SXSW 2018: Brits and Americans late Wednesday night – 14th March 2018 (Part 4)

By on Thursday, 29th March 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

BBC Sound of 2018 nominee Sam Fender hails from Newcastle, and it must be a boon to the young man to have been invited to play at the inaugural This is Tomorrow festival astride the Tyne in May. It just so happens I will be at that event, so I viewed seeing Fender in Austin, out of his normal environment, an exciting preview of his appearance back home in 2 months’ time. Although the North East singer/songwriter’s music on record sounds like the polished pop on the charts, a closer listen to each song reveals he’s got more on his mind than girls and relationships. There were definitely more young girls than guys of any age down the front waiting for him at Latitude 30.

Sam Fender Wednesday at SXSW 2018 3

“This is a song about going out on a Friday night and getting beat up” was how he introduced ‘Friday Fighting’ in a deadpan manner. I was struck by the cynicism of ‘Millennial’, it made me think of the kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and how some adults have attacked them for being “young and dumb”. You have to give Fender props for the conviction to stick to his guns thematically and lyrically. Carrie didn’t invoke Bruce Springsteen’s name in her preview of his appearance at SXSW 2018, but I’m going to go there now. His exuberant, powerful performance – playing a Fender guitar, of course – suggests he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Sam Fender Wednesday at SXSW 2018 2

Bowing out of Latitude 30 after Fender left the stage, I popped over to Friends bar on 6th Street, which for me is one of the most underrated SXSW venues. There’s no cover, even during SXSW, and the bar goes on for quite a distance. Very rarely is it chockablock, which is a relief for those of us who suffer from claustrophobia and need room to breathe. Funny I just mentioned The Boss, as the artist who was finishing up at Friends was an artist from Asbury Park, New Jersey, which, at least to Americans, is associated in our minds with Springsteen. I think any artist coming from the town must know they will be compared to him and probably don’t want to go down the rock route.

Farrow (not to be confused with Leeds electronic artist Matt Farrow, who also goes by the same mononym) are an ambient duo from Jersey. The problem here was a mismatch of artist and venue. The level of sound from their electronics were no match for the size of the bar, and I couldn’t tell if this was a problem with amplification, or the act actually intended such a gentle performance. I’m intrigued by the tunes on their Soundcloud, so I’d guess they’d sound better in the right environment.

Annie Hart Wednesday at SXSW 2018

Carrie and I have surmised the past few years that artists are spending less time the week of SXSW in order to save on accommodation in Austin; shows with paltry attendance like this one and earlier in the week seem to support the idea that visitors to Austin, whether they be industry or not, are also cutting back on their time in town. Following Farrows was synthpop solo artist Annie Hart, of New York City’s Au Revoir Simone, a band I first heard of through their collaboration with Friendly Fires on their early hit ‘Paris’. She was dressed in an all, black, body-hugging outfit, making it easy for her to dance, even while she was playing her Nord keyboard. Despite her sprightliness and giving it her all on songs like the melancholic ‘I Don’t Want Your Love’, Hart’s performance fell flat in the absence of an audience to listen to her, which was a real shame.

I returned to the Townsend for the final two acts of the Focus Wales showcase. At least that was the plan. Feted up-and-coming house artist Doc Daneeka was supposed to be onstage by the time I arrived. Instead, I found him scratching his head and working with who I later found out was an ill-prepared SXSW staff member who was pinch-hitting for the actual sound man and ended up frying some of his equipment by trying to plug in UK plugs into an American socket. The labels on this power strip at Latitude 30 may be the way to go for UK artists at SXSW in the future, eh? The Focus Wales staff kept offering me drinks but as it was so late, I decided to sit down and wait until they got it together. More than half an hour behind schedule, Doc Daneeka admirably rolled with the punches, spinning on his two turntables a smooth, mesmerising set that was welcome after a long day of work and play in Austin. Two house fans excitedly approached him after he finished, wanting to shake his hand and get photographs with him; I’m sure this meant so much after playing to a small crowd.

Doc Daneeka Wednesday at SXSW 2018 2

Rachel K Collier was given the last slot at the Townsend. Like Doc Daneeka, she had trouble getting her equipment hooked up and working. I hung on for as long as I could, until nearly 2 AM, before I finally cried uncle and had to drag my feet back to the hotel. I was glad to have seen Collier the night before at the British Music Embassy and despite my missing third appearance of the week, I’m confident I’ll get another chance to see her play sometime soon. For more photos of my Wednesday night at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

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