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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 13th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
Dublin pop success story Kodaline have had a wild ride the last 3 years. It seems like yesterday I saw them play at Maggie Mae’s at SXSW 2013, before their meteoric rise to global fame.
Last month, the band – Steve Garrigan, Mark Prendergast, Jason Boland and Vinnie May, Jr. – took part in a special Bow Street Sessions show at Dublin Academy on the 16th of March. They performed alongside County Donegal’s Little Hours (who I saw open for The Staves last spring at Dublin Olympia), Dingle’s Walking on Cars, Canadian act July Talk and the local Dublin Street Choir. The Bow Street Sessions are curated and put on by Jameson Whiskey, in partnership with the famed, long-running Irish music and politics magazine Hot Press.
In the first embed below, you can enjoy some exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of Kodaline preparing for their moment on the night and their first-ever live appearance at the Academy, along with some clips of the other acts. Directly below it, we’ve also found a video called ‘Our Story’, which sees the members of Kodaline talk about their humble beginnings in their own words. For our extensive back coverage of Kodaline here on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 12th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
After the rain of Friday night, a chilly air had settled onto Austin. It’s not normal to be wearing gloves and a hat in Austin in March, but when needs must… Carrie has hypothesised the precipitous drop in temperature translated to less people willing to stand outside in the cold. This was probably true to some extent, as when it came to the showcase the irrepressible Har Mar Superstar‘s showcase put on at Cheer Up Charlie’s, I was surprised there wasn’t a queue to get into the place. Once inside, the outdoor patio area wasn’t full either. Maybe everyone was waiting for Har Mar Superstar’s own headline set at the end of the night? Not sure.
Though I missed first two acts Cold Fronts and Ghost Babes Compilation alums Slothrust, I made it to red lipsticked smiley face sign on Red River shortly after New York City’s Drowners began. Every year and a half or so, I experience a dramatic change in musical taste, and I’m wondering if it’s time yet again to make a move. The Strokes revolution in the early Noughties passed me by, probably because I was too busy with school, as well as being too busy then with my then Duran Duran obsession. Maybe it’s time for me to get back to back to basics-type rock, as I wanted a second look and listen (after the Paradigm showcase Wednesday night) at Drowners before we left Austin.
It’s been long bemoaned that there really hasn’t been a band ready to take the Great British Guitar Band mantle, especially in light of The Vaccines changing their sound last year on ‘English Graffiti’. Is it somewhat appropriate that The Vaccines’ buddies Drowners might be in the lead to vie for the now open honour? While they’re technically not eligible since they only have one British-born member (their singer / guitarist Matthew Hitt is Welsh), with their sound, they might be close. Maybe the world is ready for the “jangling fringe-shaking indie-pop“ Q described their 2014 self-titled debut album as having? We’ll hang tight for the release of their second LP ‘On Desire’ at the end of June and see if the tectonic plates of indie will move.
After saying goodbye to a new and famous friend at Cheer Up Charlie’s, I went across the street to check in with some soon-to-be-famous friends at Stubb’s. There was no question as to who was the biggest act of the night at the well-known barbecue joint’s outdoor stage: upstate New York’s X Ambassadors, a recent American indie rock success story after releasing their debut album in 2015, being helped along with fellow Interscope band Imagine Dragons, and the blowing up of their single ‘Renegades’. However, I was there to see Honne play on the biggest stage of their lives.
Judging from the audience reaction further back, including my almost going deaf thanks to a young woman who would not stop screaming and going mental during their entire set, I can tell this slice of American music fans are truly taken by the futuristic soul sound of Andy Clutterbuck, James Hatcher and their touring band. It is a surreal moment when you witness seeing a band at a dark, claustrophobic place like Leeds Hi-Fi Club and then a year later, you see them play some place as massive as Stubb’s, thousands of miles away. It also isn’t hard to imagine them filling out similarly large venues in the future with their smooth grooves and, as previously mentioned in my review of their show Friday at the British Music Embassy, their sensual “baby-making music”.
