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Great Escape 2018: Day 2 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 5th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Despite a disappointing end to my Thursday at the Great Escape 2018, at least I got a full night’s rest before launching into Friday in Brighton. My first stop was to the second of two afternoon lineups organised by Horizons / Gorwelion at Latest Music Bar. In the past, you could count on London industry types not making it down to the Great Escape until midday on the Friday and so Thursday and Friday afternoon showcases wouldn’t be so rammed. I think the sun helped out quite a bit both afternoons to get festivalgoers already in town up and at ‘em early, as by the time I got to the venue, a queue had already begun to form down Manchester Street. The queue would further extend all the way down the street and around the corner after I’d left.

My host in Brighton had told me his friends had gotten married in this venue, pretty cool knowledge that this place has seen both celebrations of love and music. Luckily, I made it in just before electronic and dance singer, musician and producer Rachel K. Collier started her set. Remember, she had what I thought was the unenviable task of playing before half past noon on day 2. Instead, to my delight, the crowd was massive and eager for a look-in at the performance by the triple threat from Swansea.

Rachel K Collier Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

Despite the early time, Collier and her long-time percussionist Rhii brought a party atmosphere to Latest with their big beats and tropical outfits, making it feel more like we were in Ibiza than in Brighton. Their energy was infectious, with Collier even getting the audience to sing along with her. ‘Paper Tiger’, which was chosen for an FA Wales advert earlier in the spring, went down a treat, as did catchy new single ‘Darkshade’, both of them showing off Collier’s brilliant vocals. By the end of the performance, it wasn’t even 1 yet and I was already sweaty! I got to chat with the lovely Rachel at SXSW 2018 and you can read my two-part interview feature through here.

Rachel K Collier Friday the Great Escape 2018 4

The Swiss Music Export party was being held at Bau Wow, and while loads of foreign languages were being spoken (fun fact: Switzerland has four official languages) and there was nice spread of food and drink for delegates, I was there for the music. I had stopped into Bau Wow to see another one of my Great Escape-tipped acts, CRIMER. Sound problems my blogger friends reported the previous night had thankfully been resolved. Judging from his sound, the artist from Zurich is well informed on British New Wave, and it’s not hard to hear his influences of Depeche Mode and even ‘90s boy bands.

CRIMER Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

It was a surreal moment as CRIMER performed his biggest hit (300K streams on Spotify) ‘Brotherlove’, the entire crowd singing along and dancing. If you closed your eyes, you would have thought you’d been transported back to the ‘80s. His live bandmate had a keytar, seriously. The indefatigable artist sang jumped around the stage in a white turtleneck and smart trousers, while imploring to the audience to go wild between songs. In this small room in the early afternoon filled with perspiration and good vibes, you realised you were witnessing something special.

Another problem with the sunshine, if you want to call it a problem, was that there were so many people out and about in Brighton, it was like playing a game of urban Frogger trying to get where you needed to go. On my way back up from the seaside, I’d intended to make it to Jubilee Square to see Jealous of the Birds. I previously saw Naomi Campbell and her self-described ‘grandma-chic’-dressed solo set when she supported The Divine Comedy last November in Birmingham. This was my opportunity to see her again with a full band since their appearance at Dublin Tengu at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016. (Carrie had seen them several times 6 months later at SXSW 2017.) It was not meant to be, as just as like Boy Azooga the day before, I arrived too late.

I wish to note here that as mentioned in my first previous of The Great Escape 2018, there were several venues by the seaside new to this edition of the event. This year, oddly or not, famed seaside rock venue Concorde 2 was not utilised, but The Beach venues were not far off from it. Many friends who ventured down to the Beach said that unless you planned a significant amount of time to see bands there to make it worth it (translation: at least two acts and/or 2 hours), it wasn’t worth the walk down, only to have to walk back up. Another band who were on my list of tipped bands for both Live at Leeds 2018 and the Great Escape were Kent’s Lady Bird, whose both appearances in Brighton clashed with other acts on my schedule. While I was disappointed to have missed them, their signing to Slaves’ own Girl Fight Records suggests they’ll be seeing American shores soon enough.

As mentioned in my Friday evening roundup, it’s often hard to find time to get a bite to eat at The Great Escape. Early morning breakfast fortification is key, but when you can stop long enough for table food service, you stop. This was the thinking behind hosting the first ever TGTF Free Clinic for Artists and Writers at the Earth and Stars, a gastropub that caters to coeliacs, vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike. London booker and former TGTF contributor Braden Fletcher and I hosted the event, giving advice to and answering questions from the artists who stopped by. We also partaked on the gluten-free fish and chips, which were delicious. Although turnout wasn’t as high as we’d hoped (we were up against both the PRS Foundation and Killing Moon mixers), I was happy to make some new contacts and friends.

