TGTF will be on a break from 1-11 October while editor Mary is at HWCH 2016 in Dublin.

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Sound City 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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Handmade Festival 2016: writer Steven’s best band bets

 
By on Tuesday, 26th April 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo of The Magic Gang by Dan Kendall

If you didn’t already heed our warning that Handmade Festival this weekend in Leicester is the festival to be at this season then perhaps, just maybe, the below list of acts that you’re going to be missing out on will change your mind. And for those who will be joining us in during the weekend, take the below list as a starting point for your own weekend musical adventure, there’s plenty to not miss out on so let us give you a bit of guidance. (To read Steven’s earlier preview of Handmade, go here.)

Lacura – Academy 3, Friday 29th April, 17:00

Drops of psychedelia amongst massive indie sounds, Lacura are your perfect opener to the weekend. It’s a toss-up between Lacura or ESTRONS, and Lacura just pip it with their dreamscapes and ethereal feel.

The Magic Gang – Scholar Bar, Friday 29th April, 18:45

To continue your ease into the festival, The Magic Gang (pictured at top) will use their harmonious, ‘60s psych-pop style to command your elation and help you forget about that outside world. Friday afternoon’s never sounded so good. (For past coverage on The Magic Gang on TGTF, go here.)

Black Honey – Scholar Bar, Friday 29th April, 19:45

Black Honey are gaining a lot of momentum with their dreamy, shoe-gaze-esque rock and vocals that call to mind Lana Del Rey if she actually gave us what we wanted rather than slow tempoed ballads. (For past coverage on Black Honey on TGTF, go here.)

We Are Scientists – Academy 2, Friday 29th April, 22:00

As mentioned in our preview piece, the indie duo who are affable beyond belief are gracing our shores again in support of their fifth studio album. With a guaranteed good time to close out the first day of Handmade, to miss out on We Are Scientists would mean depriving yourself of laughs and such major tunes as ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’, ‘After Hours’ and new single ‘Buckle’ from brand new album ‘Helter Seltzer’. (For loads more coverage on We Are Scientists on TGTF, go here.)

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Jurassic Pop – Scholar Bar, Saturday 30th April, 15:00

In case Jurassic Pop have slid under your radar, they are a band who write songs solely based around the Jurassic Park film series. Debut EP ‘Jurassic Park 4 1/2: The Erotic Adventures of Jeff Goldblum’ is filled with punk, indie and spoken word. If this alone isn’t enough to get you to see the band then nothing will.

OhBoy! – Scholar Bar, Saturday 31st April, 17:45.

This will be around the half way point of the festival, so chances are you’ll be a pleasant state of jubilation and will want to continue this. OhBoy! are you best bet here, with songs that are both ferocious and charming, they’ll certainly kick your Saturday evening off.

The Xcerts – Scholar Bar, Saturday 31st April, 21:15

Powerful pop songs that call to mind fellow Scotsmen Biffy Clyro at their lightest. The Xcerts have been around for 10+ years and over this time you’re guaranteed they’ve worked out a killer live set that will match the brawn of their sound. (For past coverage on The Xcerts on TGTF, go here.)

Johnny Lloyd – Academy 2, Sunday 1st May, 17:15

If you haven’t heard ‘Hello Death’, the debut single from ex-Tribes frontman Johnny Lloyd then you are missing out something extremely special. Heartfelt and solemn, it’s a thunderous track that is surely going to be a wonder to behold live.

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USA Nails – Scholar Bar, Sunday 1st May, 19:45.

Harsh, abusive sounding punk that calls to mind Black Flag and Minor Threat, USA Nails are a safe bet to ensure you leave the festival with ringing ears and to get that final bit of energy out of your system.

Beans on Toast – Academy 2, Sunday 1st May, 22:00

Of course, the hardest question of any festival is who to see to on the closing night. With a couple of fine choices, Beans on Toast is potentially the perfect physical representation of that festival ideology, be it a metropolitan one like Handmade or Glastonbury. With songs filled with observation and thought that appeal to every straight minded one of us, when this is matched with the sing-a-long stylings, you have a guaranteed memorable closer and one that will stick with you on that tired, hungover train journey home. (For past coverage on Beans on Toast on TGTF, go here.)

