SXSW 2017: Tuesday morning and afternoon spent with Irish artists and an exceptional English band – 14th March 2017

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

The Tuesday morning of SXSW 2017 found me out the door early, headed across the Colorado River to the Hyatt Regency Boat Dock, which the launching point for the Output Belfast Boat Party. The Boat Party, a collaborative event among several agencies including Generator NI and the Belfast City Council, is quickly becoming a Convergence tradition at SXSW, popular among attendees from across the Interactive, Film, and Music categories.

I was lucky to get onboard, as the boat quickly reached capacity. I had only just made my way to the upper deck when I was approached by one of the morning’s performers, electronic musician Ryan Vail. I recognised him from his press photos and felt a momentary panic, worried that I would be expected to say something intelligent about electronic music and drawing a complete blank. Fortunately, Vail was knowledgeable enough for both of us, and he kept the conversation afloat until the official festivities began.

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The morning’s distinguished emcees included our friends Mark Gordon of Generator NI and Belfast city Alderman Guy Spence (pictured above), as well as Help Musicians UK CEO Richard Robinson. All three were cordial but brief in their remarks, wanting, like the rest of us, to get straight to the music performances. Vail took the stage, such as it was, first. Balancing his sensitive electronic equipment on the gently rocking riverboat was something of a challenge, but Vail managed it beautifully, setting a soft and mellow sonic atmosphere for the rest of the show.

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Alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds (pictured in header above) returned to Austin this year after a successful debut at SXSW 2016, this time with her full band accompanying her. For this brief semi-acoustic riverboat set, she was joined only by keyboard player, Hannah McConnell who also provided lovely backing vocals. I found myself whistling along to the now familiar ‘Goji Berry Sunset’ and hanging intently on the literary-leaning lyrics of ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’. You can check out another SXSW 2017 performance of both tracks, courtesy of NPR, right here.

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Final performer Ciaran Lavery opened with an a capella take on ‘Let Bad In’ that had me in tears before he had even completed the full song, which made it a bit difficult to take photos. He acknowledged that his songs aren’t exactly upbeat “dance numbers”, but his richly-textured vocals and stark acoustic arrangements felt pleasantly warm and inviting in the early afternoon Texas sunshine.

After the boat party was complete, I took a few minutes to sit down with the three featured artists for this impromptu interview, then I headed quickly back downtown for another interview with a band from the Republic of Ireland, Dublin’s Picture This. I was few minutes late to reach them, but fortunately they were gracious enough to wait, and band members Jimmy Rainsford and Ryan Hennessy gave this fascinating introductory soundbite. They exuded confidence and swagger, which immediately struck me as unusual, but in a positive way, very different from the self-deprecating humility of so many artists I meet. I wouldn’t have the chance to hear Picture This play live until the Thursday afternoon of SXSW, but needless to say, my curiosity was piqued.

From there, it was back to the Radisson for me, where I had arranged an interview with Reading quartet Sundara Karma. They were fresh on the SXSW scene, having only arrived in Austin hours before, but they were chomping at the bit to immerse themselves in the experience. In contrast to Picture This, Sundara Karma seemed genuinely unaffected by the hype surrounding their SXSW appearance. Click here to listen back to my poolside chat with band members Oscar Pollock and Haydn Evans.

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Interviews complete for the afternoon, my next stop was at the Convention Center Next Stage, where I met Mary to catch Irish singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning. Later in the week, (in this interview) Fanning would describe the Convention Center vibe as more like a lecture hall than a proper gig, and I have to agree with his sentiment. The large stage and open seating area was almost too spacious for Fanning’s dark, intimate songwriting, but his captivating lyrics and resonant baritone vocals very quickly minimised the emotional distance between himself and his audience.

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Keep following TGTF’s continuing coverage of SXSW 2017 in the coming days for more on all of the excellent artists featured here: Ryan Vail on the grand piano at St. David’s Bethell Hall, A.S. Fanning and Picture This at Thursday’s Full Irish Breakfast, Ciaran Lavery at the Output Belfast day show, Sundara Karma at Stubb’s BBQ, and Jealous of the Birds on Saturday’s Music for Listeners showcase at El Sapo.

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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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