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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 14th August 2014 at 4:00 pm
August seems like a long time from March, but this new video of Aussie duo Falls performing live at SXSW 2014 reminds us that it’s not that long now until SXSW madness begins again. Watch as Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown, augmented by a lovely string section (probably different than the one I saw with them in Sydney 2 years ago, surely?), perform their track ‘Home’ in Austin at the (in)famous Cathedral of Junk in Austin, Texas.
TGTF coverage of Falls is all here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 16th April 2014 at 4:00 pm
I don’t know about you, but in DC this morning, we had sub zero temperatures. So this new documentary-style video via Adio Marchant – better known at the moment under his solo stage name Bipolar Sunshine – from his time at SXSW 2014 couldn’t have come along at a better time. Sun, shades, good tunes…man I miss Austin!
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 4th April 2014 at 11:00 am
The Crookes were a hot commodity at this year’s SXSW, so much that I never was able to pin them down myself for an interview. Instead, I sent over the questions I’d prepared to ask the Sheffield band in Austin after they returned to England so they could answer them while enjoying the comforts of home. They were kind to answer my many queries on what it was like to be playing shows in America again, the making and recording of their forthcoming album ‘Soapbox’ due out on the 14th of April, and what’s next for them. Read on…
We last caught up with you in May 2013 at your show at the Scala in London. You’ve since signed with an American indie label called Modern Outsider, and conveniently, they’re based in Austin, which makes visiting at SXSW a breeze, I would imagine. What was the courtship like?
George Waite (vocals / bass): Quite short in truth. They asked, and we said yes. That is not to say that we’d have taken any offer – there are a lot of charlatans out there and we’ve met a few. Ultimately, we went with Chip and Erin because they are honest and we liked them. Having them in our corner makes a huge difference when it comes to SXSW and our U.S. adventures.
What was it like to play – and headline – an industry showcase hosted by your American label? Does it feel like you’ve come a long way, or does it feel like everything’s going according to the master Crookes plan for world domination?
Tom Dakin (guitar / backing vocals / keys): It certainly feels like we’ve come a long way. It’s been an honour to headline the Modern Outsider showcase, particularly since we’re a relatively new band to their roster. The support they’ve given us has made all the difference to the way playing in America feels. The USA can be a dauntingly large place for us to go to, small islanders that we are, and to have the label back us as they do makes it a more realistic prospect that our music might find some more fans there.
A couple weeks prior to coming out to America, you all were interviewed on BBC Breakfast, discussing a grant you received from the UK government to break America. Before I left DC, I spoke with some other recipients of a grant, Public Service Broadcasting, and it sounds like it is a pretty big honour to receive, not to mention a massive help in advancing your career not just here in the States but beyond too. What can you tell us about it? Are there strings attached?
George: We’re incredibly grateful for the grant. It allows us to further our efforts in the U.S., which could have stalled otherwise. We love playing in America – so many of our influences are rooted in that culture – but we don’t go over there to make up the numbers. We’re not tourists. We are serious about making inroads there and this grant enables us to try at least.
This was your third SXSW. Now that SXSW has become old hat to you, how did this year feel compared to showcasing in previous years?
George: This year felt a lot less intense than previous years. Maybe because we are veterans now, but Modern Outsider certainly did a lot to put us at ease this time. Like I said, having them in our corner really gave us a lift. Also, we had played Dallas before coming to Austin, and were heading to LA after, so that took a lot of pressure off SXSW as the be all and end all.
You played a good handful of songs from your forthcoming album ‘Soapbox’, out in April. How do you think they were received?
Tom: We’re really happy with how the new songs are being received. It seems crazy that we gave these songs their first live airing at a poolside stage in Dallas, with the whole gig bathed in that Texan evening light. It’s hard to believe that they could travel so far from our gloomy attic writing rooms.
Lammo was certainly impressed; he commented on Wednesday 19/03 on his 6music evening programme that it warmed his heart to watch people down the front for your turn Saturday afternoon at Latitude 30 / British Music Embassy singing along and knowing all the words.
George: Yes, and it’s incredibly heartening for us to see that from the stage too. We rely on the crowd to contribute to the atmosphere, which is why our favourite gigs are usually the raucous ones, as opposed to the most technically adept. Having people sing along is always a help as well in case I forget the words.
