SXSW 2017: living it up at the British Music Embassy, and Mary’s goodbye to Austin (Saturday night, part 2) – 18th March 2017

By on Wednesday, 5th April 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

It’s the “best American champion of British music” part of Mary Chang that always pulls me back to the British Music Embassy at the end of every night during SXSW. But then Saturday evening comes, and the final visit to Latitude 30 turns bittersweet. It’s where my friends from Britain – the new ones made here, and the old stalwarts I’ve known for years – and I say our final goodbyes. We order our last drinks in Austin and share our last tearful hugs and the wish that we’ll meet again next year in the same exact place or hopefully sooner, and with loads more success under our belts too.

No-one ever says it out loud, but it is understood that some bands will leave Austin with new business deals, the luckiest signing to labels. Others will go on to similar deals after they get back home, off the back of having showcased at the biggest music festival in the world. And yet others will either stay at the level they’ve already achieved in their home country or region, or otherwise fade into obscurity altogether, never to be heard from again. I say this not with cynicism about the industry, but with the egregious disappointment I feel when a band I’m crazy about doesn’t achieve the heights I thought they would reach. It has become my personal challenge to do as much as I can with what gift I have been given: the written word to tell the stories of music and the people behind it. Some people might say I take SXSW way too seriously, but for these bands, these musicians, these singers, this is their life. And I feel incredibly honoured to be taking part in their stories.

Having gotten my Scandi pop fix satisfied, my intention was to join Carrie at the British Music Embassy so we could enjoy the rest of the bands on the UK Department of International Trade showcase together. This was the first year that I can recall Latitude 30 letting people who didn’t have a wristband or badge pay a cover charge to get access to the venue. As a result, there were three queues outside the venue: one for badges, one for wristbands and one for those who paid the cover.

I get that the people who paid the cover really wanted to get in, and rightly so: the British Music Embassy is rammed every year on Saturday night, and it’s always a stellar line-up. It’s to the credit of the bookers that the bill on the last night is always amazing, but it’s definitely a victim of its own success. Two years ago at midnight on Saturday, I was stuck outside in the queue with Huw Stephens and Kate Tempest and her entourage, and eventually Huw gave up and left. So how fair is it to charge people in an additional queue when you have no idea whether they’ll even get into the venue? To add even more incredulity to the situation, Carrie had interviewed showcasing artist Alice Jemima outside the venue after her set. Alice wanted to do the right thing and go back in through the front door, and staff wouldn’t let either of them through. Hey, you guys did see her onstage earlier, right? Sorry, rant over.

I eventually got in and rejoined Carrie inside for her first taste of Aquilo live. Along with two others of the four remaining bands left on the evening’s showcase, I had seen them earlier in the week, so I’ll keep my comments here brief. In Aquilo’s case, the two shows I’d seen them at previously – the KCRW showcase at Elysium Wednesday night and the Get Buzzzed showcase at the Brew Exchange midday Friday – eased them into their much higher profile appearance at the British Music Embassy. For the bands who are chosen to perform there Saturday night, it’s practically the biggest coup ever. It would be completely understandable for nerves to show.

Tom Higman of Aquilo, UK Department of International Trade showcase, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

However, whether it had to do with the length of time Tom Higman and Ben Fletcher have been in bands separately or together in Aquilo or not, onstage they were the model of aplomb, winning over a new crowd with their brand of emotional, soulful pop tailor made for mainstream radio. I couldn’t have been prouder of them. You can practically hear their future fans screaming and squealing.

I was keen on finding out what Carrie thought of SuperGlu, who had already wowed audiences in Austin twice, Monday night at the DIY / Ticketweb showcase here, followed by Tuesday night at the Killing Moon / ReverbNation showcase at Scratchouse. As I expected, their carefree, fun rock songs that were more pop than slacker were just the ticket for the last few hours left to punters at SXSW 2017.

SiriusXM favourites Sundara Karma took over on stage next. Carrie knows more about them than I do, having reviewed their debut for RCA / Chess Club, ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’, when it was released back in January. Young musicians who write and perform pop music often get a bad rap about being lightweights and sellouts. While for sure there are many manufactured pop bands and singers, or at least a lot acts whose label pays off some hitmaker to write a bunch of songs, the Reading group are an exception to the rule.

Oscar Pollock of Sundara Karma, UK Department of International Trade showcase, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

As enjoyable as single ‘She Said’ is, a closer examination of the lyrics shows that singer Oscar Pollock and his band have thought about what it means to be young on a philosophical level. Certainly more than any other 20-year olds you know. This is exactly the kind of band we need to nurture and support going forward to keep not only music alive, but to inspire the next generations of musicians that it’s possible to be thoughtful in your artistry and make a statement, while still becoming a success.

Steve Lamacq, UK Department of International Trade showcase, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

The “Special Guest”, to be introduced by none other than Steve Lamacq to close out the evening, was not a well-kept secret. For sure, LIFE were my favourite closing act of the last 6 years that I’ve been going out to SXSW, which says a lot. It also seems almost too appropriate that LIFE were chosen for this coveted spot, as now more than ever is the existence of each and every one of us and the things we love are being threatened. As the world grows more me-centric and selfish, those without will fall through the cracks, but who will speak for them? As their Bandcamp biography reads, this is a band who make “Irresistible dark pop that holds a dirty mirror up to modern life”. No-one ever said life was easy, or perfect or pretty for that matter, right?

Mez Green of LIFE, UK Department of International Trade showcase, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

LIFE had already shown Thursday afternoon at the British Music Embassy that they weren’t afraid to pull a few punches and point a few fingers at the crooked establishment, all the while rough and ready. Frontman Mez Green dressed for the occasion in a Don’t Mess With Texas t-shirt, suggestive of what laid ahead for us. The band took it up another notch Saturday night, Green clambering on the bar to deliver his vitriolic barbs while his brother Mick Sanders jumped into the crowd with his red Stratocaster. While they might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they were the final loud, sweaty, uncompromising parting blow the British Music Embassy would deliver to Austin, and I wouldn’t have wanted to end my SXSW 2017 any other way.

Now to rest up the next 6 months before the preparing for the next carnival of crazy in 2018. Good night, Austin, and all you sweet princes and princesses. See you next year!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

 
 
 

About Us

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

E-mail us  |  RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us