SXSW 2016: thoughts on Viola Beach and part of Music from Ireland (Wednesday night, part 1) – 16th March 2016

By on Monday, 4th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

I’ve always loved Wednesday night at SXSW. The initial worries of Tuesday – getting your credentials and seeing your first batch of shows – are over, and the true heart of Austin’s massive music festival is revealed. You’re spolit for choice on what genres and bands to see, and as Carrie described in the start of her post last week on her Wednesday night, it is often a difficult decision of who you should and could be seeing.

In mid-February when we learned of the tragic passing of Warrington indie band Viola Beach in Sweden, I settled on rather quickly that the best ways I knew how to honour their lives were to facilitate our and all our friends to have a good time while in Austin, as well as continue on in the tradition of TGTF in supporting up-and-coming bands much like Viola Beach had been themselves. I asked Carrie to situate herself at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 for Steve Lamacq’s opening presentation to pay tribute to the late Viola Beach, so that one of us would be physically on hand to provide support to our fallen comrades and our friends at the BBC and beyond who championed them. It may make me sound like a total wimp but in all honesty, despite all the tragedy I have seen in my life, I feared being in the room during Lammo’s eulogy. In that very room that had hosted so many great bands, I have witnessed so much magic and so many great moments over the last 5 years, I didn’t think I’d be able to handle myself without blubbering.

Instead, I decided in my quiet and steely determination that Wednesday night would be devoted to seeing indie acts hungry for success like Viola Beach. My first stop was the wonderful Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, which has seen the Music from Ireland showcase Wednesday night for many, many years. As regular readers of our Web site already know, while I enjoy a great many Irish bands, Carrie is truly the de facto Irish expert of TGTF currently, having churned out the Irish and Northern Irish SXSW showcasing artist list the last 2 years, as well as covering the full Irish breakfast. Knowing that I had other things to attend to Friday afternoon and would not be present for the plethora of Irish acts on show at B.D. Riley’s then, it was just my good luck that they were at the start of the bill at the Gibson Room this night.

Somadrone at the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae's Gibson Room, Wednesday at SXSW 2016

Producer Neil O’Connor is a man who never stays put too long in one place, and with a hand in many different projects. While he’s part of The Redneck Manifesto, having nothing to do with the negative American stereotype and everything to do with the making of instrumental music as a collection of musicians assembled far back in 1998, the project I came to see this night was his solo project Somadrone, joined live by drummer Gareth Averill and not to be confused by a “modern hard rock” band of the same name from Massachusetts.

I was very excited to see what this one-man band had to offer, given that my introduction to him was via the haunting ‘Invitation’ from his latest album ‘Oracle’ (watch it below). This is the kind of music I love: so many layers and textures, yet holding it all together is an underlying dance beat. I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe more beats, more atmosphere? As I stood in front of him, I wondered if Carrie would have been more appropriate to cover his set here, as I was surprised at the more singer/songwriter-y vibe I was getting as he stood onstage playing his guitar, only occasionally messing with his pre-programmed setup. Or maybe it was just too early in the evening and I hadn’t gotten into my groove yet. As O’Connor’s set went on, the energy level increased, but I felt an opportunity to truly inspire the audience had been lost.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/136193953[/vimeo]

Young Hampshire lass Rosie Carney, now calling County Donegal home, shimmered in an unearthly way under the Gibson Room stage lights, looking like a rosy (no pun intended) apparition. Onstage with nothing else but her acoustic guitar, she looked vulnerable, all alone. She has a pretty enough voice and her songs are good, having a gentle fragility, but something I thought that was validated and echoed by other friends who had seen her that week was that she had a pretty dour attitude through her appearances during the week. I don’t know if she herself felt sullen or just shy, but it gave her performance an unsettling, stifling air that may have been appropriate to match the sombre mood of honouring Viola Beach’s memory, but it left me cold.

Rosie Carney at the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae's Gibson Room, Wednesday at SXSW 2016

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