SXSW 2016: Huw Stephens and PRS for Music’s showcase at Latitude 30 (Tuesday night, part 1) – 15th March 2016

By on Tuesday, 29th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Invariably, I always end up at Latitude 30, the home of the British Music Embassy, every Tuesday night when I go to Austin for SXSW. SXSW 2016 was no exception, and as has been true the last 4 years I’ve attended, there was a stellar line-up organised by BBC Radio 1’s own Huw Stephens. The showcase was also being sponsored by PRS for Music, the society of songwriters, composers and music publishers and the people who make sure these creatives get paid when their music licenced through PRS is used and their music is protected.

The evening began with a bang, thanks to Kent’s own Get Inuit. Not to be confused with Eskimos or any sort of native tribe from a colder clime, the group hailing from the town of Sittingbourne provided a nice kick in the arse via their brash, self-described ‘dirty-pop’. Bespectacled frontman Jamie Glass has an unusual voice for a hard rocking band – it’s a little whiny, but that’s what makes it charming! If you’re questioning this, read my review of their single ‘Dress of Bubblewrap’, which explains the pop part of their music.

Get Inuit Huw Stephens PRS for Music Tuesday

The result: after hearing a few quiet bars from him on a song like ‘I Am the Hot Air’, you’re in for a total surprise if you’re expecting instrumental backing of the twee variety, as the song gets right in your face and . With its guitars that go from squealing to heavy, ‘Pro Procrastinator’ is another clear example that these lads know how to rock. A debut album is currently in the works thanks to a grant from the PRS for Music Foundation, and I can’t wait to hear it.

From the South East of England, the programming then headed north…west and to Belfast and a different kind of in-your-face performance by Girls Names, who I met in 2013. I should probably point out at this juncture that it was around 32 C during the day on Tuesday, so Girls Name should probably be commended off the bat for sticking to their aesthetic (in their case, leather jackets and jeans) and not compromising because of the temperature.

Girls Names Huw Stephens PRS for Music Tuesday

The post-punk group specialise in creating a massive wall of sound, generated by crashing guitars and a heavy rhythm section, and it’s usually so loud and enveloping, wherever in the world you happen to be, you’re left somewhat in awe (and with some disappointment) that the building you’re stood in hasn’t actually taken off the ground yet. Their latest album ‘Arms Around a Vision’ was released on Tough Love in October and in case you haven’t picked it up yet, do, and listen to it in the dark in your bedroom, letting the instrumentation swirl around in your head along with Cathal Cully’s shadowy, existential lyrics.

The third slot of Tuesday night at Latitude 30 last year was occupied by critically lauded political artist Kate Tempest. And for the second year running, another young hopeful not afraid to speak his mind was included on Stephens’ bill. Hertfordshire teen Declan McKenna, only at the tender age of 17, is already signed to Columbia Records and that should tell you something. Making waves with his politically potent single ‘Brazil’ that criticised FIFA, offering a critical view of the international football organisation in the midst of scandal, he’s already proven he’s got talent that’s head and shoulders above and a social conscience well beyond the reach of conventional young pop stars these days. (Watch the video as part of my pre-SXSW Bands to Watch that posted in February here.) I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised when the young McKenna took to the stage looking like he just got out of gym class, in a t-shirt and a pair of Lonsdale shorts.

Declan McKenna Huw Stephens PRS for Music Tuesday

With a table full of equipment and pedals aplenty, he made quick work of recording vocals and guitar lines live, in a way I’ve only seen Badly Drawn Boy do in concert (though Carrie’s explained to me that Ed Sheeran does this as well). Playing in front of a massive crowd in America might have fazed the most seasoned of UK singer/songwriters, yet McKenna was the epitome of poise, as he played through the organ-led single ‘Paracetamol’ and ended with the audience favourite ‘Brazil’. He might not have too many recordings to his name – yet – but given the amount of shouting and screaming there was for ‘Brazil’, I think we can expect him to do very well over here.

London’s Oscar (surname Scheller), who I’d had the pleasure of chatting with just hours before outside a radio promo spot he did at Buffalo Billiards, was up next. I was slightly disappointed that he changed out of his colourful Disney shirt he was wearing earlier. But he represented dear old blighty well in a Union Jack jumper, making no mistake either the country of his own origin or the focus of the night’s showcase.

Oscar Huw Stephens PRS for Music Tuesday

The brightness of his music shone through, though, so it was all okay. While ‘Sometimes’ is the height of fun, infectious guitar pop with a buzzy synth, ‘Breaking My Phone’ is more scuzzy, allowing for the grinding of louder guitars and a feeling of letting go and going with the flow of a fun night out at a show with your friends. This show curated by Huw Stephens was a great official start to my week of showcases at SXSW, but I was soon off to see another four bands up Red River Street.

For more of my photos of this showcase, visit my Flickr.

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