SXSW 2017: bits and bobs plus the Killing Moon / ReverbNation / Metro showcase (part 1) – 14th March 2017

By on Tuesday, 28th March 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

If SXSW Music was a car, the car will have just started on Monday night, followed by a solid, chugging purring as it was running on Tuesday. The worst clashes start Wednesday, when things really are in full swing, all the venues are open and are putting on their showcases. I knew what I wanted to see on Tuesday night, but the problem was I wanted to be all over the place! Los Angeles firm Force Field PR was putting on a showcase at the outdoor stage at Cheer Up Charlie’s, and it was a bonus that they were beginning before the magic hour of 8 when most showcases begin for the evening.

Cheer Up Charlie’s is one of the more unusual venues at SXSW, as you’re watching a band perform up against what looks like a mountain of boulders that could come down raining on them (and you) at any moment. The timing of Copenhagen band Rainbrother’s set was also fortuitous, as it seems many people I knew from the UK had stopped in to see them, including Steve Lamacq of BBC 6 Music, who included them in his on the ground reporting from Tuesday night at SXSW 2017 (go to 19 minutes 30 seconds on this programme of his; it appears that I may have accidentally bothered the man when he was trying to interview Slaves outside Barracuda on 7th Street, oops). What would have struck you immediately coming into this Tuesday night show was that there was a man projected larger than life behind them. With a guitar and a microphone, I wondered what the deal was. I thought maybe it was one of these cool, new-fangled technological advances because, well, all Scandinavians had mobile phones before we did, right?

Rainbrother, Cheer Up Charlie's, Force Field PR showcase, Tuesday 14 March 2017

…and then he told us. Lead singer Bjarke Bendtsen’s artist visa had been denied. The band’s solution: before coming out to America, the band videotaped Bendtsen performing alongside the band for their entire set, so they could project his image and sound while they played without him physically being there in Austin. While Bendtsen eventually made it to Austin for the band’s last 2 shows in the Texas capital, the stark reality that strange, nonsensical decisions about artists being able to perform in America sunk in. I give full props to these Danes for soldiering on without their leader and sticking it to the man. What might have simply been a perfectly agreeable performance by a Scandinavia dream folk band became an act of defiance. As one of my best bets of Scandinavian acts coming out to Austin this year, I couldn’t have been prouder of them.

Suburban Living, Barracuda, felte Records and Part Time Punks showcase, Tuesday 14 March 2017

One of the great things about SXSW is the fact that unlike Canadian Music Week or CMJ, venues are actually pretty close to one another. Although I could not spend my evening solely at the felte / Part Time Punks showcase at Barracuda that I enjoyed last year, I did stop in to check out Philadelphia’s Suburban Living on the indoor stage. Bespectacled Wesley Bunch leads the band, which as a unit remind me of the sweet, twee pop tones of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. You can check out Bunch’s full album from last year ‘Almost Paradise’ on most streaming services.

Future Thieves, Scratchouse, Killing Moon / ReverbNation / Metro showcase, Tuesday 14 March 2017

When I finally made to Scratchouse for the Killing Moon / ReverbNation / Metro newspaper showcase, I was ready to be surprised by the first acts of the evening on both stages there, neither of which I had had an opportunity to research properly ahead of time. Seems like Nashvillians Future Thieves already had fans in Austin, as they played to a packed house at the indoor stage, their country-tinged pop hitting the spot. Check out their new single ‘Sucker’ below.

I then went to check out the backyard stage, where a band had already started their set. Dude with a big beard…hmm… he looks familiar… Then from the stage came “We are Mt. Wolf!” Yep, that’s Sebastian Fox, all right! New York’s Henry Hall had unexpectedly pulled out of the evening, and Mt. Wolf helpfully stepped in to help the hosts fill his slot. That’s another thing that you will oddly find: there will be one or two bands that you’ll see several times during the week without even trying, as if it’s serendipity. While I’ve always imagined Mt. Wolf’s synthy goodness with combined harmonies working well in a club, their sound didn’t quite fit with the American backyard party feel.

This Be the Verse, Scratchouse, Killing Moon / ReverbNation / Metro showcase, Tuesday 14 March 2017

With the staggered start times, it wasn’t long before the next band on the indoor stage went on Tuesday night. This Be the Verse has already received high accolades and plenty of attention from Kerrang!, which should tell you something about their music immediately. Yes, This Be the Verse is loud, industrial rock music from London, and it’s not for the faint of heart. The comparison to Nine Inch Nails is well deserved. Not for everyone, but I could see our former writer John Fernandez headbanging to their music.

The Dig, Swan Dive, Tuesday 14 March 2017

I popped out briefly from Scratchouse to get a taste of something different and more importantly for this nonsmoker, some air. I ran into my friends, New York band The Dig, as they were loading into Swan Dive for their 10 o’clock show. Bass player and sometimes lead singer Emile Mosseri is now sporting the platinum blond look, and I guess he wanted a different appearance to match their new direction on most recent album ‘Bloodshot Tokyo’, released at the start of February on Roll Call Records. While band member Erick Eiser has played keyboards on their past LPs, a synthesised organ sound is prominent on ‘Bloodshot Toyko’ tracks like ‘Simple Love’, which seems to reflect more whimsy in their songwriting process. It’ll take some time for me to listen to the new LP and compare it with their past releases like ‘Electric Toys’ for me to decide if I like the new direction.

Oscar Key Sung, Swan Dive Patio, Tuesday 14 March 2017 2

Swinging around the corner, I checked out the activity at Swan Dive Patio, where Oscar Key Sung from Melbourne, Australia was setting up. R&b and electronic elements often get mixed together these days into predictable pop formulas, but this artist on my list of best bets of the Aussie acts coming out to SXSW 2017 goes weirder, with amazing result that (probably) only an electronic geek could love. Hiding under a baseball cap, Sung’s grooves and vocals leaned soulful, the tunes feeling much more accessible live than they are presented online.

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