SXSW 2014: gems from the Universal Music Group takeover of the Palm Door on Sixth – 13th March 2014

By on Monday, 24th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

It just wouldn’t have been SXSW without some extreme highs and lows. On Wednesday night, I had Steve Lamacq of all people looking for me, singling me out at the Crookes‘ gig, and that validation just about made my week. Quite possibly my year. But as Carrie and I headed out into the chilly Austin night, my phone was going crazy. I hadn’t looked at my Android for hours while I was covering and watching the second half of Modern Outsider’s showcase. Oddly, my friends in Sydney, for whom it was then daytime the next day, were frantically Tweeting at me, saying they’d located our friends from the AU Review but were worried about me because I hadn’t checked in. I said I was fine, joking that I was still alive, despite getting stepped on twice at the Mod Out showcase and almost falling into a manhole with a loose cover the day before.

It didn’t dawn on us that something had gone seriously wrong a couple blocks from where we’d been all night until we got back to the car and I was scanning my Twitter feed. It was only then that I learned about the drink driving accident outside the Mohawk. My mom and my office mates back home were also freaking out about where I was, and it wasn’t until the next day when I made some phone calls that I was able to allay their fears. At least both Carrie and I could call home and say we were fine. Those poor people who died didn’t have that opportunity. It was a senseless, heartbreaking tragedy at an event supposed to bring joy to people through music, and let’s hope we never have to go through something like that ever again.

The tragedy affected some facets of the festival. One major ‘problem’ was that a large portion of Red River Street near the Mohawk was blocked off with police tape. Day shows in that area were cancelled, with the status of the nighttime shows unknown. Many emcees on Thursday had the grace to ask for a moment’s silence from their audiences, which was, I thought, in incredible good taste. I never doubted for a moment that the festival would be cancelled from Thursday on, it’s just that I knew people would be walking around Austin in a daze until they themselves came to terms with what happened, and clearly, you could see many people were still shaken up about it. (I walked by the scene of the accident Friday afternoon when I went to meet Sivu for an interview, and it was pretty unsettling to see the memorial flowers placed by mourners and to realise how close the memorial was to the front door of the Mohawk, where hundreds of punters must have been queueing outside to get into the House of Vans Wednesday night.)

With the situation on Red River, my afternoon plans had to be entirely scrapped and to be honest, I wasn’t sure where to go or where I would end up. So I just started walking down 6th Street and opened my ears. Nothing at the Swan Dive day party interested me, so I kept on walking. I walked by the front door of the Palm Door at Sixth and scanned the line-up, sponsored by the behemoth known as the Universal Music Group. Hey, wait a minute. Morning Parade? They’re playing here? I had assumed I would miss them in Austin because all their other appearances clashed with other engagements I had. Which was a shame, because I had overheard several Americans over the previous 2 days say that how they’d never heard of them before but were glad they got a chance to see them live at SXSW, because now they were converts. I couldn’t believe my luck. Hell yes.

I had to do some cheeky manouevering to get to the front, as the tented area to the back patio was pretty much filled, but to the credit of the girls up front, they let me scoot in front of them and take photos of the band from Harlow. It was barely 1 o’clock in the afternoon, yet they drew a big crowd for that time of day and an appreciative one at that. And why not? The epic nature of their synth plus rock sound that, dare I say it, seems to only be possible from England hit the spot that Thursday afternoon for me. I finally got to see the band at #10 on our 10 for 2012 list and confirmed yet another time, yes, our readers had gotten it right again.

However, most of my mind was occupied by the look of poor Steve Sparrow, their frontman. He was the poster child for ‘Why Englishmen Should Always Wear Suncream at SXSW’: he looked like a lobster in a stripy shirt and denim jacket. He couldn’t have been very comfortable. I was almost afraid to approach him after their set, figuring he probably wanted to chill out, literally, with ice packs on his body. But no. When I walked over to say hello and congratulate the band on such a great set and explained who I was, Sparrow had nothing but good things to say about TGTF and was quick to tell his bandmates, “this is the woman who runs There Goes the Fear! They always have lovely things to say about us!” I’m not sure if I blushed but in any event, I was humbled and further bowled over when he and keyboardist Ben Giddings chatted with me for this interview before they went off to congratulate themselves on a good week of gigs and winning over the American crowds that came to see them.

After a free drink courtesy of Universal, I went back to the coolness of the inside stage, wondering who would be on next. After chatting with a local schoolteacher who had taken off the week to enjoy SXSW (and seriously, if you lived in Austin, why wouldn’t you do SXSW every year?), I learned the next artist was Jeremy Messersmith, a singer/songwriter from Minneapolis, had done a breakfast radio broadcast at the Palm Door early that morning, as she had gotten up early for it. Well, if someone’s going to get up early on the Thursday of SXSW for a band, surely he’s worth sticking around for, right? While his style isn’t really my favourite – I kept thinking that it was a shame there wasn’t a way I could beam Carrie in for his performance – his writing style reminded me of one of my favourite songwriters, Stephen Duffy, with the fragility of emotion mixed in with wit.

To be honest though, I had hung around for Until the Ribbon Breaks, the stage name of Welsh singer, musician and producer Paul Winfield Lawrie, who again was not on my original schedule for Thursday but was a happy coincidence playing the Universal day showcase. How do I describe Until the Ribbon Breaks? It’s not exactly dance, and it’s not exactly electro. Lawrie sings in a slow jam, r&b kind of way, much like early Usher, but Usher didn’t have the huge beats behind him, nor did Usher ever play the trumpet.

It’s always strange to watch a dance-oriented act in the daytime, but to Universal’s credit, they were smart by putting Lawrie indoors so there was some semblance of a club atmosphere, even if the place wasn’t packed. It didn’t matter for me; I was hooked by the first song, being mesmerised by the way Lawrie commanded the attention of everyone in the room with his voice. After watching a guy with a guitar previously, the mad beats didn’t hurt either. I was so enamoured, I had to go see him the next day at Latitude 30’s British Music Embassy afternoon programming.

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2 Responses

[…] together, he’s one intriguing live performer indeed. I was so impressed by his appearance at the Universal Music Group takeover at the Palm Door on Sixth Thursday afternoon that straight after he got offstage, I asked him if we could do an interview and […]

[…] out on a drive to South Carolina for another music festival on the East Coast, went down a treat at the Universal Music Group afternoon showcase at the Palm Door on 6th and I was lucky to grab Steve Sparrow (vocals, guitar; above centre) and Ben Giddings (keys; above […]

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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