Sometimes, even in the competitive world of music blogging, an editor needs to take time out for herself. One of the SXSW showcases I was most looking forward to hunkering myself down at was the Northern Irish showcase being put on at the Tap Room at Six on Wednesday night. Oddly, the line-up was pretty much the same at British Music Embassy’s Monday night show at Latitude 30, so had I arrived a day earlier, I could have caught that bill instead, but I suppose it was just my good luck that the three of the bands from Monday night were performing together once again. Wasn’t a huge fan that the stage was so high up that I got neck sprain, just like at Philly’s Trocadero, but beggars can’t be choosers, can they?
The first band on were the Wonder Villains from Derry. I’d first heard of them after last month when they received the glowing nod of approval from Steve Lamacq on his weekly New Favourite Band feature on 6music. Musically, they sound a lot like General Fiasco, who we’ve written about a lot here on TGTF, except they’re made up of two girls and two guys and they have a female lead singer, Eimear Coyle, who came out on stage in an Iron Maiden t-shirt, hot pink leggings, and a gigantic daisy nested in the organised chaos that was her hair. Then you looked at backing singer / keyboardist Cheylene Murphy, with her bright red feather earrings and appropriately tropical outfit of red and turquoise. A strong look, but this is Austin and SXSW, so it worked. So what are they like live? Think superhero (superheroine?) choruses that were infectious as hell and bouncy guitar that everyone’s going for these days. Combine that with a youthful exuberance that makes you wish you were 15 again, running out of town with their ‘Ferrari’ (video below) as you do when you’re young with no responsibilities, not worrying about money or where you’re going in life. Sigh.
I thought it might be a stretch to relate to these kids so much younger than myself, but Coyle was going on about their song ‘Calgary’ that was written after they’d watched the Disney film Cool Runnings (you remember it I’m sure, about the scrappy Jamaican bobsled team) and I just had to laugh, knowingly, to myself. If anything, this is the kind of band that’s destined to be big with the Disney crowd (and that’s not a dig by any means, by the way).
I always have a different outlook on bands after I’ve interviewed them and they’ve revealed themselves to nice people and not posturing, obnoxious snobs. So I viewed my impending first view of Belfast’s General Fiasco in gigging mode with much excitement. I think I’d like to sum up their performance with one word: wheeeeeeeeeee! Having only ever heard their sound through the internet, I already knew I was in for frantic guitar lines and driving beats but wow, I was simply blown away. I don’t know how these guys don’t have an American record contract yet. Seriously.
I had connected with ‘Waves’ on initial listen; Owen Strathern’s declaration of “and I go back like a wave to the shore / I don’t think about you much now anymore” rings true to anyone who’s trying to get back on their feet after a break-up. But you can get over someone this way, admitting to your mistakes and being ok with it all, it’s so much more enjoyable. And this was a definite highlight of the set; as the title track off their November 2011 EP, it’s a definite step up in maturity from their ‘Rebel Get By’ early days, as was ‘Don’t You Ever’, another newer song. A new album’s purported to be along the way later this year, and I couldn’t be more delighted.
The last band I’d see in this showcase would be Cashier No. 9. If you recall, I saw them play a triumphant set at London XOYO in November. I already knew then that they had what it took to get a foothold in America, so when I heard they were announced to play SXSW, I had hoped this meant industry execs would get to see them and they’d be offered a record deal up front. (I’ve not heard anything to this effect yet, which is not to say it hasn’t happened already in the last 10 days, but this was my biggest wish after seeing them in London.) While the Wonder Villains and General Fiasco play very in your face guitar rock/pop, I find Cashier No. 9 is a bit harder and possibly more middle of the road in terms of American radio play. Not surprisingly, the Tap Room at Six by this time was pretty packed, which I was pretty pleased with.
Besides being high up, the stage was tiny, and the group crammed all their gear and personnel onto it. At one point in the set, I ended up becoming emergency guitar wrangler down the front because Danny Todd didn’t have a safe place to park his acoustic, so I grabbed it from him and placed it down on the floor in front of me for safekeeping. Despite the claustrophobia while they weren’t physically all over the place as the two that preceded them, the band delivered a blinding yet measured performance. ‘Goldstar’ started the proceedings off with pop punch, which continued all the way to ‘The Lighthouse Will Lead You Out’ (video below), with its psych rock outro, and closing track ‘Goodbye Friend’, an appropriate ending to bid adieu to new friends that you hope you will see again soon, a sentiment I share. Let’s hope they, along with their Northern Irish band friends, will tour worldwide in the very near future.