Long a showcase for indie acts looking to hit the big time, the music portion of South by Southwest (March 13-18) has morphed into a sprawling, multi-genre melting pot. Here are the five themes that emerged from all that ruckus

By Kyle Anderson and Ray Rahman
Updated March 23, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Veterans brought it
Bruce Springsteen — who also provided the festival’s keynote address — played new stuff, classics, and covers with assists from friends like Arcade Fire and reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. Lionel Richie reminded a packed crowd just how many hits he had, and the Jesus and Mary Chain proved their ’80s darkness is still in demand.

Hip-Hop in the spotlight
This year, rap took on a higher-than-ever profile: Topline stars like Jay-Z, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Eminem, Lil Wayne, T.I., Snoop Dogg, and Rick Ross nabbed much of the week’s hashtag hype.

Mixtape rap is the new indie rock
SXSW was raided by an array of blog-adored underground MCs. A$AP Rocky brought aggro charisma, Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q showed off their chemistry in the rap collective Black Hippy, Big K.R.I.T. presided over psychedelic vibes, and Paypa reveled in radio-friendly bombast.

A strong week for strong women
Fiona Apple launched her latest comeback with signature punch and passion, New Zealand singer Kimbra delivered joyful quirk, and art-pop breakout Grimes (Claire Boucher) rose above her own buzz.

Jack White was the MVP
The hottest ticket in town turned out to be the former White Stripes frontman’s Third Man Records showcase, which had eager fans lining up for blocks down the fest’s main thoroughfare. The music mogul delivered, ripping through fiery songs from his forthcoming solo album Blunderbuss during an evening that also featured top-shelf sounds from labelmate (and ex-wife) Karen Elson.