SXSW 2015: Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30 (Part 1) – 17th March 2015

By on Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

This year, we saw a shift in showcase programming at Latitude 30 on San Jacinto Boulevard, the home of the British Music Embassy during SXSW. The conspicuous absence of a fully coordinated Showcasing Scotland night that had been put on for many years in the past and seemed to always be a given meant that there was a void ready for the taking, and at SXSW 2015, Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales and with the kind auspices of Welsh BBC radio presenters Huw Stephens and Bethan Elfyn stepped in to take over Latitude 30 on Tuesday night, lining up an eclectic bill to usher in this year’s festival with a bang.

Traditionally, there are much fewer showcases on offer on the Tuesday night of SXSW, which basically means that wherever you go Tuesday night, you should expect to queue and expect part of your evening will be spent groaning and swearing, stood outside your preferred venue of choice, unable to get inside. I am quick to point out this phenomenon happens not just to mere mortals such as ourselves, but even the man and friend of mine Steve Lamacq had trouble getting into Latitude 30 to see one of the Welsh acts he himself championed on BBC Radio. So now you know…

Before you ask, “just how many Welsh bands were there at SXSW 2015?”, I also should note that only half of the acts (three out of the six; four out of seven if you include the act who played the invite-only reception party) who played on the Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales bill are actually Welsh, though the choices of Welsh acts for this evening were perfect in my book, either for their potential or having already made it in the States. In my interview with Will Doyle, aka East India Youth, the day after the show, he explained despite his non-Welshness, his addition to the bill had more to do with Huw Stephens’ support of his music, and I suspect the inclusion of Londoner Kate Tempest and her sociopolitical rhetoric and Manchester electropop musician and producer Shura had similar backstories.

Paper Aeroplanes at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

During the drinks reception, Richard Llewellyn and Sarah Howells of Paper Aeroplanes from West Wales provided a gentle easing into the evening with their brand of alt-folk. As many of you know, the singer/songwriter genre isn’t my favourite, so I really couldn’t tell you if they sound unique or not, but they were pleasant enough as background music to the inevitable industry conversations that take place in venues at SXSW.

Things, however, were about to go up to 11 with the next band. The People The Poet, introduced by Huw Stephens as being from the same town as Tom Jones (Pontypridd, in South Wales), were about to give anyone who the previous band might have put into a near stupor (sorry, that would be me) a swift kick up the arse. The prior impression I had that The People The Poet might be and sound like a precious folk band was quickly dismissed as the group barrelled ahead with their set. (Read my Bands to Watch ahead of SXSW 2015 here.)

The People the Poet at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

If frontman Leon Stanford had any anxiety playing to a crowd of strangers in America, he didn’t show it. He was dressed like probably what most people think is typical Texan, with a large, wide-brimmed hat and a cowboy-style shirt that I’m sure he purchased on their travels here. His voice sounds like the youth of a young, yet still satisfyingly husky Caleb Followill (‘Molly Drove Me Away’) crossed with the wisdom of classic Joe Cocker (‘People’), with the band’s loud yet richly detailed instrumentation channeling the anthemic, feel good spunk of Bruce Springsteen (‘Heart of a Lion’) and even the blues / hard rock variant patented by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Considering that all the band are in their early 20s and weren’t actually alive when most of those people were in their heyday, creating such a sound is no mean feat. To play SXSW at such a young age and to make such an impression on people who had never heard of you and who leave and go around Austin telling everyone about you is a pretty big deal indeed. Mark my words, keep an eye on this band, or you’ll be left behind.

East India Youth provided a much needed injection of electronica early on in the proceedings. While Will Doyle’s appearance early in the night may have seemed a strange choice to those who aren’t into electronic music, my interview with him and indeed, the reveal of ‘Carousel’ in early February from upcoming album ‘Culture of Volume’ out the 6th of April on XL Recordings indicates him shifting towards a more pop-orientated sound that agreed with many of the artists on this bill. As an electronic fan myself, I personally didn’t need proof of his musical talent, but Doyle also played bass on stage, which he played with the same perspiration-inducing freneticism as when he attacked the synth, sequencers and drum pads assembled as part of his complicated rig onstage.

East India Youth at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

The compelling ‘Hearts That Never’, which premiered on stateside on American public radio system NPR the week before SXSW, also demonstrates his conscious decision to head in a dance direction, which I reckon will make his new material even more accessible to the masses. ‘Looking for Someone’, a sweeping cut from Doyle’s 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut album on Stolen Recordings, ‘Total Strife Forever’, has a slower tempo but serves a nice reminder how human electronic music can be, in the right person’s hands. I’m really looking forward to hearing his new album.

East India Youth at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

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