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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 5:00 pm
Another day dawned after the awful event of Thursday evening at SXSW 2016. Despite my still shaken nerves, I was determined to make the most of my remaining time in Austin and my Friday afternooon would include the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30. First up though was a lovely breakfast and quick catch-up with our friends from Music from Ireland / First Music Contact’s Angela Dorgan and Brendan Millar at B.D. Riley’s ahead of the full Irish breakfast lineup (Carrie’s review of their act are forthcoming). Then I was off to the Austin Convention Centre for a visit to the panel entitled TV Promos: Sync’s New Best Friend, which was a follow-up of sorts to another sync-orientated panel I sat in on at Norwich Sound and Vision 2016 in October. (For a review of my time at convention panels during SXSW, read my roundup post here.)
After being sufficiently buoyed by the hope that song syncing for tv, film and adverts continue to be a good way for artists to make much needed income to support the music-making side of their craft, it was off to start seeing band trying to make a go of it. Staying in the Austin Convention Center, I went up to the 4th floor to the International Day Stage to catch London-based electropop duo Avec Sans. They clearly had made a good impression prior this appearance, as several megafans of theirs appeared to see them again at this afternoon appearance.
Avec Sans are platinum blonde Alice Fox (originally from Manchester) on vocal duties and Jack St. James on electronics. As TGTF’s resident electro fan, I’ve seen my fair share of duos with a similar setup, and I can say without a doubt that this pair are in the top tier of acts I’ve had the pleasure to witness live. Like Claire L. Evans of YACHT at Easy Tiger the previous night, Fox is a charismatic presence live, providing the human side of Avec Sans with beautously yearning vocals and the perfect foil to the deliciously mechanical machinations of St. James. Watch and listen to the duo’s latest single ‘Heartbreak Hi’ below; their debut album will be out on the 3rd of June; you can donate to their recording effort on PledgeMusic. A headline UK tour will be accompanying its release (all the details here on their Facebook).
It was a nice coincidence, according to Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales manager Fionna Allan that their line-up scheduled for Friday afternoon at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 was entirely made up of acts with strong female or female-fronted acts. Allan was all the more prouder about her showcase when I explained to her that there was an important feminist element to this year’s SXSW, as Carrie previewed in this feature prior to our week in Austin. Three of the five acts performing on this bill were Welsh, including first two acts Rozi Plain (a favourite of BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley who I unfortunately missed) and Violet Skies, who I covered as part of the Trackd showcase and chatted with Monday night. True to her word and despite her relative newness to America, Violet was the consummate professional, garnering a massive audience hanging on to every soulful word she sung. As she sung her debut single ‘How the Mighty’, I became even more convinced in her chance at worldwide success. Good luck to her!
As I had been with Jane Weaver on Wednesday, I was more than a little excited to finally see Gwenno perform live as part of the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase. After making the difficult decision to give her appearance Wednesday night at the Heavenly Recordings showcase at Barracuda a pass, I was grateful to have another chance, and to be honest, it was probably best to see her here, as part of and also swaddled by her fellow strong female artists’ presence. Further, Gwenno’s ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ – originally released in Wales on Peski Records, then given another life by Heavenly with its re-release in 2015, as well as winning Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod and the 2014-2015 Welsh Music Prize – is completely fitting for such an afternoon.
The LP’s key themes include fighting against Big Brother and the constraints of a patriarchal society, which Gwenno helpfully and eloquently pointed out in between songs is sadly a reflection of today’s times, stressing the importance of individualism, strength and feminism. This banter between this strong, female and Welsh artist and the audience created an indelible connection between artist and fan, and that’s even before we even consider the music. As an electro head, watching her simultaneously sing like an angel and manage an impressive set of synths and sequencers and effortlessly was a real treat. Adding more fuel to Ms. Saunders’ argument of the Man holding women down, stage management warned her she had to cut her set. Instead of stopping when she was supposed to, in true revolutionary fashion, she kept going. Way to stick it to them, Gwenno! To hear my interview with her that we posted on TGTF last week, go here.
Fickle Friends were up next. If you’ve been keeping tabs on indie British music in the last few years (and America’s similar scene, for that matter), you know that synthpop bands are a dime a dozen. If you have been keeping up with our SXSW 2016 preview coverage, you would have read Rebecca’s great Bands to Watch on both this Brighton band and their seemingly similar Liverpudlian counterparts Clean Cut Kid, who I saw on Wednesday night at the Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae’s. Due to Rebecca’s piece featuring both bands, I could not help but compare their performances in Austin.
