Listen to Stephen Thompson's conversation with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered by clicking the audio link.
The South by Southwest music festival kicked off Tuesday with the first of five straight nights of music overload: The clubs, makeshift music venues and front porches of Austin, Texas, were overrun with little-known discoveries-in-waiting and big names alike, as well as tens of thousands of fans who have flocked to the city in search of epiphanies.
Finding a prevailing trend at SXSW isn't easy; the festival is like 50 events in one, so it's possible to see nothing but hip-hop, or big names, or heavy metal, or bands from overseas. There's one clear trend in independent music: A lot of the biggest artists have shed the intimacy of bedroom recordings in pursuit of a grandiose, joyous, room-filling sound.
My favorite young band of the festival's opening night fits this bill. Mother Falcon, a 17-piece rock orchestra of sorts, is based in Austin and can't help but send huge sounds bouncing off the rafters. I'm looking forward to seeing a like-minded octet called The Soil & The Sun.
Of course, the big names have their own pull, too. Prince is slated to perform at the SXSW closing party Saturday night, and even the most discovery-minded festival-goers — the ones who lament SXSW's increased emphasis on established names like Green Day and Snoop Dogg — are likely to have a hard time passing up the opportunity to see that.