You had played 7 shows across 5 days in Austin during the week, and in sorts of different situations; do any of them stand out to you, and why? (To those who were not in Austin for SXSW this year, to give you some context, just on Wednesday, the Crookes played a converted garage space [Empire Control Room] as part of a local radio station’s showcase in the afternoon, followed by the very cool Parish Underground that night where Modern Outsider was putting on their label showcase.)
George: The Parish show was definitely my highlight. We went on at 1 AM and the crowd was fantastic. There was a lot riding on our gig because we wanted to prove that, as an English band, we were worthy of headlining an American label’s showcase. We wanted to make Modern Outsider proud and we had a lot of fun in the process.
Tom, did you manage to find and see Kurt Vile perform? (This is related to an answer he gave me before SXSW as part of their responses to our TGTF Quickfire Questions.) Who else did you all see and who were you impressed by (or not), who were your standouts or who would you recommend we steer clear of?
Tom: I managed to miss every single band that I’d planned on seeing, including Kurt Vile, but I did stumble upon a few treats. It seems to be the case that SXSW is perfect for discovering bands by accident, but if you’ve already heard of an act, there will probably be a thousand other people who want to see them too so there’s not always a good chance of getting into the venues.
This year I discovered Triptides, a band from Indiana who were playing on the same bill as us for Music For Listeners (at a Mexican burger joint called El Sapo Friday afternoon). They had some very cool guitar sounds, and great songs. Also, we managed to catch Sweet Baboo, who is a long time favourite but I hadn’t seen his one-man show before.
You played a gig at the famous Echo in Los Angeles on Sunday as part of a Part Time Punks show there. Was this your first time in LA? What were your expectations of our West Coast, after having spent time playing shows in New York and Texas?
George: Yes, it was our first time in California, and it blew our minds. We arrived in Los Angeles after 4 days in the desert, and it took us a day or so to get our heads around the place. The scale of LA is crazy, but luckily we had a house in the middle of Echo Park, so we had a lot to explore on our doorstep. Literally, as there were hummingbirds in the front garden!
The show itself went really well. It is strange to find so many like minded people so far from home but Part Time Punks is a great night (the kind I wish there were more of in England!) and it was a thrill to meet people who had been waiting for years to see us play in their city. We could only thank them for their patience!
The album cover for ‘Soapbox’ is black and white like the ones for the ‘Dreaming of Another Day’ EP and ‘Hold Fast’, but it comes across more sophisticated with a touch of nostalgia. What’s the story behind it and how did it come about? The dots remind of a Lite-Brite pattern. (I’ve also seen similar lettering on the album sleeve of Patrick Wolf’s ‘The Magic Position’.)
Russell Bates (drums): I’ve never seen that before personally, but I can see how you made the connection, I suppose the initial idea came from the artwork of classic albums, the band having total prominence not clouded by anything external. I liked the idea of focusing the viewers attention entirely on the band. It’s a statement of intent.
The album is probably the best work we’ve produced to date in my opinion and the first where Tom played a big part in the songwriting. I wanted an album cover which showed this, that *this* is The Crookes. Almost like a self-titled album in a visual sense. I selected the font as I desired something subtle which blended into the black to give the picture as much prominence as possible. If you hold it a few feet from your eyes it disappears almost totally. [This disappearing act was apparent to my eyes when I got my copy in the post last week. See photo here. – Ed.]
Set the stage for us: tell us all about the place where you went to record the album. Us fans have seen the photos of the isolated church in the mountains of Northern Italy, but we want to know what it felt like to be there.
George: It was quite a changeable place actually. In the mornings and at night, it was quite eerie. We were so high up that the clouds would hang low over the house – a bit like that (Playstation video) game Silent Hill. But when the sun came out, it was stunning. You could see for miles down the valley and because it was autumn, everything was very colourful. I think these two extremes filtered into the mood of the record in some subconscious way.
From what I guessed from the photos, the location seemed quite desolate. Did that fit in well with the underlying ‘Soapbox’ theme of ‘The Outsider’, Daniel?
