The Strokes launch South By South West

America's new band festival kicks off

America’s annual new bands festival, South By South West, rolled into action with a surprise outdoor set by The Strokes on Tuesday night.

The lucky fans who made it inside got to hear a near two-hour set.

Austin is the most swinging of towns, this is one of the greatest audiences we’ve ever had,” said singer Julian Casablancas. He also praised his support bands, Eagles Of Death Metal and Har Mar‘s Shawn Na Na.

Held in Austin, Texas each year, the five-day festival gathers together the world’s most hotly tipped bands to perform in front of fans and industry insiders alike.

Past years have launched the careers of The Strokes, The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, We Are Scientists and Willy Mason, amongst others.

In recent years bigger bands have begun to drop in and showcase new material. This year The Flaming Lips, Morrissey and My Chemical Romance have all used the festival to showcase their new material.

British bands looking to pick up a worldwide audience this year include Arctic Monkeys[a], [a]Editors and Dirty Pretty Things. Other hotly tipped new UK acts include Forward Russia!, The Young Knives and Hot Chip.

Stay with NME.COM for updates from the festival, day-by-day.

NME‘s special South By Southwest issue is on shelves from Wednesday March 29, with a free 15-track CD featuring the best bands from the festival.