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SXSW 2014: secret Sofar Sounds Austin show – 13th March 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 25th March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

On the Thursday night of SXSW 2014, Mary and I had the unique opportunity to attend a special show outside the confines of downtown Austin. After our separate early afternoon activities, we met up and drove to a farther corner of the city for a Sofar Sounds showcase held in a private home and hosted by the Sofar Sounds: Austin team, which included the evening’s emcees, Amy Langton and Joanna Jurgens, videographer Brian Ferguson and photographer Bryan Taylor.

The stated purpose of Sofar Sounds is to connect emerging artists with enthusiastic new fans via small and intimate performances. The gigs are recorded and shared later with a larger audience, but only a select number of Sofar subscribers are admitted at the live shows. Though the lineup of bands for the evening was secret, we were assured that we would hear some high quality musicianship, so we decided to take a chance and try it out. We weren’t disappointed with the bill we discovered when we arrived, which included two British bands previously covered by TGTF. We were encouraged by the event organizers to share our experiences on social media and we happily obliged, as you’ll see by the tweets we’ve shared below.

The first act of the evening played outdoors in the host family’s backyard, just as the sun was setting. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more perfect for indie rockers Cheers Elephant, who played a cozy set featuring mellow acoustic guitar melodies and sweetly blended vocal harmonies. Fans of West Coast rock bands like Dawes won’t want to miss this band, who are no doubt more energetic in a fully electric context.

After Cheers Elephant’s set, and the sunset as well, we were moved inside the house to hear the rest of the evening’s acts, who had been busy setting up in the hosts’ living room while we were outside. Next up was Lansing, Michigan’s alt-country troubadour Small Houses, known offstage as Jeremy Quentin, who now splits his time between Atlanta and Philadelphia. He was accompanied by an old friend from Austin who was able to step in at the last minute and learn the second guitar parts especially for this private gig. The true magic of SXSW lies in this type of improvisatory cooperation among musicians; we were fortunate to see several examples of musicians’ kinship during the week, and this was indeed a special one. The two men played brilliantly off of each other, trading guitar riffs and countermelodies as seamlessly as if they’d played together for years.

Following Small Houses was folk singer/songwriter Kelley McRae, who performed with her husband in yet another case of exceptional communion between musicians. McRae’s heavenly singing voice was clearly the main focus of the songs in their set, but the couple’s warmth and familiarity allowed them a level of comfort and flexibility not always seen on live stages. Their brand of Americana completely lacks the slick and superficial predictability of mainstream country music, its authenticity shining through the honest lyrics and solid musicianship. I was impressed enough to nab a copy of McRae’s CD ‘Brighter Than The Blues’ after the show was over.

There was a slight delay after McRae’s set, to allow time for British electro-pop group Dems to prepare for what would be a complete 180-degree turn in terms of musical style and mood. More dependent on electronic equipment than any other band on the docket, Dems had some technical difficulties earlier in the day, which left them borrowing an amplifier from Langton for their show. Undaunted, they played an enthusiastic if somewhat unrehearsed set, and if I hadn’t been required to remain seated due to the videography at the secret gig, I would have happily bounced along to their beats. In lieu of that, Mary let her fingers do the dancing on Twitter.

The last act of the Sofar Sounds showcase was The Crookes, whom I’ve now seen a few times, but never quite in this context. Frankly, I had trouble imagining a seated Crookes show, because I always associate this band with joyful, unfettered dancing. But I did manage to remain seated, and I was delighted to hear unusual takes on some old favorite tunes, including George Waite solo on ‘The I Love You Bridge’ and a cover of the Wreckless Eric song and their ‘Maybe in the Dark’ single’s b-side ‘Whole Wide World’. While I gather that these versions are stalwarts for The Crookes on the British side of the pond, they were new and enchanting to this American fan. I smiled through the acoustic version of ‘Afterglow’, even though it left me desperately longing for the full-on electric version; I’d have to wait until later in the week to hear that one again.

Collected donations from this Sofar Sounds Austin show were given to the SXSW Cares Fund, to help the victims of the drink driving incident at the Mohawk the night before.

 

SXSW 2014 Interview: Until the Ribbon Breaks

 
By on Tuesday, 25th March 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

For quite a while, I’ve had to argue with my non-dance music loving friends that dance has heart. Peter Lawrie Winfield (pictured far right at top), aka the man behind Until the Ribbon Breaks further bolsters my theory, as he sings as soulfully as Bryan McKnight but to my glee, there are plenty of beats behind him. And he also plays trumpet! What doesn’t this man do?