Daniel Hopewell (guitar / lyrics): Yes, but that was more serendipitous than by design. I was more attracted to the religious symbolism there; Catholicism is such a romantic religion full of saints and sinners and angels and demons and stigmata and transubstantiation (I think the word “blood” appears more than any other in our songs, so drinking red wine in the chapel was very fitting). Songs like ‘Holy Innocents’, ‘Don’t Put Your Faith In Me’ and ‘Straight To Heaven’ [not sure which song he meant here, as there isn’t one with this name on ‘Soapbox’ – Ed.] really fitted that location. There was also something clearly Gothic in that setting which naturally follows on from our previous Romanticism. It was like living in Bram Stoker’s imagination.
George, there was some film of you singing in front of a microphone that was situated in front of a big cross in the church. Was there any divine intervention, did you sense any ghosts while you were recording there? I’m not religious but whenever I walk into churches, I always feel this unearthly sense of power in them. Were there any sightings of apparitions or did anything unusual happen while you were there?
George: I’m not religious, but there was something about having San’t Antonio watching over us that had an impact. We did start to go stir crazy after a month alone in the mountains, and every noise we heard outside would start to take on greater significance. Russ actually took a picture of the crosses on the doors with the chapel light on inside only to discover that the shape of the crucifixes had been projected onto the trees outside – but upside down! That had us spooked for a while. Still no explanation…
Tom, you played piano on this album (‘Holy Innocents’), which was a nice bridge from spring 2013 single ‘Dance in Colour’, which also featured piano. Piano isn’t really a ‘traditional’ rock ‘n’ roll instrument the way guitars and drums are. Was including it part of this Crookes’ evolution I feel we’re witnessing?
Besides the piano, what was different this time about the making of ‘Soapbox’? I thought it was a great idea, though not practical for other bands, that you brought your producer Matt Peel with you to Italy for the recording. I imagined that affected things too?
Tom: Without Matt, we wouldn’t have been able to make the album out there. We demo all of our stuff at home, but making a releasable record that has all the songs hitting their potential as we want them to is something for which we definitely need Matt.
The main thing about being in Valle di Preone in that lonely church up in the mountains was the isolation. It being just the five of us, totally sequestered away from our home comforts, with no television, telephone or internet to distract us, we could totally focus on the album and the album alone. I think you can hear that in the recording, and coupled with the amazing sound of that church and the moody fogginess of the valley, it makes it a record we could not have created any other way.
The album feels ‘harder’ than your previous material. ‘Play Dumb’, the first single you released, felt like a kick in the teeth! Agree or disagree? (I forget now which Web site it was, they’d erased ‘pop’ from your genre description, so it only reads “indie rock” now.)
Tom: Haha! Not so sure about that. ‘Play Dumb’ sounds pretty damn poppy to me! Take away those fuzzy guitars and big drums, and there’s a pop sensibility at the core of it. We were feeling more aggressive and perhaps frustrated when we went away to make the album, though, and it’s definitely true that that comes through in the songs. I think the (closing) track ‘Soapbox’ is a good example of that. We let that one grow into something quite a long way away from its original concept, and you can hear on the record that we’re letting go of everything by the very end.
Daniel, for this album it was my understanding that as a band you took a different approach in that the lyrics were written first, which was not the case for previous Crookes’ releases. (‘The Crookes Laundry Murder 1922’ from 2011 album ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ and the way George sings its lyrics in a non-linear way comes to mind.) As a consequence, as a writer, did you find that more freeing artistically? Were the majority of the lyrics written while the band was away from Sheffield, as was the case for ‘Hold Fast’?
Daniel: A lot of lines came from old notebooks, just as they always do. The ‘Marcy’ lyrics were written one night when me and Russell were walking home through The Marcy Projects in New York (think of the subject as personification). But then those feelings of frustration and loneliness which I believe underscore everything came from being in Sheffield. [You can grab a free copy of ‘Marcy’ from this previous MP3 of the Day post. – Ed.]
Writing the lyrics first was liberating, certainly, but the melody is always the most important thing to me. Without a strong melody, people won’t come back to listen to the lyrics and work out what they mean, but once the melody to a song has hooked you, the lyrics invite the listener to keep coming back.
Did playing Bruce Springsteen in the van all the way down to Italy affect the way ‘Soapbox’ turned out? Were there any other new or recalled influences that came into play when you started writing and recording the new album?