Fickle Friends put on an admirable performance that received a great response with loads of cheering from the audience, especially when they swapped out the words to their song ‘Brooklyn’, changing them to ‘Austin’. However, I didn’t find anything about their music that distinguished them particularly from all the other synthpop bands Britain has been churning out over the last few years. Will there be a North vs. South divide over these two bands’ corresponding success? We’ll have to wait and see how things go this year.
Concluding the female-strong afternoon of Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales at the British Music Embassy were Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, who I had the great pleasure of seeing play in their hometown, at the cavernous Red Bull Studios at the Garage stage at my first Liverpool Sound City in 2012. Since releasing ‘Not Real’ in April 2015, they’ve adopted a much more colourful stage presence, which in Austin meant neon bright leotards and tights and mirrored sunglasses. Without a doubt, it’s an attention-grabbing look within a dark club; some may call it a gimmick, but it works for them and will keep them firmly in festival-goers’ minds. (In comparison, Fickle Friends looked like they could have been any American band in t-shirts, baseball caps and jeans.)
The talent and fun with Stealing Sheep is multifold. Each of the three band members have a strong enough voice to take the lead, yet their harmonies together on album title track ‘Not Real’ are fantastic enough to make you think they’re all sisters (they’re not). The handclap-happy ‘Apparition’ (watch the video below) demanded audience participation, and you can’t help but get drawn into the percussive nature of their music. Despite stage management calling them to stop, they kept on going, to the delight of the punters. Of all the British acts I saw in Austin, I’d rank these Liverpudlian ladies in the top 5 of having made a lasting impression on American audiences that should serve them well in their continuing career.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 11:00 am
One of the perks of being a SXSW 2016 Music conference attendee is access to the SXSW Trade Show. It was my first year to partake in the event taking place during Convergence, the period of the festival when the Film, Interactive and Music parts run concurrently. While I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to stop at all the interesting booths in the Austin Convention Center on Monday and Tuesday, there were a few booths in particular that impressed me with their innovation and creativity. I hope as time goes on, I’ll be able to connect you with some of the fine folks of these companies and organisations in the near future.
First up, I want to introduce you to a local to Austin startup who have sussed out a way for artists to get a compliment, via the ever-important medium of money, directly from the fans. We had a great conversation about a recent move by a cafe in Philadelphia to allow music fans seeing live music there to include a tip to the artist playing on their drink bill. Co-founder of TipCow Rene De La Mora rightly pointed out the inherent problem in this idea: punters then will either shortchange the venue for their food and drink in favour of giving more of their money to the band, or vice versa. TipCow is different, as it’s a free service for artists to connect with their fans and to get paid (or in this case, tipped) for their hard work and efforts in their art, and without a middleman, maximising payments from fan to artist. I asked CEO Chris Bush in his own words explain how their app, now available in the Apple Store and Google Play, works:
“TipCow is a mobile app and Web service to allow fans to tip their favorite artists. Each artist has a social media profile through our service with a unique URL, allowing direct fan to artist support any time, and for any reason. This URL can be shared on artists’ social media profiles, Web sites, or other online platforms to allow them to receive tips from fans outside of their shows. Artists also have a dashboard to track their tip amounts and locations, so they can make smarter booking decisions based on which venues they see the most support. We also have a very secure, yet simple signup process to guarantee the artists that can be found in the apps are who they say they are.
We directly promote and support artists via http://www.tipcow.live and our social media reach. We have professional photographers on staff to review shows, and work directly with artists to increase their tips at these shows. We also have a tip incentive redemption program in place for select shows to incentivize tipping. We partner with neighboring businesses and venues to give discounts on agreed upon items for tippers, like drink or food discounts. We are currently working on technical features to bring these incentives and many others into the app to bring as much revenue to artists as we possibly can.
Artists currently sign up on the Web site at tipcow.me, and fans can sign up via the app or on the Web site as well.”