Taken together, he’s one intriguing live performer indeed. I was so impressed by his appearance at the Universal Music Group takeover at the Palm Door on Sixth Thursday afternoon that straight after he got offstage, I asked him if we could do an interview and we agreed to meet on Friday afternoon, after he played the British Music Embassy’s showcase there. We talk about where the name of his act comes from, how he himself views his music and position in the business, his influences and much more. Have a listen to the interview below.

Thanks very much to the wonderful Pete for such a nice chat, and best wishes to you in Los Angeles!

 

SXSW 2014 Interview: Cocos Lovers

 
By on Tuesday, 25th March 2014 at 11:00 am
 

In the middle of my hectic Wednesday night at SXSW 2014, I had the chance to sit down for what turned out to be a rather in-depth music discussion with two members of Kentish alt-folk group Cocos Lovers, Will Greenham and Phil Self. Will and Phil were kind enough to indulge my questions while they had a quick meal before their set at Esther’s Follies. While they didn’t end up onstage with Gabby Young and Other Animals on the night, they did have plenty to juggle for their own show. We talked about Cocos Lovers’ live arrangements and instrumentation, as well as their studio techniques and recording plans for the near future, and upcoming plans for a show with another TGTF-featured band.

 

SXSW 2014: gems from the Universal Music Group takeover of the Palm Door on Sixth – 13th March 2014

 
By on Monday, 24th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

It just wouldn’t have been SXSW without some extreme highs and lows. On Wednesday night, I had Steve Lamacq of all people looking for me, singling me out at the Crookes‘ gig, and that validation just about made my week. Quite possibly my year. But as Carrie and I headed out into the chilly Austin night, my phone was going crazy. I hadn’t looked at my Android for hours while I was covering and watching the second half of Modern Outsider’s showcase. Oddly, my friends in Sydney, for whom it was then daytime the next day, were frantically Tweeting at me, saying they’d located our friends from the AU Review but were worried about me because I hadn’t checked in. I said I was fine, joking that I was still alive, despite getting stepped on twice at the Mod Out showcase and almost falling into a manhole with a loose cover the day before.

It didn’t dawn on us that something had gone seriously wrong a couple blocks from where we’d been all night until we got back to the car and I was scanning my Twitter feed. It was only then that I learned about the drink driving accident outside the Mohawk. My mom and my office mates back home were also freaking out about where I was, and it wasn’t until the next day when I made some phone calls that I was able to allay their fears. At least both Carrie and I could call home and say we were fine. Those poor people who died didn’t have that opportunity. It was a senseless, heartbreaking tragedy at an event supposed to bring joy to people through music, and let’s hope we never have to go through something like that ever again.

The tragedy affected some facets of the festival. One major ‘problem’ was that a large portion of Red River Street near the Mohawk was blocked off with police tape. Day shows in that area were cancelled, with the status of the nighttime shows unknown. Many emcees on Thursday had the grace to ask for a moment’s silence from their audiences, which was, I thought, in incredible good taste. I never doubted for a moment that the festival would be cancelled from Thursday on, it’s just that I knew people would be walking around Austin in a daze until they themselves came to terms with what happened, and clearly, you could see many people were still shaken up about it. (I walked by the scene of the accident Friday afternoon when I went to meet Sivu for an interview, and it was pretty unsettling to see the memorial flowers placed by mourners and to realise how close the memorial was to the front door of the Mohawk, where hundreds of punters must have been queueing outside to get into the House of Vans Wednesday night.)

With the situation on Red River, my afternoon plans had to be entirely scrapped and to be honest, I wasn’t sure where to go or where I would end up. So I just started walking down 6th Street and opened my ears. Nothing at the Swan Dive day party interested me, so I kept on walking. I walked by the front door of the Palm Door at Sixth and scanned the line-up, sponsored by the behemoth known as the Universal Music Group. Hey, wait a minute. Morning Parade? They’re playing here? I had assumed I would miss them in Austin because all their other appearances clashed with other engagements I had. Which was a shame, because I had overheard several Americans over the previous 2 days say that how they’d never heard of them before but were glad they got a chance to see them live at SXSW, because now they were converts. I couldn’t believe my luck. Hell yes.