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WIN / Weekend festival and camping tickets to Beat-Herder Festival 2016

 
By on Monday, 25th April 2016 at 10:00 am
 

We did it last year, so we’re gonna do it again! It’s festival time – or at least festival preparation time! – and thanks for our friends at the event, we’ll be giving away a pair of weekend tickets to Lancs festival Beat-Herder 2016 this very week. Suffice to say, we’re super stoked!

Beat-Herder Festival, a festival set in Sawley, Lancashire, takes place this summer in the all too idyllic confines of Dockber Farm. In the past decade, they’ve brought all manners of electronic, reggae, drum ‘n’ bass, folk, psych rock and anything in between to their delighted punters, and in its 11th year in 2016, they are bringing a whole new raftload of acts to the farm for this summer’s event, to take place 15-17 July 2016. For starters, Primal Scream (pictured at top) will be headlining the festival; Bobby Gillespie and co. released ‘Chaosmosis’, their 11th album, in March.

Other big names appearing include Miike Snow (having released newest album ‘iii’ last month too), German house duo Booka Shade, reggae artist Chronixx and Zincfence Redemption and ’70s singer/songwriter / folk legend Donovan, who will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of his chart-busting single ‘Sunshine Superman’ this year. (Yeah, that makes me feel old…) Further down the bill, you will recognise Clean Cut Kid, Formation and Haelos from our coverage of SXSW 2016, as well as Beans on Toast and Mr Scruff from other past features.

We’ve been kindly given a pair of weekend and camping tickets to Beat-Herder, plus car and camper van parking privileges, an incredible value of £345 before handling fees if you bought your tickets today. So what are you waiting for? Follow our instructions below and fill out the entry form for your chance to win festival and camping tickets for you and a guest.

First, give us your full name and email address. Second, tell us which act on the line-up you’re most excited to see at Beat-Herder this summer, and why. (We want to be sure you’re keen enough on coming along that you’ve taken the time to study the line-up poster, of course.) I’ll read through all the entries and choose the best one. Easy, yeah? Just be sure your entry is in to us before noon BST Wednesday 27 April, as that’s when we’re closing the contest to new entries. I will contact the winner by email before the week is up (the winner will need to confirm his/her availability to attend). Good luck!

The contest is now closed, and the winner has been contacted.

 

SXSW 2016: Punter’s Survival Kit (2016 edition)

 
By on Tuesday, 19th April 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Ah, sweet relief! Our coverage of SXSW 2016 is very nearly in the books here at TGTF. I’ve now attended the music festival for 3 consecutive years, and each year for me has ended in a combination of heady exhilaration and overwhelming exhaustion. Over the course of those 3 years, I’ve learned that creating a positive and memorable experience depends largely on your level of preparedness. Flexibility is the key to making the most of your time at SXSW, and a little bit of advance planning can make switching gears on a moment’s notice much easier to accomplish. With that in mind, I’ve put together the following SXSW survival kit, a list of items that any punter worth his or her salt will need to make it through the week.

Light jacket or sweater – The weather in Austin during SXSW-season is notoriously temperamental. It could be sunny and blazing hot one day, cool and rainy the next. It could even be both in one day, if you’re really lucky! One thing you definitely DON’T want to deal with is an umbrella. Bring a rain hat instead, and a plastic bag to stash it in if it gets wet. Dress in layers, and have a sweater or jacket handy for when afternoon fades into evening.

DMcK shoes internal

Comfortable shoes – Wear shoes you know to be comfortable for long days of intense walking. Again, keep an eye on the weather forecast and choose accordingly, especially if the prediction is for rain. Style is secondary; nothing will ruin your day faster than soggy socks, blisters or sore feet. If you insist on a certain degree of fashion (and I speak from painful experience here), you might want to carry a spare plaster or two, just in case your footwear plan goes awry.