Now, Now Friday the Great Escape 2018

Our bellies satiated, it was time to pick up some more music. At Braden’s recommendation, we headed back down to the seaside to the aforementioned Killing Moon and LAB Records free Alternative Escape showcase at the Hub. Plagued by PA issues, it wasn’t surprising to see when we arrived that Minneapolis synthpop band Now, Now decided to leave the venue entirely to do an acoustic set on the beach. Band and a large group of onlookers cross-legged on the pebbles of the Brighton seaside were quite a sight to behold. Despite going without amplification and keys and interruption from revelers’ peripheral noise, massive keyboard-driven hit ‘Yours’ sounded like a completely different animal than what’s on record. Isolated, the gentle voice of neon pink-haired KC Dalager sounded magical and made for an only-at-The-Great-Escape experience.

My plan to knock out both Brisbane’s Hatchie and SXSW 2017 alum Ten Tonnes off my list meant actually getting into both the Arch and Coalition for their Clash magazine and Music Week showcase-opening sets there, respectively, that night. I found that I faced the same soundboard placement at Hatchie’s show that I encountered at whenyoung Thursday night. Yeah, not getting in…


We hosted our own stage at Coalition at The Great Escape 2011, so I know it’s not that big of a place. The queue went all the way down the block. Groan. Crestfallen, I walked away from the door trying to decide my next move when I spied an all-too happy sunglassed young man in denim. Couldn’t be… No, it was indeed Henry Wade of The Orielles, who we’ve supported for many years at TGTF. I hadn’t seen their crew play since CMW 2016 and in case you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that they released their debut album ‘Silver Dollar Moment’ in February on Heavenly Recordings. Sitting on the beach, drinking beer with dear friends, was priceless.

British bands and music industry folks talk about how much fun they have at SXSW, but I seem to have much more fun at UK events like The Great Escape. I run into and catch up with old friends who live over here as if no time has passed at all. Due to clashes, I didn’t get to see The Orielles play live in Brighton, but judging from the reception they’ve been receiving everywhere following the release of their debut, my presence at their shows is no longer really needed. With Heavenly behind them, they’re well on their way.

For more of my photos from Friday at the Great Escape 2018, go here.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Rachel K Collier (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 11th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Part 1 of this interview feature with the fabulous Rachel K Collier is through here.

We chat a bit about her performance at Latitude 30, which I was lucky enough to witness. Collier emphasises that her live show is very much a work in progress. “Without four cameras on me [to film and for the audience to see what she’s doing], I need to be interacting with the crowd. So I’ve had to simplify some of my live set. Otherwise, I’m just standing there, pressing buttons. Where’s my connection with the crowd? If I’m constantly triggering, I have be behind Push all the time. I’m still working on it, I’m constantly refining my live show. I realised quite quickly that I’m a performer. I want to be out there with the crowd. I’ll do whatever I can to combine both things. I never want to hit Play on a track. That’s just boring. Someone once asked me, ‘why don’t you just press Play?’ I want to have the freedom to trigger the clips whenever I want to bring them in. I want to loop whatever I want to loop. I want to be able to do things on the fly. I get a bit of a buzz from it!”

The Welsh artist is also eager to lift the veil over what is all too often a black box for electronic music fans. “In the future, we’d like to get cameras on the Push, so people can really see what I’m doing. No one can see the lights on the Push and what I can see.” I point out that as a female producer, songwriter and performer, she’s an all too rare breed these days. The very existence of Rachel K Collier and the success she has garnered so far can only be a positive thing for the future of electronic music, I explain. Having someone like her out front, showing a woman can make it in the electronic genre and have fun doing it is a huge thing.

“I trigger a new scene at the end of a song to trigger the tempo of the new song. If you trigger a clip, you stay in the previous song’s tempo. When I go from ‘And I Breathe’ mid-set, I have a big pitch drop before I drop the tempo from 123 to 94 for ‘Poison’. If I talk over the clip, I lose where the 1 [count] is, but then I need to bring in the next clip in, and it could come in anywhere. Maybe I should have a marker somewhere so I know where I am, but really, that’s part of the fun. A year ago, I would have been like, oh gosh, everything has to be perfect. Now I’m like okay, you know what, I’m triggering the clips, sometimes it’s going to go wrong, and I can actually now laugh about it. It’s live! Sometimes it’s good when stuff goes wrong. Actually, something did go wrong Tuesday, in the intro for ‘And I Breathe’. The controllers were moving, and I hit the BPM knob by accident. Luckily, where I was in the project, new scene, boom!”