From one massive venue, I moved on to yet another, in the form of the Pandora Discovery Den at the Gatsby. So much for the terribly incorrect impression I had that this place would be a small, intimate affair – ha! The queues outside the venue was enormous, with badge holders unlikely to get in, let alone the wristband crew. Further, I felt guilty that a lot of youngsters who were fans of the man I was going to see were going to have to watch and listen from very far away outside and away from where the action would be inside, especially since it appeared most of the crowd inside the Den inside that I was trying to get around were more keen on getting wasted and weren’t even facing the stage. I never understand this at shows in DC or anywhere else. If all you want to do at SXSW is to drink, go to a bar with your friends and get out of the way of people who actually want to witness a musical experience.
After waiting for what seemed like forever in the pass queue, I made it inside, only to find out the venue was running badly behind schedule. While the Pandora Discovery Den was certainly high on production values, the overall feel was generic, lacking charm and character that you’d get at a place like Stubb’s. I guess that was the point of such a pop-up venue? It seemed more like Australia’s biggest deal as of late, South African transplant and already massive pop star Troye Sivan, could have been performing anywhere, not in Austin.
The 20-year-old already has everything he needs to be a young pop star: the million-watt smile, the doe eyes, the big lips, all part of the charisma needed to keep young people’s short attention. I find it sad that ‘Youth’, his most recent video, has been getting more attention on YouTube because of his sexual orientation and not for its own musical merit. Are we as a human society ever going to get away from such stupid conversations? I’m clearly not Sivan’s target audience (generally, musicians in track suits aren’t my thing, sorry, ha) and his music isn’t what I’d probably chose to listen to, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t mind dancing to his electronic-tinged urban pop at a club. Go forth and keep inspiring our young people, Troy!
It shouldn’t have been a big deal to get down 6th Street to Tellers, as it was only 3 blocks west from the Gatsby. We’re used to seeing so many rowdy people on 6th Street on a Saturday night, but I was not prepared to be inappropriately touched by a man when I trying to get out of a crowd and worse, I saw his face leering at me as he did it, but it’s not like screaming or yelling would have done anything. I still feel dirty and gross from the incident. I realise I could have taken a different route around the crush of people, but thinking about it some more, why should I have? SXSW has evolved over the years I’ve attended and while I accept this sort of stupid thing happens at random whenever there’s a bad apple in a high-density music event, it doesn’t make it right. I was so shaken up by what happened that by the time I finally arrived at Tellers, I was having trouble locating my ID in my bag. It was some good luck that I ran into (male) friends at the door of the venue so I felt safe. Or at least safer.
It seemed appropriate that the band that officially kicked off my SXSW, Kent’s Get Inuit, would be seeing me off from Austin as well. After being in Texas for a week, the band truly gave it their all on the upstairs stage, banging away on tunes from their most recent ‘Luge Lessons’ EP and songs that could very well likely show up on their upcoming debut album. The surf-y guitar lick of ‘Mean Heart’ plus singer Jamie Glass’ spirited vocals were a positive, loud and kick-arse way to end the weirdest (and unsettling) SXSW I’ve experienced yet. Until next year, see ya Austin…
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 11th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
It’s been a bit of a tradition since Carrie came along with me to Austin to send SXSW off with an amazing (and free) lunch, plus Bloody Marys at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. However, this year, it made more sense for her to cover Lissie at the SPIN party at Brazos Hall, so I was all by my lonesome. I gobbled up back two delicious tofu wraps and two of those divine, tomatoey creations under the watchful eye of the barmaid who made them for me. It was probably for the best, though, because the music slated for the afternoon isn’t exactly Carrie’s speed…
The Northern Powerhouse showcase was a good who’s who of bands who are currently knocking about in the great North of England and showing who’s boss with their own personal brands of rock, generally on the harder side of things. Sheffield duo Nai Harvest started the afternoon on a frenetic, yet still melodic note. I think the great lesson that the success of Royal Blood, Drenge and Slaves has taught us is that despite the conventional wisdom that had been around for several decades post-Beatles and Stones, it is entirely possible to make a go of it – to be loud enough and be successful at making rock music – only having two blokes in a rock band. And going for it seemed to be the theme of the day, as it was the last day in Austin for most bands and the last time to make a lasting impression.
