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SXSW 2018: Friday afternoon at the Full Irish Breakfast and British Music Embassy – 16th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 4th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

During the week at SXSW, those of us who have day jobs outside of the music industry must check in on occasion on what pays the bills. While I was stuck in our hotel dealing with emails and loose ends, Carrie left early to make our now annual visit to the BMI brunch, so stay tuned for her coverage on the artists who played there at the Four Seasons this year. After getting things in order, I hopped over to B.D. Riley’s for the annual Full Irish Breakfast sponsored by Music From Ireland and First Music Connect, both great friends to TGTF. To my happiness, the place was already full up at noon, requiring quite a bit of jostling and patience to get a bartender’s attention and to find a spot where you could lay out your complimentary breakfast.

Accompanying the free food – with white pudding this year, yes! – were plenty of Irish-born talent raring to go, going nicely with the green décor B.D. Riley’s had already set out ahead of St. Patrick’s Day the next day. Joshua Burnside and his band, who wowed us on the Output Belfast boat ride Tuesday morning, began the day of festivities at the Irish pub. Looking tan in the face (or was that sunburn?), he looked relaxed performing his sixth and final performance in Austin in front of a room of Texan strangers.

Joshua Burnside Friday at SXSW 2018

It’s no wonder why his album ‘Ephrata’ won the Northern Ireland Music Prize in 2017. Burnside’s unique usage of world music influences while maintaining an inherent Irishness through the lilt of his gorgeous voice made the LP released last year unlike anything else. The crowd approved of Burnside and his band’s early yet wonderfully spirited set. A particularly lovely moment was when Burnside went part acoustic for his single from last year, the politically charged and very Northern Irish ‘Red and White Blues’. While its poignant meaning may have been lost on the audience he played it to, the combination of his strong voice accompanied only by acoustic guitar had a quiet beauty, before the rest of his band joined in for added oomph.

The Lost Brothers are Irish, yes. But if you looked at them on the street with their cowboy hats and acoustic guitars, you’d swear they were Americans born and raised in the Wild West. No strangers to SXSW, B.D. Riley’s or Austin for that matter, they took to the stage at the pub with their usual performance aplomb. Whether performing on a boat or in a venue on dry land, the Lost Brothers are the consummate professionals.

The Lost Brothers Friday at SXSW 2018

They arrived in Texas with their latest album effort ‘Halfway Towards a Healing’, recorded in Arizona, and the critical acclaim it has received so far, all deserved. (Read my glowing review of the LP through here.) ‘Echoes in the Wind’, the lead single from the album, came across as effortless, as did more recent single, the sweet, yet humourous ‘More Than I Can Comprehend’ (promo video here).

The third act at the Full Irish breakfast was also ready to put his last SXSW 2018 appearance in the can. Cork’s Talos, who closed out the Music From Ireland showcase at the Velveeta Room the evening previous, was back out with his band and alongside the blinding sunshine streaming in from 6th Street. It was a good thing for musicians from abroad and music fans alike to hide inside B.D. Riley’s for the afternoon: for the first time that week, the mercury reached over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 32 degrees Celsius plus). The sunny afternoon provided contrast to their performance Thursday night, though the sun or heat didn’t dampen their enthusiasm or Eoin French’s falsetto.

Talos Friday at SXSW 2018

Friday was the only afternoon at SXSW 2018 I had some free time to spend at the British Music Embassy. And it was a good day for it, as a slice of sticky toffee cheesecake and a bloody Mary awaited me at Latitude 30. I arrived just as most visitors were finishing up their lunch and ready for the first act, The RPMs. Brighton’s brightest prospect in the pop/rock stakes began the afternoon at the Embassy with gusto, blasting out their upbeat tunes with vigour.

The RPMs Friday 4 at SXSW 2018

Although he must have been boiling in his leopard print jacket, lead singer Jack Valero was a great frontman, flashing a winsome smile and showing a youthful exuberance. Under the better lighting of and with the better sound system of Latitude 30, they shone, and plenty of Americans who hadn’t heard of them until that moment started taking notes. I know, because a bunch of people came up to me and asked me to spell their name and for help finding their Facebook. Ha. I was glad to be of service.