She starts to laugh. “I’ve gone all nerdy on this. Is that okay?” I assure her it’s perfectly fine. To be honest, her being so detailed and ‘getting in the weeds’, so to speak, on her live show is further proof just how complicated her process is and how she’s taking it in her stride. Collier is also very adamant about making sure her music has meaning. Referencing her Quickfire Questions answer about a song that makes her laugh, she conveys her appreciation for Everything Everything’s ‘No Reptiles’ and the way Jonathan Higgs writes his lyrics. “With a lot of their music, I’m like, did he really say that? I like stuff with loads of imagery, because I do that in my lyrics as well. I’m really happy with reviews of my music when people say, ‘yeah, it’s dance music, but it has meaning. It has words, it has real lyrics. That’s what I didn’t really like about writing generic top lines, in any old time signature. It didn’t mean anything. Yeah, it’s going to make people dance, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I want to be able to dance, but I also want to be able to sing something that means something. As an artist, I had to get my head round that I need to be saying something.”

She is quick to point out the potential contradiction she has in her own preference for music. “I love straight dance. I’m a raver. You could probably tell from my set!” Everyone says, ‘you have so much energy’. I’m really a passionate musician. And I made that music! This is so nerdy, but that actual groove of ‘Poison’ is a fast groove at 124, and I shoved it into MetaSynth. It’s this really nerdy granular synthesis program, it’s my secret weapon now. If I want something that’s a bit edgy, I chuck it in there, it’s like a playground. You can go in there and mess stuff up. I slowed this 124 down, I pitch shifted it down. I liked it and brought that sound back into Ableton, put my own kick and snare [drums] into it. I’m really fussy, there’s three kicks in there, I made one of the kicks in my Korg MiniLogue, sampled it, cut it up perfect. I like taking bits of the other tracks and resample it. See, this comes back to Ableton. You can’t do that in Logic or ProTools. That’s what I mean when I say it [Ableton] helps me express myself.”

There have been a few bumps this week in Austin, but nothing serious that could dampen her mood. “South By has been a bit of a learning curve. Some of the sound engineers are not as familiar with this kind of electro vibe. Some of them are like, ‘what is all this?’” It’s a nice segue to my next question, asking Collier how she’s been treated in the electronic world as a woman. So far, Grimes has been the most vocal female artist in the electronic genre to complain about the sexist treatment she’s faced. “It definitely happens when [you’re a woman and] you’re a producer. When you’re performing, they probably think someone else produced it, or whatever. My first EP, I remember playing it to someone. ‘Oh, who produced it?’ Uh, me? He just went on, thinking that I was the featured artist on the record. I was like, what the hell?”

Rachel K Collier Words You Never Heard EP cover

“I’ve had a few things [like that] happen. With my first self-release, I did it on Love & Other, a really small label. [That EP, ‘Words You Never Heard’, got a review of 8/10 on Mixmag. Not bad at all straight out of the gate – Ed.] That was really cool, a nice starter. I look back at that stuff and go, gosh, that’s really basic. Then my first-ever self release on AWAL, I got a comment, ‘great track! Whoever produced this for Rachel should do a whole album with her.’ I said to Ben, email them now, tell them I bloody produced it! Get that message through. Some people just don’t connect girl and a bass line. Girl and drums. Girl and computer. There’s a girl called Nightwave, she’s a female DJ, she did a Boiler Room and people totally slated her [read more about that incident here]. She’s now set up this whole thing [with other UK female electronic producers] called Producergirls. She does her lecture with quotes like ‘Who did she do to get there?’ and ‘Oh, she must have a ghost producer’, all this crap boys say.

“It [being a woman] works in my favour, in a way. Red Bull has their #NormalNotNovelty [music workshop], I’ve done some stuff with those guys as well. So I’m proud I’m a girl and doing it. Screw you guys. It’s funny, I’ve helped many guys with their Ableton sets. I’ll tell them we’ll FaceTime later. I love teaching it as well. Every single person I help is a guy. It’s really cool, because they’re like, ‘Rachel really knows her stuff about Ableton, let me call her.’ I might actually apply to be a certified trainer now. I might as well just do it. I’m already helping people.”

