Week two of our South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) preview brings to your sad, thirsty ears the sweet sounds of Air Force soul, new-era Clash rock and psychedelic indie ska.

The music portion of Austin’s monster tech, trend and music festival runs March 17-20. Learn more at sxsw.com. Let’s begin.


It’s no surprise that these swingers have a big sound, as the collective used to refer to itself as Rubblebucket Orchestra. But what is surprising is how it has built its brass sound alongside its reggae soft-psychedelic ear honey to create a forceful, smile-inducing crowd-pleaser.

Diverging from its first two albums, 2014’s Survival Sounds is crisp, wild and substantial. The band took a big step up, thanks to help from John Congleton (producer for St. Vincent, The Walkmen, David Byrne and The Polyphonic Spree). We’ll name the brass, increased synth and clarity of sound mixing as big factors in its newfound popularity, but what catches us most is lead singer Annakalmia Traver’s trueness of voice. She can be a bit gravelly, but when she hits and Rubblebucket starts rumbling, you will be flying.

Official SXSW showcases include 8 p.m. March 19 at IFC Fairgrounds and 1 a.m. March 20 at Blackheart in Austin.

Sean C. Johnson

A former Air Force staff sergeant, Johnson isn’t quite the type you’d expect to flourish in the realm of soul. But the Del City singer has groove.

Inspired by the likes of TheDixie Hummingbirds, The Canton Spirituals, The Fairfield Four and Sam Cooke, Johnson was grounded ingospel from a young age. Though music was never really more than a hobby, there were nights he would record his voice and play it back, creating his own harmonies.

He had a knack for it, but it wasn’t until a friend broke down in tears at an initial recording effort that Johnson considered doing it professionally.

A soothing mix of soul, jazz and a touch of hip-hop, Johnson’s music is the kind you listen to when you want to feel things.

His official SXSW showcase is 7:15 p.m. March 19 at PromiseLand Church in Austin.


Palma Violets

Hailing from London, this indie garage rock band pumps the kind of tunage that’ll have you retreating to some dark corner of a brick-basement house concert for extracurriculars with your girl/guy.

Part The Clash, The Killers and wildcard appeal, the band built itself from a strong local following, attracting an ever-broader fan base through amateur videos and gigs before their songs were even released. After a successful debut album, 180, Palma Violets — Alexander “Chilli” Jesson, Samuel Thomas Fryer, Jeffrey Peter Mayhew and William Martin Doyle — is officially a next-gen band to watch. With a sophomore album due May 5, there’s every reason to pick it up.

Official SXSW showcases are at 1 a.m. March 19 at Parish and 11:30 p.m. March 20 at Bar 96 in Austin.

Print headline: Punky soul, Leading up to this year’s musical portionof the Austin fest, we’re previewing three can’ t-miss acts.

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