SXSW 2018: Friday at the BMI/AT&T Acoustic Brunch and the Austin Convention Center

By on Thursday, 26th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

My Friday morning at SXSW 2018 began early, relatively speaking, even after my late and exciting Thursday night. No rest for the weary! But the BMI / AT&T Acoustic Brunch at The Four Seasons hotel was nothing if not a pleasant way to begin the day, with a lovely spread of food and drinks in the hotel courtyard and an even finer variety of musicians on the outdoor stage.

Paul Thorn internal

The first act was blues rock artist Paul Thorn, whose fire and brimstone message might have been better suited to a Sunday morning than a Friday. His past album titles include ‘Pimps and Preachers’ (2010), ‘What the Hell is Going On’ (2012), and ‘Too Blessed to be Stressed’ (2014). Thorn’s most recent release ‘Don’t Let the Devil Ride’ follows the pattern with a vivid mix of gospel and blues, covers and original songs. Have a listen to his version of the O’Jays classic ‘Love Train’ right through here.

Young & Sick internal

Young & Sick is a combination music/visual arts project led by Los Angeles-based Dutch frontman Nick van Hofwegen. Their slick synth pop has a strongly defined rhythmic aspect, which was appropriate to the bright midday sun in downtown Austin but would find itself equally at home in a dark club setting. Their own single ‘Ojai’ was a strong choice, as was their excellent cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’. You can listen to both on Young & Sick’s official Soundcloud. Astute TGTF readers may remember that we’ve covered Young & Sick once before, during SXSW 2014.

Jade Bird internal

Next in the lineup was rapidly rising British singer Jade Bird, who was flitting between shows in her very busy SXSW schedule. I had glimpsed her briefly the previous day at the Luck Reunion, but here at the Four Seasons, I got to see and hear her play a full set, including her immediately catchy and irresistibly quirky recent hit ‘Lottery’. That single, as well as Bird’s previous EP ‘Something American’, are both out now on Glassnote and come highly recommended. Her feisty set tangibly raised the energy level at this otherwise low-key brunch, sending a flutter of excitement through the sleepy Friday afternoon crowd.

Davie internal

Capitalising deftly on that momentum, Los Angeles r&b singer Davie took the stage next with a set of soulful and uplifting songs that harkened back to Paul Thorn’s earlier gospel sounds, but ultimately went in a very different musical direction. Davie’s smooth, sweet voice is perfectly suited to this style of singing, and his songs are a celebration in vocal form, not to be missed if gospel r&b is your groove. You can find the video for his recent single ‘Faith’ right here.

The Marias internal

Next up were self-described “psychedelic soul” band The Marías, who combined elements of jazz, world music, and modern classical composition into a very inviting overall sound, perfect for a swanky event like this one. Their aesthetic was somehow both intellectual and sensual at the same time, as evidenced by the hazy synth-based aura of ‘Only in My Dreams.’

Samson internal

The final performer on the BMI / AT&T Acoustic Brunch was Montreal singer/songwriter Sampson, whose astonishingly common stage moniker makes her near impossible to find on social media. Nevertheless, she rounded out the event with a haunting set of solo songs from her debut LP ‘Dark Sky Nights’, including ‘Born in the North’ which aptly reflects the quality of having been written “literally alone in the dark.” Sampson, along with the other artists on the day’s lineup, is featured in BMI’s video roundup of the Acoustic Brunch, which you can view just below.

Lo Moon internal

Though the Austin sunshine was beautiful on Friday afternoon, I did eventually have to head inside, specifically to the Convention Center. I stopped first at the Radio Day Stage, where Los Angeles band Lo Moon were on the bill. Though the indoor stage and afternoon audience were somewhat more subdued than the Pandora showcase where I saw them last year, Lo Moon sounded sharp and crystal clear, playing atmospheric, synth-laced songs from their recent self-titled debut LP. Watch their performance of ‘The Right Thing’ just below, courtesy of WUFV Public Radio.

David Fricke talk

One of the featured sessions at the Convention Center that afternoon was a panel discussion called ‘From CBGB to the World: A Downtown Diaspora’, featuring Talking Heads members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, producers and solo artist Chris Stamey, visual artist Richard Lloyd, and photographer Julia Gorton. Loosely moderated by Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, the conversation was rather unstructured, but deliberately so, in an attempt to reimagine the downtown New York scene of the late 1970s, the epitome of gritty rock ‘n’ roll style. Most interesting to me were the candid snapshots displayed on the large screen at the front of the room, taken by Gorton in the early days of her career, which captured the essence of the time and place from an up-close and personal perspective.

Nikki Lane internal

From there, I headed back to the Radio Day Stage to catch one more showcase before closing out the afternoon. The final act for my Friday afternoon was American country singer/songwriter Nikki Lane, whom I’d previously heard only in passing. A bit of after the fact listening revealed that her third album ‘Highway Queen’ is both rebellious and achingly relatable in its examination of lost love. Have a listen to its sultry and unapologetically country-styled title track below.

At this point in the late afternoon, I needed some time to regroup in anticipation of a busy Friday evening schedule. Keep an eye on TGTF for my recap of Friday night’s events at SXSW 2018 coming soon.

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