Reaching out in such a way seems entirely natural for Collier, although her initial foray into YouTube “started off slow. But people are really into it now. My single’s out today. I filmed a little talk-through inside the screen and put that on YouTube last night. ‘Here’s the project using Ableton Live 10. It looks beautiful. Here’s the bass, here’s drums, here’s the keys. Here’s the riff I did.’ I want to be transparent as well. I want to be honest. I couldn’t be anything else. Some other people are like, I don’t talk to anyone, I don’t tell anyone my secrets. That’s just not my character. I’m better being myself.”

She’s very excited for the work coming up for the rest of the year. “I’m going to be producing my album now, and then I’ll be making an Ableton video for my single ‘Darkshade’ that was released today.” Although Collier is based in Wales, she’s very cognisant of staying in the public consciousness in territories beyond where she’s from. “We’ve learnt we need to keep building our presence here in the States.“ Sounds like us Americans might be seeing much more of Rachel K Collier in the coming months. Fingers crossed! Massive thanks, Rachel, for taking the time for this interview.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Rachel K Collier (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 10th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

By the time I manage to pin down Rachel K Collier at SXSW 2018, she’s already had a busy week. It’s Friday afternoon, we’re sat with drinks in the swanky bar at the Omni Hotel, and the electronic phenom from Swansea is so comfortable being in Austin, slang that’s only used by seasoned veterans of the festival is already rolling off her tongue. Positivity is exuding out of every pore of this up-and-coming Welsh artist. “I’m going to be bringing out my album in September. We wanted to release two singles [ahead of that] and I thought, what perfect timing! There will be loads going on at South By, I might as well release a single today [‘Darkshade’]. My Instagram followers have gone up since I arrived, [up by] about 130?” She flashes a grin, even though her time in Austin has been totally chockablock. “Loads of little things with the press, with radio, BBC Wales did an interview with me last night. It’s all timing together quite nicely.”

Collier began her time in Austin at Hotel Vegas, a venue with big names all week but a bit out of the way, east of the city centre. By her account, her maiden voyage to Austin clearly began on a high note. “It was like the crowd was on fire. They were so energetic! I did one filter and they were [all] like, ‘whooooo!’” She raises her arms up for added effect. “And at the end, I had an encore. You know, at South By, you have 40 minutes, that’s it, isn’t it? But because I was last, it was crazy.” She’d already been through all her songs and asked the audience what to do. “Play ‘Paper Tiger’ again!”, they shouted. “I got all the audience singing, and I looped them [in]. It was an amazing show.”

She appears both surprised and chuffed by the local reception. “Monday night, it seemed to be all Austin and American guys [in the audience]. It was totally rammed…that’s actual exposure, then, isn’t it? You really are showcasing to new people. Monday was cool because there were fans there who follow me on YouTube. Monday night, they were dancing like mad, they were loving it. Tuesday night [the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation-supported showcase at Latitude 30], they were more of an industry crowd.” Collier already has her sights set on returning to SXSW. “Next year, I want to play to people who have never heard of me. I met this guy who said to me, ‘oh, best South By find this year!’, so it’s like yay! He’s discovered me! The response has been amazing.”

When you’re far from home, it can be astonishingly validating to get approval from crowds you’ve never encountered before. “It’s funny, Mary, I feel like I’m in the right place. I feel like I should be here, it’s important for my career. Also, because I’m Welsh, it is great, because the press back in Wales is like, pow pow pow! Rachel K Collier! They’re pushing it constantly in Wales. There’s only six Welsh artists here, which really helps, to be in the minority. Being female, doing electronic music, again, it’s different. But I’ve been really lucky, Ableton is supporting me, and PRS Foundation, BBC Introducing, yeah, it’s been really cool!”

2017 proved to be a pivotal year for Collier, the live artist. “Last year was a really awesome year because I did my first UK tour. Last year was my transition from making the YouTube videos to the stage. It happened [all] very fast. I was doing my YouTube video, and then I was doing my first college performance and I was opening different Projects, different songs. Then I had another show and thought, okay, I need to do three songs, and they need to be in the same project.” Soon enough, she found herself needing to take her music up a major notch. “By July, I was playing in the Czech Republic at Beats for Love Festival. I had to do an hour set. So it was like, right, okay, now I need to have songs. It took a year to take the live show and refine it, refine it, refine it, refine it.

“In December, we played a sold-out show at London Koko. It was an amazing way to finish the year, to go from that little college show, to all these little workshops, to bigger shows, to the UK tour. I thought, oh god. I hope it’s going to continue into next year, and then you get the email from South By. Ben [her manager] called me and said, “You’re not going to believe this. We’re going to South by Southwest!”

