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Over the past 3 years, it’s become my personal SXSW tradition to spend the Friday at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub for the Full Irish Breakfast, hosted by Music From Ireland. Indeed, Music From Ireland has an even longer history of hosting the showcase, as event coordinator Angela Dorgan related to me in this Friday afternoon interview. My chat with Ms. Dorgan was one of several interviews that I would conduct during the course of the day, between sets by a wide variety of Irish artists spanning genres from sweet acoustic folk to hardcore hip-hop.
The first artist on Friday’s bill was Donegal singer/songwriter Rosie Carney, who faced the difficult task of playing her sensitive and subtle songs to a rather groggy crowd who were perhaps more focused on their eggs and coffee than the activity onstage. Her singing voice was in fine form for so early in the day, and though the open stage at BD Riley’s isn’t the optimal venue for acoustic singer/songwriter types, her lilting tones provided a gentle introduction to a showcase that would gain momentum with each successive act.
I stepped outside to have this brief chat with Carney after she played, and when I returned, Silences’ frontman Conchúr White had taken the stage. I’d seen White play the day before on the Thursday afternoon Output Belfast showcase at Latitude 30, and his set once again the demonstrated the vast difference between the two venues. While the rowdier crowd and open windows behind the stage at B.D. Riley’s were slightly less receptive to White’s solo set, he managed to make a favorable impression on his audience.
Following Silences’ rather lonely solo set, the stage at B.D. Riley’s became abruptly more crowded with the entrance of Dublin garage rock quintet September Girls. I was glad to catch them this time around, as I missed them previously in 2014, and I’d been tipped off earlier in the week that their new album ‘Age of Indignation’ was not to be missed. As a fan of the Bangles from my early music listening days, I’m naturally intrigued by a band named after their famous Big Star cover, and I’ll be delving more deeply into September Girls’ sound in my upcoming review of the LP. They played an animated set laced with new songs on their Friday afternoon set, and afterward, two of their number graciously gave this interview for your listening pleasure.
Also filling the stage to capacity at B.D. Riley’s were David C Clements and his crew of bandmates, who followed the brash rock of September Girls with an equally intense set of their own. Along with the aforementioned Silences, I’d heard Clements play at the British Music Embassy the day before, and though he played largely the same set list at B.D. Riley’s, I was once again captivated by his heartfelt lyricism and expansive musical style.
Next on the schedule was electro/acoustic act Somadrone, aka Neil O’Connor, who Mary had caught earlier in the week at the official Music From Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s on the Wednesday night. Though soft-spoken in manner, O’Connor and his drummer Gareth Averill managed to crank up the volume a notch or two during their extended set, which they graciously agreed to play when rapper Rejjie Snow had to pull out of the showcase lineup.
Math rock band Enemies were next to take the stage, and I was so concentrated on their rather consciously intellectual sound that I didn’t immediately recognize drummer Micheál Quinn, who I’d met in this very same place last year when he had appeared in a different context with avant/experimental group Meltybrains? It was revealed during the course of Enemies’ set that Micheál was celebrating his birthday that day, and naturally a chorus of singing and birthday cake ensued. But make no mistake, their pop-tinged single ‘Play Fire’ was equally memorable and upbeat.
The afternoon’s trajectory changed slightly with duo act Saint Sister, whose very aptly termed “atmosfolk” gave our ears a welcome moment of respite, switching gears from live drums and wailing guitars to a combination of sweetly-tuned vocals, traditional Celtic harp and modern electronic rhythms. The novelty of seeing a harp on the stage at B.D. Riley’s would have been memorable enough in itself, but the hypnotic quality of Saint Sister’s seemingly anachronous juxtaposition of sounds proved that they are more than just a gimmick. Their music might have been a bit more laid-back than the other acts surrounding them on the Irish Breakfast docket, but as you can hear in my interview with them, they were in high spirits, and the animated energy came through in their performance.