Based on the music videos I’d seen prior to SXSW, Nai Harvest seemed like funny guys: I mean, guys who named their last EP ‘Hairball’ can’t take themselves too seriously, right? Live, they didn’t disappoint on either the music or the stage patter front. As evidenced by most recent single ‘Just Like You’, Nai Harvest’s style is less about being massively loud than to embrace the lo-fi, slacker vibe that currently sweeping Britain. Guitarist Ben Thompson bemoaned that they’d forgotten to bring along Yorkshire Tea to Austin with them. Umm…didn’t they get the memo that there would be *plenty* of Brits at SXSW, some of whom must have had brought some over to avoid the curse of the American, non-descript dark water, black tea problem? At the very least, I could have helped them with their dilemma from my own stash specifically for travelling purposes. Well, now you all know who’s your dealer…
Following the Sheffielders on the afternoon and moving the action due north, up to Leeds, was Autobahn, who were playing their third and last show at the British Music Embassy. I’d seen them earlier in the week, Tuesday night at the felte / Part Time Punks showcase at Barracuda. As is true for nearly every act I’ve ever seen on the Latitude 30 stage during SXSW week, Autobahn’s sound was great, both in volume and pomp. I mean, really, how can you go wrong with guitars being banged and flailed about while there’s a beacon of light, via a voice in the darkness…er…in a trenchcoat. The raw and unforgiving nature of their music as described previously by Rebecca makes all the more sense to me after having the opportunity to speak with their singer Craig Johnson. He explains that there’s not only a dark melancholy that comes through their music but also the coming to grips of reality of what’s outside one’s bedroom window, of which there’s too little of in the greater landscape of manufactured top 40.
Continuing later on the bill and whose punishing tones I heard well outside of the venue – because they were really all that loud! – were Sugarmen (Liverpool), Fizzy Blood (Leeds) and Demob Happy (Newcastle and Brighton). Lads, don’t be too discouraged that I did not join you. I’m currently going through a reboot of my hard rock loving phase and I’ll probably catch up to you soon.
In the evening (cue the Led Zeppelin song), Carrie and I got a bit of a taste of Lusts at the British Music Embassy before I left her to cover the rest of the NME / UK Trade and Investment showcase there. I needed to find a venue and I should have thought more about this at the time, as if it was some foreshadowing of what was to come later in the evening, but I didn’t. I got lost on 6th Street and when I asked around for help, a bouncer of another establishment on the block stereotyped me, warning me that “a nice girl like you shouldn’t be going to a place like that.” Uh huh… At that moment, I kind of wished Gwenno had been there to clock the meathead. I didn’t have time to waste, or else I would have started quoting lyrics verbatim off ‘IV’ or doing my now world-famous ‘Whole Lotta Love’ guitar solo humming.
I finally got to where I was going (Sledge Hammer), and no thanks to any help from the chauvinist pig. As part of a coincidental continuing-on of the feminism theme and without any injury to myself, I witnessed Abjects‘ entire set. They’re lo-fi, they’re garage, they’re surf-y…they’re a little bit of everything but to be sure, a whole lot of fun. Yes, the sound can be in your face, but it’s in the name of having a good time, and the ladies were smiling the widest grins I’m pretty sure I saw onstage all week. I think the inevitable comparison will be to Manchester’s PINS, but after having seen both bands in a festival atmosphere and now being able to compare them, I think Abjects take it for their sheer audacity.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my review of Saturday at SXSW, which will post tomorrow. For more of my photos from Saturday in AustinE, visit my Flickr.
Over the past 3 years, it’s become my personal SXSW tradition to spend the Friday at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub for the Full Irish Breakfast, hosted by Music From Ireland. Indeed, Music From Ireland has an even longer history of hosting the showcase, as event coordinator Angela Dorgan related to me in this Friday afternoon interview. My chat with Ms. Dorgan was one of several interviews that I would conduct during the course of the day, between sets by a wide variety of Irish artists spanning genres from sweet acoustic folk to hardcore hip-hop.
