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SXSW 2018: a slower Saturday afternoon at the convention center and hotels – 17th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

I’m always amazed how I feel when I reach the Saturday of the SXSW Music Festival. Everyone who is going at it as hard as we do is exhausted. But we’re also sad. Months of preparation have culminated in our coming out to Austin for this event highlight of the festival calendar, and a part of you dies inside as you accept that it’s almost over.

The Irish rugby-crazy throngs were already up and at ‘em at B.D. Riley’s, so we slept in and decided to get brunch instead. The fancy schmancy Stella San Jac in the Westin was just down the road from the Omni where we stayed this time. At first, I was surprised to see that the place wasn’t crowded. But then I considered that maybe everyone else was still in bed at 1 PM, in the fetal position and nursing hangovers. I hadn’t eaten in nearly 24 hours, and Carrie noted I was hoovering a fried avocado and roasted corn salad in front of her. Ha. After Carrie had a few cups of needed coffee and I downed a bacon bloody Mary, we went down to the convention center for one last time.

avocado salad on Saturday
Wasn’t actually that healthy of a salad…

Carrie headed to a session, while I went into the Trade Expo for some music at the Flatstock stage. Unintentionally but altogether happily, I got a bit of a second helping (side dish?) of Montreal’s Bodywash. I said hello to the band afterwards and we had a nice chat about Pop Montreal vs. M is for Montreal. Pro tip: if you ever need information about an event, ask the people who live in the town where it’s taking place for advice. I came away wanting to visit Montreal ASAP.

The coolest thing for artists about the stages at the convention center – Flatstock, International Day and Radio Day – is that the people who attend these are probably going to be different than those who show up to your afternoon appearances and your evening showcases. It offers another opportunity to wow a different crowd. As the SXSW Gaming Expo was in full swing Saturday, some gaming-inclined kids had wandered into the Flatstock stage area and were spellbound by the next act, Ascot’s Febueder, who I previewed ahead of SXSW back in February.

Febueder Saturday at SXSW 2018

I want to describe their music is soulful, jazzy and catchy – it is all these things – but that would be simplifying it too much. If alt-J hadn’t happened, I don’t think an act like Febueder could dream big. Post ‘An Awesome Wave’, the possibilities are now much wider. I think I always worry how an act is going to be received in the bright lights of the convention center, especially on a Saturday afternoon. But in Febueder’s case, the concern wasn’t needed at all. Their trumpet and electronic drum-infused music was out there at times, yes, but it hit the spot for those keen on finding a new band to follow. Afterwards, people came up to the stage excitedly, wanting a handshake and to know how to spell the band’s name so they could find their act on Spotify. Mission accomplished, guys!

Following two drink interludes – hey, it was St. Patrick’s Day, I’m not turning down a green-coloured ginger beer – Carrie and I split up to catch two acts at Second Play Stages. In case you aren’t familiar with these, they are shows that are mostly before the 7 PM hour at hotels and other unconventional venues that are free and open to the public. Carrie used the opportunity to pick up a performance by Harry Pane at the Hilton that I happened to see on the Second Play schedule. I headed down to Davis Street to check out the Hotel Van Zandt for the first time and to see a band for a second time that week. I seriously wonder what kind of parents think it’s a good idea to bring their families with young kids out to Austin during SXSW. Well, at least if they’re hanging around a hotel lobby in the afternoon, they’ll see some good music, right?