Bag – You obviously don’t want to schlep a huge and heavy bag all over Austin, but you’ll need a good-sized tote or messenger bag to carry your personal items, as well as the odd items you’ll invariably find yourself collecting through the course of the day. Bring a sturdy bag that you can carry comfortably and that you don’t mind getting dirty. Be aware that some venues may have bag restrictions or need to search your bag on entry.

Sunglasses – Outdoor gigs and long walks between venues in the bright Texas sunshine necessitate a good pair of sunnies. Also, they work in a pinch to disguise the dark circles under your eyes after the previous night’s shenanigans.

Spook School internal

Suncream – I can’t emphasise this one enough. If I had a dollar for every sunburnt British or Irish musician I’ve met at SXSW over the past 3 years, I could probably finance my trip to Austin for 2017. If you’re spending any time outdoors, you’ll want some SPF on any exposed body parts, especially if you’re fair-skinned. [I met a Scottish woman at SXSW 2015 who actually wanted to go home red as a lobster. Don’t be that person. Your body will thank you for it, especially when laying down to sleep at night, and painlessly. – Ed.]

Earplugs – It took some pretty steady convincing on Mary’s part to sell me on the need for earplugs. I normally hate wearing them, as they (obviously) dampen the sound of the music and make conversation generally difficult. However, by the end of a long day of showcases, your ears will undoubtedly be tired from the constant barrage of noise. Even if you plan on seeing only acoustic-style shows, many of the showcases feature a variety of genres, and you never know when your favourite folkie might be preceded or followed by a considerably louder act. Added bonus: I’ve had some great conversations with fellow punters at SXSW, but wearing earplugs is a great excuse for not conversing, if you so choose.

Big Thief internal

Smartphone – Absolutely indispensable. You’ll need it for keeping in touch with your friends and business contacts throughout the festival, as well as for any social media sharing you might want to do. You can access maps and directions if you’re not familiar with your surroundings, find RSVP information for unofficial parties and shows, as well as keeping up with the latest official schedule information on the SXSW App. Keep it in a safe place, like a buttoned pocket, where you can access it on the run if you need to.

Camera – This seems like a no-brainer, but have a separate camera ready for photo opportunities. Don’t depend on your smartphone for pictures! Taking photos will quickly eat up both the storage and the battery on your phone, especially if you’re live Tweeting or otherwise sharing events on social media. Also keep in mind that most of the venues, with the exception of outdoor day parties, are low-light settings, which are difficult to photograph without flash and nearly impossible with smartphone cameras. (Do I need to remind you to keep your flash turned off when photographing artists on stage?) I’ve found it convenient to wear a small camera bag with a neck strap during gigs, so that I can have my hands free between photo opportunities but still get to my camera quickly when I need it. [SXSW is also a prime opportunity to take photos with the future stars of tomorrow. Enjoy a band’s performance? Be respectful, don’t be pushy and let them pack up first, then say hi and express your appreciation. Remember, the majority are far from home, they’ve worked hard to get to Austin and they’ll appreciate your effort. – Ed.]

Spare batteries, chargers and cords – There are often charging stations set up at different locations around the downtown area, but you never know where you’ll be when one of your devices runs out of power. Plan to recharge everything overnight and make sure your devices are fully charged before you set out each day, but also have extra power sources at the ready whenever you can. Keep a second charged camera battery in your camera bag and carry a mophie (Mary’s preference) or other spare smartphone battery pack—mine saved me more than once near the end of a 12-hour (or longer!) day at SXSW 2016. Don’t forget the connection cables!

Energy bars or other snacks – The food options at SXSW are as many and widely varied as the music options, and showcases and parties often include free refreshments. But you might find that you’re so busy running between shows that you aren’t able to partake in the provisions as much as you’d like. Take every possible opportunity to sample the local fare, but also keep a protein bar or other handy snack in your bag in case you need a quick nibble to keep your energy level up. A bottle of water is also a nice idea, but keep in mind that many venues won’t let you bring it inside, so you’ll have to drink it before you go in.