We here at TGTF are definitely for any new technology that can increase deserved artists’ incomes and keep them firmly in their livelihoods. More than ever, artists need all the help they can get to keep making music for fans like you and me and all over the world, and this app provides a seamless app to let us help them directly. We’ll definitely be keeping our eye on TipCow and their future innovations in the coming months.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 6th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
Thursday evening began promising enough, with a fantastic set by The Big Pink at Easy Tiger Patio, which had been transformed into the TuneIn Sessions venue during SXSW 2016. I hadn’t been back to Easy Tiger since my first year of SX in 2012, and I definitely didn’t recall the kind of extensive queues I witnessed this year.
With the Big Pink, however, I would stay for the entirety of the set I actually could see in front of my face, as was very eager to see what was up Robbie Furze’s sleeve. Or rather his always heavily tattooed arm, and now that founding member Milo Cordell has left. Cordell has been replaced admirably and ably, it turns out, by Mary Charteris on keys and backing vocals. I was impressed with the way recent single ‘Hightimes’ sounded live: it’s a nice and welcome evolution from the Big Pink’s first album, 2009’s ‘A Brief History of Love’. It’s also, in a way, a return to their former glory after the less successful ‘Future This’ in 2012, in which the duo had worked with producer Paul Epworth and their attempt at shinier electropop never really got off the ground.
I loved The Big Pink’s first album and while single ‘Dominos’ was a given for the set list, I couldn’t believe my luck when ‘Too Young to Love’ was included in the mix. More synth-heavy goodness with a good dose was delivered via songs off the newly released ‘Empire Underground’ EP, out now on B3SCI Records. Of these, ‘Beautiful Criminal’ came out swinging, sounding fresh.
Despite them being American and myself being such a massive fan of electropop, I’ve never managed to see YACHT live. I’ve always been thwarted somehow in seeing them live in DC, so I made a point to stick around at Easy Tiger to finally witness them live to rectify the situation. Whoa. Frontwoman Claire L. Evans, who like me is a science boffin writer type in her ‘normal’ life, is the kind of person one would say was made for the stage.
Her camp demeanour, funny faces and gesturing make it clear she was born to be an entertainer, and she serves as a perfect foil to YACHT founder Jona Bechtolt, who is otherwise confined to his table of synths and keys when he’s not jumping up and down and generally being a badass in a Bernie Sanders baseball cap. While I enjoyed the music, I decided halfway through their set that the dramatic and highly sexualised flair employed by Evans, particularly on ‘Ringtone’ and ‘I Wanna F*ck You ‘Til I’m Dead’ (ya, really) would be better enjoyed by someone outside waiting in the queue. Maybe I’ll see you round at a science expo, Claire?
I had a couple of options on tap for the rest of the evening and oddly only really wanted to see one band on the British Music Embassy lineup for PIAS / AIM, FEWS from Sweden (yes, not a UK band, I don’t get that either). Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy them anywhere as much as I had hoped, after listening to ‘The Zoo’ and thinking I was hooked.
Maybe I was stood in the wrong place, or maybe the mix wasn’t quite right, but that would have been surprising at the British Music Embassy, where the sound is usually peerless. However, everything was simply loud and I couldn’t distinguish a melody. I used to think Temples were bad for this kind of music, but at least there was a guitar hook I could latch on to and appreciate.
Disappointed, I left early to find something else. I realised soon enough that I couldn’t walk across from one side of 6th Street to the other like we always had in the past, getting stuck in a crush of bodies going west. As a pretty small woman with claustrophobia, it’s not the greatest of places to find oneself in. I finally decided to stop inside Friends. Inside, a loud and raucous crowd of Canadians (I’m guessing?) were cheering to The Mariachi Ghost: yes, an actual mariachi-themed band living in the Great White North. I feel bad that after all these years, I’ve never had much time to give to the Canadians, whether it be M for Montreal or BreakOut West, the host for this evening’s lineup of talent from Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. When I’m able to clone myself, I’ll let you know.
The Mariachi Ghost describe themselves as “a unique musical fusion of Mexican folk music, progressive rock, spaghetti-western soundtracks, and jazz”. Which is a lot. The band came out of frontman Jorge Requena’s attempt at writing a graphic novel, with the songs based on stories and ideas that first took flight as part of this writing effort. Beyond the many Latino members you’re expecting as part of a mariachi band, this mariachi band also perform with Day of the Dead-esque skull makeup on their faces and with an interpretative dancer bandmate. This evening, she was festooned with flowers in her hair and used a red scarf to great effect, as a visual representation of the music being played, as well as engaging directly with the audience, including one particularly memorable trance-like moment with tango moves with a punter.