With a fresh perspective of how her music has been received on this side of the pond, she says almost with a tear, “I felt quite emotional this week. The response from the crowd on Monday! There were some guys from Monday night, they were saying, [changes to American Texan accent] ‘we follow you on YouTube and saw you were coming to Austin, like no frickin’ way!’ One of them, Alex, he was so cool. He posted a pic [from the show] with the caption, ‘Rachel, you crushed your first American show!’ …they could come to the first show because it was an unofficial showcase. When we were planning for SXSW, of course we were interested in all the official showcases, but I was like no, man. The unofficial ones are cool because they don’t require the industry / wristband thing. It’s been really cool, I hope it all continues.”

Unexpectedly, Collier has become an ambassador for music software giant Ableton. But perhaps maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise? She’s a self-described “hardcore fan” and “diehard enthusiast” of their products, so I ask her just what she loves about it so much. It sounds like she could talk for days on how much it makes her work easier, though she went through a period of not using it at all. “I studied Music Tech at uni, it was all about making music with technology, that was the whole kind of vibe. We’d have to do these recitals that were innovative and new and no one had seen before. I thought, I want to do something on stage. I don’t want a looping pedal, I want to loop stuff, I want to make up some weird stuff. My teacher introduced me to Ableton and said, ‘try this’. I was working in session view for performance. I thought, this is cool.” Turns out, unbeknownst to me, Collier had been in a different part of the songwriting world for a while. “Fast forward a few years, moved to London, I was doing a lot of top-lining kind of work, recording in Logic and ProTools. I thought, you know what, I hate this, I want to produce again. I met Ben and he asked, ‘do you produce in Ableton?’ ‘I haven’t used that in ages, I love Ableton! But I thought that was only for live stuff.’ ‘No, you can produce in it.’

“For the first time ever, I saw Arrangement [View], I have no idea how I missed it. So then I started producing in Ableton. It sounds cheesy, but I felt like I connected with it. This is how I can express myself. I’m just a super fan! I absolutely love it. I started producing again, I was really happy. I released the first EP I made myself, I produced it myself. But then I was like, ooh, I want to perform it, though! That’s what I love about Ableton. You can take this production that you’ve done – I’ve obviously started everything in Session View – go to Arrange View, and then you can simply go back into Session View and construct this whole Project.”

Collier’s next step was to share her music with the public, and in a way so many bedroom producers do these days. “I started my YouTube channel, still loving Ableton. Then I decided I wanted to meet them. I need to meet someone there, tell them how much I love it and thank them, show them my work. I went to ADE [Amsterdam Dance Event] 2016 – I played this year – and I went to ADE purely to meet someone from Ableton. I went to the Ableton stand and I met this amazing guy named Jan from Dutch Ableton. By then I’d had 400,000 views of ‘Nothing is Forever’ on my YouTube channel [There are now over 1.4 million views of this video of Collier’s – Ed.]. He said, ‘cool, email me.’ He replied straight away, that really doesn’t happen in our industry. He introduced me to the UK team, Mike, Simon, and Danny, and they replied, “hi Rachel, come in for a chat.” They said, will you do a convention with us, can you do a performance? And that was my first-ever outside of YouTube performance with my APC [Akai Professional Ableton Performance Controller] and my [Ableton] Push.”

Since taking that chance to find Ableton staff at ADE 2016, she’s “really bonded” with not only with the London Ableton team but with the team at Ableton HQ in Berlin, who asked her to front their Ableton Live 10 global campaign. “It was so cool, because it was the first time ever [for an Ableton release], as a female producer, ‘would you come over and produce, and make a track for our Live 10 release?’ It’s not, ‘go and do the top-line because you’re a girl and you sing’, it’s ‘go and produce the music’. I was like, hell yeah! I flew out to Berlin a couple of times and got to go to Ableton HQ, use Ableton 10, use the new plugins, Pedal, the Echo, the Groups Within Groups. I was meant to be second on the video because my BPM was around 130, and the structure of the video was such that they were going to showcase this tempo, and then this tempo, and then this tempo.

“Because of the way I write and I sing, and they have this new Metronome feature, they said, oh wait, we’re going to put you on first. It was such an amazing experience. They are just so cool and so supportive.” It’s evident from the smile on her face to see that Ableton is really a part of Rachel K Collier, the artist, and she’s wholly appreciative of their efforts. “When you on stage and you’ve got a slammin’ sound system, everything is running from the laptop into the sound card, everything goes into Ableton, through my sound card, and back out again. Vocals, all the synths, all the clips, all the samples, all the looping. So it’s mega that I can actually perform like that. And it’s all because they made that.” Ableton also introduced her to Indian online music magazine and community forum Wild City, who just began an initiative last November to be more inclusive in the music industry towards women. Part of the initiative is bringing Collier out to Bangalore, India, with support from the British Council, for a 2-day workshop where she will teach her most favourite subject. “Basically I’m going to hang out with young Indian girls and teach them Ableton. Dream! I spend most of my life looking at Ableton. It’s pretty bad. Someone once said to me, you talk about Ableton all the time. Well, it’s kind of my life, to be honest!”

