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SXSW 2018: Wrapping up with a final conference session and Saturday evening showcases – 17th March 2018

 
By on Thursday, 3rd May 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Editor Mary and I started our final day at SXSW 2018 with a leisurely brunch, but we both had a full schedule of options for Saturday afternoon and evening. (You can read Mary’s Saturday recaps here and here.) I decided in the moment to play the day by ear, and my rather uncharacteristic spontaneity paid off in the form of several new-to-me acts, which I very much enjoyed.

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Before I set out to hear any live music, I did attend one last conference session at the Austin Convention Center. As a connoisseur of the singer/songwriter genre, I couldn’t pass up University of British Columbia musicologist David Metzer‘s discussion titled ‘Ballads: A History of Emotions in Popular Culture’. Here, Metzer explored the ballad’s changing role in popular music from the 1950s to the present, highlighting listeners’ growing desire “to experience feelings in bigger and bolder ways” and performers’ stylistic tendency to emote in increasingly virtuosic fashion. The presentation was necessarily brief, and Metzer used a simple but effective comparison between Whitney Houston’s iconic performance of ‘I Will Always Love You’ and Dolly Parton’s original version to make his point. True music nerds like myself can find a more expanded discussion in Metzer’s book, ‘The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé’, which I promptly ordered when I returned home from Austin the next day.

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After a quick walk around the Trade Expo and a celebratory green cocktail for St. Patrick’s Day, Mary and I both had time to check out SXSW’s Second Play Stages, which feature official Showcasing Artists playing acoustic “happy hour” shows in the lounges of downtown Austin hotels. These shows are casual and quite intimate, with small crowds gathered in close and passersby stopping to listen at the fringes. I chose the Hilton’s Cannon & Bell lounge, where English singer/songwriter Harry Pane was playing his final set of the week. Pane was both relaxed and engaging on the small stage, and his songs were candidly emotional in this stripped back setting. His performance of ‘Fletcher Bay’, written after a trip to New Zealand with his late father, was particularly moving. You can have a listen to a similar live performance courtesy of London Live Sessions just below.

After a quick post-show interview with Pane (which will publish on TGTF in the coming days), I headed to Barracuda, whose two stages were hosting the combined Artist Group International and Xtra Mile Recordings showcase. While there would undoubtedly be a larger crowd later in the evening, when British folk-punk artists Skinny Lister and Frank Turner were slated to play the outdoor stage, the mood was mellow in both venues when I arrived for the beginning of the night’s set list.

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First on the outdoor stage was Houston singer/songwriter Brianna Hunt, performing under the moniker Many Rooms. The audience was thin at this point in the evening, and Hunt’s muted demeanor on stage didn’t attract the punters’ attention straightaway, but as her set continued, the fragile beauty of her songs gradually drew focus to the stage. Many Rooms’ debut album ‘There is a Presence Here’ is available now on Other People Records; you can listen to album track ‘which is to say, everything’ just through here.

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Between sets on the outdoor stage, I peeked inside to catch a couple of songs from Allman Brown, who had caught my attention earlier in the week, while I waited to hear English folk singer Non Canon. Non Canon is the mildly pretentious stage name of singer/songwriter Barry Dolan, who describes the term as “anything [that] exists apart from the story we know and love”. His music is true to that description, pairing obscure literary allusions with pop culture references in an odd, but ultimately thought-provoking way. Though his set here was stripped back to voice and guitar, his recordings feature a fuller array of instrumental sounds and unusual harmonic variations, as evidenced in ‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’.

The remainder of the Barracuda lineup included The RPMs (who Mary saw the previous afternoon) and Will Varley, as well as the aforementioned Skinny Lister and Frank Turner. As I had seen the latter three recently (Varley and Skinny Lister in February at Phoenix’s Valley Bar, and Turner on Thursday evening), I decided to head to the Parish, which was hosting British indie label Bella Union.