The final act on the Full Irish Breakfast afternoon showcase was Limerick hip-hop trio Rusangano Family (pictured at top), whose new LP ‘Let the Dead Bury the Dead’ was released just last week, along with the video for jazz-tinged album track ‘Lights On’. Their sensational performance in Austin on the Friday of SXSW couldn’t be contained on the small B.D. Riley’s stage, as frontman God Knows leapt out the open window to preach his gospel to the throngs of people on 6th Street, while his bandmates MuRli and DJ mynameisjOhn were left to entertain the madding crowd inside. As you can see in the photos below, even aforementioned Enemies’ drummer Quinn couldn’t resist the urge to snap a few shots of the ecstatic festivities that ended the 2016 Full Irish Breakfast on another epic high.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 8th April 2016 at 6:00 pm
I’ve only just learned that Nottingham’s Amber Run have lost a bandmate, so I haven’t even gotten a chance to find a new photo of them to replace the one we’ve got here on file. In a post yesterday, they announced their compadre Felix had decided to leave, though thankfully it was a clean, amicable break and everyone’s still friends. (Phew.)
On better, happier news, they have also revealed that they are currently in the midst of recording their second album. With that, they’ve shared an early teaser in the form of ‘Haze’, and this smoky, monochromatic promo video to go along with it. ‘Hyaena Records’ is listed on the YouTube entry, which makes me wonder if they’ve decided to also start their own label or imprint. We’ll just have to hang in there and see what new news on Amber Run surfaces in the next few months. In the meantime, enjoy ‘Haze’ below. For all our past coverage on the band, head here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 8th April 2016 at 5:30 pm
Clash Magazine and UK music rights and licensing agency PPL‘s evening showcase Friday at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 was arguably the strongest night all week at SXSW 2016. Punters responded by packing the place full nearly every set on the night. To catch up on my earlier movements Friday evening, including some words on Throwing Shade’s performance to start this showcase, click here. For better photos of this showcase by my new friend Thomas Jackson, please visit Clash Magazine’s article on the night here.
After being at the Empire Garage and Control Room for three acts and heading back to Latitude 30, I caught the tail-end of Haelos’ set there, keen on finally figuring out the secret to their success during their week in Austin after seeing them in the sun at FLOODfest Wednesday. As I mentioned in my Friday afternoon review regarding Fickle Friends, there are way too many synth-led bands in Britain at the moment, which makes it all the more important to distinguish your band from the rest of the pack. I suppose here in a Passion Pit-less vacuum, British synthpop is all the more enticing. It also helps that Haelos has already received the backing of KEXP, recording a session with the forward-looking Seattle alternative radio station in January.
Watching them play to a packed-in British Music Embassy evening crowd – one of the very few times I witnessed this all week, which I thought was very strange – I think I may have cracked it. They do bring something different to the table, in that they’re not doing straight electropop, or electropop with a tinge of soul, for the kids. Mixing both options with a trip-hop element that formerly was the domain of acts like Massive Attack – generally only accepted by the dance kids – plus mixing male and female vocals, all these parts give their music product an undisputed edge. After giving the crowd 100%, the cheering at the end of their set was well deserved.
The next act, then, were presented with the major and dubious challenge of following such a triumphant set. I guess it’s a good thing they were YAK, as their psych / punk ethos don’t really give a monkey’s, and I think they would have completely went for it as they did, regardless of what band preceded them. Frontman Oli Burslem proved this by launching himself, guitar too, stage left into the crowd and entirely unexpectedly. This led to drink glasses falling and breaking and audience members falling down in a pile with him. Instead of being upset about it, punters ate it up, with those not involved in the pileup furiously snapping shots of the incident with their phones and high-fiving their friends that they were present for such an anarchic performance. Latitude 30 staff, quickly mopping and sweeping up glass in the aftermath, were likely not as impressed.