STAL Saturday at SXSW 2018 3

Some of these kids sat in front of the stage were lucky, as STAL were ready to roll for their last performance in Austin. Weirdly, the stage was next to the front door with a steady stream of new hotel guests coming through, so for onlookers, it was distracting to say the least. Taking that into account, STAL admirably ignored the weird situation they found themselves in and performed their style of synthpop as if they were in any other venue in Austin. They sounded great, even if the people watching them weren’t dancing as I had hoped they would. Maybe the adults were as tuckered out as I was? For more of my photos from Saturday at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

man milking an armadillo
You think your week at SXSW was bad? I think this man is trying to milk his armadillo…

 

SXSW 2018: Friday night at Canada House, Communion Presents, a Fluffer Pit party and more – 16th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 4th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Following an interview at the Omni that went swimmingly well, I skipped in dinner in favour of starting my evening strong at Canada House at Swan Dive. The venue’s two stages were taken over by Montreal’s two biggest music events on their calendar, POP Montreal and M is for Montreal. Though I arrived too late to see buzzed about Montreal rock band Corridor on the outdoor M is for Montreal stage, I did get a drink token and could settle in to watch fellow Montrealians Bodywash, friends who met at McGill University. They play a hybrid between shoegaze and synthpop, with dreamy vocals and a rich wall of guitars. Quite lovely.

I popped outside to catch a few songs from another synth-driven act from Montreal, Anemone (real name Chloe Soldevila) and her backing band. She’s the second signee to Luminelle Records, a new venture between the Gorilla vs. Bear blog and Fat Possum Records. Luminelle will be releasing her EP ‘Baby Only You & I’, featuring the sweetly seductive echoes of the title track.

Anemone Friday 2 Friday at SXSW 2018 at SXSW 2018

Back on the indoor stage at Swan Dive were Motel Raphael, three ladies who GQ UK anointed some years back as “the most exciting band to come out of Montreal since Arcade Fire.” A heady compliment indeed, and one entirely deserved. While successful, all-female harmonising groups are nothing new – consider Wilson Phillips, the Dixie Chicks and more recently, The Staves – I really don’t think there are enough of them in the public eye, and Motel Raphael are the kind of band young girls interested in becoming musicians need as role models. I was impressed with their vocal range on their songs that sat more on the folky singer/songwriter side of the spectrum, as well as those in a more straightforward, bright pop vein.

Motel Raphael Canada House Friday 2 at SXSW 2018

Friday was also an opportunity to see some friends in action. On that note, I was headed to what I knew would be a crowded showcase, Communion’s annual tradition of taking over St. David’s main room. Second on the Communion Presents lineup for the evening was rising Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy, with TGTF friend Micheal Quinn of Meltybrains? on drums. Along with SXSW, Kennedy was in the States for a series of shows, many of which sold out even before he set foot on American soil.

Dermot Kennedy Friday at SXSW 2018

Melding the popular genre of hip-hop like that of Drake with the evocative singer/songwriters like Glen Hansard who has become a friend, he offers an olive branch to fans of both types of music with his heart-on-his-sleeve type, accessible writing. As fans thunderously applauded him in the church following his last song of the night, I was reminded that watching a star in the making is a priceless moment. I had every intention of staying for part of Sam Fender’s set that followed Kennedy’s, but the stage was running so behind schedule, I decided I better make a move to my next destination.

I had never witnessed a Fluffer Pit party, but it was high time that I did. They had taken over both stages of Barracuda and I hadn’t been aware that there were two entrances to the place. I was so used to passing from one stage to the other through the internal door separating them. It seemed to take forever but I finally gained admittance through the alley door to the Barracuda backyard in the midst of The Wedding Present’s set.

Instead of having the artists perform on the stage, the ‘stage’ had moved to the gravelly ground, with the audience watching the talent in the round around them. Ironically or not, I had heard them playing ‘Kennedy’ (“too much apple pie”) and bopped my head to it when I was still in the queue outside. I entered just as they were just able to break into my favourite Wedding Present track ‘Brassneck’. What a difference from the Seven Grand show the previous night, under weird blue lighting and the pretension of a whisky bar. This was a much more appropriate venue for them.

