SXSW 2016 | 2015
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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 2nd December 2016 at 4:00 pm
The purposeful controversy-causing London-based band VANT performed on the 12th of November at Newcastle Cluny. It was one in a series of shows on Dr. Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING autumn tour, which also starred twin brother dance duo Formation and Hackney MC Paigey Cakey. (A live performance by Formation from October at the Scandinavian Church in Liverpool on this tour can be watched here.) Today, we’ve got live video of VANT performing single ‘Peace & Love’ in frontman Mattie Vant’s childhood backyard of the North East. Watch the politically conscious band in all their live glory below. For more on the group here on TGTF, including a Q&A with him ahead of this appearance in the Toon, follow this link.
Austin-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez passed through Phoenix before the American Thanksgiving holiday, making his second appearance here in just over a year. If you’re a regular TGTF reader, you might remember my review of his previous show in the same venue, downtown Phoenix’s Valley Bar. On that occasion, Ramirez was accompanied by a full band and special guest Liza Anne, but by design, this gig was quite a different event.
Ramirez is playing completely solo on his current tour, without either a backing band or a support act. Dubbed the ‘Bootleg Tour 2016’, these shows also involve the element of live recordings, which are being distributed via download to all ticketholders within a few days of the show they attend. The souvenir recording is a unique and intriguing digital age concept, and it became even more appealing as we in the audience discovered, much to our delight, that Ramirez had a few yet-to-be-released songs up his sleeve.
Without an opening act to warm up the crowd, Ramirez began the night somewhat unceremoniously by simply walking on stage, saying a quick greeting and starting to play. He opened with a sequence of old favourite songs, starting with ‘I Think I Like You’ from his 2011 ‘Strangetown’ EP before turning to his more popular 2015 album release ‘Fables’. ‘How Do You Get ‘Em Back’ and ‘Communion’ were apparently more familiar to the punters gathered near the stage, and Ramirez’s set quickly gained momentum. Despite his own admission to feeling a bit under the weather, the grit and raw power of his singing voice held up admirably to the stripped back song arrangements presented here, especially in the bitterly poignant ‘Harder to Lie’.
Of the new songs in the set, ‘Too Far Away’ grabbed my attention straightaway, with the coincidentally relevant lyrics “Well, I’m coming to London, gonna bring you back to Texas / you’ll have your first Thanksgiving and you’ll meet the parents.” Like so many of Ramirez’s songs, this one has a bittersweet twist, which he immediately counteracted with the dry cynicism and dark blues edge of another new track, titled ‘Stone Age’.
In the end, Ramirez played quite a lengthy set, 22 songs in total, including the unreleased tracks and a remarkably fitting cover of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’. He seemed to take advantage of the relative success of last year’s ‘Fables’, interspersing songs from that album with older releases that might not have been as well known. It must be said that Ramirez’s acoustic version of ‘The Bad Days’, from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’ was exquisitely effective whether his audience knew it already or not, and he indulged a shouted request for ‘Fires’, which dates back to his 2009 album ‘American Soil’.
Though I missed the backing vocals I was accustomed to hearing in the full band arrangements of several familiar tracks, Ramirez’s voice and acoustic guitar were equally compelling on their own, especially in a small, intimate venue like the Valley Bar. And if his new songs see the light of day, so to speak, it will be interesting to listen back to the bootleg recording and compare the fully arranged studio versions to these stripped back preliminary performances. Ramirez’s Bootleg Tour 2016 continues through the end of December; you can find the remaining dates listed here.
David Ramirez is currently listed as a showcasing artist for SXSW 2017, which will take place in his hometown of Austin next March. As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the artist lineup is subject to change. To keep abreast of David Ramirez’s upcoming plans, we recommend that you keep an eye on his official Facebook. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, you can consult the festival’s official schedule here.