Enjoyed this? Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Rachel K Collier, which will post here tomorrow.

 

SXSW 2018: Brits and Americans late Wednesday night – 14th March 2018 (Part 4)

 
By on Thursday, 29th March 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

BBC Sound of 2018 nominee Sam Fender hails from Newcastle, and it must be a boon to the young man to have been invited to play at the inaugural This is Tomorrow festival astride the Tyne in May. It just so happens I will be at that event, so I viewed seeing Fender in Austin, out of his normal environment, an exciting preview of his appearance back home in 2 months’ time. Although the North East singer/songwriter’s music on record sounds like the polished pop on the charts, a closer listen to each song reveals he’s got more on his mind than girls and relationships. There were definitely more young girls than guys of any age down the front waiting for him at Latitude 30.

Sam Fender Wednesday at SXSW 2018 3

“This is a song about going out on a Friday night and getting beat up” was how he introduced ‘Friday Fighting’ in a deadpan manner. I was struck by the cynicism of ‘Millennial’, it made me think of the kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and how some adults have attacked them for being “young and dumb”. You have to give Fender props for the conviction to stick to his guns thematically and lyrically. Carrie didn’t invoke Bruce Springsteen’s name in her preview of his appearance at SXSW 2018, but I’m going to go there now. His exuberant, powerful performance – playing a Fender guitar, of course – suggests he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Sam Fender Wednesday at SXSW 2018 2

Bowing out of Latitude 30 after Fender left the stage, I popped over to Friends bar on 6th Street, which for me is one of the most underrated SXSW venues. There’s no cover, even during SXSW, and the bar goes on for quite a distance. Very rarely is it chockablock, which is a relief for those of us who suffer from claustrophobia and need room to breathe. Funny I just mentioned The Boss, as the artist who was finishing up at Friends was an artist from Asbury Park, New Jersey, which, at least to Americans, is associated in our minds with Springsteen. I think any artist coming from the town must know they will be compared to him and probably don’t want to go down the rock route.

Farrow (not to be confused with Leeds electronic artist Matt Farrow, who also goes by the same mononym) are an ambient duo from Jersey. The problem here was a mismatch of artist and venue. The level of sound from their electronics were no match for the size of the bar, and I couldn’t tell if this was a problem with amplification, or the act actually intended such a gentle performance. I’m intrigued by the tunes on their Soundcloud, so I’d guess they’d sound better in the right environment.

Annie Hart Wednesday at SXSW 2018

Carrie and I have surmised the past few years that artists are spending less time the week of SXSW in order to save on accommodation in Austin; shows with paltry attendance like this one and earlier in the week seem to support the idea that visitors to Austin, whether they be industry or not, are also cutting back on their time in town. Following Farrows was synthpop solo artist Annie Hart, of New York City’s Au Revoir Simone, a band I first heard of through their collaboration with Friendly Fires on their early hit ‘Paris’. She was dressed in an all, black, body-hugging outfit, making it easy for her to dance, even while she was playing her Nord keyboard. Despite her sprightliness and giving it her all on songs like the melancholic ‘I Don’t Want Your Love’, Hart’s performance fell flat in the absence of an audience to listen to her, which was a real shame.

I returned to the Townsend for the final two acts of the Focus Wales showcase. At least that was the plan. Feted up-and-coming house artist Doc Daneeka was supposed to be onstage by the time I arrived. Instead, I found him scratching his head and working with who I later found out was an ill-prepared SXSW staff member who was pinch-hitting for the actual sound man and ended up frying some of his equipment by trying to plug in UK plugs into an American socket. The labels on this power strip at Latitude 30 may be the way to go for UK artists at SXSW in the future, eh? The Focus Wales staff kept offering me drinks but as it was so late, I decided to sit down and wait until they got it together. More than half an hour behind schedule, Doc Daneeka admirably rolled with the punches, spinning on his two turntables a smooth, mesmerising set that was welcome after a long day of work and play in Austin. Two house fans excitedly approached him after he finished, wanting to shake his hand and get photographs with him; I’m sure this meant so much after playing to a small crowd.