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As we’ve mentioned in the past, Bella Union is a sure bet for high quality songwriting and musicianship, but also for music that is a bit off-the-beaten-path. Their Saturday night showcase at the Parish was no different. I missed indie pop songwriter Ari Roar, but arrived in time to catch American folk duo Field Division. On the surface, this pair, comprised of Evelyn Taylor and Nicholas Frampton, is yet another in a long string of Laurel Canyon-influenced artists, but on closer listening, their powerful lyrics and sharp instrumental arrangements create a deeper and more tangible sonic presence. Keep an eye out for their debut LP ‘Dark Matter Dreams’, which is due for release on the 22nd of June and features the propulsive motion of ‘River in Reverse’.

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More subdued but nonetheless hypnotic, electronic dream pop artist Hilang Child (aka Ed Riman) took the stage next and dazzled the growing audience with his effortless vocals and deftly textured instrumental layers. His carefully crafted soundscapes are replete with splendid dynamic and harmonic colour, which fill in and expand beautifully upon his delicately poetic lyrics. Hilang Child’s standout track ‘Growing Things’ will feature on his upcoming debut LP, which is due out later this year.

Tiny Ruins

New Zealand folk band Tiny Ruins has evolved from the solo work of frontwoman Hollie Fullbrook into a full four-piece ensemble, though they were represented in Austin by only two of their number, Fullbrook and bassist Cass Basil. Their thoughtful folk songs were mesmerising with just the pair of them, but they added another dimension of rhythmic interest when drummer Jim White joined them on stage midway through their set. Tiny Ruins’ third album is due out on Bella Union later this year; in the meantime, take a listen to the subtle yet exquisite ‘Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens’, courtesy of Flying Nun Records.

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Jim White took only a brief hiatus from the stage after Tiny Ruins’ set before returning for his main show as part of avante garde folk-rock duo Xylouris White. Xylouris White finds the virtuosic Australian drummer joining forces with equally skilled Cretan lute player and singer George Xylouris to create a musical experience that is best described as “intense”. Any words I write here will undoubtedly fail to convey the awesome power of their live performance. The unlikely but fluidly-synchronised pair released their third LP ‘Mother’ back in January, and it’s not to be missed for anyone excited by the idea of dynamic jazz-rock-folk fusion.

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The final act on the Bella Union bill, and the final act for me at SXSW 2018 was Ezra Furman, whom I’d seen on Thursday at the Luck Reunion. The late night atmosphere of the Parish on Saturday night was an entirely different context for Furman and his band The Visions, and the dark drama of songs like ‘Suck the Blood from My Wound’ took on a new level of depth and potency in this set. Here, Furman combined his intellectual, heavily metaphorical lyricism with a visceral musicality to create a full gestalt that was somehow greater than the simple sum of its parts. In this regard, he fits in nicely with his Bella Union colleagues, who all made a positive impression on this showcase, and who made my last night in Austin a uniquely memorable one.

 

SXSW 2018: Friday night with Communion, AdHoc, Sounds from Italy, and…more

 
By on Friday, 27th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

The Friday night of SXSW typically finds St. David’s Episcopal Church taken over by Communion Music for their annual showcase of exemplary songwriters across genres. SXSW 2018 was no different in that regard, and while I didn’t set foot inside the British Music Embassy even once during the week, I did manage to make my annual pilgrimage to St. David’s, though this year’s visit would be brief.

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The church’s main sanctuary was already crowded by the time I arrived, in anticipation of popular British singer Lucy Rose. Rose has made a concerted effort over the past several years to reconnect with her fans, who have repaid her with unconditional adoration. Rose opened her Communion set with a rather unusual introduction, saying “I’m here to play all your favourite songs.” After playing a couple of new tunes and fan favourite ‘Shiver’, Rose took a handful of requests from the audience, her spontaneity and genuine connection only adding to the graceful charm of her performance. Take a listen to her acoustic performance of ‘Moirai’ for Burberry by clicking here.

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Following Rose on stage was Irish breakout sensation Dermot Kennedy, who editor Mary also covered in her Friday night recap. Despite his perhaps overly casual attire, Kennedy made a strong impression on the audience with his jarring combination of gentle folk and powerful hip-hop styles. Standing at first empty-handed in front of the microphone, he assumed an almost prayerful position in the pulpit while singing. Later in the set, Kennedy would demonstrate his guitar skills (as well as his left-handedness). His powerful single ‘Moments Passed’ stunned the St. David’s crowd to silence, followed immediately by ecstatic applause.