The first artist on Friday’s bill was Donegal singer/songwriter Rosie Carney, who faced the difficult task of playing her sensitive and subtle songs to a rather groggy crowd who were perhaps more focused on their eggs and coffee than the activity onstage. Her singing voice was in fine form for so early in the day, and though the open stage at BD Riley’s isn’t the optimal venue for acoustic singer/songwriter types, her lilting tones provided a gentle introduction to a showcase that would gain momentum with each successive act.
I stepped outside to have this brief chat with Carney after she played, and when I returned, Silences’ frontman Conchúr White had taken the stage. I’d seen White play the day before on the Thursday afternoon Output Belfast showcase at Latitude 30, and his set once again the demonstrated the vast difference between the two venues. While the rowdier crowd and open windows behind the stage at B.D. Riley’s were slightly less receptive to White’s solo set, he managed to make a favorable impression on his audience.
Following Silences’ rather lonely solo set, the stage at B.D. Riley’s became abruptly more crowded with the entrance of Dublin garage rock quintet September Girls. I was glad to catch them this time around, as I missed them previously in 2014, and I’d been tipped off earlier in the week that their new album ‘Age of Indignation’ was not to be missed. As a fan of the Bangles from my early music listening days, I’m naturally intrigued by a band named after their famous Big Star cover, and I’ll be delving more deeply into September Girls’ sound in my upcoming review of the LP. They played an animated set laced with new songs on their Friday afternoon set, and afterward, two of their number graciously gave this interview for your listening pleasure.
Also filling the stage to capacity at B.D. Riley’s were David C Clements and his crew of bandmates, who followed the brash rock of September Girls with an equally intense set of their own. Along with the aforementioned Silences, I’d heard Clements play at the British Music Embassy the day before, and though he played largely the same set list at B.D. Riley’s, I was once again captivated by his heartfelt lyricism and expansive musical style.
Next on the schedule was electro/acoustic act Somadrone, aka Neil O’Connor, who Mary had caught earlier in the week at the official Music From Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s on the Wednesday night. Though soft-spoken in manner, O’Connor and his drummer Gareth Averill managed to crank up the volume a notch or two during their extended set, which they graciously agreed to play when rapper Rejjie Snow had to pull out of the showcase lineup.
Math rock band Enemies were next to take the stage, and I was so concentrated on their rather consciously intellectual sound that I didn’t immediately recognize drummer Micheál Quinn, who I’d met in this very same place last year when he had appeared in a different context with avant/experimental group Meltybrains? It was revealed during the course of Enemies’ set that Micheál was celebrating his birthday that day, and naturally a chorus of singing and birthday cake ensued. But make no mistake, their pop-tinged single ‘Play Fire’ was equally memorable and upbeat.
The afternoon’s trajectory changed slightly with duo act Saint Sister, whose very aptly termed “atmosfolk” gave our ears a welcome moment of respite, switching gears from live drums and wailing guitars to a combination of sweetly-tuned vocals, traditional Celtic harp and modern electronic rhythms. The novelty of seeing a harp on the stage at B.D. Riley’s would have been memorable enough in itself, but the hypnotic quality of Saint Sister’s seemingly anachronous juxtaposition of sounds proved that they are more than just a gimmick. Their music might have been a bit more laid-back than the other acts surrounding them on the Irish Breakfast docket, but as you can hear in my interview with them, they were in high spirits, and the animated energy came through in their performance.
The final act on the Full Irish Breakfast afternoon showcase was Limerick hip-hop trio Rusangano Family (pictured at top), whose new LP ‘Let the Dead Bury the Dead’ was released just last week, along with the video for jazz-tinged album track ‘Lights On’. Their sensational performance in Austin on the Friday of SXSW couldn’t be contained on the small B.D. Riley’s stage, as frontman God Knows leapt out the open window to preach his gospel to the throngs of people on 6th Street, while his bandmates MuRli and DJ mynameisjOhn were left to entertain the madding crowd inside. As you can see in the photos below, even aforementioned Enemies’ drummer Quinn couldn’t resist the urge to snap a few shots of the ecstatic festivities that ended the 2016 Full Irish Breakfast on another epic high.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 8th April 2016 at 5:30 pm
Clash Magazine and UK music rights and licensing agency PPL‘s evening showcase Friday at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 was arguably the strongest night all week at SXSW 2016. Punters responded by packing the place full nearly every set on the night. To catch up on my earlier movements Friday evening, including some words on Throwing Shade’s performance to start this showcase, click here. For better photos of this showcase by my new friend Thomas Jackson, please visit Clash Magazine’s article on the night here.