Even with a handy list like the one above, it’s practically inevitable that you’ll forget something or encounter a circumstance you hadn’t predicted. The trick to surviving those moments, I’ve found, is keeping your head and maintaining your sense of humour. An awkward moment in the present will translate to an interesting story to tell later on! (Just ask Ciaran Lavery, who wins our ‘prize’ for ‘suffering’ the most unforgettable pre-show incident at SXSW 2016.) If you need a helping hand, don’t be afraid to interact with your fellow festival-goers. Almost everyone at SXSW is in the same situation—far from the comforts of home, operating on precious little sleep, and loving every minute of the chaos.

See ya next year, Austin!

Ciaran Lavery internal

 

SXSW 2016: final Saturday night festivities with NME and UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 19th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 18th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

I’ve always had a fondness for stories with tidy endings, so it seems quite natural that I finished SXSW 2016 on Saturday night at the British Music Embassy, even if Mary and I were a bit delayed in getting there. After our dinner hour activities at the Hilton Austin’s Liberty Tavern (which you can read about right back here), we stopped for a quick drink across the street from Latitude 30 before heading over for the NME / UK Trade and Investment showcase. As often happens with when I’m with Mary, we ended up engaged in a rather interesting conversation with some industry acquaintances of hers, and we had trouble tearing ourselves away for the final evening of live shows.

"Lusts

As much as we might have liked to stay and chat, Mary and I both had other activities planned for the evening, and we made our way to Latitude 30 just in time to catch the first act on the showcase, groove rock brother act Lusts. In the brief snippet of what I saw and heard, their music was an interesting combination of heavy rhythms and hazy vocals, but it was really their insistent and compelling energy that left the strongest opening impression.

Julia Jacklin internal

The next act originally scheduled on the showcase was rap collective Section Boyz, but a last minute substitution gave us instead Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin. She facetiously introduced herself and her band as Section Boyz just to see if her audience were paying attention, but in truth, Jacklin’s warm folk rock couldn’t have been stylistically farther from the act she stepped in to replace. Jacklin’s music had more sonic impact than her diminutive appearance might suggest, and the lyrical substance of her track ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ particularly tugged at my heartstrings after she shared that she had written it for her little brother because she wanted him to think she was cool. Those small personal details can make a song seem much more special to a listener, and Jacklin certainly won herself a new fan in me that night.

Pumarosa internal 2

Following Julia Jacklin was self-described “industrial spiritual” band Pumarosa, who I’d seen previously on the Tuesday night showcase at Hype Hotel. They had the same lengthy setup issues here at the British Music Embassy, but once they got started, they fairly shook the stage with a much more confident sounding set than what I’d heard from them earlier in the week. The lighting at Latitude 30 allowed me to get a better photo of frontwoman Isabel Munoz-Newsome’s unusual guitar technique (which you can see below), and I was thrilled to have another go at dancing to Pumarosa’s exotic hit song ‘Priestess’.

Pumarosa internal

Next on the bill was an artist I’d been looking forward to seeing since our initial preview of this showcase, rock singer/songwriter Barns Courtney (pictured at top). After seeing him blaze through a spectacular set including his currently released tracks ‘Fire’ and ‘Glitter and Gold’, as well as the curiously-titled ‘Hobo Rocket’, I’m more convinced than ever that he has the potential to be a breakout superstar on the order of James Bay or Hozier if he plays his cards right. In the intermission between sets, I snagged Courtney for a quick back alley interview, which turned out to be quite possibly the most unforgettable conversation I had all week long.

Barns Courtney internal

I came back inside just in time to catch dance pop duo Formation, whose number had apparently multiplied ahead of their appearance at SXSW. Comprising brothers Will and Matt Ritson along with Jonny Tams, Sasha Lewis and Kai Akinde-Hummel, the band and their equipment fit on the small British Music Embassy stage with very little room to spare. But despite the close quarters on stage, the band played a beat-driven, movement-inspiring set list much to the liking of the late night dancers in the crowd.