LIFE Friday at SXSW 2018

The same could be said about TGTF friends LIFE, who appeared next on the Fluffer Pit bill. Hull’s finest were ready to enthrall the crowd with their politically charged numbers with plenty of welly. They appeared in Austin for the first time last year for SXSW 2017, and now they were back with debut album ‘Popular Music’. It was great to let loose with th’ lads as Mez Sanders-Green led the band through riotous tune after tune. You really haven’t lived if you haven’t shout-sang along to ‘Ba Ba Ba’ or ‘Rare Boots’ and headbanged until you couldn’t headbang any more. So that I would still be able to nod in the morning, I said goodbye to dear friends and re-emerged into the Austin night for something slightly more chill.

I next had to choose between Polish psych and Seattle synthpop. After the sweat and workout at the Fluffer Pit party with LIFE, I decided I could do with a nice, soft cushioned seat and a drink. To avoid the mayhem ensuing on 6th Street, I chose Sisters at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. Formerly the Wednesday night home of Music From Ireland, it was nice to revisit a place I’d come to regularly. Friday night, it played host to the Public Access Touring and Superior Music Publishing showcase.

Andrew Vait and Emily Westman are a synthpop duo with a difference. Given their academic backgrounds, that’s not surprising: they both were schooled at University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, which probably explains Vait’s onstage flute-playing and his squeals of guitar, sometimes in the same song. While they weren’t playing to a big room of people, Sisters didn’t let that bother them, putting on an energetic set punctuated by Westman’s big, booming drumbeats and her and Vait’s combined vocals.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: best bets among UK rock artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Wednesday, 7th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

This year, only Carrie and I have been available to write content for the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018. Being short-handed, we decided to consider trends in who was being invited from the UK and let what we found direct our previews on the artists coming over from the UK to Austin.

One thing we found unusual about this year’s shouts is that quite a few bands and artists we’ve previewed and indeed, some who actually saw in Austin at a recent SXSW, have been invited back. DIY punks LIFE (Hull), Shame (London) and IDLES (Bristol) will be laying waste at their appearances at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 on Monday night, Thursday afternoon, and Thursday afternoon and night, respectively. Could it be that SXSW and the BME are banking on a repeat on their breathless, exciting, uncontainable performances last year? Could be.

Also coming round for a victory lap in Texas will be Glasgow glam band Catholic Action, who have been riding high on the critical acclaim of their autumn 2017 debut album ‘In Memory Of’. [NB: I wrote about them and 3 other acts in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, which you can read here.] Female-fronted trio Doe, who also wowed crowds last year at the DIY showcase on the first night of festivities at the BME, will be making a return appearance, this time gracing the stage of Latitude 30 Wednesday afternoon. Longtime indie stalwarts The Wedding Present, helmed by David Gedge, will also be coming back to Austin, having in previous editions of SXSW. Whether they’ll make another surprise appearance in a bike shop, we’ll have to see.

This is not to say that the UK isn’t sending a whole raft of new and great rock talent to entertain us next week. On the DIY punk front, Glasgow’s Breakfast Muff and Tijuana Bibles, along with London’s Goat Girl, will give you something to shout about and raise your fists to. If you prefer your rock more pop-orientated, SXSW also has you covered. Flyte, who we’ve covered for a few years here on TGTF, will be making their first appearance in Austin with their summer 2017 Island Records debut ‘The Loved Ones’ under their belt. Brighton furnishes SXSW with two exciting rock acts, The RPMs (pictured at top), who will open the Friday afternoon festivities at the BME, and the female-fronted Yonaka. You can read my SXSW 2018 preview of The RPMs through here.

Sometimes your name can make you infamous and as someone once said, any publicity is good publicity, right? London hard rockers Steak were named by local Austin culture blog do512 as having one of the best names of artists showcasing at this year’s event. Admittedly, we may have unfairly maligned some of the less Googleable band names in the past: Cabbage, College, Merchandise and Shopping, anyone? But if you’re going to bring a rock band to Texas of all places, you can’t go wrong with naming yourself after a great cut of beef. Another London band named in do512’s piece were Our Girl, the London trio fronted by Soph Nathan who were discovered, shall we say, after supporting SXSW 2015 alums Honeyblood.