Doc Daneeka Wednesday at SXSW 2018 2

Rachel K Collier was given the last slot at the Townsend. Like Doc Daneeka, she had trouble getting her equipment hooked up and working. I hung on for as long as I could, until nearly 2 AM, before I finally cried uncle and had to drag my feet back to the hotel. I was glad to have seen Collier the night before at the British Music Embassy and despite my missing third appearance of the week, I’m confident I’ll get another chance to see her play sometime soon. For more photos of my Wednesday night at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2018: artists from all over Tuesday night – 13th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 22nd March 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Like Tuesdays, Monday nights at SXSW aren’t usually that busy. Generally, there’s a dearth of showcases. At SXSW 2018, there was plenty for me to see and plenty of acts for me to tick off my list, which was great news. English singer/songwriter Gemma Ray, who now calls Berlin home, opened the evening at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary. Resplendent in bright yellow and blue, Ray conjured up a blend of country, folk and blues with her backing band of a keyboardist and drummer. It’s too bad that the early start of her set meant she played only to a half-full room.

Gemma Ray Tuesday at SXSW 2018

Holy Motors from Estonia were up next at St. David’s. As one of my tips for SXSW 2018, the five member strong, female-fronted group from Tallinn captured my ears, along with those of domestic SiriusXM Alt Nation station DJs. The sound of Eliann Tulve’s intonings, along with her bandmates’ droning guitars, made for a mesmerising sound. At times, the lack of movement from the guitarists, except of course to strum the strings on their instruments, made it seem they themselves were self-hypnotised to their songs. Holy Motors’ sound is beautiful, indeed, but they’re a less than exciting proposition live.

Holy Motors Tuesday at SXSW 2018 2

To inject a bit more liveliness into my evening, I headed down to 6th Street, specifically to B.D. Riley’s, for some Americans’ antics. Orange County long-haired rockers The Jacks had already begun a hair-raising set, the punters assembled for them down close to the stage and excited to hear them knock out song after song. Although a friend commented to me that they sounded and looked like every other band from Orange County, after Holy Motors’ set, their raucous rock was like a welcome splash of cold water to the face. They were only in town for 2 nights, stopping through Austin during their tour of Texas.

The Jacks Tuesday at SXSW 2018

Having been brought back to life by The Jacks, I bounded over to nearby Latitude 30 for a visit to the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation-sponsored showcase at the British Music Embassy. I had some good fortune to catch one of only two evening appearances by Jerry Williams (pictured at top), whose name sounds like a country and western artist. In actuality, she’s an up-and-coming young singer/songwriter from Portsmouth. Unsigned as of the time she embarked to her trip to Austin, her (dare I say it) young girl adorable, bouncy voice and poppy tunes probably hit the spot to more than a few A&Rs in the audience.

Following Williams was another talented up-and-coming female artist, Swansea’s Rachel K Collier. Like Williams, she has been self-releasing and -producing her own music, part of the growing cabal of strong young women showing the boys, not to mention the industry, that they know what they’re doing, can do it all by themselves and with incredible results.

Rachel K Collier Tuesday at SXSW 2018 2

Electronic has notoriously been a difficult genre for women to break through in. Collier’s smarts in creating seriously catchy beats and melodies, while also inserting her personal touch with lyrics about her own life and experiences, has translated to dance music that connects to both dance and electronic fans, along with those who want more. Stepping occasionally from behind her electronics and into centre stage at the venue to sing and pogo along with the audience, the Welsh talent proved she can put on an exciting stage show. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Collier conducted in Austin soon here on TGTF.

I stayed put at the British Music Embassy for a brief taste of highly hyped, 2018 NME Under the Radar Award winners Manchester band Pale Waves, who Carrie previewed back in January. While I knew they were tour and label mates with the massively popular, and SXSW 2013 alumni The 1975, I didn’t realise how closely their pop/rock songs mimicked those of their Manchester friends. Whereas Rachel K Collier and her percussionist Rhii brought bright colours to Latitude 30, Pale Waves turned things decidedly monochrome, frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie favouring checkerboard trousers, making me think of another SXSW showcasing band, The Specials. Her thick eyeliner was reminiscent of one her biggest band influence, Robert Smith and The Cure.