The audience rightly ate up this hybrid of gig and ballet theatre, and I bet you there was nothing else quite like it all week in Austin. Requena, clearly buoyed by how positively the audience members were responding, was in near tears at the end of their set, saying how wonderful everyone had been to them all week in Austin and how welcome they’d felt as a band so far from home. His final words before their last song was his pronouncement that he’d been getting a tattoo the next morning to commemorate their great time at SXSW. The whole experience was an excellent reminder of how much SX means to musicians, and we ALL should be reminded that while money may be the means of getting to Austin, it’s the actual experience of playing to an international crowd, among so many other bands getting the opportunity to do the same exact thing, that makes SXSW the experience unequaled anywhere else or by any other event in the world.
It was too bad that I only caught part of their set, as it was over too quick and I then I needed to find someone else to see. After being less than wowed by Polica on Monday afternoon at the Onion / AV Club party at Barracuda, I didn’t fancy queueing to get into the Parish to see them, although I was curious to ex-Smith Westerns member Cullen Omori’s new project directly after. He would be followed by Sydney’s DMA’s, who I’d seen on the Radio Day stage at the convention centre earlier, and I figured I’d see the same set, so I chose by venue instead.
Working my way further west, I ‘treated’ myself to a visit to the all-too-posh Driskill Hotel, with the intention of seeing Dion, of ‘Runaround Sue’ and ‘The Wanderer’ fame. Having grown up with parents who listened to either classical or ‘50s and ‘60s oldies music, Dion was a huge fixture in my childhood, and I remember all the words. Dion (surname DiMucci) was in town to do a q&a earlier in the day and this showcase, both to promote ‘New York is My Home’, a new blues studio album.
As you might expect, the average age of the audience members in the Victoria Room for his appearance exceeded my own by a hefty bit. There was even an older gentleman who jostled me out of place so he could place a recorder on the surface of a speaker near the stage. Cheeky bugger! Dion is the kind of celebrated musician who would be able to keep telling stories all day and to be honest, I found the anecdotes he shared with us more genuine and heartfelt that his actual songs. More power to him that he’s still rocking it in his 70s. Let’s hope we’re all as creative and engaging as him when we reach those golden years.
And now we reach the part of my evening that didn’t go so well. Smartly (or so I thought), I asked a staff member at the hotel on another exit to the hotel, so I didn’t have to go back into the melee on 6th Street. I had every intention of seeing Brighton synthpop group Fickle Friends at the Sidewinder, then returning to the British Music Embassy to give Liverpool slackers Hooton Tennis Club, who I’d seen at the Great Escape 2015, another go. This never happened, because a man walked into me and on purpose on the corner of E. 7th Street and Trinity. I feel sure it happened on purpose, as there was no crowd on the corner (so there was no reason for him to walk into me) and I purposefully walked in the opposite direction of him coming towards me, but he changed course and charged. The next thing I knew, I was on the sidewalk, I was in pain, and my elbow was bleeding. The man ran across the street and was gone.
Some 20-something were kind enough to help me up and ask me if I needed to go to hospital, but I have been to too many in my life and I was not going to get stuck in A&E on a Thursday night in Austin. I said no and went off to find first aid, still shaking. This was when I learned that neither the police or EMS on the beat for SXSW have first aid kits (meaning they don’t carry antiseptic, sterile gauze or plasters), which you’d think would be a simple thing for all these protective personnel to have. I was and am still beyond shocked that these things that every parent would carry in his/her car for basic first aid for their children were nowhere to be found when I was sat on a curb with blood coming out of my arm. I’ve seen EMS cart off revelers with broken limbs, so maybe if I had broken my leg and couldn’t walk, maybe they’d done something. I got an ice pack, which is I guess is better than nothing.
I note my experience as a safety message that you really need to look out for your friends during SXSW, because I’m not sure what I would have done if Carrie could not come to collect me. I certainly shouldn’t have been driving with a bleeding elbow. It’s an unfortunate, scary and not entirely random event that sadly clouded the rest of my SXSW experience and makes me fear for my safety in future years.
For more of my photos from my Thursday at SXSW 2016 when I wasn’t dealing with a stupid emergency, visit my Flickr.
