SXSW 2017: Tuesday night at the British Music Embassy and Blackheart – 14th March 2017

By on Thursday, 6th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

I started my SXSW 2017 Tuesday evening at Latitude 30 for the BBC Radio 1 / PPL and PRS for Music showcase, emceed by BBC radio presenter Huw Stephens. Stephens himself curated the acts on the night’s British Music Embassy showcase, and he couldn’t have chosen a better act to open the showcase than London art rock trio Dream Wife (pictured in the header photo above) Their music is in-your-face and unapologetically feminine, with songs like ‘Somebody’ and ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ driven by an unrestrained defiance of male-centered societal norms and a bold rebellious streak. In the ever-growing mix of desperate-to-be-taken-seriously female rock bands, Dream Wife doesn’t need to beg for your attention; their combination of raw talent and focused intent simply leaves no room for other alternatives.

SWEAT internal

Sensual dance-rock band SWEAT followed Dream Wife, and they were a somewhat easier listen, in the sense that their hypnotic sensuality didn’t require a lot of thought to invoke swaying hips and waving hands. Their sound was no less intense, but more immediately visceral, bypassing the brain and going for a straight physical response. Lead singer Dante Traynor combined smooth, sexy vocals and serpentine dance moves that could barely be contained on the small Latitude 30 stage.

Lets Eat Grandma internal

The mood changed considerably with the next act, experimental pop duo Let’s Eat Grandma. They were heavily hyped coming into the evening’s set, and Stephens himself was excited to introduce them to the British Music Embassy crowd. Their eclectic mix of vocal harmony, widely varied folk instrumentation, and electronic backbeats is an interesting one on paper, and it should have been a winner in live performance. But following on brilliantly flashy acts like Dream Wife and SWEAT is difficult in the best circumstances, and Let’s Eat Grandma’s more cerebral style ultimately fell a bit flat. Still, they’re one to keep an eye on if your tastes lean toward the more introverted side.

In the Valley Below internal

I took the shift in momentum as my cue to exit the British Music Embassy and head down to Rainey Street’s Blackheart for American duo In the Valley Below. The Blackheart stage perhaps wasn’t ideal for the pair’s atmospheric rock sound to begin with, and technical problems led to their set being significantly delayed. Co-lead singer Angela Gail was clearly rattled by having to cut the setlist short, and she promised a better set at the band’s next gig. But for my money, her vocal interplay with Jeffrey Jacob and the duo’s anthemic rock dynamic were a hit despite the truncated show.

Big Jesus internal

I might not have gone out of my way to hear Atlanta rock band Big Jesus, but they were next on the Blackheart stage, and they rocked the venue to its fullest advantage. Their testosterone-fueled rock, light on lyrical content and heavy on gritty guitar riffs, appealed particularly to the men in the crowd, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it at least a little bit myself.

Odetta Hartman internal

The final artist on my agenda for the evening (or early morning, as it was by this point well past midnight) was eclectic “cowboy soul” singer Odetta Hartmann. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure how to classify her music into a genre. There is a definite folk element, on one hand, with the violin and banjo taking center stage. On the other hand, there is an electronic component that is vaguely similar to acts like Sylvan Esso, but without the sensual dance groove. And Hartmann’s wild vocals defy easy description as well, running the full gamut from yodeling to growling. Maybe it’s best if I let you have a listen for yourselves.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/hXYw5iJKMVo[/youtube]

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