George: ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ is one of my favourite records. There is a lot of sadness and melancholy on that which people probably don’t always associate with him. I think in terms of the frustration that he always nails so well, Springsteen was a touchstone for us. There is always that sense of defiance in his music and that is important to us because otherwise you start to sound like a bunch of whinging bastards.
What will be the next single, video…??? Will it be one of the songs that premiered in Austin? What can fans expect in the weeks leading up to the album release?
Tom: The next single will be ‘Don’t Put Your Faith in Me’, which is the song we’ve been opening our sets with at our latest U.S. shows. We’ve been recording the video whilst on tour in America so expect to see lots of muscle cars, cacti and sunburn. That’ll be out before the album is released, and we’ll also be releasing one or two other videos relating to how the album came to be made. [Narrated by Russell, part 1 of the Making of ‘Soapbox’ series can be watched below. – Ed.]
You have an extensive UK tour lined up for April to start the week the album is released on the 14th of April on Fierce Panda Records, and it’s swiftly followed by a European tour. This will be your first big tour in a long time. Excited? Apprehensive? Are there places that you haven’t been to in a while that you’re really looking forward to playing in again?
George: Can’t wait now. America definitely whet our whistle for a longer stretch on the road. We always look forward to certain places – Sheffield (at the end of May at the Leadmill) is the very last show and I have high hopes for that one – but you never know on tour. It’s a complete unknown, even after so many. You never know what can happen. And that’s why it’s so exciting.
What festivals will you be playing this summer?
Tom: We’ll be announcing them on our Twitter and Facebook pages as they get booked in with us.
I am asked this constantly, from all corners of the United States; you have a lot of fans over here! When are you going to do a proper tour of North America?
George: We will be back as soon as is humanly possible! This year at SXSW we have been looking for people who will help to make that happen, and as soon as we know, we’ll tell you.
Now that album #3 is in the can, you’ve got these headline tours set up for the spring and I’m sure loads of festival appearances all summer, what’s up next for the Crookes now that you’re back to Sheffield?
George: Well, we’re home now and all we want to do is go and play again. That, and write the fourth record.
What would you like to say to your adoring fans? GO.
Tom: Go listen to Sweet Baboo. [I concur. Start with ‘Ships’. – Ed.]
George: There are times when I still find it strange that there are people out there that like our band but to those of you that do, thank you. x
Daniel: To quote the late, great Bryan Adams, “everything I do, I do it for you”.
Russell: What Daniel said, but totally sincerely.
Many thanks to the Crookes for their answers and Penny for sorting out this q&a for us.
By the final Saturday of SXSW 2014, my addled brain was full to capacity with new music, new faces, and new experiences. Mary and I got off to a bit of a late start after our busy Friday (read all the recaps including my thoughts on the Communion showcase at St. David’s and more, my review of the full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s, Mary’s Friday night free-for-all featuring London, Tokyo and Glasgow bands, and Mary’s busy interview schedule), in no small part due to the rainy weather we woke up to. Mary had scheduled a quick stop at Holy Mountain (read the start of her Saturday review here), but I wasn’t officially covering any of Saturday’s events, so I was able to sneak in a leisurely cup of coffee before I headed to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. (Where else would we have ended up?)
Frankly, after Friday’s whirlwind of music and interviews, I was ready to let loose and dance. Happily, the lineup at Latitude 30 seemed tailor-made to accommodate me. The afternoon started off slowly with Welsh singer/songwriter Sweet Baboo, but the energy level was quickly ratcheted up by Scottish rockers Meursault, Oxford groove factory Glass Animals, Sheffield’s latest and greatest, The Crookes, Brighton-based Kins, and London jazz/funk/pop band Melt Yourself Down. Mary has already covered the acts we saw in detail here, so I will just add that I did indeed fall in love with the edgy rock of Meursault and that my second time seeing Glass Animals was every bit as steamy as the first.
By the time the fourth act, The Crookes, came on stage, I was on my fourth gin and tonic. At some point in the set, I believe I may have had a mildly embarrassing exchange with lead singer George Waite about the errant button on his shirt. I can only hope that everyone else’s memories of that are as cloudy as my own. Luckily for me, I was able to disguise my blushing with one last feverish dance to ‘Afterglow’.