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After Kennedy finished, I left the Communion show to head over to Cheer Up Charlie’s, where American singer/songwriter Lucy Dacus was playing on the AdHoc showcase. Dacus’ recent LP ‘Historian’ has been a critical success, and its songs were no less effective in live performance. Dacus herself was mild-mannered and reserved on stage behind a pair of studious round eyeglasses, but her music made a more powerful emotional statement. You can watch Dacus perform ‘Historians’ for NPR’s South X Lullaby right through here.

During Dacus’ set, my evening took a slight detour. While I was photographing her with my smartphone, I received an email notification from one of The Lost Brothers, whom Mary and I had seen and chatted with on Tuesday. They were preparing to play a post-SXSW show in my adopted hometown of Tucson, but found themselves potentially stranded at the airport in Phoenix, over 100 miles away, on the day of the gig. As soon as Dacus finished playing, I found myself an empty chair and, in a flurry of emails and text messages, located a Tucson compatriot who was able to give the Irish folk duo a lift. This same friend told me later that the Losties’ show in Tucson was a smashing success–I was quite jealous that she got to go and I didn’t! But, as they say, all’s well that ends well, and this story indeed had a happy ending.

Damien McFly internal

Feeling satisfied with my logistical efforts, I left Cheer Up Charlie’s at a bit of a loose end. It was late by this point, and I figured I probably only had time for one more show before calling it a night. I consulted the SXSW Go app and settled on folk pop singer Damien McFly (aka Damiano Ferrari), who was playing on the Sounds from Italy showcase at Stephen F’s Bar on the second floor of the Intercontinental Hotel. The setting was elegant enough and not too crowded, but the small audience at Stephen F’s seemed a bit deflated at this late hour. After a long technical delay, McFly and his band finally took the stage, and while the songs themselves were engaging, the band never quite made up their lost momentum. However, McFly’s songwriting is well worth a second listen. Check out his sharp live performance of ‘Leap’, courtesy of K Session, just below.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

SXSW 2018: Thursday night at Luck Reunion (part 2) and back to downtown Austin – 15th March 2018

 
By on Tuesday, 24th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

If you haven’t read part 1 of my Luck Reunion recap, you can find it back here.

After a busy afternoon of fine music, the sun started to set over Willie Nelson‘s Luck Ranch, and I made my way to the World Headquarters stage, where a full docket of fine music was scheduled for the evening. The crowd had already begun to gather in anticipation of the later acts, and they were enthusiastic in their support of Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real. Lukas Nelson, for those not in the know, is Willie Nelson’s son, but he and his surf-tinged country rock band have a dedicated following in their own right. His fans were especially delighted when he was joined on stage by a pair of special guests, Margo Price and Kurt Vile.

LN and MP

Price made only a brief cameo after her surprise performance in the Luck Chapel earlier in the day, but Vile’s appearance segued into his own solo set, which received a surprisingly muted response from the Nelson family diehards in the crowd. Vile played songs from his own 2015 LP ‘b’lieve i’m goin down’ with assistance from the Promise of the Real, as well as a particularly moving solo cover of Bob Dylan‘s ‘Roll on John’.

Kurt Vile

There was a rather long interlude after Vile’s set, and dusk fittingly turned to dark before Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats took the stage. Rateliff has become quite the showman with the success of his two most recent albums, the 2015 breakthrough self-titled LP and brand new release ‘Tearing at the Seams’, and he didn’t disappoint the eager fans at Luck. He and his band tore through tracks from both albums, joined near the end by members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (who also played earlier in the day) for a blistering finale leading into the evening’s main event.

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That highly anticipated main event was, of course, a performance by the man himself, Willie Nelson. Nelson was joined on stage by a cast of family and friends, including son Lukas, for a set chock full of well-worn but well-loved tunes, including ‘Whiskey River’, ‘Beer for My Horses’ (which always made me laugh when I was a little girl) and ‘Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys’.

