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SXSW 2012: Day 5 – Huw Stephens / UK Trade and Investment showcase at Latitude 30 – 17th March 2012

 
By on Friday, 6th April 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

In an unusual bit of SXSW programming, Dutch Uncles was due to open the next British Music Embassy showcase at Latitude 30 after closing out the Northern Day showcase just 2 hours earlier. This evening showcase was being sponsored by UK Trade and Investment and was curated by Radio1 presenter Huw Stephens, who appeared playing some plinky plonky chords to introduce Dutch Uncles. Despite having just played 2 hours ago, the band were still in fine form, starting first with ‘X-O’ (see video below). Wallis quipped, “for the asbestos crowd, this is a toe-tapper” to preface ‘Orval’. Humour and a lot of energy wrapped around great songs? Just about perfect.

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The next band was London’s Clock Opera. Before they performed, I couldn’t put my finger on what they sounded like. To be honest, I’d first heard of them through all the remixes they’ve done for other people (such as the Clock Opera remix of Metronomy’s ‘The Bay’). So this was the first time I’d really see them perform in their own right. Maximized beard owner and lead singer Guy Connelly – who I was introduced to later that evening over drinks and who I coincidentally discovered we’d eaten at the same restaurant, Roaring Fork, the night before – led his band through a set that included – very surprisingly – a moment where it looks liked they’d raided their mums’ kitchens and started banging on pots, pans and trays. Friends had told me they were similar to Friendly Fires, but even Friendly Fires can’t match the whimsy of this band from London. They were excellent.

I missed Django Django to get pizza and sweet tea iced lollies while visiting my new friends Fiction, people I’d not met before but I had seen perform in Manchester in December. They had discovered a shy Jimi Hendrix-themed busker playing in an alley. Bless. When we returned to Latitude 30, I was surprised to see D/R/U/G/S onstage; Maverick Sabre was unable to perform, I’m not sure what happened, but D/R/U/G/S stepped in to fill the gap. (Read my description of his PRS brunch performance here.)

Slow Club followed, with Rebecca Taylor wearing royal blue Sheffield kit and drawing the ire of the non-Sheffield fans in the house when she yelled, “Sheffield, whoooo!” Guessing that outburst might have worked better at Northern Day? I thought back to Valentine’s Day about a month before in DC, when I’d seen them live in Washington. She was poorly then; her voice now sounded better than ever, with the now rammed Latitude 30 buzzing, mostly filled with their fans.

I later spotted Django Django huddled around a table, for sure having celebratory drinks all around after their last performance at SXSW, the same kind of farewell drinks many of my bands friends, new and old, and I were having. “Hold on / to where you’re from / it’s where the heart goes / when you’re done” shouted Taylor in a bluesy and brassy voice for ‘Two Cousins’ to finish out their set. I could feel myself growing sadder by the moment. The longer the night wore on, the closer we were getting to the end of SXSW.

Though we stayed for part of Toddla T’s shuffling and snuffling through electronic genres, finally we all had to say our goodbyes and I wished some very good friends safe travels back across the pond. It might sound odd that as a UK blog editor I had embraced the music coming from Britain the most from all my time in Austin. I might be an American born and bred, but I have an English heart. As I look forward to May and to my return to England for the Great Escape (the Southern England answer to SXSW) and Liverpool Sound City (the Northern England answer to SXSW), I feel energised by all the people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on this trip. And I truly believe, on the strengths of the bands that wowed and made proud at SXSW, that good music is everywhere. You just need to be open to it, to let down your guard, leave your prejudices at the door. You don’t need to be at SXSW or another music festival – good music is out there, waiting for you to find it.

There is not enough space in a TGTF blog post to thank all the people I spent quality time with: bands, bands’ management, people working for the festival, blog people, radio people and just plain ol’ fans either local to Austin or who traveled all kinds of crazy distances to experience SXSW just like I did. From the bottom of my heart, cheers everyone.