After being at the Empire Garage and Control Room for three acts and heading back to Latitude 30, I caught the tail-end of Haelos’ set there, keen on finally figuring out the secret to their success during their week in Austin after seeing them in the sun at FLOODfest Wednesday. As I mentioned in my Friday afternoon review regarding Fickle Friends, there are way too many synth-led bands in Britain at the moment, which makes it all the more important to distinguish your band from the rest of the pack. I suppose here in a Passion Pit-less vacuum, British synthpop is all the more enticing. It also helps that Haelos has already received the backing of KEXP, recording a session with the forward-looking Seattle alternative radio station in January.
Watching them play to a packed-in British Music Embassy evening crowd – one of the very few times I witnessed this all week, which I thought was very strange – I think I may have cracked it. They do bring something different to the table, in that they’re not doing straight electropop, or electropop with a tinge of soul, for the kids. Mixing both options with a trip-hop element that formerly was the domain of acts like Massive Attack – generally only accepted by the dance kids – plus mixing male and female vocals, all these parts give their music product an undisputed edge. After giving the crowd 100%, the cheering at the end of their set was well deserved.
The next act, then, were presented with the major and dubious challenge of following such a triumphant set. I guess it’s a good thing they were YAK, as their psych / punk ethos don’t really give a monkey’s, and I think they would have completely went for it as they did, regardless of what band preceded them. Frontman Oli Burslem proved this by launching himself, guitar too, stage left into the crowd and entirely unexpectedly. This led to drink glasses falling and breaking and audience members falling down in a pile with him. Instead of being upset about it, punters ate it up, with those not involved in the pileup furiously snapping shots of the incident with their phones and high-fiving their friends that they were present for such an anarchic performance. Latitude 30 staff, quickly mopping and sweeping up glass in the aftermath, were likely not as impressed.
The Revenge, Scottish producer Graeme Clark, was up next to ring in midnight at the Embassy. I never know what to expect when there’s an electronic producer set to perform at Latitude 30 because in general, turnout isn’t great. I guess that has to do with most fans of this kind of music having a certain (dare I say overly intelligent) mindset and a profound love for not just beats but all electronic machinations, including how they work and sound. Clark is one-half of 6th Borough Project with Edinburgh Craig Smith, and I hadn’t realised until the week of SXSW of Clark’s connection. Thank you muchly, Ed Macfarlane, for my entry into this world.
As The Revenge, he released debut album ‘Love That Will Not Die’ in 2015, full of bangers of varying intensity and tempo. Under the cover of darkness, he and live compadre Paul McGlashan huddled over a dizzying array of synths, sequencers, mixers and other things I don’t know the proper names for, but that doesn’t matter. Thudding vs. frenetic beats and the dance lover’s friend of bass wub wub wubs filled the room with a kind of sonic mastery I so infrequently get to enjoy. I could have been there, happily dancing for hours and not known where the time had gone.
But after a spine-tinglingly good set and a changeover, it was time for London’s Honne, who the Telegraph have dubbed “futuristic soul” and “destined to re-invent babymaking music”. Um, okay. Let’s just stick to the facts: singer Andy Clutterbuck is the unlikely English (and white) heir to the throne of Barry White, and his long-time mate James Hatcher on keys and guitar, along with their live band, provide the appropriately mystifyingly soulful soundtrack. ‘Warm on a Cold Night’, featured in my Bands to Watch feature on them in the summer of 2014, was sufficient proof early on that this project had plenty of potential.
