Since 1987, the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas has been a hot spot for young bands to demonstrate their skills to an audience of music industry professionals, with the hopes of developing some international recognition or landing a record deal. However, in recent years the festival has also become a place to watch some of the biggest names in the business perform at special showcases, corporate-sponsored events, and late-night parties.
[Related: 10 Rising Artists to Catch at SXSW]
Much has already been written about Lady Gaga's gig March 13 at a Doritos-sponsored stage shaped like a 56-foot vending machine. But that’s just the cheese dust on the corn chip snack of high-caliber acts playing SXSW between March 11 and 16. Many of the shows require special tickets in addition to the standard admissions badge. But for those lucky enough to gain access, there are numerous mega-popular acts playing some fairly intimate (compared to arenas) settings. Yahoo Music has put together a rundown of the biggest celebrities who will perform in over Austin next week:
Coldplay - ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 10 p.m.
In their first radio hit, 1990’s "Yellow," Coldplay's Chris Martin sang, "Look at the stars/look how they shine for you." That’s pretty much the theme of Apple's iTunes Festival, which has recruited some of the biggest names for SXSW, including, of course, Coldplay. The Brits will release their sixth album "Ghost Stories" on May 19, but have already issued two full atmospheric preview tracks, "Magic" and "Midnight."
Imagine Dragons - ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 8:30 p.m.
Fresh off their Grammys performance with Kendrick Lamar, Imagine Dragons will open for Coldplay. Expect the quartet to get the crowd pumped with a set of alternative rock-saturated songs with ringing guitars, new wavey keyboards, and steady beats.
50 Cent - 1100 Warehouse, 8 p.m.
The former street thug turned superstar rapper, successful actor, and multimillionaire entrepreneur is returning from a five-year recording hiatus to release "Animal Ambition" on June 3. The release will be 50 Cent's first through a new deal with Caroline/Capitol/UMG. The SXSW show will be livestreamed via social media sharing app Hang w/.
Spandau Ballet - Vulcan Gas Company, 12:30 a.m.
The legendary New Romantics behind the hits "True," "Gold," and "To Cut a Long Story Short" will play their first U.S. gig in 28 years at SXSW, where they'll also premiere their documentary, "Soul Boys of the Western World," at the festival. On Friday night, they'll also take part in an all-star Lou Reed tribute. We know this much is true: This will be one of the week's most anticipated acts.
Kendrick Lamar - ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 10:00 p.m.
One of the hottest rappers on the scene, Kendrick Lamar was nominated for seven Grammys in 2014 for his major-label debut, "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City." The album came out October 22 and debuted at number two on the Billboard album chart. We don’t expect an encore appearance from Imagine Dragons, but then again, you never know.
Kelis - Stubb's, 9:50 p.m.
Kelis Rogers has come a long way since singing the main hook in Ol' Dirty Bastard’s 1999 single "Got Your Money." She has released six successful albums and her seventh, "Food," comes out April 21. The disc will be her first since 2010's "Flesh Tone," and her first produced by Dave Sitek. Kelis has described the new record as a “trip-hoppish” release that features elements of soul, funk, gospel, and Afrobeat. Judge for yourself at one of three sets. In addition to playing Stubb's, Kelis will perform at Clive Bar on March 13 from 12:00 a.m. to 12:40 a.m., and March 14 at Hype Hotel from 1:00 a.m. to 1:45 a.m.
Lady Gaga - Stubb's, 7:30 p.m.
Initially, it looked like Lady Gaga would not be allowed to perform at SXSW after the city of Austin, citing safety concerns, denied Gaga the permit for the show. Doritos immediately negotiated with the city, perhaps promising them a lifestyle supply of their addictive snack food, and before you could say "Applause," Gaga was back on the festival lineup. Fans have to complete one of several "Bold"-themed challenges to gain admission.
Blondie - Yahoo's Brazos Hall, 12 a.m.
One of the pioneers of New York new wave, Blondie cut their teeth performing at CBGB and developed into one of the most popular acts of the late '70s. Even after the death of new wave and disco, Blondie kept going. They took a break between 1982's "The Hunter" and 1999’s "No Exit," but have remained active ever since. In celebration of their 40th anniversary, Blondie will release the new album "Ghosts of Download" on March 17 as part of a two-disc package that includes a greatest-hits CD. Opening for Blondie will be fellow new wave pioneer Gary Numan, who released the comeback album "Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind)" last year.
Soundgarden - ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 10:00 p.m.
The most popular hard rock band to play the iTunes Festival at SXSW, Soundgarden were one of the pioneers of the Seattle music scene in the '90s, along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The band had a tremendous run between 1991 when they signed with A&M to release the trudging, aggressive "Louder Than Love," and 1996 when they broke up after releasing "Down on the Upside." Twelve years later, Soundgarden reunited for live shows and in 2012 released their most recent album, "King Animal."
Foxboro Hot Tubs - Yahoo's Brazos Hall, 10:00 p.m.
Would Green Day by any other name sound as sweet? Find out when their garage-rock side-project performs at SXSW. Formed in 2007, the freewheeling band also includes lead guitarist Jason White, rhythm guitarist Kevin Preston, and keyboardist/saxophonist/flautist Jason Freese. Don't worry, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool will be there as well. Just don’t expect to hear "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."
Nas - Austin Music Hall, 1 a.m.
An active philanthropist and gifted rapper, Nas broke into the scene in 1994 with the classic "Illmatic." He followed with eight consecutive platinum or multiplatinum albums, and pushed buttons in 2006 with the controversial "Hip Hop Is Dead," which lamented the sorry state of the genre. Still, he continued dropping mind-blowing beats and clever wordplay, releasing three more records, including the most recent "Life Is Good" in 2012.
Willie Nelson - ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 8:45 p.m.
Not the typical artist to showcase at SXSW, Willie Nelson has the crossover appeal to draw crowds wherever he goes. A legendary lyricist and songwriter, Nelson has remained in the spotlight for more than 50 years and will doubtlessly wow Austin with his talent, charisma, and voluminous catalog, including his two 2013 records "Let’s Face the Music and Dance" and "To All the Girls…"