Every year Bob Boilen, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and I prepare for South by Southwest by listening to songs from roughly 1,500 artists. And when you go through that many bands you start to see trends in the names. The two most commonly occurring words are always — always — "black" and "DJ." In addition to those two, this year we noticed that "white" appears an awful lot, too, as does the name John. Michael, Paul and Jesse are also pretty popular. Go figure.
Our Sense of Place: Austin guest today, Shakey Graves, has been described as one of the best solo acts in town. With his finger-picked guitar and suitcase drum he takes over the stage. He put out his full length debut Roll the Bones in 2011 and an EP Donor Blues a year later. He has also spent time chasing acting parts, including one in Friday Night Lights. He even moved to LA to pursue roles, but ended up spending the time working on his music.
The very first person we thought to for our Sense of Place series in Austin was longtime resident Alejandro Escovedo. Make no mistake: Escovedo was born and raised in San Antonio, but has called Austin home for years. Today he reminisces about coming to Austin as a kid and tells how it was a tour stop with Rank and File, his band with his brother Javier, that convinced him to move back to Austin.
Orthy is our World Cafe: Next band for our Sense of Place visit to Austin. We picked Orthy, whose two EPs touch on electronic dance music, to illustrate the breadth of the Austin music scene. The inspiration for Ian Orth, who is at the heart of this band, is his ongoing weekly dance party Learning Secrets. He established Learning Secrets to turn rock fans on to dance music and vice versa. The full Orthy plays live, sharing music from their latest EP, E.M.I.L.Y.