The Revenge, Scottish producer Graeme Clark, was up next to ring in midnight at the Embassy. I never know what to expect when there’s an electronic producer set to perform at Latitude 30 because in general, turnout isn’t great. I guess that has to do with most fans of this kind of music having a certain (dare I say overly intelligent) mindset and a profound love for not just beats but all electronic machinations, including how they work and sound. Clark is one-half of 6th Borough Project with Edinburgh Craig Smith, and I hadn’t realised until the week of SXSW of Clark’s connection. Thank you muchly, Ed Macfarlane, for my entry into this world.
As The Revenge, he released debut album ‘Love That Will Not Die’ in 2015, full of bangers of varying intensity and tempo. Under the cover of darkness, he and live compadre Paul McGlashan huddled over a dizzying array of synths, sequencers, mixers and other things I don’t know the proper names for, but that doesn’t matter. Thudding vs. frenetic beats and the dance lover’s friend of bass wub wub wubs filled the room with a kind of sonic mastery I so infrequently get to enjoy. I could have been there, happily dancing for hours and not known where the time had gone.
But after a spine-tinglingly good set and a changeover, it was time for London’s Honne, who the Telegraph have dubbed “futuristic soul” and “destined to re-invent babymaking music”. Um, okay. Let’s just stick to the facts: singer Andy Clutterbuck is the unlikely English (and white) heir to the throne of Barry White, and his long-time mate James Hatcher on keys and guitar, along with their live band, provide the appropriately mystifyingly soulful soundtrack. ‘Warm on a Cold Night’, featured in my Bands to Watch feature on them in the summer of 2014, was sufficient proof early on that this project had plenty of potential.
This potential was fully realised in front of a new and American crowd Friday night, as men and women alike yelled and wailed in their appreciation for the band, never letting up for the entirety of their set. I was pretty sure some ladies were going to faint when Andy announced they would playing their ode to the fairer sex in ‘Woman’. (Thanks to another crazy fan, I nearly lost my hearing the next night at Stubb’s watching them again, but I’ll tell you about that later.) They even got their friend JONES, who herself had performed on the Embassy the night before, to join in with them on the track ‘No Place Like Home’. When it came time for them to say goodbye with ‘All in the Value’, the crowd’s disappointment was loud and unanimous. Everyone wanted to meet the band after, irking the usually laissez-faire staff at Latitude 30, who had to kick us out of the place. Break America? Check.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 8th April 2016 at 4:30 pm
At my first SX in 2012, the only things me and my British and Irish friends were fending off were minor: sweat and sunburns. Rain seems to have only been a recent pest to SXSW and Friday night, thunder and lightning again threatened SXSW 2016’s showcases. When Carrie and I set out for our evening plans, rain fell hard and lightning streaked through the sky. Not eager to put punters into danger, outdoor, open air venues like Stubb’s and the pop-up McDonald’s Loft on E. 3rd Street chose to temporarily close their spaces or cancel their shows altogether. I crossed out my previous plans to see Everything Everything and DMA’s (at Stubb’s) and Banners (at the McDonald’s Loft) once I learned from Twitter that the venues closed, then reopened to allow bands to only perform shortened sets.
I began my night at our ol’ standby, the British Music Embassy, where Clash Magazine and UK music rights and licensing agency PPL were hosting an evening showcase. Throwing Shade was the first act on their bill. London-based producer Nabihah Iqbal has her own show on NTS Radio every fortnight and puts on a hip-hop night with fellow Londoner Felicita. However, she’s also released plenty of her own music, her use of beats suggested by many to represent the next emerging wave of London electronic music.
Prior to SXSW, her latest release the first week of March was the ‘House of Silk’ EP on Ninja Tune, filled with phat beats and glittery synths. Throwing Shade offers a unique perspective on life, too, because she has to be the only London producer (or one of the very few) with a master’s in philosophy. She chose to start with a spoken word piece with very little instrumental backing (that I could detect, anyway), essentially freestyling to begin her set before she truly got going. With my love of electronic, I expected to have loved Throwing Shades’ beats, but for some reason I wasn’t impressed. Perhaps we can blame the weather for keeping people set wherever they were until the storm blew over and that’s why the venue wasn’t full, but this kind of music feeds off of audience response and energy. I would imagine my feelings towards her music would have different if I’d seen her in London in a rammed venue full of her adoring fans.
