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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.

 

Album Review: Lissie – Castles

 
By on Tuesday, 27th March 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Lissie Castles coverWhen we at TGTF last spoke to American singer/songwriter Lissie in a post-show interview at SXSW 2016, she had just moved from California back to her midwestern home of Iowa to find her roots after years living on the West Coast. She was also touring her album ‘My Wild West’, which was written and recorded as a kind of farewell to California. Now firmly established in the Midwest, Lissie has released a new record titled ‘Castles’, which is as much an exploration in musical sounds as it is an examination of the life she’s created for herself.

Ironically, despite Lissie’s decampment to farm country, the songs on ‘Castles’ are less organic sounding than you might expect, especially from a woman whose last album was firmly grounded in folk rock. Working with a host of collaborators including electronic artist Nick Tesoriero, Lissie has fashioned a dreamy, ethereal soundscape of synths, drum machines, and distant backing vocals. “When I wrote on a guitar I felt limited”, she says. “It was so much more spontaneous and natural to sit down with someone who would give me a beat and a chord progression on a synthesizer. I started having all these new ideas.” Lissie’s sonic experimentation places ‘Castles’ into a pop/r&b scenario, and while she doesn’t venture into uncharted pop territory, it’s a new sound for her, and the result is, predictably, a bit patchy.

Opening track ‘World Away’ sets the sonic tone with a hazy dream pop sound apropos to an album called ‘Castles.’ But Lissie’s raw singing voice, which was powerful enough to cut through hefty guitars and drums on ‘My Wild West’, doesn’t sit as comfortably in the new synthesised backdrop. Her natural raspiness occasionally comes across as abrasive, and the thinner underlying arrangements expose the squareness in her lyrics and vocal delivery.

The album gains momentum early with a strong trilogy of songs. Lissie’s voice is strong in title track ‘Castles’, whose fairy tale analogy and catchy refrain are immediately engaging. Piano ballad ‘Blood & Muscle’ (http://www.theregoesthefear.com/2017/12/video-of-the-moment-2750-lissie.php) has a smoky quality that suits the natural timbre of her singing, especially as the chorus builds to its dynamic climax. ‘Best Days’ has a  country rock feel which might have worked even better had Lissie more fully committed to it, under lyrics about wanting both “a pickup truck” and “a diamond ring”.

From there, the album begins to lose traction. ‘Feel Good’ and ‘Boyfriend’ carry on the country rock flavour, but the lyrics in both are trite and slightly preachy, as Lissie sings in the latter, “I don’t want a lover, I want a man / coming from the heart now, living in my heartland”. In an attempt to branch out from country rock, Lissie makes two overtures to r&b on ‘Castles’, neither of which is particularly successful. The vocal delivery in ‘Crazy Girl’ feels contrived when she sings “I’ve been talkin’ shit all of the time, other girls foolin’ around”, and the effect is amplified later in the tracklisting in ‘Love Blows’, where the understated synth backing exaggerates the stilted, uncomfortable lyrical rhythm.

Near the end of the album in ‘Peace’, Lissie softens her tone and weaves her voice delicately between the bass groove and the exotic plucked string instrumentation. Here she finds a sweet spot, and though the moment doesn’t last long, it’s an interesting suggestion of where she could potentially take this new soundscape. Final track ‘Meet Me in the Mystery’ is another strong piano ballad whose minor key harmonies reflect the elusiveness in its title, while electric guitar, synths, and percussion create a dramatic tonal tapestry behind Lissie’s naturally bewitching vocals.

‘Castles’ is without a doubt a brave departure from Lissie’s former folk rock sound. She gathered a host of contributors, including collaborators from ‘My Wild West’ and producers AG and Liam Howe to help her navigate the new soundscape but in the end, the album may have suffered from “too many chefs in the kitchen” without enough definitive direction or intent.

6.5/10

Lissie’s new album ‘Castles’ is out now on Cooking Vinyl. She will play a run of four live dates in the UK in April; you can find all the details here. TGTF’s previous coverage of Lissie is collected back here.