I had to do some cheeky manouevering to get to the front, as the tented area to the back patio was pretty much filled, but to the credit of the girls up front, they let me scoot in front of them and take photos of the band from Harlow. It was barely 1 o’clock in the afternoon, yet they drew a big crowd for that time of day and an appreciative one at that. And why not? The epic nature of their synth plus rock sound that, dare I say it, seems to only be possible from England hit the spot that Thursday afternoon for me. I finally got to see the band at #10 on our 10 for 2012 list and confirmed yet another time, yes, our readers had gotten it right again.

However, most of my mind was occupied by the look of poor Steve Sparrow, their frontman. He was the poster child for ‘Why Englishmen Should Always Wear Suncream at SXSW’: he looked like a lobster in a stripy shirt and denim jacket. He couldn’t have been very comfortable. I was almost afraid to approach him after their set, figuring he probably wanted to chill out, literally, with ice packs on his body. But no. When I walked over to say hello and congratulate the band on such a great set and explained who I was, Sparrow had nothing but good things to say about TGTF and was quick to tell his bandmates, “this is the woman who runs There Goes the Fear! They always have lovely things to say about us!” I’m not sure if I blushed but in any event, I was humbled and further bowled over when he and keyboardist Ben Giddings chatted with me for this interview before they went off to congratulate themselves on a good week of gigs and winning over the American crowds that came to see them.

After a free drink courtesy of Universal, I went back to the coolness of the inside stage, wondering who would be on next. After chatting with a local schoolteacher who had taken off the week to enjoy SXSW (and seriously, if you lived in Austin, why wouldn’t you do SXSW every year?), I learned the next artist was Jeremy Messersmith, a singer/songwriter from Minneapolis, had done a breakfast radio broadcast at the Palm Door early that morning, as she had gotten up early for it. Well, if someone’s going to get up early on the Thursday of SXSW for a band, surely he’s worth sticking around for, right? While his style isn’t really my favourite – I kept thinking that it was a shame there wasn’t a way I could beam Carrie in for his performance – his writing style reminded me of one of my favourite songwriters, Stephen Duffy, with the fragility of emotion mixed in with wit.

To be honest though, I had hung around for Until the Ribbon Breaks, the stage name of Welsh singer, musician and producer Paul Winfield Lawrie, who again was not on my original schedule for Thursday but was a happy coincidence playing the Universal day showcase. How do I describe Until the Ribbon Breaks? It’s not exactly dance, and it’s not exactly electro. Lawrie sings in a slow jam, r&b kind of way, much like early Usher, but Usher didn’t have the huge beats behind him, nor did Usher ever play the trumpet.

It’s always strange to watch a dance-oriented act in the daytime, but to Universal’s credit, they were smart by putting Lawrie indoors so there was some semblance of a club atmosphere, even if the place wasn’t packed. It didn’t matter for me; I was hooked by the first song, being mesmerised by the way Lawrie commanded the attention of everyone in the room with his voice. After watching a guy with a guitar previously, the mad beats didn’t hurt either. I was so enamoured, I had to go see him the next day at Latitude 30’s British Music Embassy afternoon programming.

 

SXSW 2014: Wednesday evening at Maggie Mae’s, Esther’s Follies and Parish Underground – 12th March 2014

 
By on Monday, 24th March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

My Wednesday evening at SXSW 2014 started at Maggie Mae’s, where the Force Field PR showcase was being held. The lineup for the showcase included Withered Hand, Yellow Ostrich, Tony Molina, Painted Palms, CYMBALS, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I regretted not being able to stay to hear all of them play, but for the moment, I was focused on my pre-show interview with Scottish singer/songwriter Withered Hand.

Withered Hand at Maggie Mae's 12 March 2014

I arrived at the venue rather early and was graciously invited to listen in on Withered Hand’s soundcheck before we sat down to chat. Sitting in on soundcheck is always a nice preview to a gig, and this particular soundcheck was incredibly laid-back, almost serene in its calm. Despite the relaxed atmosphere of the soundcheck and interview, Withered Hand delivered a set that was both energetic and introspective, consistent with the mood of his latest album of songs, ‘New Gods’. The room filled slowly during the performance, and the gathering crowd seemed delightfully appreciative of Dan Willson’s acerbic and darkly humourous lyrics.

