SXSW 2016: rock and pop to close out editor Mary’s time in Austin (Saturday, part 2) – 19th March 2016

By on Tuesday, 12th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

After the rain of Friday night, a chilly air had settled onto Austin. It’s not normal to be wearing gloves and a hat in Austin in March, but when needs must… Carrie has hypothesised the precipitous drop in temperature translated to less people willing to stand outside in the cold. This was probably true to some extent, as when it came to the showcase the irrepressible Har Mar Superstar‘s showcase put on at Cheer Up Charlie’s, I was surprised there wasn’t a queue to get into the place. Once inside, the outdoor patio area wasn’t full either. Maybe everyone was waiting for Har Mar Superstar’s own headline set at the end of the night? Not sure.

Though I missed first two acts Cold Fronts and Ghost Babes Compilation alums Slothrust, I made it to red lipsticked smiley face sign on Red River shortly after New York City’s Drowners began. Every year and a half or so, I experience a dramatic change in musical taste, and I’m wondering if it’s time yet again to make a move. The Strokes revolution in the early Noughties passed me by, probably because I was too busy with school, as well as being too busy then with my then Duran Duran obsession. Maybe it’s time for me to get back to back to basics-type rock, as I wanted a second look and listen (after the Paradigm showcase Wednesday night) at Drowners before we left Austin.

Drowners at Har Mar Superstar Best Party Ever at Cheer Up Charlie's, Saturday at SXSW 2016

It’s been long bemoaned that there really hasn’t been a band ready to take the Great British Guitar Band mantle, especially in light of The Vaccines changing their sound last year on ‘English Graffiti’. Is it somewhat appropriate that The Vaccines’ buddies Drowners might be in the lead to vie for the now open honour? While they’re technically not eligible since they only have one British-born member (their singer / guitarist Matthew Hitt is Welsh), with their sound, they might be close. Maybe the world is ready for the “jangling fringe-shaking indie-pop“ Q described their 2014 self-titled debut album as having? We’ll hang tight for the release of their second LP ‘On Desire’ at the end of June and see if the tectonic plates of indie will move.

Drowners at the Har Mar Superstar Best Party Ever at Cheer Up Charlie's, Saturday at SXSW 2016

After saying goodbye to a new and famous friend at Cheer Up Charlie’s, I went across the street to check in with some soon-to-be-famous friends at Stubb’s. There was no question as to who was the biggest act of the night at the well-known barbecue joint’s outdoor stage: upstate New York’s X Ambassadors, a recent American indie rock success story after releasing their debut album in 2015, being helped along with fellow Interscope band Imagine Dragons, and the blowing up of their single ‘Renegades’. However, I was there to see Honne play on the biggest stage of their lives.

Honne at Stubb's, Saturday at SXSW 2016

Judging from the audience reaction further back, including my almost going deaf thanks to a young woman who would not stop screaming and going mental during their entire set, I can tell this slice of American music fans are truly taken by the futuristic soul sound of Andy Clutterbuck, James Hatcher and their touring band. It is a surreal moment when you witness seeing a band at a dark, claustrophobic place like Leeds Hi-Fi Club and then a year later, you see them play some place as massive as Stubb’s, thousands of miles away. It also isn’t hard to imagine them filling out similarly large venues in the future with their smooth grooves and, as previously mentioned in my review of their show Friday at the British Music Embassy, their sensual “baby-making music”.

From one massive venue, I moved on to yet another, in the form of the Pandora Discovery Den at the Gatsby. So much for the terribly incorrect impression I had that this place would be a small, intimate affair – ha! The queues outside the venue was enormous, with badge holders unlikely to get in, let alone the wristband crew. Further, I felt guilty that a lot of youngsters who were fans of the man I was going to see were going to have to watch and listen from very far away outside and away from where the action would be inside, especially since it appeared most of the crowd inside the Den inside that I was trying to get around were more keen on getting wasted and weren’t even facing the stage. I never understand this at shows in DC or anywhere else. If all you want to do at SXSW is to drink, go to a bar with your friends and get out of the way of people who actually want to witness a musical experience.

Troye Sivan at the Pandora Discovery Den, Saturday at SXSW 2016

After waiting for what seemed like forever in the pass queue, I made it inside, only to find out the venue was running badly behind schedule. While the Pandora Discovery Den was certainly high on production values, the overall feel was generic, lacking charm and character that you’d get at a place like Stubb’s. I guess that was the point of such a pop-up venue? It seemed more like Australia’s biggest deal as of late, South African transplant and already massive pop star Troye Sivan, could have been performing anywhere, not in Austin.

Troye Sivan at the Pandora Discovery Den, Saturday at SXSW 2016

The 20-year-old already has everything he needs to be a young pop star: the million-watt smile, the doe eyes, the big lips, all part of the charisma needed to keep young people’s short attention. I find it sad that ‘Youth’, his most recent video, has been getting more attention on YouTube because of his sexual orientation and not for its own musical merit. Are we as a human society ever going to get away from such stupid conversations? I’m clearly not Sivan’s target audience (generally, musicians in track suits aren’t my thing, sorry, ha) and his music isn’t what I’d probably chose to listen to, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t mind dancing to his electronic-tinged urban pop at a club. Go forth and keep inspiring our young people, Troy!

It shouldn’t have been a big deal to get down 6th Street to Tellers, as it was only 3 blocks west from the Gatsby. We’re used to seeing so many rowdy people on 6th Street on a Saturday night, but I was not prepared to be inappropriately touched by a man when I trying to get out of a crowd and worse, I saw his face leering at me as he did it, but it’s not like screaming or yelling would have done anything. I still feel dirty and gross from the incident. I realise I could have taken a different route around the crush of people, but thinking about it some more, why should I have? SXSW has evolved over the years I’ve attended and while I accept this sort of stupid thing happens at random whenever there’s a bad apple in a high-density music event, it doesn’t make it right. I was so shaken up by what happened that by the time I finally arrived at Tellers, I was having trouble locating my ID in my bag. It was some good luck that I ran into (male) friends at the door of the venue so I felt safe. Or at least safer.

Get Inuit at Tellers, Saturday at SXSW 2016

It seemed appropriate that the band that officially kicked off my SXSW, Kent’s Get Inuit, would be seeing me off from Austin as well. After being in Texas for a week, the band truly gave it their all on the upstairs stage, banging away on tunes from their most recent ‘Luge Lessons’ EP and songs that could very well likely show up on their upcoming debut album. The surf-y guitar lick of ‘Mean Heart’ plus singer Jamie Glass’ spirited vocals were a positive, loud and kick-arse way to end the weirdest (and unsettling) SXSW I’ve experienced yet. Until next year, see ya Austin…

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