Back out into the rain, my intention was to rejoin Carrie at Empire Control Room on E. 7th Street, where both the Control Room and main Empire Garage venues were to play host to two Neon Gold Records showcases. However, the Empire was another venue that wasn’t taking any chances with their visitors’ safety, herding everyone who had planned to see bands on the only partially covered Garage stage outside and forcing them inside. That meant that the Control Room reached maximum capacity before it should have, and those of us who were stuck outside were looking at an empty Garage stage until stage management decided it was safe enough for a band to take the stage.
After a significant delay, Brooklyn’s Savoir Adore took to the stage, with their updated lineup of Lauren Zettler having replaced Deirdre Muro on vocals and synths. After a period of darkness, the Garage stage’s light show was impressive but epileptic seizure-inducing, distracting me from Savoir Adore’s upbeat synthpop. However, they had plenty of fans down the front who were going mental over them, well pleased they’d finally been given the green light to start playing and reveling in the overenthusiastic light show. To each their own, I guess!
We’d only previously been inside Empire Control Room during daylight hours, so I was eager to see how the vibe felt after the sun had set. Declan McKenna was the first name on the indoor bill, and I’ll Carrie tell you what she thought of him, as I’d seen him play already and to a room of new converts at Huw Stephens / PRS for Music showcase Tuesday night to officially begin the British Music Embassy’s week at SXSW 2016. He was followed by Will Joseph Cook, who Consequence of Sound calls an “English wunderkind”. The young Tunbridge Wells native and his band have a perfectly serviceable, if not entirely inspiring pop/rock hybrid sound that top 40 fans will bop their heads along to.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my Friday night soon on TGTF.
Whether Frightened Rabbit intended it or not, it seems decidedly appropriate to me that their new fifth album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ is being released during the lively season of spring. Their previous LP, 2013’s ‘Pedestrian Verse’, was a wintertime release, and it was a solid but stodgy affair, cold and dark and without much energy, almost as if the band themselves were heading into hibernation. ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’, by contrast, has a bit of an unexpected bounce in its step, a sense of gaining momentum despite the trademark bitterness of frontman and songwriter Scott Hutchison’s lyrics.
The band’s latest line-up change switches former guitarist Gordon Skene for new guitarist/keyboardist Simon Liddell, who worked with Hutchison and guitarist Andy Monaghan on 2014’s Owl John project. But perhaps the greatest impetus behind Frightened Rabbit’s freshly energised sound is producer Aaron Dessner (The National), who hosted the band in his Brooklyn studio to record the album. His expert touch can also be heard in both the breadth and subtle depth of the album’s expanded instrumental arrangements.
The album’s opening track ‘Death Dream’ is something of a transition from the previous album to the new, but also a somber, slow-moving introduction to the synth-based soundscapes that adorn ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’. Its gently echoing vocals and piano countermelody soften Hutchison’s sharply vivid lyrics, and the haunting choral bridge section turns a common phrase on its head with the repeated line “you died in my sleep last night”. But the next track and lead single ‘Get Out’ is immediately more upbeat, with synthesised drums and keyboards behind emphatic guitar lines. Its captivating opening verse lyric “with the arch of the church between her thumb and her forefinger, I will worship her” leads into the pounding repeated chorus “get out of my heart, she won’t, she won’t”.
Standout track ‘I Wish I Was Sober’ features the combined effect of Hutchison’s finest lyrics and his best vocal deliveries, particularly in the sorrowful line “my love you should know, the best of me left hours ago”. The anxiously building intensity in that song’s outro section carries over seamlessly into the heavily synth-laden track ‘Woke Up Hurting’, whose dark and shadowy verses lead into a pulsing, anthemic chorus.
