Austins world-famous Sixth Street buzzes, as per usual, on any given night during SXSW.
With such a sprawling event, it can be truly difficult to summarize South By Southwest in a neat and tidy way. The Austin, Texas music festival, conference and weeklong binge of beer, BBQ and bands has become unwieldy for those who, like me, don't want to miss a thing. In years past, I've issued a report card, going through each band, saying what my ears deciphered from the band's sound and then slapping a letter grade on it for a quick-hit dose of finality. But then I found myself actually enjoying music by a band that had underwhelmed at SXSW. This year, however, I went down to SXSW with something in mind: What I wish would come or even just come back to Omaha. During the course of the week, the idea morphed into something more tangible. So as I trekked across Austin, I actively considered whether a band was both enjoyable to me and something that should have found its way to Nebraska. This is my open letter to those who book shows in Omaha: Seek out these bands and try to make their tour trajectory include a stop in town. Pains of Being Pure at Heart Who Are They: This Brooklyn indie pop band first blew up in 2009 after Slumberland Records released their self-titled debut to tons of praise. The band is about to release their follow-up record, Belong, also on Slumberland, but this time they will be exchanging the lo-fi DIY-ness of the debut for the combined high-gloss sound of producer Flood and mega-mixer Alan Moulder. Why They Should Come To Town: When Pains played Slowdown's front room stage after their first album blew up, there was a medium-sized crowd hanging on the band's every note. The excitement that I had for the band that night hasn't changed. Hearing the new songs coupled with the old in a live setting bridges the gap between the band's two records. Singer Kip Berman is a kindred spirit to Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch and Belong has Pains poised to reach beyond the success that Belle & Sebastian has experienced. It's been way too long since that Slowdown show and it's time for more. Fitz & the Tantrums Who Are They: This Los Angeles band is part-soul revival, part-’80s new romantic maestros. The Dangerbird Records band has blown up in parts of the country, including Kansas City, where they recently played to 3,500 people at the Midland Theatre. Why They Should Come To Town: This is a specific memo to 89.7 The River and Q 98.5 FM, whatever. You should be playing cuts from this record, specifically “L.O.V.” and “Moneygrabber.” They fit in with the Cee-Lo Green, Adele neo-soul thing and are catchy as hell. I know Omaha isn't Kansas City, but this is a band that should be able to pack the Slowdown, if only there was radio that actually sought out new music. So prove me wrong, Cutting Edge of Rock and Modern Hit Music. Eternal Summers Who Are They: Kanine Records indie-poppers are the shoegazing cousins of Best Coast and blissed-out beach pop. The three-piece stand out thanks to great songs and a female singer/guitarist who is not afraid to play her guitar and throw a little noise atop melody. Why They Should Come To Town: Best Coast has proved Omaha has an appetite for catchy, but not highly-polished indie pop music. Eternal Summers delivers. The Strokes Who Are They: Former saviors of rock are back on the road behind their fourth album, Angles. The New York band has been hidden away as their members embarked on solo projects. This is the welcome comeback. Why They Should Come To Town: The Strokes haven't been to Omaha since the twilight of touring behind their 2001 debut, Is This It? Everything about their outdoor show at SXSW proved that they are a perfect choice for a Midwest summer show, whether it’s tucked gently beside a casino or down by the Missouri River on a bill with several indie bands. They played plenty from their first two albums and were quite impressive in the open-air setting. I am done with hints — Stir Cove or MAHA Festival, here's a potential marquee draw. Death From Above 1979 Who Are They: In the afterglow of sudden indie stardom, Death From Above 1979 imploded. In the vacuum left by the Canadian two-piece rock act’s destruction, out came the dance-minded MSTRKRFT and the Saddle Creek-signed Sebastien Grainger. Now, the band is reuniting for Coachella and it's hard to believe that'll be it. Why They Should Come To Town: A secret show turned into a crush mob and a near-riot among those who couldn't get in. Even though I missed it, it's easy to tell that the band's popularity has barely waned. Those who were there say the band was more than on its game and any festival booking this band is guaranteed to spark a pilgrimage to their event, as long as they make sure the band is not playing any nearer than Chicago. Diamond Rings Who Are They: Gothic Canadian one-man act John O'Regan is catching on with those who expect their mopes to bring a little glam style to the proceedings. Why They Should Come To Town: The profile of Diamond Rings is just on the cusp of spilling from smaller clubs to being a major indie rock venue draw. Omaha's love for raw emotion and dance music sync nicely with what Diamond Rings offer. Airborne Toxic Event Who Are They: That “Sometime Around Midnight” band is more than that and I'm hoping their forthcoming sophomore album, All At Once, will prove it. “Changing,” the lead single, is already working on becoming the band's second big hit. Why They Should Come To Town: Their victory lap show at the Slowdown after “Sometime Around Midnight” blew up was a night of conversion from skeptic to believer for me. For as many bands that seem to constantly return to the area, this is one show I'd love to catch again. I'm sure more would agree. Black Angels Who Are They: Austin's psych-rock drone kings have found a melodic bent to match their blasting-out-through-the-dead-of-night sonics on last year's Phosphene Dream. Their shows with Roky Erickson come as no surprise once you hear this band. Why They Should Come To Town: The band hasn't been to Omaha since they played the Waiting Room Lounge, when the Benson club still reeked of newness. In the time they have been away, the Black Angels have boomed into a major band, replacing fellow stoner-psych-shoegaze revivalists like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Charles Bradley Who Are They: Daptone Records discovered Charles Bradley in a Brooklyn club doing serious justice to James Brown. Now he has an album of his own, No Time For Dreaming. Why They Should Come To Town: Sharon Jones is hitting the Playing With Fire show this summer. Black Joe Lewis is hitting the Waiting Room Lounge. Omaha's appetite for real-deal soul is on the uptick and Charles Bradley delivers with true grit, despite being in his 60s. A Place To Bury Strangers Who Are They: New York's loudest band has logged time opening for Nine Inch Nails. Principal member Oliver Ackermann is a deconstructionist with a bank of amps and pedals. If it all sounds like the end of the world, that's because 2012 is just around the corner. Why They Should Come To Town: Two shows within about a year spurred hope that the band would make Omaha a regular stop. Since then, nothing despite a great second album, Exploding Head, in 2009. This is essential mayhem. Not only one of the loudest bands I've ever seen, but one of the best. Cheap Time Who Are They: Jeffrey Novak's garage rock outfit rips through mean, economical power-pop filtered through a no-frills classic rock lens. Why They Should Come To Town: Cheap Time didn't get to play to many of Omaha's garage music fans when they opened for Yo La Tengo in 2009, but it's hard to believe they didn't convert some indie fans to their cause at that show. Either way, Cheap Time are the sort of band that would rattle the rafters of any one of Omaha's marquee dive bars.