Carrie and I crossed paths at the Victorian Room at the Driskill Hotel, her catching Manchester’s Chloe Foy and Scot Colin Macleod before I arrived. I hung around during what seemed a particularly long soundcheck for Oxfordshire’s Rhys Lewis (see my preview feature on him here). He and his band were having trouble with multiple devices, including the pedal to his piano. Maybe he would have been better off with an acoustic set like this one filmed by the BBC on 6th Street? I haven’t spent much time in the performance space in the historic hotel over the years I’ve done SXSW and this year, I felt this niggling discomfort in the room while I waited. While his vocals on recent single ‘Bloodstains’ and ode to London ‘Living in the City’ sounded great, the venue just didn’t seem quite right for the singer/songwriter, as punters sat cross-legged in front of him, giving the performance a primary school feel and not one of being at SXSW.

Rhys Lewis Tuesday at SXSW 2018

My final band of Tuesday night were Mullingar’s The Academic, who both Carrie and I covered at SXSW 2017. Having just finished their first major North American tour, the Irish pop/rock group were able to fit in this special performance at The Main II, a return to Austin to cap off their time in our country. At the start of this year, they released their debut album ‘Tales from the Backseat’, a collection of fun, toe-tapping tunes. Read my review of the LP through here. They played an unusually long set by SXSW standards; I was half-expecting the light to be switched on and for them to get the hook at some point, but venue staff let them keep going.

The Academic Tuesday at SXSW 2018

The crowd was a mix of fans who had the album and people who had never heard of them. It’s unclear where the locally-based Irish students fit in this spectrum, but as several of my Irish musician friends have repeated to me, “if an Irish band is playing, we all come out and show our support”. Hooting and hollering ensued during and between songs, including singles ‘Bear Claws’ and ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ They ended their set with an amazing cover of ‘Linger’ by the Cranberries. I got chills as all of us in the venue sang along with the and with gusto. While they didn’t explicitly say so, I’m sure the decision to include it was a loving tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan who died unexpectedly in January. Theirs was a wonderful, well-formed set that showed maturity, the result of plain ol’ hard work in this often fickle business. It was hard to believe this was the same band I saw at the Music from Ireland showcase last year. Upwards and onwards! For more photos from my Tuesday night at SXSW 2018, go here.

 

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

 
By on Thursday, 8th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

In terms of the SXSW shouts this year, the field of UK representatives in electronic music is stronger than ever. For starters, despite only sending a handful of acts to Austin this year, Wales admirably has two of the most intriguing electronic acts set to appear from all from the UK. House producer and DJ Doc Daneeka, who now calls Paris home, is named after a character in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. That’s certainly worth a drink and a chat in Austin, methinks. His 1-hour mixtape ‘WALK.MAN’ has delighted dance fans with its varied textures and interesting drops. Singer and electronic artist Rachel K Collier is a rising star from the coastal town of Swansea. Through Grimes’ sharing of her own terrible experiences, we know how difficult it can be for women in the electronic genre. Collier is, then, an important inspiration to young girls everywhere who are keen on getting involved in electronic, as she proves it’s not only entirely possible for a woman to break through in this genre but you can also have fun doing it and in the way you want to.

Moving our way up to Scotland, we’ve got a trio of all-caps acts to introduce you to. I featured Dumfries-bred ONR. (pronounced “honour”; pictured at top) in his own Bands to Watch preview last week. He’s been a difficult man to unmask, literally. To be fair, this might have been his intention all along, to let his music and sounds speak for themselves so we wouldn’t get sucked into his appearance or his backstory. Needless to say, at least for myself anyway, the mystery swirling around Mister ONR. has lead to my anxious anticipation of seeing him perform at SXSW. Professional and personal partners LAPS (short for Ladies as Pimps) and all-male band LYLO are both from Glasgow, yet they couldn’t be any more different. LAPS’ 2016 EP release ‘WHO ME?’ mixes their dancehall and dub influences that sound incredibly unique coming out of Scotland’s cultural capital. LYLO, on the other hand, are a synthpop group who also revel in reverb and the occasional saxophone solo.

Moving our way around and down to the big smoke, where you’d expect a lot of electronic acts to hail from, or at least be making their first career moves from. Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville, electronic duo IDER, received a shout from SXSW last year but could not come then. So it’s really great that they’ll be making their way to Austin next week. We featured the videos for their past singles ‘Learn to Let Go’ and ‘Body Love’ on TGTF, two songs I’ll be looking forward to hear them performing. With a less shouty band name, soulful cousin duo Otzeki originally from East Anglia will also be making the journey to Texas. Earlier this week, we posted this feature on the electronic-inclined pair, who will be previewing their upcoming debut album ‘Binary Childhood’ to be released on their own label Discophorus in April. Along with three other acts, I also previewed their appearances in Austin in a brief write-up in the the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, which you can read through here.

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 schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook or official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

 
 
 

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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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