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Album Review: Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

 
By on Thursday, 22nd March 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

CMA album coverAlt-country singer/songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews appeared last week in Austin for SXSW 2018, to preview her forthcoming seventh album ‘May Your Kindness Remain’. Andrews garnered attention in the UK last year with the re-release of ‘Honest Life’, her self-produced sixth record, which drew comparisons to Laurel Canyon-style folk artists like Joni Mitchell. But where ‘Honest Life’ had more of a folk flavour, ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ finds itself firmly in the country category, albeit a more old-school, traditional country sound than you might hear on mainstream radio on either side of the pond.

Recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Mark Howard (Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Tom Waits), ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ captures both a well-worn country sensibility and a fresh, modern take on the traditional style, with subtle elements of rock and blues sweetening the mix. Lyrically, the album was inspired by Andrews’ 10 years of life on the road as a touring musician, and it deals with themes that feel at once timeless and conspicuously current. She says:

The people that I’ve met on the road these past few years got me thinking about my childhood, and the people around me that I’ve known, and the stories that come from my family,” Andrews says. “It became clear how many people are struggling through the same issues. People are constantly chasing that bigger life. A lot of people are poor in America—and because of those unattainable goals, they’re also mentally unstable, or sad, or depressed or unfulfilled. A lot of people—myself included at some point in my life—are loving somebody through this. That’s sort of the theme of the record: coming to terms with depression and the reality of the world we’re living in.

Gospel-tinged title track ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ addresses that idea in straighforward fashion, but with an underlying message of optimism. Lyrics like “fortune might buy diamonds, all shiny and new / but it can’t buy you happiness or love, that is true” might seem trite when written on a blank page, but they ultimately ring sincere when couched in Andrews’ simple melodies and her gently yodeling folk-country vocal style. The dynamic growth of her singing voice in the song’s powerful chorus showcases both strength and subtle emotion.

The album’s fundamental optimism is reprised later in the tracklisting with another gospel-laced track ‘Kindness of Strangers’, which celebrates small favours in the face of unrelenting adversity. “People come and people go,” Andrews observes here in a jaded tone, ” . . . you need the kindness to survive”. Standout track ‘Two Cold Nights in Buffalo’ is one of the album’s more spirited moments. Its uptempo country rock underscores a tough tale of hard times on tour with a sense of perseverance and humour. But Andrews also takes the opportunity to muse on the situation’s larger implications: “what happened to the middle class / mom and pop, five and dime? / soon they’ll be knocking it all down / to build that high-rise.”

A handful of well-worn love songs including ‘Rough Around the Edges’ and ‘Took You Up’ pull at the heartstrings with yearning melodies and all-too-familiar lyrical details that feel comfortable even when they aren’t pretty. She easily juxtaposes lofty imagery like “desert sunsets and movie scenes” with the more mundane “frozen dinners when money’s tight / making love on a laundry pile”, finding equal emotional value in both. Andrews’ voice exudes a palpable sense of warmth and welcome in humble ballad ‘This House’, singing “for every rose there’s a weed / but every weed is welcome / this house ain’t much of a house / but it’s a home.”

Near the end of the tracklisting, the dryly ironic tone of ‘I’ve Hurt Worse’ displays a typically country-rock bravado and the emotional subtlety of trying to mask a pain you don’t want to admit to in the first place. “Mother says we love who we think we deserve,” Andrews remarks here in a wry tone, “but I’ve hurt worse.” The album closes with ‘Long Road Back to You’, which underscores the pervasive longing and quiet hope in this collection of songs. The guitar riff between its verses is achingly desperate, while Andrews’ vocal in the yearning refrain is a barely-restrained cry of loneliness. But the return of gospel harmonies in the piano and backing vocals manages to leave behind a prevailing sense of promise.

Courtney Marie Andrews has made her career in music the hard-working, old-fashioned way, and her commitment to the traditional country aesthetic pays off in spades on ‘May Your Kindness Remain’. The album’s beauty lies in its simplicity, which highlights Andrews’ delicate balance of grit and grace. Her rough-around-the-edges vocal style infuses her lyrics with a sense of authenticity, and her dusty, sepia-toned soundscape conveys both steadfast resilience and hard-won hope.