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2018 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook or official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

 

Video of the Moment #2440: LIFE

 
By on Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

If you believe meteorologists and not the mercury readings, summer is over and it’s supposedly autumn now. If you’re like me and need a bit of a knock around the head to keep yourself going as we march towards winter, LIFE have just the thing for you tonight. ‘Sugar God’, taken from the Hull rockers’ debut album ‘Popular Music’ that dropped in May (my review of it here) now has its own promo video. It stars frontman Mez and basically feels like it’s taking you through the various stages of a night out (stop looking away, you know them, I know you do) as seen through the backseat of a BMW and er, outside of it. Filmed by the band’s friend and trusted photographer Josh Moore, it may make you feel better when you’re having a debauchery-filled night out. Or not? Watch the video for ‘Sugar God’ below. To read all of our coverage here on TGTF on LIFE, including reports on their appearances at SXSW 2017, go here.

 

Album Review: LIFE – Popular Music

 
By on Thursday, 18th May 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

LIFE Popular Music album coverThere’s a lot of anger in the world today. For some people, their modus operandi is to deny the feelings, to pretend that bad things are not happening, to be an escapist. For others like working class rockers LIFE – yes, that’s all in caps, son – inaction is not an option. They’re not going to sit silent and idly by while the consequences of Brexit and the decisions pushed through by Tory autocrats irreparably change their country. Being from Hull, their lefty populist views come across as much more believable because they’re from a pocket of England that has traditionally been deemed insignificant. Further, as they’ve already pointed out in quite a few interviews, when you’re not from London, you don’t really get a lot of attention from the music industry. Making a big noise, then, isn’t just a choice but a necessity, isn’t it?

Taking that all together, it isn’t surprising that LIFE’s fiercely DIY debut album ‘Popular Music’ out next week is a cacophony of youthful, punk-y energy, bursting with vitriol against the establishment that hard-working folks like themselves feel is holding them down. Singer Mez Green says, “It’s an LP made up of the psyche of everyone who can see they’re getting fucked and there’s a lot of people getting fucked right now.” Straight out of the gate, you’re confronted with the sensation of unending pressure on ‘In Your Hands’, the band’s in-your-face reminder that it’s your life, and you’re probably going about it all wrong, much to their amusement. Organic food hounds, discount shoppers, coffee fiends who put their java on plastic: you’re not escaping scrutiny and a finger wagged at you.

Unstoppable locomotives of fury ‘Go Go Go’ and ‘Ba Ba Ba’ (are we sensing a theme here?) are full of relentless drumbeat thumps and guitar wailings. Listening to ‘Electricity’ is like being walloped repeatedly on the head whilst stuck in a dystopian society that unfortunately bears some resemblance to the one we’re currently find ourselves in, LIFE’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, if you will. One wonders which of these 11 songs it was that made an impression on PRS for Music Foundation. LIFE received their Momentum grant to record ‘Popular Music’ with Grammy-winning producer Ian Dowling down at The Fish Factory in London.

As loud and as angry as this album is, it’s not a total free-for-all. If the word ‘punk’ puts you off as it usually does for me, keep reading. The songwriting team of Mez and his younger, guitar-playing brother Mick Sanders have written a series of songs with witty lyrics, some purposefully humourous (they just sometimes get lost in all that aggressive rocking), and catchy melodies. ‘Rare Boots’, which Mez prefaced at SXSW 2017 by telling a seemingly low-key tale of shopping at Hull’s street market, is actually a peek into the lives of a group of young friends out and about. Presented in Austin with its memorable guitar hooks and obligatory screams, it was truly a fist-pump worthy moment. Arguably the most melodic track on the album, ‘Sugar God’, taps into Mick’s guitar virtuosity, less punk and more about providing a toe-tapping backdrop to Mez’s shrill choruses of “God / drives a man insane” that, of course, you’re encouraged to join in on.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh62UUMBtQE[/youtube]

