Keeping Austin Queer: 5 Great Gay Bands To See at SXSW

picture-120Though Texas spawned Dubya, the Republican Dennis the Menace (who’s really from Connecticut, anyway), the state capitol is a bi-curious blueberry stain on the mostly blood-red state. Austin’s half-dozen gay bars form a single city block, but it’s no ghetto. Most of the residents feel as comfortable mixing in public as they do swimming naked at nearby Hippy Hollow. But for a city whose unofficial motto is, “Keep Austin weird,” it’s strange that their annual music festival, South By Southwest (SXSW), a week-long event featuring over 1,000 bands, has only one specifically gay event, and an unofficial one at that.

This Sunday, (Mar. 23rd) GayBiGayGay, a free, all ages, backyard party on the last day of the week’s festivities, touts itself as “the biggest queer event of the SXSW experience,” with music ranging from hip-hop and punk to bluegrass. The organizers, Hazey Fairless and Silky Shoemaker, promise “music, celebratory engagement, delights, flirtation, dancing, camp, thrills, fireworks, shirts off, and homosexual utopia!” Below, five queer bands performing in this year’s line-up that you need to keep your eye on.

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Dangerous Ponies

The upbeat queer and allied septet from Philadelphia plays deliriously catchy pop-rock (“kindergartner sing-a-longs” they call them) in war paint with a break dancing tambourine player.

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Butch Country

Though Joplin-esque front woman Katy Koonce gender-bends into the Vulgar Viking and Captain Scallifag with nothing more than a horned helmet and codpiece, the band ends up sounding like slower, Southern version of Black Sabbath with none of the chicken-decapitating Satanism we’d come to love.

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Maple Rabbit

Maple Rabbit’s unrefined, spoken-word vocals may remind listeners of Mary Timony or Kimya Dawson, but their minimalist, all-keyboard arrangements rarely rise to those artists’ emotional pitch.

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Polka Dot Dot Dot

This dynamic, a cappella folk trio makes refreshingly new music by mixing Motown and medieval minstrel singing with some banjo, ukulele, and clap games thrown in for a distinctly Americana sound. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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Shunda K

One-woman hip-hop crew Shunda K, formerly of Yo Majesty, brings passionate flocabulary backed by myriad DJs and MCs. Her relentless rhymes about realness in romance are as tough and sexy as the woman herself.

Daniel Villarreal is a neurotic, SweetTart-devouring, Internet-addicted Mexican raised on Super Mario Brothers, Fruity Pebbles and Red Fear. He’s currently writing a novel and butt-smuggling beef and cheese burritos into SXSW venues.