Next up on the bill was Natalie Findlay, the Manchester songstress who scorched former writer Martin’s eyes and ears at Liverpool Sound City 2013. Since those days, she’s morphed like a chameleon many times, never staying put in one specific genre. In an otherwise all-male lineup, it was nice to introduce some good ol’ fashioned girl power into the mix and remind the Americans in attendance that there’s great female talent coming out of Britain, too.

Findlay Friday at SXSW 2018

Flyte’s closeup has been a long time coming. We’ve been writing about them for quite a long time; they nabbed the #5 spot in a reader’s poll here at TGTF at the end of 2013. Last year, they released their long-awaited debut album ‘The Loved Ones’, the culmination of years of hard graft. Performing songs from it live in Austin must have tasted so sweet.

Flyte Friday 2 at SXSW 2018

The group from London sounded decidedly different from the acts before them, with a Beatles-esque indie rock edge. While I thought it was unnecessary for them to do a cover (Alvvays’ ‘Marry Me, Archie’), Americans next to me swayed their head to Flyte’s version, stoked in their unexpected selection. Unexpectedly, I found myself at the bar and next to an unlikely fan, or so I thought: folk pop singer/songwriter Lucy Rose stood spellbound watching them play, only stopping to occasionally note to her drinking companion how great Flyte were. Couldn’t have had a nice endorsement, eh?

Dance funk purveyors Le Galaxie were the perfect choice to close out the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s. Led by well-bearded frontman Michael Pope and performing with ex-Fight Like Apes MayKay on occasional vocals, they turned the Irish pub in the late afternoon into an enthralling disco, the thumping of their catchiest tunes reverberating in every molecule in the place.

Le Galaxie Friday at SXSW 2018

I last saw them in the basement of Audio in Brighton (now Patterns) at The Great Escape 2015. Times may have changed but some things stay the same, and thankfully, Le Galaxie is in the latter. It may not have been 5 o’clock yet in Austin, but it was 5 o’clock somewhere, and punters had no problem shaking a tail feather to their songs.

 

Video of the Moment #2816: Charles Watson

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Formerly one-half of Slow Club, Charles Watson the solo artist has been slowly trickling to us new music, all presumably to appear on this debut solo album out in May. Following single ‘No Fanfare’ and ‘Abandoned Buick’, he’s got a new promo video for ‘Everything Goes Right’. The promo, filmed by Piers Dennis, sees Watson in front of alternating blue and pink backgrounds. Well, until the end when he breaks out of his theatrical prison. Watch the video for ‘Everything Goes Right’ below. Album ‘Now That I’m a River’ has an expected release date of the 18th of May on Moshi Moshi Records. Watson will be on tour in the UK following the LP’s release. For all of our coverage to date on Charles Watson, use this link.

 

SXSW 2018: bouncing back Thursday night with the Reeperbahn Festival and different genres – 15th March 2018 (Part 3)

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

After removing my wet clothes and hanging them up in ingenious ways off of various pieces of furniture in our hotel room so to not block Carrie’s entry, I returned into the Austin night, buoyed by the brilliance of one Benji Lewis from Australia. There’s been an incredible buzz about Hamburg rapper Ace Tee (say that slowly, and you’ll get it…) and given my good experiences at Friends, I thought I’d stop in at the Reeperbahn Festival showcase there and have a look-in at her and her rhymes.

Not sure what happened with her appearance, but definitely an Oriental woman and not a German-African one was onstage by the time I arrived at Friends. Apparently all the Koreans in the bar knew CIFIKA would be appearing. The twenty-something is an underground favourite back home in South Korea, and she’s spending quite a bit of time in our country post-SXSW on what Billboard has called the longest headline tour of the U.S. by a Korean act ever. None too shabby. An accomplished producer, her electronic creations are already being compared to those of Bjork. And yes, people. She does all her own music. Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp?

CIFIKA Thursday at SXSW 2018

I popped next door to B.D. Riley’s to get a taste of another band from Asbury Park, New Jersey, Dentist, starring husband and wife team Justin and Emily Bornemann. I wondered what kind of people would name themselves after the most unfairly maligned member of the medical community. Instead of making you feel as uncomfortable as if you’re having a root canal, the music of Dentist is actually pretty surf-y. Their quick-moving songs with right-sounding guitars with echoey vocals from Emily sounded like having an ice cream by the beach on a sunny day. Which is pretty impressive, considering I saw them in the dead of night at 10:30 PM.

