SXSW 2018: Wednesday night with artists from the UK, America and New Zealand

By on Thursday, 12th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

My first stop on the Wednesday evening of SXSW 2018 was at the Townsend for the highly anticipated Focus Wales showcase. The Welsh lineup would prove to be a popular one, starting with a pair of singer/songwriters before moving into heavier rock and dance music as the night progressed. I stopped in for the early part of the show, and editor Mary took the reins for the later acts, which you can read about in her Wednesday night recap. Unfortunately the fates conspired against us, and we both missed up-and-coming alt-rocker Stella Donnelly. Donnelly is definitely one to watch: you can read our preview coverage back here.

Christopher Rees internal

First on the Focus Wales bill was Americana singer/songwriter Christopher Rees, who dressed appropriately for his part in a distinctive Western-style shirt. Rees has been around the country music scene for quite some time, but this was my first real exposure to his songs. I have to say that his cowboy vibe didn’t quite ring true for me, though I do understand the difficulty of capturing it in such a contrived setting as SXSW. Putting him in comparison to some of the truly amazing country/folk singers I heard through the rest of the week, I can’t really say that Rees struck me as outstanding. He did, however, appear to have a few dedicated fans in the audience, and I feel sure that they would have a different take on his performance.

Dan Bettridge internal

Next up was alt-rock songwriter Dan Bettridge, with whom I had a quick one-on-one chat before the showcase began (stay tuned for that interview, to post as our SXSW 2018 coverage continues). I was intrigued by his in-depth description of his current project ‘Asking for Trouble’ and eager to hear a few of the songs in live performance. Bettridge was affable on stage, even a bit goofy at times, which unfortunately distracted a bit from the music he played. But getting beyond that, his songs were emotional and engaging, even pared back as they were from their soulful instrumental arrangements to single voice and guitar.

Field Report internal

Though the remaining bill at the Townsend was a promising one, I was eager to head to Swan Dive to see American alt-rock band Field Report, who have been on my radar since I first saw them back in 2013. Frontman and songwriter Chris Porterfield has a very understated but viscerally effective way with a lyric, and he didn’t fail to bring me to tears here. Their new album ‘Summertime Songs’ is out now on Verve Records, and I can report after-the-fact that it’s a stunner. Their set at the Swan Dive was no less brilliant, encompassing several of the new songs, including ‘If I Knew’, which you can hear below courtesy of Baeble Music.

Colin Gilmore internal

After taking a moment to pull my wits back together, I peeked back into a favourite spot of my mine during SXSW, the Victorian Room at the Driskill, for a quick taste of a more local flavour. Texas country rocker Colin Gilmore seemed pleasantly comfortable and very much at ease on the stage, inviting friend and fellow musician Betty Soo to join him midway through. The smattering of fans in the small crowd were clearly happy to have him there, a couple of them even daring to shake up the formality of the room with a bit of country dancing to his tunes. Though the Victorian Room is a nice venue for singer/songwriters, I couldn’t help thinking that Gilmore’s jukebox sound might have worked better in a more casual setting. If you get the chance to see him play in a bar or pub, bring your two-stepping shoes along for a spin around the dance floor.

Emme Woods internal

My next stop was a bit off the beaten path at the Iron Bear, where Scottish rocker Emme Woods was on the Glamglare showcase schedule. It was late in the evening by this point, and unfortunately Woods didn’t appear to be at the top of her game. The combination of alcohol and her thick Scottish brogue rendered her between-songs banter almost completely unintelligible to my American ear. Musically, her songs were sensual and bluesy, and the added brass instrumentation was interesting, but the band’s performance felt rather sullen and uninspired, and I was just as happy to duck out after 3 or 4 songs. Still, I could see that this might have gone differently on another night, and if you like sultry rock led by a rich female singing voice, you’d do well to give Emme Woods a listen.

Marlon Williams internal

My favourite new act of the Wednesday night came at the very end, when I hit the Palm Door on Sixth Patio to hear New Zealand crooner Marlon Williams. Williams was predictably smooth and suave on stage, with a retro rock style that felt at once fresh and vaguely familiar. The younger women in the crowd were especially taken by Williams’ flexibility, which he displayed both in his serpentine dance moves and his remarkable singing voice. Taking full advantage of the breezy outdoor stage, Williams and his band played a brilliant high energy set that came as a most welcome surprise in this notoriously difficult 1 AM time slot. Watch for him to make waves with his recent album ‘Make Way for Love’, out now on Dead Oceans/Caroline.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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