After Thursday afternoon’s amazing Output Belfast showcase at the British Music Embassy, I headed over to Stubb’s BBQ for another exciting UK-centric show, the inaugural BBC Music Showcase. The emcees for the evening, BBC Radio presenters Steve Lamacq (6 Music), Jo Whiley (Radio 2), Huw Stephens (Radio 1) and MistaJam (1Xtra) were almost as high profile as the showcasing artists themselves, who according to the official SXSW preview of the event, were chosen to “represent the breadth of genres BBC nurtures and supports.”
Given the magnitude of the artists scheduled to perform at Stubb’s that night, I thought it would be wise to queue early, and I arrived just as the line outside the venue was starting to form, almost 2 hours ahead of the show. Luckily for me, Stubb’s offers takeaway barbecue near the venue gates, so I was able to grab a delicious pulled pork taco while I waited to get in. My fellow punters, including Melinda Hasting, John Baker, and Walter Fields of SXSW showcasing act Missi and Mister Baker made fine company, and the time spent in the queue passed quickly.
The members of Missi and Mister Baker were at Stubb’s specifically to see the first act on the evening’s bill, country music legend Loretta Lynn. I was giddy with excitement to see Lynn myself, especially after featuring her in my preview article on feminism at SXSW 2016. Lynn was accompanied on stage by a full backing band, led by her son Ernest Ray, and their set on the night was predictably spectacular, from their introduction by BBC Radio 2 host Jo Whiley all the way through to the sentimental favourite final track ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’. Jovial banter and playful teasing between mother and son punctuated the set list, which included shouted requests for “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven’ and ‘Fist City’. After a bit of suspenseful coquetry on the part of Ms. Lynn, we were treated to her latest single ‘Everything It Takes’ before she swept the figurative curtain closed with ‘Honky Tonk Girl’ and her signature set closer.
Loretta Lynn was no doubt a difficult act to follow, and the crowd at Stubb’s dissipated somewhat after the end of her set. The front of the venue didn’t remain vacant for long though, as a more youthful set of punters filed in for the next act, the female-fronted trio Sunflower Bean. Introduced by BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, the up-and-coming New Yorkers took advantage of the large stage at Stubb’s both visually and sonically, creating an impressive display of psych rock force, especially in their extended performance of ‘Space Exploration Disaster’. For more on Sunflower Bean, you can read our Steven’s review of their debut album ‘Human Ceremony’ right back here.
Nineteen-year-old Liverpudlian electronic singer/songwriter Låpsley appeared next on the Stubb’s stage, on the strength of her recent debut album ‘Long Way Home.’ I wasn’t previously familiar with Låpsley’s music, but a fellow audience member described her to me as “like Adele, only with a dance beat.” His assessment wasn’t far off, as it turned out. If you like the timbre of Adele’s singing voice but find her songs a bit too sleepy and weepy, Låpsley’s more urban edge might be just your speed. Check out her recent concept video for ‘Love is Blind’ just below.
I was even less familiar with Croydon grime artist Stormzy, who took the stage after an introduction by BBC Radio 1Xtra’s MistaJam. Though his given name is Michael Omari, Stormzy reminded us of his stage name several times in the course of his set, while also stirring up the crowd’s energy with frenetic onstage motion and relentless rapping over beats provided by his assistant, DJ Tiny. I couldn’t help but reflect on the contrast of styles between Stormzy and Loretta Lynn, and though Stormzy’s brand of hip-hop isn’t exactly to my taste, the formidable strength of his show was every bit as spectacular as Lynn’s opening set.
Unfortunately a minor personal emergency near the end of Stormzy’s set meant that I was unable to stay at Stubb’s for the final act on the BBC Music bill, alt-folk rocker Jake Bugg. I have to admit that I was particularly disappointed not to see Bugg, who I also missed when he toured in America with Snow Patrol several years ago. On reflection, however, I feel fortunate that Mary I and found ourselves safe and sound at the end of the evening. Jake Bugg will remain on my musical bucket list for the time being; I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for possible future tour dates around his new third album ‘On My One’, which is due out in June. In the meantime, the video for his current single ‘Gimme the Love’ is playing just below.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 5th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
After the Creating Custom Songs for Film, TV, Trailers & Ads panel and the second half of Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo’s entertaining, yet raunchy q&a at the convention centre (more on those here), it was time to get some things done. Portland’s world-famous Voodoo Donuts now has an outpost in Austin – and right on 6th Street – so it seemed rude not to get some and share them with our friends at Latitude 30, who work so hard to produce great shows for us at SXSW, as a small gesture of our appreciation for all they do. As it was St. Patrick’s Day, we also wanted to provide a sweet something in the form of themed donuts to those involved with Output Belfast, who put on a great showcase St. Patrick’s Day afternoon. (Read Carrie’s review of the entire Generator NI-supported show from earlier today here.)
