Peter Gaston

What's the Deal: Tonight, a very lucky bunch of people will witness R.E.M. onstage at South by Southwest, playing what is, for them, an intimate show at 5,000-capacity Stubb's BBQ, as they begin to promote Accelerate (out April 1), their best new album in years. And what inspired the record's visceral urgency? "When the empire is going down the toilet," frontman Michael Stipe tells Spin in our April issue, "it's easy to write great, angry songs."

Who: Accelerate will be the 14th studio album for Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills.

Fun Fact: This is more of a fun link. Check out Spin music editor Charles Aaron's blog about the release of Radiohead's In Rainbows, which imagines a fictitious conversation between Michael Stipe and Stipe's pal, chef Mario Batali.

Now Watch This: R.E.M., "Supernatural Superserious"

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