After the cut: David Ramirez’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: David Ramirez at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 18th November 2016
Los Angeles synthpop trio LANY have made a sudden and impressive appearance onto the pop scene in 2016. Comprising frontman Paul Klein, guitarist/keyboardist Les Priest and drummer Jake Goss, the band have released three EPs in quick succession, starting with ‘I Loved You.’ in June 2015, and followed by last December’s ‘Make Out’ and June 2016’s ‘kinda’. After playing a slew of American summer festivals this year, including Bonaroo, Sasquatch and Firefly, LANY embarked on a headline tour of the U.S., which has just wrapped up with a hometown show at the Fonda Theatre in L.A.
I had a chance to catch LANY just before the end of their ‘kinda’ tour, at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix last Tuesday night. Despite the relative newness of the band, they sold out the 550-capacity Crescent Ballroom, and when I arrived to the gig, I noticed something rather unique about their audience. Like many concert venues in Arizona, the Crescent Ballroom separates younger patrons from punters 21 and over, in an attempt to avoid underage drinking. For this particular show, the under-21 section was unusually large, and it was given priority in the section directly in front of the stage, rather than its usual position off to one side. The apparent majority of the crowd was underage, and their youth was matched only by their buoyant enthusiasm for LANY.
On further examination, the relatively young age of the crowd shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. LANY are what you might call an Internet sensation, having made a name for themselves via Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature. Their single ‘ILYSB’ has amassed over 27 million Spotify streams as of this writing, and Billboard + Twitter listed them as the number one Emerging Artist after the release of their video for recent single ‘yea, babe, no way’. (Check out the video for ‘yea, babe, no way’ at the bottom of this page.)
On this night, LANY were preceded on the stage by New York pop quartet Transviolet, whose own electropop was an appropriate prelude to the main event. Despite singer Sarah McTaggart’s struggle with illness, her voice rang through the bright synths and throbbing bass of her bandmates Judah McCarthy, Michael Panek and Jon Garcia. (McTaggart and Transviolet would miss a subsequent show in San Francisco, but we understand that she recovered in time for the tour’s final date in Los Angeles.) Transviolet’s recent single ‘Future’ was a standout in the opening set, but even better was edgy earlier track ‘Girls Your Age,’ which resonated strongly with the teenaged ladies at the front of the stage.
Though Transviolet were well-received, it became evident before the end of their set that the punters down front were impatient to see LANY. A near riot ensued when Klein and his colleagues took the stage with an extended instrumental introduction and a visual display that incorporated Whitney Houston’s famous national anthem performance at Super Bowl XXV (way back in 1991, for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember it!). LANY’s tech crew deserve a special shout out here; the strikingly effective visual backdrop was a major highligh of LANY’s live set.
The slick visuals were a perfectly scripted accompaniment to LANY’s clean, sophisticated brand of synth pop, and for their part, the band didn’t stray far from the well-loved recorded arrangements of their songs. Frontman Klein was clearly the focal point of the show, as guitarist Priest was hidden in the shadows on the stage left side, while Goss and his drum kit were situated only slightly more prominently at stage right. Every song was greeted with screams of approval from the largely (but not entirely) female audience, starting with ‘4EVER!’ and ‘yea, babe, no way’. For me, the evening’s defining strong point came early in the set, with the infectiously catchy, deeply existential ode to California, ‘WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS’.
A handful of rather indistinguishable tracks followed, including the cringe-inducingly trite ‘like you lots’, which admittedly made a stronger connection with the younger crowd. However, Klein was charmingly personable throughout, smiling and making eye contact when girls shouted his name, even accepting a bouquet of roses from a swooning audience member at one point late in the show. LANY made a much stronger impact at the end of the set, finishing with the ethereally dreamy track ‘pink skies’ and the yearning trans-Atlantic romance of ‘current location’.
Hit single ‘ILYSB’ (which, for those of you unaware, is an acronym for “I love you so bad”) had yet to make an appearance on the evening’s itinerary, so there was little suspense as to whether LANY would perform an encore. But the band held their audience in anticipation just a little bit longer, starting the postscript with an extended version of ‘Walk Away’, featuring Klein on keyboards. Everyone on the general admission floor unleashed their dance moves for for the giddy high of ‘ILYSB’ before Klein and his colleagues endeared themselves once more by taking an old-fashioned curtain call and a synchronised bow.
