NPR and SXSW are two of the biggest names when it comes to music discovery. So it’s no wonder that the festival’s opening showcase at the legendary Stubb’s, sponsored by NPR, is one of the event’s hottest tickets.
NPR has hosted some of the most anticipated lineups of the week at Stubb’s since 2008. Fiona Apple, Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver and James Blake have all performed in recent years. This year, Damon Albarn, St. Vincent, Kelis and Perfect Pussy will grace Stubb’s on March 12, with a fifth act expected to be confirmed shortly. And with minimal branding from NPR — there’s no fliers or free T-shirts or constant reminders to tweet — it’s one of the few remaining musical sanctuaries in a week filled with sponsorship.
“We think if the music is right, our audience will enjoy the ride,” says NPR music director/executive producer Anya Grundmann. “And we often showcase firsts, as an extension of what we do all the time with features like ‘First Listen.'”
Grundmann leads a team of 20 writers, editors, videographers and engineers who help produce the live-streamed event. That includes NPR critic Ann Powers, Alt.Latino’s Jasmine Garsd and “All Songs Considered” hosts Robin Hilton and Bob Boilen, whose signature hat is a familiar presence up and down Sixth Street. “Before Bob goes he has an incredibly detailed list of every show that he’s going to see — he’s a slave to it,” says Grundmann. “Everyone has their own way of navigating all the chaos. We want to be a part of the fun and how everyone handles it.”