After my donut delivery work was done (pro tip: the Irish don’t fancy donuts as much as I thought they would and certainly not like Americans do, I’ll tell you that!), I went up to Cheer Up Charlie’s to see if I could catch Ezra Furman and the Boyfriends, who were part of Brooklyn Vegan’s afternoon line-up there. I made the mistake of thinking that he’d be on the larger outdoor stage. Nope, he and his band were crammed onto the tiny indoor stage where Carrie and I saw CYMBALS at SXSW 2014. I had no chance in hell of getting in, so I, along with some other latecomers, had to peer through the dirty side windows to get a glimpse of Furman in his red dress. However, for your trouble, here’s a crowd shot from the outdoor stage, with a guy in a kilt.
Now that I am writing this, red was an appropriate colour for the day (other than green, of course), as I remembered walking down the street that Liverpool were playing Manchester United at Old Trafford in an UEFA match. So maybe the luck of the Irish was smiling down on me, as I came across Bull McCabe’s, a living, breathing, no frills Irish pub with plenty of Liverpool fans (as it’s the pub’s club) and the occasional, tempting fate Man U supporter, including one particularly annoying one in a flat cap was in front of me as I was sat by the bar. It probably would have been packed anyway, seeing that it was St. Patrick’s Day, but the place was packed to the gills and it was just fun to grab a Guinness, watch the match with fellow Liverpool supporters, and watch the entire pub go crazy when Phil Coutinho scored, securing our spot into the quarterfinals against Dortmund this Thursday. It was a nice, non-music break during my week that was much appreciated. Speaking of non-music things, I also had a nice snack at the Llamas Peruvian Creole trailer at 7th and Trinity and met a new friend, though unfortunately, my luck at that intersection would not last…
Next up on my hit list on St. Patrick’s Day were Australian alt-rock trio DMA’s, who came highly recommended by our uber helpful Aussie correspondent last year NickiGirlStar. They were the final act of the day at the KCSN showcase at the Radio Day stage Thursday. While Melbourne’s Gold Class have been called the 21st century Australian Smiths, Sydney’s DMA’s have been favourably called the 21st century Australian Oasis. While they might refer to themselves as just “dude[s] from Australia”, they lived up the comparison to the Gallaghers’ brothers’ band with their own massive guitar anthems, minus the sibling rivalry. There was also no evidence of infighting on the Radio Day stage at the convention centre, whose wide stage span dwarfed the actual physical presence of the band and their live backing crew.
However, having already played larger stages at Governor’s Ball, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza in 2015, they took the stage confidently and to a respectable crowd at 5 in the afternoon. I am sure their show to close out Paradigm Agency’s showcase at the Parish later that evening had a far more boisterous crowd, but I actually appreciated having a more relaxed vantage point to see DMA’s unfettered and in the wild, if you will. To have a taste of their Bonnaroo set last summer, watch the video below. I don’t recall Liam Gallagher ever wearing Adidas (I could be wrong), but for sure, lead singer Tommy O’Dell looks like an assertive dude onstage. As one would with songs as sound as theirs, like the arresting ‘Lay Down’, his charismatic vocals ringing across the room. It wasn’t hard to close your eyes and imagine it was the younger Gallagher up on stage, just without a nasal Mancunian accent.
After the DMA’s set, I took the opportunity to sit and charge my phone for a while. There usually aren’t too many comfy places to sit at the convention centre that aren’t already occupied by people with laptops, so I sat at the deserted softball tournament . Hilariously, band people started coming up and asking me where the artists’ lounge was. I guess I look like I work for SXSW? Maybe I do, after 5 years of hitting the Austin pavement and club floors hard. I also ran into online friends, the lovely Elke and Oliver from Glamglare, completely by accident while being sat there too. That is one of the magical things about SXSW. The world is such a large place but for 1 week in Austin, you could run into anyone – anyone! – from around the world because everyone is in that most important city for the most important time in March.