9/10

‘May Your Kindness Remain’ is Courtney Marie Andrews’ seventh studio album and her second release for Mama Bird Recording Co. (America) / Loose Music (UK). The album is due out tomorrow, Friday, the 23rd of March. Stay tuned to TGTF for live coverage of Courtney Marie Andrews at SXSW 2018, to post in the coming days. Our past coverage, including Andrews’ answers to our SXSW 2018 themed Quickfire Questions, is back through here.

 

SXSW 2018: Mary’s Monday SXSW Conference sessions roundup starring London mayor Sadiq Khan and chefs José Andrés and Andrew Zimmern – 12th March 2018

 
By on Tuesday, 20th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Heading up to the fourth floor for sessions, I stopped in an overflow room to hear the second half of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Convergence talk. Khan’s interviewer Lydia Polgreen of The Huffington Post seemed eager to hear about his controversial stance against worldwide rideshare giant Uber. (For those wondering about the context, Austin’s politicians also outlawed ridesharing companies for a time before ultimately reversing the decision.) Khan explained his position that he was for companies like Uber as long as they abided by the rules and played fair along with the rest of the London cab ecosystem.

His comments on Uber mirrored his closing statements about Britain’s relationship with America. Likening it to a bond between best mates, he made the excellent point that the relationship between the two world powers should allow one to call out on the actions of the other. His measured way of speaking and approaching controversy is not at all surprising, given his background as a human rights solicitor prior to entering politics. But given that he is the first Muslim mayor of a major world city and is leading by example, the kind of person Khan is is all the more refreshing. Watch the entire keynote and follow-up q&a below.

It seems every year there are more and more conference sessions on the world of food. The internationality of the foods we consume and the interest generated on how foods are made, by whom, its origins and even its photogenic qualities (thanks, Instagram) have turned chefs, restauranteurs and specialty food purveyors into global stars. Chefs José Andrés and Andrew Zimmern were paired up in a session called ‘Changing the World Through Food’, moderated by former Food and Wine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin. Both Andrés and Zimmern come across on television as masters of their craft while also being affable, hilarious and down to earth individuals. Their appearance at this year’s SXSW Conference confirmed that, as they told anecdotes about their childhoods and travels.

Chefs Jose Andres and Andrew Zimmern at SXSW 2018

Andrés was viewed primarily as a local Washingtonian celebrity restauranteur until his humanitarian work feeding people in weather-ravaged Haiti and Puerto Rico raised his profile and rightly so. It’s a sad state of affairs that all the coordination of a chef and who he knows was better at feeding and helping the people in Puerto Rico who were without electricity than efforts by FEMA. Andres explained that growing up, his family didn’t have a whole lot of money or food, but he never went hungry. Both he and Zimmern agreed that the pervasiveness of childhood hunger, and within the context of food waste, is a red flag that we have failed as a first world country. While neither guest offered direct solutions to this, both contribute or are in heavily involved with anti-hunger organisations and charities. If there is one big benefit to society from the celebrity-ization of chefs, it is the chefs’ ability to raise aware the causes dear to their hearts and foodies will open their pocketbooks, just like music fans will when their favourite artists are also promoting charities.

Zimmern’s tv show Bizarre Foods has highlighted the origin and popularity of food in far-flung places, bringing the world closer in to his viewers and helping them better appreciate the diversity and the artistry in the making of food. I agree with him that making food for someone and sharing your love through the medium of food is one of the most loving connections you can share with another human being. I caught up with the Austin episode of his new Travel Channel show The Zimmern List upon my return. Filmed last summer, he chats with local musicians at Stubb’s about the similarities between food and music, in particular the associated creative freedom.

I see these parallels too: the making of an amazing dish, like writing an album, is the preparatory work before you hand your work over to a consumer. They might love or hate it. Regardless of how it’s received, you’re giving a part of yourself and that, in itself, is a loving gesture to another person. It may be hard to wrap your head around the idea that the guy who made that burrito behind the counter for you thinks what he’s just handed to you wrapped in paper is art. I get that. But if we stopped to think that the other person who has just given us something meant for it to be important, wouldn’t we put more value to it? And wouldn’t we all have more meaning to our lives? Watch the entire session with Andrés and Zimmern below.