LIFE wouldn’t be a band speaking out for the disenfranchised if they didn’t hit out directly at some of the biggest political offenders as of late, would they? In case you missed it, their most overtly political moment on the album ‘Euromillions’ was released the week of President Trump’s inauguration back in January. It feels sinister as the song swings back and forth between blistering spoken word commentary against American and British right-wing nationalists and shouts of “Roll over! Roll over!” punctuating the proceedings. Like a love child of hip-hop and punk, it’s a nice reminder of the Sanders-Green brothers’ wordsmithing abilities, which put them ahead of the popular music pack they so delight in condemning. ‘Beautifully Skint’, in even more contrast with the rest of the album, is a stripped back retooling of their previous single ‘Take Off With You’. The minimal treatment on both instrumentation and vocals means Mez’s pained lyrics of escaping a dead-end life that much more poignant :“we were beautifully skint / washed our clothes in the sink / we used to eat tinned fruit / debate the drugs that we shoot”.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svgM6EDIPq4[/youtube]

Just like the liberal views it tends to advocate, punk isn’t for everyone. A fearless band from East Yorkshire wrote this album ‘Popular Music’ that distills the anxieties of youth in Britain. If you’re feeling forgotten, alone, like no one is hearing the anguish and troubles that are on repeat in your head, this was made for you. Turn it up loud.

8.5/10

LIFE’s debut album ‘Popular Music’ drops next Friday, the 26th of May. A live session the band did at Maida Vale in late March that aired on Huw Stephens’ late night programme on BBC Radio 1 can be listened to here for the next 26 days. To read more on LIFE on TGTF, including my coverage of them at SXSW 2017, use this link.

 

Live Gig Video: watch LIFE perform single ‘In Your Hands’ at Hull Welly

 
By on Wednesday, 26th April 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

In a month’s time to the day, the debut album from Hull punks LIFE will see the light of day. They’re self-releasing the PRS for Music Foundation Momentum grant-funded ‘Popular Music’ on the 26th of May, just in time to get you primed for the second bank holiday of the month. As anyone who has seen them live such as myself will attest to, they’re an excellent proposition in I guess what you would call their ideal habitat: in a dark, sweating nightclub, unleashing their brand of cutting, socially conscious, in-your-face rock on punters. In case you are one of those poor souls who haven’t seen them live or indeed, you have yet to be converted to their devoted legion of ‘LIFERS’ (yes, I am one of them), I’ve got good news for you.

To usher in this month, they headlined at a special ‘POP PARTY 2’ at the (in?)famous Welly in their hometown on the 1st of April. Their stalwart photographer / video buddy Josh Moore was on hand to film the proceedings, so the group have unveiled live video from the show. The clips from the gig are set to their current single ‘In Your Hands’, which is currently enjoying a good run as Steve Lamacq’s Livener track. I cringe whenever I read the word ‘visceral’ in any music review – I never use it because everyone else does – but this is one of those rare cases in which I think it’s probably the best word to drop in.

This is definitely the kind of party you want not only to get invited to, but you’d also want to partake in with plenty of moshing, arm flailing and perhaps even a spot of crowd surfing. You’ll probably have to wipe your brow just watching this claustrophobic yet strangely enticing event unfold. The group have a busy bank holiday weekend ahead, with back to back appearances in Newcastle tomorrow and Friday (Meet the North / Hit the North), Live at Leeds on Saturday and and Handmade Festival in Leicester on Sunday. To catch up on all of TGTF’s recent coverage on LIFE, including both my and Carrie’s experiences watching them perform in Austin at SXSW 2017 last month (the photo at top was taken at the last set of the last night of the British Music Embassy), as well as my interview with Mez and his brother Mick, follow this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIlkIimcItY[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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