We did actually end up stretching our SXSW Saturday for just a few hours more with sushi and acts at the Hype Hotel (read Mary’s thoughts on the night here), but in my heart, that last dance at Latitude 30 was the perfect wrap up to a perfect week. I had a fabulous time, and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about it, though I did learn a few lessons that might prove useful for next time. And yes, Mary and I are already scheming and planning for next year!
On that note, and in closing, I have to thank Mary for bringing me along with her on this year’s SXSW adventure. I had a 12-hour road trip home from Austin, and I spent all of it listening to music I’d picked up along the way, mentally revisiting the faces and places I’d seen. Despite the lengthy trip, it was an incredible week in so many ways, and I look forward to giving it another go in 2015.
Au revoir, Austin!
After spending the entirety of my SXSW 2014 Friday afternoon at B.D. Riley’s on 6th Street for the Full Irish Breakfast, I had just enough time to dash up the hill to 8th Street to St. David’s Episcopal Church for a quick interview before the Communion Music Showcase. I had heard rave reviews of the acoustics inside the sanctuary at St. David’s, as well as the consistently amazing lineups sponsored by Communion Music, so of course I was fairly bubbling over with excitement by the time I reached the church.
Evening activity was just beginning to pick up in downtown Austin, and the outside of the church was still mostly quiet when I arrived. By the time I finished my interview with the lovely and laid back Nick Mulvey in the Holy Grounds coffee shop, music fans were beginning to queue for showcases in both St. David’s venues, the main sanctuary and the smaller Bethel Hall. I chatted cordially with a few other music fans in the queue, and the wait to get into the sanctuary seemed very short indeed.
Unfortunately, I was far enough back in the queue that I didn’t get a fabulous seat inside the sanctuary. To be clear, as far as the acoustics are concerned, there aren’t any bad seats. But I was hoping to snap a few photos, so I chose to sit along the center aisle, and even though I was several pews back, I think I managed to capture the ambience of the evening.
The first band on the showcase was London folk trio Bear’s Den, who stopped in Austin as part of a full North American tour. They had evidently become used to more raucous American audiences than the polite crowd at St. David’s Sanctuary, as lead singer Andrew Davie paused more than once to tell us that our stillness made him a bit nervous. His mild admonitions did lighten up the somewhat stiff atmosphere, and by the time Bear’s Den reached the last song in their set, which included singles ‘Agape’ and ‘Writing on the Wall’, they were comfortable enough to step forward and do it “unplugged”. I was so delighted by their echoing vocal harmonies, and the rest of the congregation were as jovial as they could possibly be while seated on wooden pews.
The showcase was perfectly organized and running on a tight schedule, so there wasn’t much time for audience members to shift in and out of the church between Bear’s Den and the aforementioned Nick Mulvey. Luckily, not many people chose to leave, as we were treated to a set that spanned Mulvey’s short but impressive solo career. I smiled to myself at the sound of familiar tunes ‘Fever to the Form’ and ‘Nitrous’, but it was the new (or new-to-me) tunes that proved most captivating. This was my first time hearing ‘The Trellis’, from Mulvey’s November 2012 EP of the same name, and a pin drop would have echoed mightily in the sanctuary when he finished it. Also well received was the newer and more upbeat track ‘Meet Me There’, which is due for release in May along with his full length album ‘First Mind’.
As Mulvey closed his mellow set, the sanctuary began buzzing with anticipation for Irish singer/songwriter Hozier. Having already gained radio play in America with his religiously analogous single ‘Take Me to Church’, Hozier was ready to preach his gospel to those in attendance St. David’s Church, and he certainly made a believer out of me. I was stunned by the power in every song on his set list, from the earthy, deceptively sweet folk of ‘In A Week’ to the visceral blues and overt sexuality of ‘Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene’. And while the gospel tinge of ‘Take Me to Church’ might have been appropriate for the setting, Hozier’s performance of it on the night was enough to steam up every single one of the stained glass windows.
I needed some fresh air after the breathtaking sublimity of Hozier, so I stepped outside to gather my thoughts and check in with Mary via text. Once outside the venue, I quickly realized that I would have some difficulty getting back in, as the queue was growing for the final acts on the Communion roster, Tennis, Sam Smith and Vance Joy. I would later regret missing out on those artists, especially after seeing this video of Smith’s recent single ‘Stay With Me’.