Formation internal

Formation were followed on the docket by another Special Guest, who hadn’t been officially announced before the show but was rumoured to be American veterans-turned-newcomers on the music scene, PARTYBABY. I’d seen PARTYBABY along with Pumarosa on the Tuesday night Hype Hotel showcase, and I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the choice. PARTYBABY would certainly make an energetic closing act, I hadn’t found them engaging enough to stick around for twice. Fortunately, Mary arrived back at Latitude 30 just as they came on stage to set up, and we took the opportunity to make a final round of fond farewells to our friends at the British Music Embassy before officially bidding adieu to SXSW 2016.

Au revoir, Austin…until we meet again.

 

SXSW 2016: a slower-paced Saturday afternoon of singer/songwriters – 19th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 18th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

After the frenetic Friday of SXSW 2016, (which I spent here and here, in case you haven’t been reading along), Saturday dawned sunny, if a little chilly. I found myself running at a slightly slower pace. I had only two interviews scheduled for the day, both with exciting female singer/songwriters, and though I was glad for a later start to the day, I was eager to get moving by the time Mary and I arrived downtown.

Recent California-to-Iowa transplant Lissie was on the schedule for the SPIN Magazine day party at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall, and I had a standing appointment for an interview with her after her set. The atmosphere at the venue was relaxed but energetic, as you might expect on a sunny Saturday afternoon. And Lissie’s mellow, mostly acoustic set fit perfectly with that vibe. She played a set of songs centered around her new album ‘My Wild West’, but to my delight, she also included her well-known cover of Kid Cudi’s ‘Pursuit of Happiness’. I hadn’t heard Lissie perform live before this, but after having reviewed ‘My Wild West’, I would say that her voice in person was every bit as rich and warm as it comes across on the record, and its raw power is only magnified by being in the same room.

Lissie internal

The sound and lighting were both excellent at the Bud Light Factory, and aside from Lissie, the showcase promised high-energy performances from hip-hop artist Lizzo (who had been first on the afternoon docket), UK indie rockers Bloc Party and genre-bending alt-pop artist Santigold. In the end, though, I only saw Lissie’s set from in front of the stage. After she finished playing, I was escorted upstairs to the VIP area for our scheduled interview. This was Lissie’s final show of SXSW 2016, and she had other press commitments as well as ours, but I was happy to wait my turn. There were plenty of amusements to pass the time, and I took the opportunity to try out a cool virtual music making machine, as well as watching part of Bloc Party’s set on the venue’s closed circuit TV. After that bit of fun, I had this casual chat with Lissie about her new album and where it has led her, both personally and professionally.

After leaving the SPIN party, I took an hour or so of “personal time” to try something new at SXSW. On a bit of a whim, I headed to the ChiveTV pop-up party on the west side of downtown, where I heard country rock band Poor Man’s Change. I can be picky about country music; it isn’t always to my particular liking, but this Southern California quartet fit nicely with my genial Saturday afternoon mood, and I had a chance to chat with several friendly people while I took in the scene.

Chive party photo

Following my short stopover at the ChiveTV party, I headed back east to meet up with Mary at the Hilton Austin hotel. We saw a few familiar faces and had a quick dinner ahead of Brighton singer/songwriter Holly Macve’s set at the hotel’s intimate Liberty Tavern. The audience here was captivated by Macve’s unique singing voice and dramatically stark song arrangements, and particularly in her cover of Patsy Cline classic ‘Crazy’ and her own haunting track ‘Sycamore Tree’. I had a chat with the fresh-faced and undeniably talented Macve after her set, and it was truly a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to speak with her at this exciting juncture of her career. Mary shares thoughts on the early evening showcase just below.