Dentist Thursday at SXSW 2018

What’s nice about every SXSW is that almost every band plays more than once, so you can see them again if you wish. As mentioned in my review of them performing Wednesday afternoon at German Haus, psych rockers Blackberries revel in doing something different than you would expect from a German band in the 21st century. As the band format is increasingly endangered, we need to support bands like them so we have them making music. Carrie would probably be fine with everyone being solo singer/songwriters going forward, but I’m not!

Blackberries Thursday at SXSW 2018

The Happy Happy Birthday to Me showcase at Seven Grand was running behind schedule, which made my waiting for my intended act longer. I tried to get a brief moment of shut-eye before being admonished by bar staff that “it looks bad” if someone is asleep in a bar. Because I look like I’m drunk? Or because it looks like who you’ve got on is boring? The inexplicably named duo Eureka California from Athens, Georgia, blasted through song after punishing song. They’re so punk, I don’t think they ever introduced themselves. Or maybe they did, and I couldn’t hear them doing it?

David Gedge of the Wedding Present at SXSW 2018

Despite a lengthy soundcheck, during which the bartenders behind me made fun of the vocal checks, I wasn’t disappointed when The Wedding Present finally took the stage. David Gedge is an elder statesman and ambassador of British indie rock now, a position he seems to revel in with all of the live performances he’s willing to put himself and his band through. (Check out my interview with The Gedge just prior to SXSW 2018 through here.) Considering their popularity, it felt odd that they were playing such a small club, and to so few people. To be fair, these were 50 or so uber fans who had appeared near midnight to see them at the Seven Grand, and they were rewarded by having the opportunity to be up close and personal with the band. Chalk up another point for SXSW.

Because of the stage delays at the Seven Grand, I had to leave in the middle of their set to make my way down to the Velveeta Room in time to catch Music from Ireland’s last act of the evening. I somehow missed the mysterious Talos (pronounced “TAH-los”) from Cork at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016, so I was trying to make up for lost time. Seems like caught him at a good time, as it appears he’s making traction here in America. Or, at least, he’s made some superfans in Texas who were plying his backing band with beers?

Talos Thursday at SXSW 2018

The beguiling strains of synths with Eoin French’s gentle, emotional falsetto on the sweeping ‘Odyssey’ proved to be a mesmerising combination. Some young ladies down the front at the venue looked like they were about to faint. (If you wondering, yes, French is quite the looker and seems to be poised to sneak into that cute, yet scruffy Irish boy spot once occupied by Kodaline.) With the added backing of a full live band, the Talos sound is one of bombast, of eye-opening ambition. I am always amazed by the music that comes out of Ireland. I’m sure I’ve said it before: the Irish have faced so much hardship, so much oppression, so many tears. And yet they are able to write and sing some of the most beautiful music ever created. For more photos from my Thursday night at SXSW, visit my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2018: Thursday night with artists around the world and dealing with the unexpected – 15th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

This was my seventh SXSW. Having been punched and groped in 2016 and then having been turned away at a venue despite my having a SXxpress pass this year, I thought perhaps I’d experienced all the peculiarity and awfulness that was meant for me in Austin in this lifetime. You may say I’m getting old and I should just shake these things off, but my tolerance for BS is minimal these days at best. Having crossed off Munich’s Joasihno and Solingen’s Blackberries at German Haus’ Wednesday afternoon programming, Thursday night was supposed to be a pretty relaxing evening stroll from venue to venue. Pretty sure I jinxed myself…

Like Wednesday evening, Thursday evening began for me with a stop at a drinks reception, this time the Le Bureau Export New York / France Rocks’ drink and food reception at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop. Call me crazy, but I assumed that after visiting the House of Scandinavia on Monday and snacking on some faux meatballs, we’d be getting some champagne and French-themed food at this reception. I think there was a major miscalculation in attendance predictions, as I got there pretty early to queue and by the time I got upstairs, nearly all the food was gone. The French contingent might consider either ordering more food next year, or do a better job limiting access. It was very strange, too, that except for one sign advertising the event that was stood next to a picnic table full of official staff, there were no other indications that this was a French event. At the Focus Wales night the evening before, there were Welsh flags down the bar and on individual tables; German Haus had awesome-looking banners and their unique blue-green design branding in front of Barracuda’s indoor stage.

