SXSW 2014: Amy Cook, Falls and The Carper Family: folkies at Stephen F’s Bar – 11th March 2014

By on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

The great thing that you don’t realise about SXSW unless you actually witness it firsthand is the wide variety of venues there are in Austin during the festival. So from a rammed, stifling, claustrophobic Latitude 30 for the first half of my Tuesday night, I headed over to far more relaxed digs. It’s amazing to me that after 3 years in a row of covering this festival, I’m still finding new and exciting places to see bands play.

Stephen F’s Bar is on the topmost floor of the very swish InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel on Congress Avenue. It’s not a far walk at all from bustling and mental 6th Street, yet it feels like a world away on any night the festival is running. Having been there now, I would highly recommend it if you need a quiet oasis from all the late night craziness, for getting a drink at their well-appointed bar will surely make you feel human again. (For you historical buffs out there, Austin is known as the ‘father of Texas’ and that is why the capital city of the state is named after him.)

After my interview with Prides at Latitude 30, I arrived in the midst of Amy Cook’s set. As a local Austinite, I guess you can forgive her for all the audience heckling she was doing. To her credit though, she thanked punters throughout the set and asked us to give ourselves a round of applause for hanging in there to watch her. You see, Stephen F’s Bar is a ‘seated’ venue, with benches and various types of poufy, leather cushioned loungers, so you could be easily forgiven if you had one too many G&Ts that night if you fell asleep to the strumming of a guitar. The three acts I caught there were all folk acts, including Cook. An established singer/songwriter in her own right, she and her throaty voice, accompanied by her backing guitarist, felt right in the confines of the hotel bar.

Cook was followed by Australian folk duo Falls, who have now begun their conquest of America, having recently signed a record deal with Verve Music Group of Universal Records and uprooted from their home in Sydney and decamped to Los Angeles to make it here in America. I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing the harmonies of Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown; some things are just meant to be, and I think the two of them were meant to be musical partners for life. ‘Home’ seemed to be the most heartfelt track of the evening, as even though Austin is not Falls’ home, the locals and SXSW punters made them feel like they were there. Also tearjerking was Kirwin’s dedication of their cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ to a friend who had been following them around for moral support all over the East Coast of America who they’d learned had had a particularly trying day trying to get home to Australia.

This was Falls’ triumphant return to SXSW after appearing last year, and the many fans they picked up at last year’s festival also returned in droves to see one of their festival favourites perform. It’s really heart-warming when you see a band interacting with their fans, knowing each and every one of them by name. It may seem impossible to achieve, given the fast pace of life these days, but Falls proved that it is possible to do and they will never forget the people who welcomed them into their hearts when they were unknown Aussies in Austin.

The Carper Family rounded out the evening at Stephen F’s. I was a little disappointed to learn the three women on stage weren’t actually related. The Austin band is named for Melissa Carper, who plays upright bass alongside Beth Chrisman (fiddle) and Jenn Miori (guitar), and despite not sharing the same bloodline, they sound like they could have been separated at birth. With tinges of bluegrass and country in their songs while also maintaining their own originality, they bridge the distance between the traditional and modern. This isn’t my kind of music at all – we joked all week while we were in Austin that I usually palm off the singer/songwriters on Carrie! – but as we don’t have 100 versions of ourselves, the other benefit of SXSW is that we could each go see bands that we could recommend (or not recommend) to the other and our friends.

My night ended surrounded by friends old and new, with the clarity and support they afforded me to hit the rest of SXSW hard.

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