More high-res photos from the Huw Stephens / UK Trade and Investment showcase can be viewed on my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2012: Day 5 – Northern Day showcase at Latitude 30 – 17th March 2012

 
By on Friday, 6th April 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day, the 17th of March. The last full day of bands at SXSW, and I give myself the reward of a lie-in, however slight. Local friends ferry me to the best photography show in town, as something’s been wrong with my camera lens since Friday afternoon. Diagnosis isn’t good – there’s something wrong with the lens and the manufacturer needs to open it – but I rush back to Latitude 30 to catch the start of the Northern Day showcase. Ghosting Season from Manchester begins the showcase. As with D/R/U/G/S at the PRS brunch yesterday, I started out skeptical. But then Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale broke out the guitars. How many electronica acts do you know who bring out the axes during a show?

Usually, I get bored with the regular run of the mill electronica artistes, lost in their own world, too busy fiddling around with switch and knobs to notice that the audience is there and indeed, they are there to equally entertain the audience as they are to entertain themselves. I didn’t expect to, but I loved these guys. You could tell by the way they moved their bodies – in front of their tables full of magical boxes and consoles – that they “got” the rhythm, that the rhythm moved them, that this wasn’t a phoned-in performance. Manchester, thanks for nurturing this duo of mad beats.

Next up was Polarsets, who I interviewed (well, the two-thirds of them with IDs) yesterday at B.D. Riley’s. What I found very interesting talking to James and Mike the day before was how they described their hometown at Whitley Bay as having a tropical atmosphere. Their song ‘Madrid’ is a great example of this. Below, watch them perform ‘Morning’.

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Sadly, Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s visa was not approved in time for SXSW, so I did not get to catch him in Austin. I also had to book it from Latitude 30 to the convention centre to meet Zulu Winter, for what would be their final press engagement of SXSW 2012. (Watch the interview here.) After a drink break at a nearby sports bar and a very delayed hamburger delivery, I hiked it back to Latitude 30 to catch Dutch Uncles finish out the Northern Day showcase. ‘Cadenza’ was billed as “our most Irish sounding song” and the crowd was invited to jig along with the band. Watch their spirited performance of ‘Face-In’ below.

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What definitely was the strangest moment of the day (and perhaps my entire SXSW experience) was when Daniel Bedingfield came strolling down the alley behind the venue. He evidently had no idea who Dutch Uncles were and was not buying singer Duncan Wallis’s eloquent explanation of the origin of their band name. After making some lame jokes that cannot be repeated in a family newspaper, he went on his way. Shortly thereafter, flamboyant Semi Precious Weapons lead singer Justin Tranter pranced his way down the alley past us, on high heels. Whatever happens in Austin, stays in Austin…?

More high-res photos of the Northern Day showcase can be viewed on my Flickr.

 

(SXSW flavoured!) Video(s) of the Moment #756: Keane

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

If you do not like Keane – and do not have a valid argument behind it – chances are we won’t be friends. I adore them. They’ve got a promo video for ‘Silenced by the Night’, the first taster from their new album, ‘Strangeland’, out on the 7th of May. Their first “mildly racy” video says one commenter. However you feel about the video, you’d got to admit, it’s a corker, full of all the sweeping grandeur we’ve come to know from Keane. Also included below is a live performance of it from SXSW.

Details of their May and June UK tour are here. Watch live videos of their Showdown at Cedar Street headlining set here, and read about the day showcase here.

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SXSW 2012: Day 4 – Communion showcase at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary – 16th March 2012

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

While the catchphrase of most returning SXSWers to newbies is “pace yourself”, mine would be “be sure to factor in some downtime”. And “don’t apologise to yourself if your body says to go home”. Before I went to see the Burning Ear showcase on Wednesday afternoon, I stopped into B.D. Riley’s (not knowing I’d return for an interview on Friday, then later for the Music for Ireland showcase) for a lazy pint of Harp and a plate of fish and chips. Sometimes I regret not rushing over to see Lionel Richie at the Moody Theatre on Wednesday, or not extending my gig-going over to Creekside at the Hilton Garden Inn to catch a 1 AM show in the wee hours of Friday morning to see Ed Sheeran. I was just too wiped. So I looked forward to Friday night immensely: hours of Communion Records artists all under one roof, the main room at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary. I even stopped long enough to have a meal at the Roaring Fork on North Congress – some of the best corn bread I’ve ever had, to boot – before sauntering over to the church.

