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March 19, Vevo Power Station
It's a familiar story: A celebrity's lowest point is inevitably followed by their greatest triumph. Even if Kanye fulfills that career arc, over the last seven years he's given us a body of work that is anything but cliché. With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — which EW named the best record of 2010 — West proved that restless creativity is the best cure for an overblown scandal. There are a lot of reasons to consider this SXSW's must-see show: He has a history of bringing out surprise guests, and there's always the chance he'll say something ka-razy. But the most convincing reason is much simpler: seeing one of today's most gifted artists at the height of his powers.
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TV on the Radio
March 17, Stubb's
Brooklyn's critically beloved and creatively restless TV on the Radio play SXSW this year, and with the release of their fourth album, Nine Types of Light, less than a month away, expect a taste of their latest genre-bending forays. Sadly, the band recently revealed that bassist Gerard Smith was diagnosed with lung cancer, so he won't be participating, but they say early reports on his health are promising.
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March 17, Auditorium Shores Stage
Can you believe it's been a decade since the Strokes reintroduced detached New York cool to the world of rock & roll? And can you believe that 10 years later they're still flaunting their too-cool-to-shower aesthetic? (Guitarist Nick Valensi recently admitted he washes his hair only 10 times a year). Hygiene concerns aside, the Strokes recently displayed a renewed vitality during their Saturday Night Live performance and showed off a set of new tunes that were as cocky and catchy as ever.
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March 17, Austin Music Hall
Obviously, the Wu-Tang Clan can never fill the gaping hole left by the early death of Ol' Dirty Bastard, but that doesn't diminish the live impact of the surviving members. Shaolin warriors RZA, GZA, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man are enough of a draw as solo acts, so how could you be in Austin and not go see the original (minus the dearly departed ODB) Staten Island crew that made them legends?
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March 19, MOG at the Mohawk Patio
Big Boi might make up the more traditional half of the consistently brilliant OutKast, but don't let his comparative normalcy fool you into thinking there's anything average about him. Big Boi's solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (one of EW's top 10 albums of 2010), proved that he could take risks without sacrificing the party-ready beats he loves so much. After playing one SXSW show during the pre-music Interactive portion of the festival on Monday (which involved him giving away a few thousand tickets via Foursquare), Big Boi returns to the stage for another show this Saturday.
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March 17, Austin Music Hall
The Queen of Neo-Soul (whose two New Amerykah albums earned her rave reviews in our pages) brings her brand of funk-jazz-soul to SXSW once again. That means Badu will play Austin almost a year to the day she stripped naked and walked down the streets of Dallas for her video ''Window Seat.'' This time, expect more clothes, an equal amount of idiosyncratic R&B, and fewer shocked onlookers.
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Queens of the Stone Age
March 16, La Zona Rosa
No one expected Queens of the Stone Age's 37-year-old frontman Josh Homme to nearly die during leg surgery last year, and we're lucky he pulled through. On a less scary, more awesome note, last year also saw the reissue of QOTSA's classic album, Rated R. Seeing these Queens on stage is a hip-moving, bone-crunching experience. (Will Jessica Simpson be dancing in the crowd, as she was at the band's 2005 appearance at the festival? We shall see.)
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De La Soul
March 19, Warehouse District
After pioneering positivity in hip-hop with one of the strongest debuts in the genre's history (3 Feet High and Rising) and then tearing down their self-created vision of the D.A.I.S.Y. Age on De La Soul Is Dead, these Long Island rappers are a conflicted but always inventive musical collective. This Red Bull-sponsored showcase will also feature fellow old-school hip-hopper DJ Jazzy Jeff of Fresh Prince fame.
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Lupe Fiasco, Cee Lo Green, Wiz Khalifa
March 17, La Zona Rosa
The chart-scorching trio of Lupe Fiasco, Cee Lo Green, and Wiz Khalifa are featured in a sure-to-be-spectacular showcase called ''Killers Lasers Papers.'' Khalifa's ''Black and Yellow'' recently topped the Billboard 100, Cee Lo's ''Forget You'' is a seemingly unstoppable cultural phenomenon, and Lupe Fiasco will be supporting his recently released Lasers.
Rumor has it that a very special guest will join these three during their March 17 showcase. Oh, God. Is Gwyneth Paltrow still following Cee Lo around?
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March 19, The Tap Room at Six
Eliza Doolittle is a rising British singer-songwriter (and former child actress) who writes hummable, snarky pop tunes. In spite of her My Fair Lady moniker, you should be thinking Lily Allen versus ''the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.'' This Britpopper's excellent single ''Skinny Genes'' (which samples Andy Williams whistling) is making waves in the States, and that's why she's playing EW's official SXSW party, alongside L.A. soul revivalists Fitz & the Tantrums.
