AUSTIN, Texas: The indie music portion of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival shifted into gear Wednesday with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds setting the tone for five days of cutting edge sounds.
Cave and colleagues took the al fresco stage behind Austin's iconic Stubb's BBQ saloon for a visceral 10-song set -- one of the most anticipated at SXSW -- including numbers from the Bad Seeds' just-released album "Push the Sky Away."
"We're going to begin with a long song and hopefully by the end it'll be dark," quipped lanky frontman Cave, 55, at sunset before launching into "Higgs Boson Blues," a dark goth ballad that takes its title from particle physics -- but then makes an odd passing reference to pop starlet Miley Cyrus.
Indeed, by the time the song was over, the stars were out in the Texas sky, as Cave and companions performed such tunes as "Deanna" and "Stagger Lee," the Australian-born vocalist's retelling of the classic American murder legend.
Sharing the bill at Stubb's was New York indie band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with charismatic vocalist Karen O, 34, prowling the stage at the midnight hour like a soul possessed. The band's new album "Mosquito" is out in April.
With the interactive portion of the 10-day SXSW festival out of the way, more than 1,300 bands -- some hoping for fame, others already there -- have been lined up to rock Austin, the state capital of Texas, through to Sunday.
Leading the field is former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl, who is not only performing with his supergroup Sound City players, but also presenting the keynote SXSW music talk Thursday.
Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac fame, John Forgerty, Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick and Australia's Rick Springfield are expected to appear on stage with him, according to Billboard, the recording industry trade journal.
Others acts lined up to perform Wednesday included Iggy and the Stooges, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, neo-psychedelic band Unknown Mortal Orchestra and YouTube teen rap sensation Kitty Pryde.
Coming days promise the likes of rock-folk guitar legend Richard Thompson, 2012 SXSW breakout act Kendrick Lamar, indie bands Paramore, Vampire Weekend and The Flaming Lips, and Snoop Dogg in his new reggae incarnation as Snoop Lion.
Prince is reportedly turning up to play a private party on the weekend, while music mogul and producer Clive Davis -- author of a just-released autobiography -- is confirmed as a panel speaker.
World music is well represented at SXSW, from Beijing punk band Carsick Cars and Singapore rapper Kevin Lester to Grammy-nominated Uruguayan group Campo and Terakaft, a desert blues group forced to live in exile by conflict in Mali.
Still ongoing at SXSW is the film segment of the festival, which features a rich selection of music-related documentaries. The tech-oriented SXSW Interactive dominated the first five days.