That was when I realized I probably should have arrived early so I could get the correct instructions on how and where to queue. After being directly incorrectly and having stood in the wrong queue for at least a half hour, someone kind finally sorted me out and sent me to the right door…and straight into the main room.

Matt Corby from Sydney, Australia had already begun his set, so I shuffled quietly into an empty spot next to a guy who was studying his iPhone. And then started taking photos with it. With flash. The nerve. I don’t have an DSLR, and unless I’m given specific approval to use flash, I avoid using my flash as much as possible. And here was this guy just snapping away! I guess our pew was too far back for security to notice. I knew nothing about him before seeing him and even know as I’ve been writing this, I had to look up for more information on this bloke: he was a runner-up in an Australian Idol competition, so I guess he’s reasonably well known back home. But boy, when he announced he was going to play ‘Brother’, the crowd let out a big whoop. Guess they know him here too! Below is a free mp3 of his song ‘Winter’ that you can listen to.

The Staves, three sisters from Watford, were second on the bill. They were really disarming, joking about things that had happened to them the last time they had played in Austin, opening for the Civil Wars the previous autumn. Judging from the cheers, many of those people were present, but we could all join in with a giggle as a sister explained that a burly looking man stood up after one song and said (done in an exaggerated Texan accent), “did anyone else cry?” Haha (evidence near the end of the video below). But early in their set, one of them claimed Matt Corby was the devil and warned us, “don’t look into his eyes”. The audience laughed, but I had a “err…” moment, figuring that had to be some inside joke between the sisters and him. ‘Mexico’ had many fans already; new song ‘Tongue Between My Teeth’ was so beautiful in its harmonies, it gave me chills. They ended with the sad yet so beautiful song ‘Winter Trees’. Good work, girls.

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Next up is a man who longer needs an introduction in the UK: singer/songwriter Ben Howard. He came with his own cheering section. Seriously. Somehow I ended up in a pew with two Englishwomen and their guys, and the two women made it very clear they were there for Ben Howard, screaming every time he talked in between songs and squealing every time he played the first note of a song on his guitar. Watch ‘Black Flies’ below.

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Before Ben Howard took the stage, there was a low yet noticeable murmur going through the crowd. I didn’t know what was going on until a teenage girl across the aisle pointed towards the far wall and shouted at her brother, “it’s Mumford and Sons!” And it was – Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Country Winston and Ted Dwane were just chilling out on the side, as if you cheer on their folky friends’ performances. I was so sure that there was going to be a Mumford collaboration at some point during the night but sadly, there was not. The closest we got was an impromptu John Martyn cover performed at the end of Howard’s set, when he invited the Staves and later performer Michael Kiwanuka. I apologise for the quality of the visuals on the video below; the couple in front of me could not decide if they were going to snog (argh), talk (argh) or break away from each other.

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Willy Mason had the unique (dubious?) characteristic that of all the Communion artists performing I this showcase, he was the only American. I’d not heard of him until he had been associated with Communion, so I had mistaken him for an Englishman. He has a Johnny Cash aura about him (“man in black”) but a bit of rough and tumble like the Jim Jones Revue too. The coolest thing about his performance? His drummer’s kit was connected to a strange looking contraption that stood in the middle of the stage, so that whenever the drummer hit something on the kit, something else was set off on the contraption. Sorry to say, I wasn’t moved by his performance at all.

But I was adamant about staying put for the next act. The band I was most excited to see in this showcase was Daughter. As soon as I saw their name on the SXSW bands list, I was ecstatic. And I was not disappointed one bit. Unlike the teasing nature of the Staves earlier, Elena Tonra was so shy and soft-spoken but was adorable in her shyness. “Our name is Daughter. Nice to meet you. This one’s about death.” Laughter from the peanut gallery before they started into ‘Landfill’.