If you’re a fan of cool, West Coast style synth pop with just a hint of r&b soul, both LANY and Transviolet will fit nicely onto your next playlist. Though both bands appear to be taking a break through the end of 2016, you’re sure to hear more from them next year as their stars continue to rise.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 17th November 2016 at 4:00 pm
Last month, slight in stature but powerful singer/songwriter Lucy Rose revealed this live acoustic performance of ‘Our Eyes’ from her 2015 album ‘Work It Out’. This week, she has another performance from the same session at Urchin Studios that is coming out in December, just in time for the holidays.
‘Live at Urchin Studios’, scheduled for release on the 9th of December 2016 on Rose Records via Red Essential, followed Lucy’s travels in the UK, all over Europe and Latin America and her yearning to record something a little bit different. And different it is: performing only with one band member, cellist Alex Eichenberger, and over a 1-hour period live in front of an audience, the new live album will include fan favourites from Lucy Rose’s debut album ‘Like I Used To’ and ‘Work It Out’. Watch this new performance of ‘Shiver’, from her debut, below. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Lucy Rose, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 16th November 2016 at 4:00 pm
White Lies released their fourth album ‘Friends’ last month; I reviewed it then and you can read my thoughts here. One of the oddly unimpressive songs on the album, ‘Morning in LA’, has been given its own promo video. Reading bassist/songwriter Charles Cave’s words on the song definitely helps explain why they wrote it, as well as how important it is to them to play for fans in North America:
“For the last decade it seems every new film released is a remake, and it’s a topic that already sparks debate. We had been wanting to do a performance style video for a while and the Killing Joke video from which ours respectfully steals is an absolute classic of the genre. When White Lies started, we received a fair amount of ‘gothic’ adjectives describing our music – something we always found quite funny. For ‘Morning in LA’, arguably our jolliest song yet, we thought the tongue-in-cheek gothic feel of the video was an appropriate aesthetic to go with.
‘Morning in LA’ is a love song to friends, and a hate-song to time zones, I suppose. It’s about trying to maintain contact with the people you care most about when your time zones don’t match up. Funnily enough, this is nothing to do with being on tour, but comes from the flip-side when we as a band were based in London for a year for the first time in a decade, and many of our friends had moved to America or Asia. It was illuminating how the differing time zones are as annoying as the physical distance between you both.
Of course all this talk of mornings in LA, and America has made us keen to get back out there, and see some friends – old and new – at shows supporting the new record. America is a huge place, and much as we would like to play five times as many cities, we’ve put together a couple of weeks of shows that we hope many of our fans can find their way to. We’ve got such fond memories of Chicago, of Boston, of Austin. We know all the fans in New York that were there at the first show all those years ago. We know the fans that travelled from Mexico up to LA just so see us. Well we are more than thrilled to announce our US tour will finish and then send us down for two headline shows in Mexico City and Guadalajara. Our fans around the world are all vocal in their pleas for us to play in their towns, cities and countries, but it has always been Mexico with the loudest voice. It’s one of our favorite places to play in the world and these shows are going to reflect that.”
To see all of White Lies’ upcoming tour dates in America, Canada and Mexico, use this link. They precede a new string of UK dates that were announced and went on sale last week. Watch the Killing Joke-inspired live video from them below.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 15th November 2016 at 4:00 pm
North West singer/songwriter Rick Astley seemed destined to be relegated to the late ’80s and early ’90s, when he made his name as a pop star. Following his ‘return’ thanks to the rickrolling meme, this past summer his massive hit ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ gained attention again when Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention in July when it appeared her speech stole from Astley’s (in)famous song.
We’re going to leave all that behind now and focus on Astley’s current activities, which include promoting his newest album ’50’, the age he is this year. Last month as part of a series of American dates, Astley and his band performed at the Ace Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Sadly, his spring 2017 UK tour in March and April is all but sold out. However, luckily for us, this performance of single ‘Pray With Me’ was filmed at the show for posterity, and it’s clear Astley’s voice is in fine form, even after all these years. Watch it below.
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