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Mary: I wanted to note here that if a club atmosphere is not for you, and/or you’re keen on catching fresh – and free! – entertainment during SXSW, the festival offers up the Second Play Stages at several hotels in downtown Austin, plus the Hyatt Regency south of the Colorado River where I caught Demi Louise last year and Carrie saw Roo Panes on Wednesday during this year’s festival. Liberty Tavern, located at the Hilton on E. 4th Street, had 3 acts scheduled each night of SXSW 2016. We were present for Holly Macve’s set to start the dinner hour at 6, and while Carrie was speaking with her after her set, I also had a look-in on 18-year-old James TW, who will be having his debut London live appearance the 12th of May at Islington Academy 2 (tickets on sale now).

The young James – the “TW” in his act name refers to his double-barrelled surname Taylor-Watts – holds the distinction of being the youngest artist ever to sign to Island Records UK. Prior to coming out to Austin, he released the single ‘When You Love Someone’ in February, which has already charted on the Spotify Viral Top 50. With boy next door charm, his music is easy on the ears, bridging the gap between country/western / singer/songwriter and urban vocal stylings of today, his voice at times twangy and soulful. His debut EP ‘First Impressions’ (how appropriate to reference his first showcasing at SXSW) is scheduled for release this Friday.

James TW at the Liberty Tavern, Second Play Stage, Saturday at SXSW 2016

Carrie: Following James TW’s set and my interview with Holly Macve, Mary and I met up again to plot our course for the final evening of SXSW 2016. You can read Mary’s Saturday night reviews here and here; my own Saturday night review will post soon.

 

SXSW 2016: Friday night at Empire Control Room, Vulcan Gas Company, St. David’s Episcopal Church and Mohawk Outdoor – 18th March 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 12th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

The Friday evening of SXSW 2016 was fraught with challenges, most of which involved the weather forecast. Rain clouds threatened late in the afternoon but didn’t erupt into thunderstorms until early evening, just as the night showcases were beginning in downtown Austin. Mary had initially planned to see shows at Stubb’s and the McDonald’s Loft that evening, but both outdoor venues postponed their start times due to thunder and lightning in the area, not to mention the actual rain. Fortunately, my own plan for the evening started at an indoor venue, the Empire Control Room, with teenage alt-pop up-and-comer Declan McKenna (pictured at top).

Lightning flashed in the skies over Austin as I walked to the Empire Control Room, but luckily I got there before it began to rain in earnest. I found a spot near the stage well before the show was set to begin, but I was surprised at how quickly the room filled with punters. It took me a few minutes to realise that the swelling crowd was due to the closure of Empire’s outdoor venue, the Garage. The Control Room quickly filled to capacity, and Mary was delayed in joining me after her shuffling of plans for the evening.

Declan McKenna's pedals, Friday at SXSW 2016

The stormy weather was quite lucky for McKenna, who played that evening to possibly a larger audience than he expected. There were a few diehard fans at the front of the stage who had heard McKenna play already in the course of the week, but his songs were largely new to me. I was immediately impressed by his stage presence and pleasant singing voice, but as his set progressed, I saw that McKenna was more than just a boy with a guitar and a gift for words. He played the large stage like a seasoned pro, deftly managing his guitar, keyboard and an array of foot pedal effects in a manner that reminded me very much of the first time I saw another teenaged pop sensation, Ed Sheeran, way back in 2012. If you haven’t yet heard Declan McKenna, keep your ears on the radio for his catchy hit single, the FIFA-inspired ‘Brazil’.

AirLands, Friday at SXSW 2016

After McKenna’s set, I headed back out into the rain for a quick walk to Vulcan Gas Company, which was hosting a series of showcases sponsored by music distribution platform TuneCore. I was due to interview Scottish rock band Holy Esque before their set on the TuneCore showcase later that evening, but I turned up early to scope out the venue and caught a couple of interesting acts in the process. Brooklyn-based indie artist AirLands (aka Kevin Calaba) was on stage when I arrived, playing stripped back versions of his atmospheric, orchestrally-arranged songs. I’m not an avid television fan, but I might not have recognized recent single ‘Love and Exhale’ without the elaborate ornamentation of the recording even if I had heard it when it was featured on The Vampire Diaries last year. The song has also garnered attention from Google Play and Spotify, and it’s worth a listen if you haven’t come across it already.