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That’s when I just about lost it. I think had I not been in such close proximity to strangers, I would have been a bawling mess on the floor. Through her words, it’s obvious she’s been dumped, she’s been hurt, she’s gotten her heart broken. In the song ‘Love’, she asks the lover that jilted her for some easy skirt, “did she make your heart beat faster than I could? / did she give you what you hoped for? / oh, loveless nights / I hope it made you feel good”. It’s like what they say, a woman scorned… All I can say is…wow. In my top 3 performances at SXSW, for sure.

After that emotional reaction to Daughter, BBC Sound of 2012 winner Michael Kiwanuka was a safe, if not super remarkable choice to watch after. Before he came out onstage, Ben Lovett, dressed to the nines in a debonair suit, gave a short and stirring speech on how appreciative he was of everyone coming to this showcase and their warm responses to all the performers. Kiwanuka was confident, broadly smiling through his short set. (Six songs. SIX SONGS? That’s it???) From the opener of ‘I’m Waiting’ to the song everyone knows him for, ‘I’m Getting Ready’; from ‘Tell Me a Tale’ to set closer ‘Home Again’.

I had a wonderful buzz from the magnificence I heard in that acoustically sound room, but my mind was in a state of relaxation that could not be matched anytime else during all of my time at SXSW. Thank you, Ben Lovett, for putting this showcase together and thank you, bands, for bringing me to an incredible moment of zen in Austin.

More high-res photos can be viewed on my Flickr.

 

(SXSW flavoured!) Bands to Watch #238: Ben Howard

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Ben Howard has done what I like to call a Frank Turner. He’s worked the circuit for a good few years, then without any forewarning gone and become the coolest singer/songwriter since…well…Frank Turner.

It seems folk/indie is really hitting the mainstream, it started with those lovable faux hicks Mumford and Sons, carried on with new bands like Dry the River (Luke’s Bands to Watch on them here) and is coming to a head with arguably the most talented of the bunch, Mr. Howard himself. Now Ben Howard may only be releasing his debut album ‘Every Kingdom,’ but that isn’t to say he hasn’t paid his dues. Two years of solid touring and building up the kind of devoted fan base that has girls queuing overnight to be at the front for his gigs. (Read Braden’s review of Howard’s show at Shepherds Bush Empire here.)

The anthem of this new group is the horrendously catchy ‘Keep Your Head Up’, an anthem about overcoming adversity through strength of mind. “Keep your head up/Keep your heart strong”: now can anyone complain when a tune with that big a hook that seems to sail through the airwaves and with that kind of uplifting message?

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Ben Howard’s appeal though isn’t just because he’s a dreamy songsmith from Devon. It comes from the fact that the music he makes is actually some extremely good, uplifting music. ‘The Wolves,’ ‘Old Pine’ and ‘These Waters’ are all are examples of Howard’s extraordinary talents as a writer of words. With his influences cited as singer/songwriting legends in the mould of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Howard looks set for a bright career and is doing himself a lot of favours by jumping headfirst straight into the wonderful world of the festival circuit. He is already booked for student favourite Beach Break Live and Scottish blowout T in the Park, meaning others are sure to follow. With positive reviews pouring in from all over the globe, it looks certain that he will follow in Mumford and Sons’ footsteps and do what any British act wishes for: an break in America.

2012 is going to be a massive year in all respects for the 23-year old. But with his horde of dedicated fans, even more Radio1 airplay than those troublesome, talentless Rizzle Kicks boys and a kit full of beautifully crafted songs, it looks like he won’t need to keep his head up, as the rest of us will be doing it for him.

 

(SXSW flavoured!) Live Gig Video: Daughter perform ‘Medicine’ acoustically for Watch, Listen, Tell

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

Communion signing Daughter recently performed their song ‘Medicine’ acoustically for the first time, and Watch, Listen, Tell were there to commit it to video. Watch the beautiful performance below.

Oh my god. Can Elena Tonra be any more adorable? Stay tuned for my review of Communion’s showcase on 16 March at SXSW coming up on the site this week.

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About Us

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

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