My Thursday afternoon at SXSW 2016 was reserved from the beginning for the Northern Irish showcase at the British Music Embassy. Hosted this year by Generator NI and the Belfast City Council, working jointly as Output Belfast, the daytime show on this Thursday featured one artist I’d already seen earlier in the week, one that I was already familiar with from before SXSW, and three acts that were completely new to me.
Before the festivities officially began, I stepped outside Latitude 30 for a quick interview with the afternoon’s co-emcee, Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Guy Spence, who gave me this quick rundown of Output Belfast’s activities over their nearly 2 weeks spent in Austin. After the interview, Generator NI Head of Programme Development Mark Gordon (pictured above) shifted our attention to the talented musicians on the lineup for the British Music Embassy stage, beginning with a late addition to the SXSW contingent from Ireland and Northern Ireland.
County Armagh singer/songwriter Conchúr White is the lead singer and main songwriter for the quickly emerging Northern Irish band Silences. The full band had set their sights on possibly coming to Austin in 2017, but another band’s last minute change of plans opened a slot for SXSW this year, and they decided to take advantage, even if they could only afford for White to make the trip alone. While Silences’ songs are clearly written with the intention of playing in full-band arrangement, the paradoxically delicate strength of White’s singing voice made them equally effective in solo performance. For a taste of what we heard on the St. Patrick’s day show in Austin, have a listen to White’s solo version of current single ‘There’s A Wolf’ from last year’s Reeperbahn Festival, just below.
A switch in the originally announced lineup for Thursday afternoon called up post-punk rockers and SXSW veterans Girls Names to play next. Mary had already caught Cathal Cully and company on Tuesday night’s Huw Stephens and PRS for Music showcase, and they somehow managed to carry their “massive wall of sound” into their daytime performance on the Thursday as well. Their initial plans included five songs scribbled onto the back of a nicked British Music Embassy poster, but the slowly-evolving nature of their music necessitated a slightly shorter set. Luckily for those of us in the crowd, truncating the set list did nothing to dilute the power and intensity of Girls Names’ signature sound.
Following Girls Names was another artist whose songs I’ve described as evolutionary in the past, David C Clements (pictured at top). I was nothing short of thrilled to see Clements take the British Music Embassy stage with a full band to play through songs from his recent and long-anticipated debut album ‘The Longest Day in History’. His performance on the day didn’t disappoint, beginning with latest single ‘Hollywood’ and rounding off with the spine-tingling gospel tinge of ‘Hurricane’. After the set, I had a nice chat with Clements, which you can eavesdrop on right back here.
I’d already seen and interviewed the ginger-bearded Ciaran Lavery on the Monday night Trackd showcase, but his Thursday set for Output Belfast was markedly different, and particularly memorable, for two reasons. Before he even began, Lavery was apparently cursed by Murphy’s Law rather than blessed by Irish luck; when he attempted to step on stage for his soundcheck, he somehow managed to split his trousers up one leg “from knee to crotch”, as he would describe it. He seemed to take the incident in good stride, joking about the silver gaffa tape holding his trousers together during the banter between songs. But despite the rather obvious tape job, Lavery’s trousers were largely forgotten when he started to sing, especially when he was joined onstage by a surprise special guest, Nashville singer/songwriter Liza Anne. Lavery and Liza Anne performed a handful of songs in harmonious duet before I realized where I’d seen her before, opening for David Ramirez in Phoenix last November.
The final act onstage as afternoon made its way into evening was Portadown songstress Naomi Hamilton, perhaps better known by her stage moniker Jealous of the Birds. Hamilton’s flair for the dramatic was made evident right away in her striking and beautiful appearance, but her songs were the real star of the performance, enchanting the late day crowd at the British Music Embassy and putting her squarely on our radar here at TGTF. We’ll be on the lookout for Jealous of the Birds’ debut LP ‘Parma Violets’ on the 6th of May, but in the meantime, you can feast your eyes on her new video for ‘Goji Berry Sunset’, just below.
Keep your eyes here for our reviews of Thursday night’s happenings at SXSW, along with interviews and coverage from the Friday and Saturday of that week, all upcoming in the days ahead.