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Fans in the audience were clearly primed to hear all the Willie Nelson classics they knew and loved, and Nelson didn’t disappoint. The strains of his final singalong were ringing in my ears as I made my way through the crowd to head back downtown, and I couldn’t resist a final look at the gathering as I departed. Lest we forget, among all the great old tunes of Willie Nelson’s storied past, the 84-year-old songwriter has a brand new album coming out on the 27th of April, called ‘Last Man Standing.’ Have a listen to its title track through here.

Luck Reunion finale
Photo courtesy of James Joiner capturing the atmosphere of fellowship perfectly

Though internet access at the Luck Ranch had been spotty throughout the day, I was able to call an Uber to get back into Austin to catch two more shows downtown before calling it a night. I was thankful for my SXXpress pass when I arrived at the already crowded Mohawk to see British ex-pat Bishop Briggs, who has taken the alt-rock scene by storm since I last saw her in Phoenix in 2016. Her debut album ‘Church of Scars’, featuring hit tracks ‘White Flag’ and ‘River’, has just been released as this article goes to press.

Bishop Briggs inernal

My final stop on this truly incredible day was at the Palm Door on Sixth, where diehard English troubadour Frank Turner was on stage for a solo set. Turner is a regular fixture at SXSW, and his fans turned up in droves for this showcase hoping to hear their favourite tunes. Turner obliged them to a degree, but quickly shifted focus to songs from his forthcoming album ‘Be More Kind’, including the recently released and pointedly political single ‘Make America Great Again’. Check out its charming promo video, filmed in Austin during SXSW, right through here.

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Seeing Turner’s relentless energy and enthusiasm for his new songs was a particular highlight of SXSW for me, even after the amazing songwriting I’d been privy to all day long at the Luck Reunion. Thursday at SXSW 2018 was a remarkable day indeed, and one I won’t soon forget. Many hearty thanks to the Luck Reunion organisers, as well as to all the artists featured here.

 

Live Review: Banners with Ellevator at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 19th April 2018

 
By on Monday, 23rd April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Nothing beats the special satisfaction I get when one of the acts I tipped makes it, and I was lucky to see one of my tips ahead of SXSW 2016 and near home. While Liverpudlian Banners (real name Mike Nelson) might not be a household name, he’s getting pretty damn close: in addition to some high-profile American tv syncs, he recently starred as a guest mentor for aspiring pop upstarts on American Idol, a show seen by millions in our country. For an indie artist, that’s massive. Thursday night, he came back to earth to perform at the intimate Jammin’ Java in Northern Virginia.

Joining him on the evening were Hamilton, Ontario’s Ellevator, who had just arrived in Virginia after a half-day’s drive from home. Despite the long journey, they were buoyed by the mere fact that they were performing in a town that wasn’t covered in snow. They were also eager to show off their songs, namely those on a brand new, self-titled EP to be released the next day. They were performing a stripped-back set, as their usual keyboardist Elliott was sadly at home and in hospital. Drummer Mike was then tasked to play drums and synth with his right hand. If you’re like me and have enough trouble with patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time, you can imagine how difficult this may have been.

Ellevator Washington 3

Despite frontwoman Nabi Sue Bersche’s admittance that their barer setup was less muscular than they normally sound, it provided the unique opportunity for a more intimate performance that saw her chatting with Banners’ fans down the front. Their set included EP track ‘St. Cecilia’, the engaging ‘Easy’ and a surprisingly good cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’. They finished on a high note with another one from the EP, the feel good track ‘New Survival’.

Banners and his band came prepared with an exciting, strobe-filled light show that would have felt right at home at any established electronic artist’s gig. To start, Nelson gave a nod to his Scouse roots with a clip of the Beatles’ schmaltzy ‘All You Need is Love’ as his walk-on music. There was loads of self-deprecating banter between songs, the kind that made the audience laugh (“I swam all the way here from Liverpool, that was quite tiring!”) or audibly “aww” (Nelson admitting he’d drop everything if his beloved Liverpool Football Club came calling for him to report to Anfield as a striker). You can take the boy out of Liverpool, but you can’t take Liverpool out of the boy. ‘Back When We Had Nothing’, from the first and eponymous ‘Banners’ EP, seems like another love letter to his days back in the Pool. The song is a sweeping, upbeat number much like the rest of Banners’ catalogue with Island Records so far: positive, based and love and inspiring.