This potential was fully realised in front of a new and American crowd Friday night, as men and women alike yelled and wailed in their appreciation for the band, never letting up for the entirety of their set. I was pretty sure some ladies were going to faint when Andy announced they would playing their ode to the fairer sex in ‘Woman’. (Thanks to another crazy fan, I nearly lost my hearing the next night at Stubb’s watching them again, but I’ll tell you about that later.) They even got their friend JONES, who herself had performed on the Embassy the night before, to join in with them on the track ‘No Place Like Home’. When it came time for them to say goodbye with ‘All in the Value’, the crowd’s disappointment was loud and unanimous. Everyone wanted to meet the band after, irking the usually laissez-faire staff at Latitude 30, who had to kick us out of the place. Break America? Check.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 8th April 2016 at 4:30 pm
At my first SX in 2012, the only things me and my British and Irish friends were fending off were minor: sweat and sunburns. Rain seems to have only been a recent pest to SXSW and Friday night, thunder and lightning again threatened SXSW 2016’s showcases. When Carrie and I set out for our evening plans, rain fell hard and lightning streaked through the sky. Not eager to put punters into danger, outdoor, open air venues like Stubb’s and the pop-up McDonald’s Loft on E. 3rd Street chose to temporarily close their spaces or cancel their shows altogether. I crossed out my previous plans to see Everything Everything and DMA’s (at Stubb’s) and Banners (at the McDonald’s Loft) once I learned from Twitter that the venues closed, then reopened to allow bands to only perform shortened sets.
I began my night at our ol’ standby, the British Music Embassy, where Clash Magazine and UK music rights and licensing agency PPL were hosting an evening showcase. Throwing Shade was the first act on their bill. London-based producer Nabihah Iqbal has her own show on NTS Radio every fortnight and puts on a hip-hop night with fellow Londoner Felicita. However, she’s also released plenty of her own music, her use of beats suggested by many to represent the next emerging wave of London electronic music.
Prior to SXSW, her latest release the first week of March was the ‘House of Silk’ EP on Ninja Tune, filled with phat beats and glittery synths. Throwing Shade offers a unique perspective on life, too, because she has to be the only London producer (or one of the very few) with a master’s in philosophy. She chose to start with a spoken word piece with very little instrumental backing (that I could detect, anyway), essentially freestyling to begin her set before she truly got going. With my love of electronic, I expected to have loved Throwing Shades’ beats, but for some reason I wasn’t impressed. Perhaps we can blame the weather for keeping people set wherever they were until the storm blew over and that’s why the venue wasn’t full, but this kind of music feeds off of audience response and energy. I would imagine my feelings towards her music would have different if I’d seen her in London in a rammed venue full of her adoring fans.
Back out into the rain, my intention was to rejoin Carrie at Empire Control Room on E. 7th Street, where both the Control Room and main Empire Garage venues were to play host to two Neon Gold Records showcases. However, the Empire was another venue that wasn’t taking any chances with their visitors’ safety, herding everyone who had planned to see bands on the only partially covered Garage stage outside and forcing them inside. That meant that the Control Room reached maximum capacity before it should have, and those of us who were stuck outside were looking at an empty Garage stage until stage management decided it was safe enough for a band to take the stage.
After a significant delay, Brooklyn’s Savoir Adore took to the stage, with their updated lineup of Lauren Zettler having replaced Deirdre Muro on vocals and synths. After a period of darkness, the Garage stage’s light show was impressive but epileptic seizure-inducing, distracting me from Savoir Adore’s upbeat synthpop. However, they had plenty of fans down the front who were going mental over them, well pleased they’d finally been given the green light to start playing and reveling in the overenthusiastic light show. To each their own, I guess!
We’d only previously been inside Empire Control Room during daylight hours, so I was eager to see how the vibe felt after the sun had set. Declan McKenna was the first name on the indoor bill, and I’ll Carrie tell you what she thought of him, as I’d seen him play already and to a room of new converts at Huw Stephens / PRS for Music showcase Tuesday night to officially begin the British Music Embassy’s week at SXSW 2016. He was followed by Will Joseph Cook, who Consequence of Sound calls an “English wunderkind”. The young Tunbridge Wells native and his band have a perfectly serviceable, if not entirely inspiring pop/rock hybrid sound that top 40 fans will bop their heads along to.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my Friday night soon on TGTF.