It's finally upon us! With SXSW in full swing, we here at Epitonic are packing our bags and heading to Austin, Texas for a week full of amazing music, exciting panels, and all of that magical Austin charm. Editors Bill Ross, Cristina Mendoza, Parker Langvardt, and Patrick Van Wagoner will be hitting the streets and taking Epitonic along for the ride. Here are some of the shows and panels we're most looking forward to hearing this coming week... 

Anticipated Shows

Yellow Ostrich: I found out about Yellow Ostrich about a year and a half ago, and I'm still obsessed. Powerful lo-fi guitar riffs, meticulously layered compositions, and their new album, Strange Land, came out this past Tuesday and is great. They're playing at the official Campfire Trails and Barsuk Records showcases on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. 

Delta Spirit: This folk-rock group is proof that Americana is alive and well. I saw them once at Lollapalooza a few years back and they stole the show for me. They portray the world from the vantage point of skeptical poets, with a passion and honesty that are unparalleled in today's world of music. Their new self-titled album comes out on Tuesday. Check them out Thursday and Friday at the official showcases for WXPN, Paradigm, and Time Out North America. 

(Honorable Mention: Jack White, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Built to Spill, Thee Oh Sees)

Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire: While the word "gritty" is used all too frequently when talking about hip-hop, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire fulfills every aspect of the word. Based out of New York and evoking mid-90's hip-hop, we'll definitely be seeing more of this guy as 2012 goes on. Be sure to check him out with Raekwon, The Cool Kids, Chance the Rapper and more at Ruby Hornet's Digital Freshness: ATX event on Thursday at Peckerheads. And while you're there be sure to cop Ruby Hornet's latest Closed Sessions album!

Kendrick Lamar: Having grown up on a heavy dose of Tupac as a kid, it's no wonder that Kendrick Lamar has quickly become one of my favorite rappers in the game. The 24-year-old Compton native has emphasized the influence that the late rapper has had on his career, and with his 2010 release Section.80 it couldn't be more clear. With hard hitting lyrics and a clear-cut flow, his appearances at SXSW are not to be missed. Catch him and the rest of the Black Hippy crew (Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock) at FADER Fort on Friday.

(Honorable Mention: A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown, Big K.R.I.T, Schoolboy Q)

Zechs Marquise: While visiting San Francisco last August, I managed to get to RX Bandits's last show before their current hiatus. I was hit with a heavy wave of psychedelic sounds and smells upon opening the large, wooden interior doors of the Regency Ballroom. The band on stage, Zechs Marquise, pounded through an impressive set of hip-hop-influenced funk and progressive rock jams. At one point an audience member yelled, "I bet you guys like the Mars Volta a lot!", to which one of the band members made a remark about the statement's ignorance. Unknown to me, and possibly the heckler, Zechs Marquise includes three of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's brothers -- Marcel, Marfred, and Rikardo. Despite the relation and accusation, Zechs Marquise creates their own style of music that is far from a Mars Volta ripoff. Get a taste of their music on Wednesday, March 14 at Austin DIY space Second House's all day Slip'n'Slide party, and Friday, March 16 at Bat Bar for Sargent House's official showcase.

Nneka: I stumbled across Nneka's 2010 album Concrete Jungle at Chicago's Harold Washington Library when browsing for jazz and world music CDs to rip onto my computer. The Nigerian-German vocalist and her band blend hip-hop, soul, and reggae within great pop songs about global, social, and political issues. Nneka will be performing at The Stage on Sixth twice -- Thursday and Saturday.

(Honorable Mention: Cloud Nothings, The Atlas Moth, Chelsea Wolfe)

Alabama Shakes: From Athens, Alabama, these southern rockers burst onto the scene and bring a passionate bluesy soul sound to the stage. Recently signed to ATO Records, the Shakes will be performing at three separate showcase events and are sure to rock your socks off every damn time. Find them on Wednesday at the KCRW showcase and the NPR showcase, and in case you miss these, check out their show on Friday at the Girls Rock Camp, Maurices & PlayNetwork showcase.

Nicolas Jaar: Only 22 years old and a current student at the prestigious Brown University, Jaar has already discovered his own sound and mastered production in a way most cannot compete with. Having already also began his own record label/art house, Clown & Sunset, Jaar is clearly on top of his game. Be sure to check out his sexy, chilling beats at the Pitchfork showcase on Thursday.

Music Panels

There are a ton of panel discussions going on throughout the week in Austin. There's a whole series called Style X about trends in urban fashion, the relationships between style and music, and a bunch more. Also, our brave captain Justin Sinkovich, owner/co-founder of Epitonic, will be moderating a panel called Music Industry Higher Education discussing formal training and college degrees in Music Business. Oh, and there's Bruce Springsteen's keynote address. Duh.

I'm a bit of a marketing and media junkie so there are a number of panels that I'm extremely excited to check out. Digital Musicologists: Online Music's Tastemakers is a must see for those interested in working with media on the web. From websites to music applications such as Spotify and iTunes, this panel gives an in-depth view of the tastemakers who constantly work behind the scenes to create the hype that surrounds today's chart topping tracks. And for those of us musicians out there, Social Media Best Practices For Musicians will teach you how to use these vital social networking tools to connect to fans whiles building a social media presence.

I'm going to SXSW as much for the performances as I am for the events at the Austin Conference Center, including the overwhelming amount of panels, the SXSW Trade Show, and the Music Gear Expo. The panel Creating A Scene in 2012 will be discussing whether there is a formula to creating a scene, and the impact of digital technology on this process. One of Epitonic's goals is to uncover these scenes, as seen with Wingnut Records' guest playlist of Irish artists. I'm also looking forward to Indie Going Mobile, considering one of the reasons I upgraded to a smartphone was to understand how it would impact my work, yet I haven't been able to picture how I will utilize apps for marketing in the future.

It may have been harder narrowing down the panels I'd like to see than it was for the artists. Led by some of the music industry's biggest names, these discussions will not only be interesting, but quite possibly life changing. Parker's previously mentioned Wingnut Records guest playlist has inspired me to spend more time exploring the international scene, so one panel you'll for sure find me at is Why the Global Music Industry Needs China. I would love to build a career out of bringing international artists to the States, but a big part of accomplishing this goal will be finding success in placing their music, making my next stop a panel discussing the Pathway to Placement

And with that we bid you adieu. Have a marvelous trip to Austin. And hey, while you're there stop by the AEMMP Records Day Party at Bat Bar on Friday, featuring artists Dusted, 10ille, The Ivorys, The Future Laureates, Minor Characters, Gypsyblood, Jip-Jop, and The GTW. The four of us will be there so stop by and say "Hello"!