In the end, I hedged my bets and headed to the British Music Embassy to meet Mary for another band I’d recently written about, Scottish duo Honeyblood. The queue outside Latitude 30 wasn’t much shorter than the one at St. David’s, but I did eventually make it inside. Mary was, naturally, down the front, but I wasn’t able to squeeze in through the enthusiastic crowd, and I had to settle for a spot in back near the bar. My photos of Honeyblood weren’t fabulous but for my money, neither was the band’s performance. Their single ‘Bud’ was the only song that stood out among their muddled, distorted grunge pop set. The sound at the venue had been fine all week, so I have to assume that this less than stellar show was a just a small blip on Honeyblood’s radar.
Disappointed, I met up with Mary for a brief conference in what had become a customary spot for us in the alley outside Latitude 30. Our energy was waning by this point, but I convinced her (read: begged and pleaded with her) to make the short walk back to B.D. Riley’s, where we’d taken in the Irish Breakfast earlier in the day, to have another listen to Rams’ Pocket Radio.
It seems silly, at a festival like SXSW, to see the same bands over and over again when there are so many options so close at hand. We’d already seen Rams’ Pocket Radio twice, but both times I’d been a bit distracted, and I felt that I hadn’t given the songs their proper due, at least in my own mind. This late night show suffered from a few technical glitches and the wandering attention of the audience, which slightly marred the emotional connection of the music. Despite those frustrations, I was increasingly fascinated by his juxtaposition of beautiful, rich musical textures and curious, often strange lyrics. Maybe this is why the ever present ‘Dieter Rams Has Got the Pocket Radios’ appeals so much to me, but I did find myself missing the more straightforward ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’ when he left it off the set list. I didn’t walk away from this show feeling any more enlightened about Rams’ Pocket Radio, but my interest is most definitely piqued to see what he does next.
For the moment, I had to put my bewildered thoughts aside in preparation for the following day, which would be our last at SXSW 2014. But even weeks later, I find myself amazed as I mentally revisit the spectrum of mixed emotions and musical styles from that exhilarating Friday.
One of the events I was most looking forward to at SXSW 2014 was the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s hosted by Music From Ireland. I must admit upfront that the actual meal is not my particular cup of tea (and in the interest of full confession, I drank coffee) but it was a nice part of the general atmosphere of the event. Our editor Mary joined me for part of the day’s festivities and has already touched on the Irish Breakfast in her Friday coverage.
When we walked in to B.D. Riley’s, we were warmly greeted by Mary’s friend and event organizer, Music from Ireland’s Angela Dorgan, as well as a host of other now familiar faces including several acquaintances made at the British Music Embassy over the course of the week. We were sat at a table in the front of the room near the sound desk, which gave us easy access to photos and quick chats with the artists on the schedule, and I quickly made the decision to set up camp there for the entire day. I was over the moon, as the lineup for the day included several acts I’d been dying to see.
We had missed UNKNWN earlier in the week at the Creative Belfast showcase, but we didn’t have to wait long to have our curiosity satisfied at B.D. Riley’s. The Northern Irish electro duo of music producer Chris Hanna (identified singularly as Unknown) and vocalist Gemma Dunleavy provided us with our morning slow jam, even as the clock crept into afternoon territory. Hanna’s deep and dreamy bass groove combined with Dunleavy’s smooth, clear vocals created a very chill, relaxed sonic atmosphere to start off the day.
The next band, Dublin sister act Heathers, couldn’t have been more of a stylistic contrast to UNKNWN. I had gotten a sneak peek at them at the Music From Ireland showcase on the Wednesday night, so I knew to expect a change of pace. Of course, it helped that before they went on stage, Ellie Macnamara was kind enough to grant me a cheeky photo of her set list.
Heathers’ edgy, energetic rock, interlaced with tightly woven vocal harmonies and countermelodies, was the perfect antidote to the hearty Irish breakfast we’d just consumed. After their set, I was able to set up a quick interview with the sisters Macnamara for a bit later in the day.
I was especially excited to see Rams’ Pocket Radio again, after having heard his set at Creative Belfast on the Monday night. As he mentioned in my interview with him from that night, he came to SXSW with a full band of musicians, who were tightly packed onto the small stage at B.D. Riley’s. Once again, they played a set featuring several tracks from Rams’ Pocket Radio’s album, ‘Béton’, including ‘Dogs Run in Packs’, ‘1+2’, ‘Dieter Rams Has Got the Pocket Radios’, and current single ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’. (My recent review of ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’ can be found here.)