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March 19, Mohawk Patio
San Franciscan Ty Segall has been panning the Bay Area for pop nuggets left over from the psychedelic age for a couple years now, but the rest of the country is just starting to catch on. With razor-sharp songcraft and blistering guitars, Segall and his band are probably the best garage-rock revivalists playing today. Last time we saw them, the drummer lost her shoe — so you know they go for broke.
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Jessica Lea Mayfield
March 16, Radio Day Stage Austin Convention Center
March 17, St. David's Historic Sanctuary
There's no shortage of moody acoustic songwriters in this world, but when someone creates music as affecting and authentic as Jessica Lea Mayfield does, we're happy to welcome one more guitar strummer to the crying room. The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach was so impressed with her homemade EP that he produced this now-21-year-old's gorgeous debut.
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March 16, Mohawk Patio
March 18, La Zona Rosa
White rappers with a frat-boy following don't have any right to possess as much genuine lyrical talent as Miller does. His song ''Knock Knock'' was featured in our pages when we asked Top 40 radio programmers to predict this year's biggest hits, and while it might be more accurate to call the Pittsburgh native this year's Asher Roth than next year's Eminem, hey, he just turned 19 — and he's got plenty of time to grow.
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March 18, The Parish
Wild Flag are selling out venues, and they don't have a single studio recording to their name. How does that work? Well, it helps if half of your current band was two-thirds of the legendary Sleater-Kinney. S-K alum Carrie Brownstein serves as lead guitarist and shares vocal duties with former Helium singer Mary Timony. What exactly to expect from Wild Flag musically is still a bit of a mystery, but one thing is certain: After watching her brilliant sketch-comedy work on IFC's hipster-lampooning Portlandia, we're expecting some hilarious mid-set jokes, probably at our expense.
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The Rural Alberta Advantage
March 19, Central Presbyterian Church
These Canadian rockers are actually from Ontario ... and Toronto at that. But the Urban Ontarian Disadvantage just doesn't have the same ring to it, so give 'em a break. Speaking of breaks, they got theirs opening for Grizzly Bear at last year's SXSW, with their ramshackle folk-rock earning a fan base of their own. And hey, Carrie Brownstein isn't the only indie rocker who can lampoon hipsters — their video for ''Stamp'' reveals the awkward inner monologues of their fans.
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Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All
March 19, Billboard Bungalow
Life is moving fast for the L.A.-based rap collective Odd Future. Initially they became Internet-famous for their mind-spinning mixtapes and fierce autonomy, while their violent and occasionally sickening lyrics have made them one of those acts people regard with ''tempered enthusiasm.'' Group leader Tyler the Creator has TwitPic'd his meeting with Justin Bieber, Frank Ocean recently helped out Beyoncé in the studio, and they have a current Billboard cover story to prove their ''next big thing'' credentials. Better catch them before they explode on the national scene or implode on their own terms.
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March 16, The Bat Bar
March 17, Klub Krucial
This British electronic chanteuse's debut album No. 1 in the U.K., and now she's come to our shores to win us over. Goulding shrouds her folk-based tunes in the shimmery veil of dance pop, so if you're looking for sultry ballads with electro beats to ease your aching soul (and your inevitable SXSW hangover), Ellie is likely your girl.
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March 16, BD Riley's
Coolrunnings may hail from Knoxville, Tenn, and have an EP called Buffalo, but very little about their sound suggests the South or the Great Plains. These newcomers bring a welcome sense of warped humor to their genre-straddling music that brings to mind Sparks or early Brian Eno.
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March 16, Stubb's
The British arena-pop survivors sure are acting strange lately. In addition to playing a barbecue restaurant at this indie-music-centric festival, Duran Duran will play an L.A. show next week that will be live-streamed and ''directed'' in real time by David Lynch. Why the sudden unusual approach to their live shows? Oh yeah, they have a new album out, produced by Mark Ronson, and featuring Kelis and the Scissor Sisters' Ana Matronic. Still, who wouldn't want to see ''Hungry Like the Wolf'' while eating like one at a BBQ joint? (Note: BBQ may not be available.)
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March 17, Cedar Street Courtyard
Eighties veterans/all-female-group rock pioneers the Bangles will make their first-ever appearance at SXSW this year. Although you'll assuredly hear hits like ''Manic Monday,'' ''Walk Like an Egyptian,'' and ''Eternal Flame,'' as well as songs from their upcoming summer studio album, don't forget these ladies started out with a much more raw sound on their classic debut, All Over the Place. So don't be surprised if Susanna Hoffs throws a bit of snarl into their angelic pop.