 

SXSW 2018: Mary’s Monday roundup of country houses and the SXSW Conference Trade Show – 12th March 2018

 
By on Monday, 19th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo courtesy of Jennifer Sinski / Fox Sports House

Once you’ve attended the SXSW Conference and Festivals once, you get into this mindset that you’re going to try and go to as much as possible, but you also know that the best laid plans often change and may be entirely out of your control. This year, I wanted TGTF to make an even better effort to see more of the conference and visit more of the houses sponsored by our country friends across the oceans.

Arriving earlier than scheduled into Austin on Monday morning, I was able to get badged up quickly and pop my head in for drinks and food in the House of Scandinavia sponsored by airline SAS. Instead of serving those famous Swedish meatballs, they had sat on tortilla chips gluten-free, oat-based meatless treats, reflecting the global trend towards sustainable food sourced ethically. The House, located for the week at Café Blue just steps from the Austin Convention Center, made for an easy pop-in if one was inclined to do so. Monday was Super Finland Day: did you know that Finland ranked #1 as the happiest country to live in 2018? Not so happily, bad timing meant I arrived between musical acts, ultimately missing Tuomo & Markus who we had opened our SXSW 2017 coverage with.

Fox Sports House at SXSW 2018 - courtesy Jennifer Sinski / Fox Sports House

A bit further out on Colorado Street was the Fox Sports House. The focus of their programming was to promote the upcoming World Cup in Russia. On offer were free country-themed tacos made to order and beer, while fantasy football and airbrushed temporary tattoos also were a big draw for mainly orange badge Interactive attendees who had already been in town for a few days. After you’ve done this for a few years, you can easily spot those moving slowly with bags under their eyes who look worse for wear and who are the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed having just landed.

Later in the day, I queued for a good 30 minutes in an attempt to get in as press to the food and wine pairing hosted by celebrity chef Curtis Stone at G’Day USA‘s Australia House at Lucille, only to be turned away after it had reached capacity. After occupying the much more central location of Brush Square Park for years, the Land Down Under hedged their bets for 2018 to move all of their festivities, including the perennially popular Aussie BBQ, down to Rainey Street. Bringing to Austin the ever winsome Stone and actor Hugh Jackman (there to discuss his Laughing Man Foundation that supports coffee growers) meant huge crowds wanted to visit Australia House early on in the week. You have to wonder if this ultimately translated to Australia House being a victim of its own perceived success. Having been turned away once, I can’t have been the only person to consider that given Lucille’s small size, I was unlikely to get into the place all week, so would it be worth the time queueing?

My unexpected early arrival also meant that I could step into the Trade Show for a wander. As in past years, some impressive local startups were showcasing their wares, including Sock Club, who create custom-made socks for companies and events. I wonder how many Subway employees wear their green, company-branded socks proudly. Many booths had a focus on VR and robots. I was surprised to see so many country booths having VR units on hand for anyone to stop by. While I never waited to see what was on those headsets, the fact that nearly everyone had them made for the odd feeling that everyone had them only because it was the thing to do this year. Is it symptomatic of society’s shorter attention spans? Country booths have tended to be less about welcoming conference attendees than in past years, which I found disappointing. A lot of these booths are designed to create business and attract tourism, and countries have spent loads of money sending people out to an international expo. Maybe everyone was tired by Monday and wasn’t in the mood to network? Far better were the actual houses away from the convention center, like the aforementioned House of Scandinavia.

A large crowd watched on wide-eyed as a giant orange robot was being controlled by a much smaller, normal human-sized woman manipulating a pouch-y horizontal arm. A Japanese booth had a robot creating plastic nigiri sushi from teeny tiny pieces of colored plastic, the same kind of precise technology you’d expect used in making things like microprocessors. Nearby, a Korean booth boomed with the sound of techno, as the electronic face of a panda bear alternated between moods as songs progressed. I’m all for the future of technology and advancement making our lives better. Flashy stuff like this without an obvious ground-breaking application doesn’t excite me. I must be getting old!

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #133: Joel Roberts of Otzeki

 
By on Friday, 9th March 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Lauren Maccabee

As our own editor Mary wrote in The Music Blogger’s Guide to SXSW 2018 and in her Bands to Watch feature on them earlier in the week, London-based electronic duo Otzeki have an unusual relationship for band members: they’re not siblings but cousins. Mike Sharp and Joel Roberts have released two EPs already in Otzeki’s short history, and they are excited to drop their debut long player ‘Binary Childhood’ on the 13th of April, just after their trip to Austin for SXSW 2018. Leading into their Texas adventure, Roberts was kind enough to provide some rather cheeky answers to our SXSW-themed Quickfire Questions, which you can read below.