For all its brooding thematic material, ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ does find Hutchison becoming somewhat more optimistic in his songwriting, at least relatively speaking. ‘Still Want to Be Here’ finds him employing his effective falsetto tone in a tentatively hopeful chorus that lingers in the listener’s mind long after the album is over. And while there’s no real danger of Hutchison breaking his painful habit of self-deprecation, the chorus to ‘An Otherwise Disappointing Life’ is as close to uplifting as he’s ever been, as he sings of burning his “long list of tepid disappointments” in a figurative funeral pyre.
‘Blood Under the Bridge’ is another stark example of Hutchison’s perverse but clever wordplay with common phrases, in this case making the implication of deep emotional damage, but also expressing a willingness, even a determination, to move on. ‘400 Bones’ is a slower and even more introspective piano-based track whose title refers to two bodies lying together in bed. It might be the closest thing to a romantic love song we’ll ever hear from Hutchison and company. It’s quickly contrasted with the harsher sonic tones and social commentary of ‘Lump Street’.
Final track ‘Die Like a Rich Boy’ is the perfect culmination to a deftly written and deftly arranged album, its acoustic foundation gradually unfolding to a fuller arrangement in both the voices and the instrumentation. Hutchison’s insightful lyrics, inspired by his recent move to Los Angeles, come across as both gently touching and pointedly ascerbic as he intones the vocal melody under lines like “I wanna die like a rich boy diving, in a hydrocodone dream / you could die like a rich girl by me, oh how the magazines would read”.
Though Hutchison ultimately decided that Los Angeles wasn’t the city for him, it appears that some time in the Southern California sunshine might have had a positive effect on his songwriting. ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ features some of his most refined writing to date, which producer Dessner describes in the album’s press release as “a step above anything he’s written before.” Musically, the record combines the strong rhythms and countermelodies of Frightened Rabbit’s earlier albums ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’ and ‘Midnight Organ Fight’ with the synth-flavouring and atmospheric sound effects of the more recent ‘Pedestrian Verse’. In essence, the band have attempted to find a new sound by building on their own established strengths, and ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ is the successful result of their experiment.
‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ is out today, Friday the 8th of April, on Atlantic Records. Frightened Rabbit will embark on a UK tour in support of the album starting next week; you can find all the dates here. TGTF’s collected previous coverage of Frightened Rabbit is back this way.
By the Friday of SXSW 2016, as the hectic week was drawing to a close, my mind started to get a bit overwhelmed with the wide variety of music and musicians I was taking in. Near the end of Friday afternoon’s Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, I had the chance to interview a band I’d missed at SXSW 2014, Dublin garage pop act September Girls, but by that point, my memory was a bit foggy about when they’d previously appeared in Austin. Luckily, band members Paula Cullen (bass) and Sarah Grimes (drums) were able to set me straight in fairly short order when we stepped outside the pub for a quick chat in the middle of the Irish festivities.
September Girls’ appearance at SXSW 2014 had taken place shortly after the release of their first LP ‘Cursing the Sea’, and they made the long trek to Austin again this year ahead of their new album ‘Age of Indignation’, which is due out on the 8th of April via Fortuna POP! The band made the most of their time in Texas this year, often playing two or even three shows per day, as well as a handful of shows in Southern California before and after SXSW. While they didn’t have a lot of free time to spend on leisure activities in Austin, the five ladies in the band did manage to squeeze in one particularly memorable experience between gigs—have a listen to the audio stream below to find out about the “souvenirs” they obtained.
September Girls will play a list of headline dates in Ireland and the UK beginning on the 15th of April and extending through the middle of May, in support of their new album ‘Age of Indignation’. You can find a list of their upcoming live dates here on their official Facebook. Keep an eye on TGTF for a review of ‘Age of Indignation’ in the coming days.
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