More than any other major music festival, South By Southwest has always been about discovering new music. The sprawling Austin-based festival provides a prominent platform for up-and-coming bands to connect with new listeners, and established artists have come to use it as a springboard for new ideas, too. So when the annual juggernaut announced that it would be canceled this year—the beginning of a wave of cancellations as the nation fights the spread of coronavirus—the disappointment went beyond that of a single scrapped tour date. Now, as artists cope with more cancelled festivals and tours, sharing their work with new listeners is more important than ever.
In lieu of a breakfast-taco-fueled jaunt across Austin, we compiled twenty-five songs from Southern bands we wish we’d been able to see this week in the Live Music Capital of the World. From New Orleans singer-songwriter Esther Rose to Texas troubadour Charley Crockett to Nashville phenom Soccer Mommy, along with festival vets such as Margo Price and Pokey LaFarge, stream the full playlist on Spotify below. And if you like what you hear, don’t stop there. Download an album. Buy a band T-shirt. Drop by the artist’s BandCamp page and make a donation. As musicians struggle to make up for lost ticket sales, these small acts can add up in a big way.