South by Southwest—the renowned conference-slash-festival behemoth dedicated to music, film, and interactive technology that takes over Austin (and the Internet) every March—started late last week, but the music portion is just getting into full swing. I’ll be covering the festival along with Miles Raymer, dropping blog posts through the fest’s end on Saturday night (and then some), and today I hit the ground to get my first taste of SXSW and Austin.

The big official showcases kick off in the evening, but earlier today I swung by a few unofficial parties. I met AbdeCaf (whose remix of Conveyor’s “Yes, Some Things Are So Heavy” was a 12 O’Clock Track last week), who played me a melancholic new tune he’s working on just before he performed at Consequence of Sound’s daytime party; I caught up with the folks at Hot Charity, who signed local antifolker Willis Earl Beal a little more than one year ago, and watched NYC rap group Ratking roll out their pulsing, chaotic songs at the BitTorrent party that Hot Charity curated (the label released Beal’s Principles of a Protagonist EP through BitTorrent in the fall); and I saw Chicago producer Mister Lies liven up his resplendent ambient tracks with hard dance beats and blend it with material from his newish debut, Mowgli.

Check out my photos of some of the performances and general sights around Austin after the jump, and keep an eye out for the Reader‘s continuing coverage of SXSW.