Letter From Austin | SXSW Standouts

Coming to South by Southwest in search of a record deal seems so last-century. While the festival used to serve a key A&R purpose in showcasing bands for labels, it long ago evolved into more of a showcase for already-established acts to show off their wares. But further down the totem pole from Hole and Stone Temple Pilots, upstart acts still come. The Brooklyn singer-songwriter Alina Simone, who released an album of Russian punk songs in 2008, was back for her fourth South by Southwest because, she said, “something weirdly good” always seems to happen there. In years past, she picked up a nice write-up in Billboard magazine and found a manager.

“It’s about the only thing anymore where stuff like that happens,” Simone said right before taking the stage for her performance. “Attention here really means something. I almost feel like it’d be bad luck not to come.” On and off the grid, Austin, Texas, was full of acts with similar stories — some in search of contacts, some simply looking to be heard.