Beer, BBQ, industry schmoozing: Rounding up SXSW 2008’s local delegates

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SXSW rock Black Keys
Kate Voegele wants to know if you have a vase.
Kate Voegele wants to know if you have a vase.

Every year around this time, everyone who makes a living off the music industry — artists, publicists, writers — converges on Austin for the annual South by Southwest music festival. It started 21 years ago as a low-key showcase for regional bands, but it's since turned into music's most buzzed-about happening. More than 1,500 bands — some established, some brand-new — set up their guitars, drums, and amps at dozens of clubs around Austin. All the while, record companies, bloggers, and fans chase after the Next Big Thing. Here are some of our favorite local artists making the trip to Austin next week. — Michael Gallucci

We're not cheating here. Even though the four members of the indie-pop group Aloha are spread throughout the eastern half of the country these days — New York, Washington D.C. — at least one of the guys still lives here, and the band still lists Cleveland as their home base. We'll gladly claim them. The group's latest EP, Light Works, glides along the Shins' delicate indie-pop, passes through Arcade Fire's space-hogging arrangements, and eventually settles into post-rock mind-fuckery. That's not to say Aloha doesn't write hooks. But the mood these guys have mined over the past decade goes deeper than that. Vibraphone solos, slow builds, and ghostly background noises make up Light Works' seven songs, which are among the best of the band's career. A full album is due later this year. — Gallucci

The Black Keys
Akron is at least a dozen hours from Mississippi hill country. But that hasn't stopped guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney from forging gritty, ramshackle blooze-rock — the sort usually found in greasy backwoods juke joints. The Black Keys formed in 2001 and quickly released three albums in as many years, highlighted by 2004's Rubber Factory. Their indie-level success — coupled with the commercial trajectory of similar-minded bands like the White Stripes — earned them a major-label record deal for 2006's Magic Potion, which packs wall-storming bluster and snaking minimalist shimmy. The duo's fifth album, Attack & Release, is due on April 1. It's produced by Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse, who brings out and integrates influences that used to just hang around the fringes of the Keys' sound. Prepare to be knocked out. — Chris Parker

The Deadbeat Poets
The bio for Youngstown's Deadbeat Poets reads like a musical map of their beleaguered city: The quartet features former members of Blue Ash, Infidels, and Stiv Bators Band. The group formed when singer and bassist Frank Secich was putting together a tribute album for Bomp! Records founder Greg Shaw, the man responsible for giving Bators' Dead Boys a record deal back in the day. Secich rounded up guitarist Pete Drivere, drummer John Koury, and Cleveland singer and guitarist Terry Hartman for the gig. "I really loved the sound we made," says Secich. "I thought if I decided to record my new songs, this would be the band I'd use." The Deadbeat Poets can trace their lineage to a long list of garage-punks, but there's also plenty of Stones and Beatles running through the power-pop grooves of their debut album, Notes From the Underground. Mostly, though, it's about the super-hooky melodies — something the guys picked up from performing in different bands over the years — and cramming 40 years' worth of rock history into three-minute songs. — Eddie Fleisher

Gil Mantera's Party Dream
Onstage, Gil Mantera's Party Dream is sorta like a new-wave interpretive-dance tribute to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. With guitars. The Youngstown duo has always put on tremendous live shows — which netted them loyal followings from Chicago to New York. (The recent Live Video Archive [Volume 01] DVD captures two concerts in their full sweatbox glory.) When they first started playing live, the synth-pop revivalists were repeatedly paired with stoner-rock bands, whose audiences reacted with indignant, vocal shock to Mantera's sets — which featured super-tight Day-Glo spandex outfits, a vocoder-heavy rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," and an occasional self-inserted candlestick in the ass. Ultimate Donny and Gil Mantera proved they could also make it work on record with 2005's Bloodsongs; they're now recording a follow-up CD. Donny says the new album will be "more dance [-oriented], but still pretty damn rockin'. Our next session will be a little different, with at least one long-ass song with a few movements, covering pop, Krautrock, and more." — D.X. Ferris

Kate Voegele
We can't escape Bay Village singer-songwriter Voegele. Everywhere we look — USA Today, iTunes, the CW Network — we see the 21-year-old's face. There she is — singing songs from, talking about, and inviting you to download her debut album, Don't Look Away. Voegele has been slowly building buzz over the past couple of years with her personal pop tunes, which are about the sort of things you'd expect someone who started writing songs as a teenager to get all serious about. She's sharp and insightful — traits that undoubtedly attracted the attention of the producers of the TV show One Tree Hill. Voegele appeared in several episodes of the tween drama, playing a singer-songwriter who looks and sounds an awful lot like . . . Kate Voegele. The exposure catapulted Don't Look Away to the top of several charts. We have a feeling this is only the beginning.— Gallucci

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