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Electronic. Dance. Rock. Or EDR as we like to refer to it in jove.

Is this your first time at SXSW? What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
I think overall we are just extremely excited, as I have never been to America before, and lots of people said it was their favourite festival.

Of the bands who have already been announced, are there any you’re particularly interested to see? If yes, who are they and why?
We are excited to see Francobollo as we are playing at the same event as them, whilst our producer works with theirs. We have heard great things. Also a Brazilian artist called LaBaq, who got in touch with us, and sounds great! Maybe Frank Turner, just for the singalong shits and gigs/nostalgic reasons. And our French friends Fishbach!

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
I think we are most looking forward to eating some ice creams in the sun, playing some concerts, seeing lots of bands, partying, meeting people and our friend Rob coming from New York.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
There is genuinely nothing unusual that I am ‘packing’.

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Our tipple is usually a Guinness, although lately I have been getting very much into lagers. And also red wines! You can choose. Thanks in advance.

Now, let’s get into our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
I think ‘Three Lions on the Shirt’ is our earliest musical endeavour. We remember buying it from Woolworth’s with our dads, and every time we hear it we feel so nostalgic it almost makes us cry. I thought it was Aqua’S ‘Barbie Girl’ but just checked the release dates, and Badiel and Skinner’s classic came out first apparently!

What was your favourite song as a child?
Well, it depends really, I don’t think that there is such a thing as ‘favourite’, as also being a child is quite a long time! I mean, when I was little I loved Spice Girls, but when I was 10, 11, 12 nothing would beat Blink 182! Mike had the tape by DJ Otzi’S ‘Hey, Hey Baby’ and used to bring it to our house when we were children! That was great, as was Crazy Town’S ‘Butterfly’, which used to fly around a lot when we were together as children! (and still gives me goosebumps)…

What song always makes you laugh?
We occasionally play a cover which is half ‘5 Years’ by David Bowie and half ‘Satellite of Love’ by Lou Reed using a default preset drum loop off my old guitar pedal which cracks us up.

What song always makes you cry?
You probably get this all the time, but ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley.

What song reminds you of a specific memory? (For example, the first time you fell in love, the first concert you ever attended, etc. It’s up to you if you want this to be nice or naughty!)
‘Evangeline’ by Angels of Light reminds me of a very happy time when Mike used to live in Wapping and I used to come to stay, when we first got together (not sexual) and drink loads of beers and smoke fags on the roof, then go down the beach and watch the sunset with our brother Charlie, who is now also our manager.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
I think any of the greats by Bob Dylan, which for me constitutes as ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’, ‘One Too Many Mornings’, or ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’. I think he is one of our favourites. I often think of Simon and Garfunkel as the pinnacle of music, but mainly only ‘April Come She Will’, ‘Sound of Silence’ (1964 version without electric guitars), ‘Scarborough Fair’ or ‘Mrs. Robinson’. None of the others.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I would be full time at the Carphone Warehouse.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
I spoke to God last week, and he said we can bring as many albums into heaven as we so wish, and that this rule was only created by a blog. He said he is God and promotes a generosity of spirit and happiness that acquaints to as many albums as anybody pleases. But would probably be ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd, TBF.

Do any of your friends and/or colleagues have any upcoming music releases we should know about?
Our friends Island are also releasing a shit hot album in April 2018 called ‘Feels Like Air’. Gene on Earth’s second EP coming out on his own label ‘Limousine Dream’ for fans of underground dance music. And our good friend Liam/Desert Sound Colony is releasing some killer music at the moment, both on his own label ‘Holding Hands’ and others.

Our thanks to Thomas and Charlie for arranging this email q&a. As with all of the SXSW 2018 showcasing artists we feature here at TGTF, Otzeki’s appearance in Austin is subject to change. We recommend that you consult the official SXSW Music Festival schedule for the latest information and updates.

 
 
 

About Us

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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