The reception was useful in that I was in the right place when the first act of the Bureau Export France showcase began. They even began before 8 PM, pretty tops. I had seen electronic act STAL 3 years ago playing at the Clash Magazine showcase at Coalition at the 2015 edition of The Great Escape. At the time they were based in Paris, but they now call Los Angeles home. At STAL’s core is composer Pierre-Marie Maulini, who cut his teeth on rock bands in the early Noughties before forging a friendship with and going on tour with Anthony Gonzalez’s M83. It’s purported that the 2 years Maulini spent touring ‘Saturday = Youth’ with Gonzalez and crew inspired him to start his own project and thus STAL, the word for steel in various languages, was born.

STAL Thursday at SXSW 2018

STAL’s music has morphed in the last few years; recent single ‘The Crime’ (my review here) sees them veering towards a more overtly mainstream pop sound, probably what Maulini meant in a previous Facebook post in which he mentioned them going on “a brand new journey”. Time will tell if this will translate to bigger success for them as I had hoped for when I saw them in 2015. What will help them big-time in this regard is the energy of their live show. You can tell they’re friends and getting into it, and as fun as it is to watch them, the frenetic motions onstage encourages you to join in on the floor and dance. Maulini and live guitar and synths bandmate Jeff Di Rienzo (guitar and synths) were constantly moving their bodies to the beat. Newest single ‘Magic’ that came out last Friday is more in line of what I think of from an electropop band; check it out in its premiere on our friends Glamglare’s Web site.

On my way down the stairs, I stopped to catch a song by girl group TAWINGS who were playing on the indoor stage at the Sounds from Japan showcase. Channelling ‘60s garage rock, the Tokyo group’s sound chugs along like so many bands we’ve heard before. So much that you might think you’re listening to another band. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that’s what they say, right? Any other night, I could be quite happy listening to a band like this. At SXSW, not so much.

TAWINGS Thursday at SXSW 2018

I left STAL’s set before it ended, because I had a long walk to the Kobalt AWAL / blahblahblahscience show at the Palm Door on Sabine Street. I made it just as East Anglians turned Londoners Otzeki, who I’d written about in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, began to play. It was some luck that I had given them a pass Tuesday night, instead choosing to stay for The Academic’s full set at The Main II (see more here). Otzeki’s show that evening was shut down by bouncers two songs in because singer Mike Sharp had commandeered a bottle of Maker’s Mark (the Seven Grand is a whisky bar) and refused to surrender it to staff.

The well-lit venue gave folks plenty of room to drink, dance and observe the band however they wanted to. The bounce of their electronic-driven music was funky and seemed to be intriguing the audience, most of whom I guessed didn’t know who they were before wandering into the building. Then things got weird. Sharp repeatedly bounded into the audience with his microphone, leading to impromptu twirls around and serenading of punters. This in itself is not unusual. Most music fans like this kind of interaction, and the women he confronted seemed to enjoy the joke. Having had close calls with guitars and microphone leads in my face in the past, I prefer such interaction at a distance.

Otzeki Thursday SXSW 2018

He decided to take his shirt off, then gaffa tape his chest across his nipples. Er, okay, performance art. Then he decided to pick up the water dispenser that all Austin bars have. Bar owners know that revelers drink too much during SXSW, and their defense is to keep these people hydrated. What happened next seemed to move in slo mo. Sharp must have jumped in the air with the dispenser, and what seemed like all the water in it fell on me. I’ve had some stupid stuff happen to me in my life, but this took the cake.

Was he acting provocatively during SXSW to create a buzz about their act while in Austin? Good that it happened to me and not some A&R dude, I guess. Their manager was kind enough to try and source me some actual towels, but I soon decided I had to get out of the air-conditioning and out of my clothes ASAP. I walked by a hotel staff member on the way back up to 6th Street and she asked me what happened. After hearing the story, she said, “you’re taking it awfully well, considering.” What else could I do?