Strange Fiction, Friday at SXSW 2016

Following AirLands were two Austin-based acts, retro synth-pop band Strange Fiction and solo artist The Wealthy West. Strange Fiction’s five-member arrangement created a markedly fuller sound than either of the surrounding solo acts, and their onstage energy was infectious as they centered their set around catchy single ‘Memphis’. The Wealthy West was naturally a bit more subdued, as I might have expected from the solo side project of The Rocketboys‘ frontman Brandon Kinder. The Rocketboys were selected to showcase at SXSW this year as well, but Kinder’s acoustic set featured a handful of introspective, gospel-tinged country rock ballads that seemed to come from a more personal place than what I’ve previously heard from the full band.

Wealthy West, Friday at SXSW 2016

At that point, I had to step away from the stage to meet up with the members of Holy Esque, and after trying in vain to find a quiet spot for our scheduled interview, the five of us ended up stepping outside into the alley for a very quick chat, which you can hear here. The band had gotten stuck in traffic on the way to the venue and were due onstage in short order, but despite this minor stress, Holy Esque cranked up the volume on the Vulcan Gas Company stage with their massive synth-rock sound. As promised in the interview clip, the band filled their short set list with songs from their new album ‘At Hope’s Ravine’, which was released just before SXSW and which had apparently garnered them at least one new fan. (You’ll see her in the second photo below, taken just before she was escorted from the stage.)

Holy Esque, Friday at SXSW 2016

Holy Esque, Friday at SXSW 2016

After Holy Esque’s set, I decided to take my chances on some of the unknown Special Guests listed on the SXSW schedule. Surprise slots were listed at several venues, including St. David’s Episcopal Church, which was hosting the always high quality Communion Music showcase. I arrived at the church too late to see Jake Bugg (sob!), but I got there in time to see another new-to-me artist, Australian singer/songwriter Ry X, who was playing just ahead of the scheduled Special Guest. His smooth neo-folk stylings and predominantly falsetto vocals struck me immediately as appealing to fans of James Vincent McMorrow and Bon Iver. You can listen for yourself in the recent video for ‘Only’, which will feature on Ry X’s upcoming album ‘Dawn’, due out on the 6th of May.

Ry X, Friday at SXSW 2016

In the interim after Ry X’s set, I found out from fellow audience members that the Special Guest on Communion’s showcase would be Liverpool singer/songwriter Låpsley, who I’d seen just the night before at Stubb’s. I recommended her to those who hadn’t already had the pleasure of hearing her sing, but I ultimately decided to test the waters elsewhere. I sent out a last minute tweet asking about the Special Guest on the docket at the Mohawk Outdoor and was pleasantly surprised to hear that it would be electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso, who had won me over at Tucson’s Club Congress back in 2014. In retrospect, Sylvan Esso’s appearance shouldn’t have been a total surprise, as Mary and I had seen a glimpse of Nick Sanborn’s Made of Oak side project set on Monday at Barracuda.

Sylvan Esso, Friday at SXSW 2016

By this time the rain had stopped, and I hastily made my way to the Mohawk in hopes that I could still get in. Once again, luck was on my side, and while I couldn’t get anywhere near the stage, I was excited to find a decent spot in the courtyard amongst a throng of fans who were already buzzing with the anticipation of hearing Sylvan Esso. The wildly popular duo had been conspicuously quiet in recent months, but much to my delight, they burst their bubble of silence at the Mohawk on Friday night with a handful of brand new, never-before-heard songs. While familiar numbers ‘Coffee’ and ‘Hey Mami’ were natural crowd favourites, the new tracks were were received with rapturous cheers and ecstatic dancing, not the least from yours truly, as I ended my rather arduous Friday night on a euphoric high.

Sylvan Esso, Friday at SXSW 2016

 
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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.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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