After Withered Hand’s set, I stepped outside to check my phone messages and my watch. I had an hour before I was due for my next interview appointment, which was just enough time to peek in at the Gibson Room, the upstairs part of Maggie Mae’s, where the Music From Ireland showcase was being held. I should have known better than to even walk in to the Irish showcase on such a tight schedule, because once I was there, I wouldn’t want to leave. In the end, I couldn’t resist a quick peek, especially after I was invited inside by a lovely Irishman who turned out to be the manager of one of the bands featured on the showcase, The Young Folk. (I couldn’t stay to hear The Young Folk play on this particular evening, but watch this space for more on them from later in the week.)

The atmosphere in the Gibson Room was amazing, with guitars and music memorabilia in evidence everywhere (natch!). I had heard that the venue was plagued with technical and sound issues in past years, but none of that was in evidence during my brief stop. I only had time to listen to one Irish band, but fortunately for me, it turned out to be Dublin twin sister duo Heathers. I was hooked almost immediately on their edgy rock melodies, especially ‘Forget Me Knots’, to the point that I completely forgot to take any photos (is anyone sensing a theme here?).

The lineup for the evening at the Gibson Room included an amazing list of Irish bands: Dott, Heathers, Hozier, The Young Folk, Wounds and Kid Karate (all of whom we featured here before SXSW 2014 began). It absolutely broke my heart to have to leave after Heathers’ set, especially as I’d been dying to see Hozier and I was now intrigued by The Young Folk, but I consoled myself with the fact that I’d be seeing all of these acts on the upcoming Friday.

I dashed out of the Gibson Room with only a few minutes to spare before I was due at Esther’s Follies to interview Kentish alt-folk collective Cocos Lovers. As it turned out, Cocos Lovers were running a bit late themselves, but I did manage a nice sit down chat with band members Will Greenham and Phil Self, who were gracious enough to talk with me while they grabbed a bite to eat before their set. (Keep an eye out for the audio of that interview, coming soon.)

Gabby Young at Esther's Follies 12 March 2014

The stage at Esther’s Follies on that night hosted two acts featured here at TGTF, the aforementioned Cocos Lovers and “circus swing” practitioners Gabby Young and Other Animals. Young’s band for the night was partially composed of a mix of local musicians, some of whom she’d just met the day before, but their lively enthusiasm completely overcame any difficulties they might have had. Young and her troupe were in fine form, and the audience at Esther’s Follies absolutely adored her unique and vivacious combination of jazz, flamenco, Vaudeville, and classical bel canto singing. Her glorious high notes drew special applause, and by the end of her set, everyone in the seated venue was dancing in the narrow aisles.

Cocos Lovers at Esther's Follies 12 March 2014

Cocos Lovers played a slightly more mellow but equally charming set, which was unfortunately not as well received by the crowd at Esther’s Follies, who by now were in the mood for a party. Particular highlights of the set for me included the bluesy harmonies of ‘Emily’ and the lightly tripping ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’, which I listened to with delighted new ears after our interview.

After Cocos Lovers, I made yet another mad dash, this time to meet up with editor Mary for the end of Modern Outsider showcase at the Parish Underground. By this point in the evening, I was ready to put my notebook away and get my groove on, and the last act on that bill, The Crookes, were the perfect fix. Read Mary’s coverage of the showcase here.

Special thanks to Daniel, Jim and Jay for their assistance on this night.

 

SXSW 2014 Interview: DJ Colette

 
By on Monday, 24th March 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Those who know me well are aware that I could be quite happy living on a dance floor with good tunes. Whether I had seen it and missed it or I had completely missed it in the manic preparation for my and Carrie’s going out to Austin for SXSW 2014, but I was looking at my phone having my traditional Friday Irish breakfast at B.D. Riley’s with Carrie when I practically went into spasmodic delight that Colette was in town to drop some beats that night at Lanai Lounge on Congress Avenue.

This chat was entirely unplanned but dear Colette, bless her, agreed to meet me, probably her craziest fan from Washington, DC, at the Hilton for an entirely impromptu interview in the lobby even before she checked into her room. I asked her about her beginnings as a DJ in Chicago, what it was and has been like being a female DJ in a heavily male-dominated genre and setting up her own record label. Listen below.

Thanks very much Colette for being so kind!

 
 
 

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.

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