I refused to let this incident get the best of me. I headed for St. David’s Sanctuary next, warning the door staff that my clothes were wet, and would that be okay if I sat in a pew to enjoy the next performance? They waved me on and said that if I needed a blanket, they had some in the back that I could help myself to. That was nice of them. Being able to sit is not a perk you get in all venues, and after what happened, it was mighty welcome. When I arrived, soulful electropop singer/songwriter Benji Lewis of Melbourne, Australia, was still setting up with his live bandmate and friend Allen. I hadn’t missed a moment of what would be one of the most magical performances I witnessed in Austin all week.

Benji Lewis Thursday 2 at SXSW 2018

Like many Aussies wanting to be noticed beyond antipodean borders, he’s moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of global stardom. In this interview with our friends at The AU Review, Lewis explained that he stripped back his set at St. David’s to respect his environment, choosing to go with lighter sounds. The decision paid off in spades: the Aussie singer’s falsetto floated lighter than air, making songs like his standout single ‘Drift’ sound absolutely beautiful within the incredible acoustics of St. David’s. While I may have been down when I arrived, Lewis’ velvet tones were just what I needed to regroup and remind myself why I was in Austin. Check out his newest single ‘Deep Blue’ below. For more of my photos from Thursday night at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

 

Preview: The Great Escape 2018

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 at 10:00 am
 

We’re into April now, which means the first wave of the big three May city festivals are just weeks away. I have already previewed the 2018 editions of Live at Leeds and Liverpool Sound City, the latter seeing a move away from docklands this year. The final of the trifecta, The Great Escape in Brighton, will be making changes of their own.

The festival will be premiering ‘The Beach’, promised to be a 2,000 capacity festival site of its own separate from the rest of the festival. It’s expected to house an 30 individual venues. This could be amazing or could go horribly wrong. Sound bleed from the Main Stage at the docklands version of Sound City adversely affected smaller acts on the smaller stage, so we’ll have to see how this first year of the added ‘Beach’ goes. As the format of The Great Escape really hasn’t changed since I first started going in 2012, it was definitely time for them to try something new and I’m going to be positive that the South’s emerging music festival has already sussed out the potential issues.

So what countries outside the UK will have significant presence at The Great Escape? As usual, America, Australia (bringing their famous Aussie BBQ) and Canada will have plenty of artists in Brighton. But it’s also worth noting France, Ireland (yes, both sides of the border) and The Netherlands are sending a critical mass of artists. So there, Brexit!

As in past years, there will be a rap-focussed Spotlight Show at Brighton Dome on the 19th of May. This year’s edition will star Mist and MoStack, Steel Banglez, Fredo and Ebenezer. Access to this special show Saturday night can be through the purchase of a standalone ticket or a successful application for the lucky draw following purchase of a 3-day weekend or 1-day festival ticket.

Tickets to the Great Escape 2018 are still available in 3-day saver, team (buy 6 for the price of 5) and single day formats. Young adults have the option to buy a 3-day ticket or a Saturday day ticket. For more information on tickets and to buy your own, go here.

 

Video of the Moment #2815: Ten Tonnes

 
By on Monday, 2nd April 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Time moves so fast, doesn’t it? It seems like yesterday when I got to interview Ethan Ten Tonnes in Austin at SXSW 2017. Ah, the memories. Since I spoke with him, it’s like someone pressed the fast-forward button on his career. Touring with loads of folks, most recently Tom Grennan, he’s been all over the place. Luckily for us, someone on his team has been filming his travelling activities, making putting together the video for ‘Lay It on Me’ a breeze. At least it looks it. I reviewed the single back in February, and I wasn’t particularly fond of it.

The promo video, however, is a different story. As much as I complain about performance videos being copouts, I like the behind-the-scenes tour diary type, as you can see what it takes to be a touring musician. It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work, too, something we all should be reminded of. Being a musician is a tough life. ‘Lay It on Me’ is available now from Warner Brothers. For all of our past coverage on Ten Tonnes, go here.

 
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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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