradise, having helped launch everything from Twitter to Foursquare to Instagram. Here’s five apps everyone should put on their phone.
SXSW GO (iOS & Android, free)
The festival’s authorized app puts everything official in the palm of your hand: schedules, floor plans, attendee profiles, and the SXSW Twitter, Google+, and Facebook feeds.
Glancee (iOS & Android, free)
Sign in through your Facebook account and Glancee shows who’s nearby and what interests you share. But not freaky close—it doesn’t show your exact location on a phone’s map. 
Kibits (iOs only, free)
The Swiss Army knife of group messaging apps allows you to share a photo with one group of friends while a proximity sensor allows you to see if anyone nearby wants to grab lunch.
UpNext 3D Cities (iOS and Android, free)
This 3D map of Austin is a nice add-on to the standard iPhone map and it offers location-based restaurant and nightlife listings.
Tabbedout (iOS and Android, free)
Once you’ve picked a restaurant, this handy app that allows you to open tab and pay for your meal from your phone at more than 50 restaurants and bars in Austin.