SXSW 2018: an editor’s final surprises and wows in Austin – 17th March 2018 (Part 2)

By on Thursday, 5th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

For the first time all week, I didn’t have a plan at the start to my evening. I had some tentative ideas but then decided I should probably queue for Latitude 30, as I had been locked out of the press allocation of the SXxpress passes for Saturday night. Both Carrie and I have seen daunting queues outside the venue in past years but this year, the British Music Embassy didn’t seem as big of a draw. Friday night’s rap-focussed night headlined by SXSW 2016 showcasing artist AJ Tracey had trouble getting foot traffic in, they ended up opening it up to the public. I was surprised that I was able to get in and in plenty of time ahead of the start of Superorganism’s set. There’s been huge buzz around these supposed ‘aliens’ and so they were more of a curiosity to me than anything else. This evening was sponsored by BBC Radio 1 and the UK’s Department of International Trade (formerly UK Trade and Investment).

Superorganism Saturday at SXSW 2018

In reality, the band hail from varied locations as New Zealand, South Korea, and Lancashire, while being led by the teenaged American via Japan Orono Noguchi. As a friend of mine with me that night quipped, “they’re like a mad version of The Go! Team!” Hard to argue with that logic. Their schtick is to act like they’re not from this planet, from the funny raincoats they start their set with, to pretending they don’t know what Teddy Grahams are. I didn’t find them as funny and avant-garde as advertised. I have trouble stomaching young kids swearing and witnessing Noguchi do this as part of her stage patter just came across as uncomfortable. I can see the pop appeal of their weird songs: they’re easy to sing along to, and who doesn’t think dancing shrimp are cute? But is this a project that has legs? Clearly, Domino Records think so, they put out their debut album last year. They’re appearing at the Great Escape in May, and I’m just happy I can say I’ve already seen them and leave that show in Brighton to their crazy fans.

I hung in there so I could watch girl duo IDER, recent signees to Glassnote Records. IDER were invited to showcase at SXSW last year; we previewed them then and I was so disappointed they didn’t come out to Austin. A year of tightening their sound and live performance led to this week in Austin where they performed at show after show and did so with smiles on their faces. Their last chance to impress was at this BBC Radio 1 and Department of International Trade showcase at the British Music Embassy.


IDER Saturday at SXSW 2018

Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville certainly didn’t look like they’d been put through the SXSW wringer. Beginning their set with an arresting a capella duet, it seemed they were eager to prove that their voices could stand on their own and without electronic augmentation. Like their many shows in Austin before it, this one was full up and proof that word had gotten around about their talent. There’s nowhere for them to go but up from here.

Uncomfortable by the sardine situation at Latitude 30, I said goodbye to my friend, extricated myself from the crowd and walked on to my next destination on 6th Street, fully expecting to be to have arrived during a changeover. Returning to the Velveeta Room for a second timethat week, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to catch the latter half of Margate singer/songwriter Dan Lyons’ set. As regular readers of TGTF know, the singer/songwriter genre is Carrie’s forte, not mine. I find that after a while, these artists start to blur in sound and in my mind. Don’t sing to me from atop a stool. Others may think you’re cool, but I’ll just be bored. I’d rather rock out.

Dan Lyons Saturday at SXSW 2018 4

There is a dark edge to Lyons’ songwriting, a world of blown smoke rings, psych and blues and Laurel Canyon harmonies with his bandmate and partner Freya. The songs are Something tells me he’d get along with Stephen Duffy and they’d have a laugh, like I had described New Pope at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 should go drinking with Dylan and Tom Waits. Lyons was previously the drummer for Fat White Family in a previous life, so it’s nice to see an artist coming from behind the skins to do his own thing.

The label ‘synthpop’ LYLO have been given hasn’t done them any favours. I know what I think synthpop sounds like, and there are legends of the genre like my beloved Duran Duran and OMD that tend to used as examples. The Glaswegian band go far beyond the basic synthpop mould by having a saxophone player – seriously, what synthpop band do YOU know has a saxophonist? – and their cool attitude oozing from every pore.

LYLO Saturday at SXSW 2018

You remember Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, right? Recall that Rafferty was Scottish and this hipness is buried there in their DNA. On ‘Turn My Jacket’, there’s a lot going on, but it’s a happy kind of organised chaos. I found my head bopping to the beat and cheering on these lads. I cracked up as I watched the legs of their keyboardist move around as if they had a mind of their own. Mind you, this was all happening while his hands were at attention on the keys. I guess even he can’t control himself when he gets swept up in the rhythm?

What better way to finish out my SXSW 2018 than with a band that I’d discovered while listening through all the bands from the Continent, poised to find the next big band out of Europe. Moonlight Breakfast, who I’d previewed in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, were appearing at Friends. They were prepared: they had brought their own lighting and projection screens on which they could run their own visuals. These may not sound like much and possibly unnecessary at a dive like Friends. But taken together, they made their show stand out as a professional presentation from nearly all the others I’d seen all week. World class. I would like to think that the place was packed because people had heard about them through my write-up and word has spread fast.

Moonlight Breakfast Saturday at SXSW 2018

Make no mistake, ‘professional’ doesn’t mean stuffy. Like LYLO before them, they had a secret weapon in the form of the clarinet that their drummer ‘Bazooka’ played on ‘I Feel Like Dancing’, and to huge audience cheers. The bounce of singles ‘Time’ and ‘Shout’ made them irrepressible and so catchy, you could feel the energy building in the room. Singer Christie sang with a megaphone and with a huge grin on her face. She knew they’d done good. On the final night of SXSW, you couldn’t ask for a better high note. Fans were fighting over who would buy them drinks after their performance. I smiled to myself as I skipped out the front door of the bar. My job here is done.

I went back to the hotel to start packing for the trip back home and to mentally prepare for the difficult return to my normal life. Seeing Moonlight Breakfast wow a crowd like that was another reminder, like many reminders that week, that TGTF and my writing and opinion here makes a difference. I know for myself that although I can’t be that singer I wanted to be when I was a little girl, the next best thing I can do is to help that girl (or guy) with the same dream. Dream big, laugh, love. Goodnight, SXSW 2018.

For more of my photos from Saturday at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

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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. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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