As I’ve previously mentioned, I found Rams’ Pocket Radio a bit difficult to photograph due to his emphatic performance style. I was able to catch a few decent photos at the Irish Breakfast, but unfortunately it distracted me a bit from listening to the music. I made a mental note to try to return for his late show that night, also at B.D. Riley’s, so I could listen unfettered by the camera.
After Rams’ Pocket Radio, I stepped outside and around the corner for the aforementioned interview with Heathers, which you can read here. On my way back in, I noticed that there was a passing crowd gathered outside B.D. Riley’s, listening to the music from the open air stage. The space outside the venue proved to be a popular gathering place and was almost as full as the inside bar area for most of the day.
Mary and I were both excited to hear the Wonder Villains play again after speaking with them at the British Music Embassy on the Monday night. We were once again somewhat amazed by the colorful attire of the Wonder Villains’ leading ladies, Eimear Coyle and Cheylene Murphy. But more importantly, we were also amazed by the band’s high-spirited performance. Their latest single, ‘Marshall’, had been playing on the PA system between sets, and by the time the band played it live, everyone in the bar was singing and dancing along, including our indefatigable editor.
Mary ducked out after the Wonder Villains played, leaving me to the saccharine-sounding garage pop charms of Dott. Their single ‘Small Pony’ is every bit as bouncy and danceable as ‘Marshall’, but Dott were, inevitably, more reserved on stage than the bright and brash Wonder Villains. Little wonder, as I discovered later that they were nearing the end of a full American tour. Their tour diary for the trip, including their time at SXSW, can be viewed here.
I was practically dancing with excitement myself to hear the next band on the playbill, The Young Folk. I’d met them briefly on the Wednesday night at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room and gotten a sneak preview of their forthcoming album, ‘The Little Battle’, and frankly, I was already hooked. Their live performance didn’t disappoint, despite the number of instruments they had to squeeze onto the tiny stage.
Songs from ‘The Little Battle’ predominated the set, but The Young Folk also included non-album tracks ‘A Song About Wolves’ and ‘Hold On To Your Hat’. I was impressed most by their ability to convey the tender lyrical moments in their songs without dampening the lively mood of the crowd. Their relaxed but animated performance style was definitely a hit among those in attendance at B.D. Riley’s
Note ‘The Little Battle’ CD taped to Anthony’s guitar.
After The Young Folk played their set, I ducked outside again for an interview with them, which you can read here if you haven’t already. They proved to be quite easy to talk to, and before I knew it, I had missed most of the next set inside the venue. When I came back in, September Girls were rocking the stage with their reverb, rhythm and vocal harmonies. I did manage to peek between the enthusiastic patrons at the front to snap a few quick photos before the band wrapped up.
Mary returned from her own afternoon interview adventures with DJ Colette and Until the Ribbon Breaks and checking out some of the day’s activities at British Music Embassy in time to catch the last two bands on the schedule, WOUNDS and Kid Karate. I would never have guessed that she would be a fan of either band, but the bass player in her showed through as she headbanged along with WOUNDS.
Editor Mary got her groove on.
Both WOUNDS and Kid Karate required the use of earplugs, especially at the close range where we were seated. Of the two, WOUNDS were definitely the harder, heavier thrashing rock, but they managed to keep their performance confined to the stage.
Kid Karate, on the other hand, were not inclined to that much restraint. By the end of their brazenly bluesy set, guitarist and front man Kevin Breen had completely abandoned drummer Steven Gannon to join the audience for an impromptu moshing session. It was the perfect surprise ending to what had been a showcase full of variety and high quality music.
Once again, I hated to leave after the end of the showcase. Part of my mind lingered at B.D. Riley’s when I dashed off to my next appointment, even as I eagerly anticipated the Communion Records showcase that was still to come at St. David’s Episcopal Church.
Thanks to Brian, Ciaran and Jim for their assistance with interviews and photos at this event. (And special thanks to Angela and the staff at B.D. Riley’s for their help in rescuing my lost voice recorder!)
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