SXSW 2018: artists from all over Tuesday night – 13th March 2018 (Part 2)

By on Thursday, 22nd March 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Like Tuesdays, Monday nights at SXSW aren’t usually that busy. Generally, there’s a dearth of showcases. At SXSW 2018, there was plenty for me to see and plenty of acts for me to tick off my list, which was great news. English singer/songwriter Gemma Ray, who now calls Berlin home, opened the evening at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary. Resplendent in bright yellow and blue, Ray conjured up a blend of country, folk and blues with her backing band of a keyboardist and drummer. It’s too bad that the early start of her set meant she played only to a half-full room.

Gemma Ray Tuesday at SXSW 2018

Holy Motors from Estonia were up next at St. David’s. As one of my tips for SXSW 2018, the five member strong, female-fronted group from Tallinn captured my ears, along with those of domestic SiriusXM Alt Nation station DJs. The sound of Eliann Tulve’s intonings, along with her bandmates’ droning guitars, made for a mesmerising sound. At times, the lack of movement from the guitarists, except of course to strum the strings on their instruments, made it seem they themselves were self-hypnotised to their songs. Holy Motors’ sound is beautiful, indeed, but they’re a less than exciting proposition live.

Holy Motors Tuesday at SXSW 2018 2

To inject a bit more liveliness into my evening, I headed down to 6th Street, specifically to B.D. Riley’s, for some Americans’ antics. Orange County long-haired rockers The Jacks had already begun a hair-raising set, the punters assembled for them down close to the stage and excited to hear them knock out song after song. Although a friend commented to me that they sounded and looked like every other band from Orange County, after Holy Motors’ set, their raucous rock was like a welcome splash of cold water to the face. They were only in town for 2 nights, stopping through Austin during their tour of Texas.

The Jacks Tuesday at SXSW 2018

Having been brought back to life by The Jacks, I bounded over to nearby Latitude 30 for a visit to the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation-sponsored showcase at the British Music Embassy. I had some good fortune to catch one of only two evening appearances by Jerry Williams (pictured at top), whose name sounds like a country and western artist. In actuality, she’s an up-and-coming young singer/songwriter from Portsmouth. Unsigned as of the time she embarked to her trip to Austin, her (dare I say it) young girl adorable, bouncy voice and poppy tunes probably hit the spot to more than a few A&Rs in the audience.

Following Williams was another talented up-and-coming female artist, Swansea’s Rachel K Collier. Like Williams, she has been self-releasing and -producing her own music, part of the growing cabal of strong young women showing the boys, not to mention the industry, that they know what they’re doing, can do it all by themselves and with incredible results.

Rachel K Collier Tuesday at SXSW 2018 2

Electronic has notoriously been a difficult genre for women to break through in. Collier’s smarts in creating seriously catchy beats and melodies, while also inserting her personal touch with lyrics about her own life and experiences, has translated to dance music that connects to both dance and electronic fans, along with those who want more. Stepping occasionally from behind her electronics and into centre stage at the venue to sing and pogo along with the audience, the Welsh talent proved she can put on an exciting stage show. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Collier conducted in Austin soon here on TGTF.

I stayed put at the British Music Embassy for a brief taste of highly hyped, 2018 NME Under the Radar Award winners Manchester band Pale Waves, who Carrie previewed back in January. While I knew they were tour and label mates with the massively popular, and SXSW 2013 alumni The 1975, I didn’t realise how closely their pop/rock songs mimicked those of their Manchester friends. Whereas Rachel K Collier and her percussionist Rhii brought bright colours to Latitude 30, Pale Waves turned things decidedly monochrome, frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie favouring checkerboard trousers, making me think of another SXSW showcasing band, The Specials. Her thick eyeliner was reminiscent of one her biggest band influence, Robert Smith and The Cure.

Carrie and I crossed paths at the Victorian Room at the Driskill Hotel, her catching Manchester’s Chloe Foy and Scot Colin Macleod before I arrived. I hung around during what seemed a particularly long soundcheck for Oxfordshire’s Rhys Lewis (see my preview feature on him here). He and his band were having trouble with multiple devices, including the pedal to his piano. Maybe he would have been better off with an acoustic set like this one filmed by the BBC on 6th Street? I haven’t spent much time in the performance space in the historic hotel over the years I’ve done SXSW and this year, I felt this niggling discomfort in the room while I waited. While his vocals on recent single ‘Bloodstains’ and ode to London ‘Living in the City’ sounded great, the venue just didn’t seem quite right for the singer/songwriter, as punters sat cross-legged in front of him, giving the performance a primary school feel and not one of being at SXSW.

Rhys Lewis Tuesday at SXSW 2018

My final band of Tuesday night were Mullingar’s The Academic, who both Carrie and I covered at SXSW 2017. Having just finished their first major North American tour, the Irish pop/rock group were able to fit in this special performance at The Main II, a return to Austin to cap off their time in our country. At the start of this year, they released their debut album ‘Tales from the Backseat’, a collection of fun, toe-tapping tunes. Read my review of the LP through here. They played an unusually long set by SXSW standards; I was half-expecting the light to be switched on and for them to get the hook at some point, but venue staff let them keep going.

The Academic Tuesday at SXSW 2018

The crowd was a mix of fans who had the album and people who had never heard of them. It’s unclear where the locally-based Irish students fit in this spectrum, but as several of my Irish musician friends have repeated to me, “if an Irish band is playing, we all come out and show our support”. Hooting and hollering ensued during and between songs, including singles ‘Bear Claws’ and ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ They ended their set with an amazing cover of ‘Linger’ by the Cranberries. I got chills as all of us in the venue sang along with the and with gusto. While they didn’t explicitly say so, I’m sure the decision to include it was a loving tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan who died unexpectedly in January. Theirs was a wonderful, well-formed set that showed maturity, the result of plain ol’ hard work in this often fickle business. It was hard to believe this was the same band I saw at the Music from Ireland showcase last year. Upwards and onwards! For more photos from my Tuesday night at SXSW 2018, go here.

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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.

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