Banners Washington 2

We’re still waiting for a Banners album, but Nelson has released a series of singles and EPs for music fans to sink their teeth into in the meantime. His most recent EP, ‘Empires on Fire’ released last autumn, is full of catchy melodies. From verse to chorus, the title track smoulders and morphs from tentative pop to full-bodied pop/rock. Uplifting EP opener ‘Someone to You’ has thrust him into the national spotlight, being used by ABC in their advertising campaign for American Idol. (Read my review of the single through this link.) Instead of performing it in its normal guise, Nelson and band huddled at the front of the stage to perform it stripped back: only accompanied by Nelson’s acoustic guitar, the result was a harmonious beauty.

While the gig started slow, with the first two of three songs unknown to the audience, the three-song punch of stadium rockers ‘Start a Riot’, ‘Gold Dust’ and ‘Shine a Light’ was epic. Blowing the audience away with his memorable melodies and his band’s bombast, this was a performance the DC crowd would not soon forget.

Banners Washington 3

For more photos from this show, visit my Flickr. After the cut: Banners’ set list for the evening.
Continue reading Live Review: Banners with Ellevator at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 19th April 2018

 

SXSW 2018: Thursday at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion (Part 1) – 15th March 2018

 
By on Friday, 20th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

On the Thursday of SXSW, I had the unique opportunity to attend the celebrated Luck Reunion, hosted at the Luck, Texas ranch of legendary country songwriter Willie Nelson. The Luck Reunion’s stated mission is “to cultivate the new while showing honor to influence”, among “musicians, artisans, and chefs, who like the outlaws and outliers before them, follow their dreams without compromise.” The event is staged at Nelson’s home and working ranch, which is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Austin, and which presents a very different atmosphere from the hectic SXSW schedule of conferences and showcases.

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Once arrived at the Luck Ranch, I didn’t have much time to get acquainted with the surroundings before the full day of music was set to begin. I took a quick peek into the tiny Luck Chapel to catch a couple of songs from Nashville songwriter Lilly Hiatt, whose quirky combination of folky Americana and grungy rock sounds can be heard on her recent third album ‘Trinity Lane’.

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Next, I headed outside to the Revival Stage, which was hosting a “song swap”, including a pair of songwriters I was keen to hear, Arizona native singer Courtney Marie Andrews and soulful Nashville songwriter Sam Lewis, who were joined onstage by fellow songwriters Caleb Caudle and Kevin Kinney (of Drivin’ N Cryin’). I’m not sure if the song swap was intended to be more interactive among the performers, but in practice, the four artists simply took turns singing their own songs, rather than actually swapping. That said, I was especially excited to hear songs from Andrews’ excellent recent album ‘May Your Kindness Remain’, and Lewis’ upcoming LP ‘Loversity’. All four singers made a strong impression of the quality of songwriting on display at Luck.

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Immediately following on the same stage, Buck Meek (also known to TGTF readers as part of Big Thief) played a set of his solo tunes, including one, ‘Sam Bridges’, that I vaguely recognized from a Big Thief show back in 2015. I was able to catch Meek after his set for a quick chat about that song as well as the new ones on his forthcoming self-titled solo LP. Stay tuned to TGTF for that interview, which will post in the coming days.

Sam Lewis internal

After chatting with Meek, I had an appointment for another interview, this one with the aforementioned Sam Lewis. Outside the Luck Chapel, he and I took seats on an old wooden swingset, which was both novel and remarkably sturdy. (Thanks to Sarah for the photo above.) Lewis was outgoing and easy to talk to, and we chatted extensively about his upcoming LP ‘Loversity’, which is due out on the 4th of May. Be sure to check back with us for the forthcoming full interview, where he expands on the album’s unusual title as a theme for the songs it contains.

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My next stop was at the Back to the Source Stage for Austin native songwriter David Ramirez. I’d spied Ramirez and his bandmates earlier, walking around the Luck Ranch and enjoying the beautiful day ahead of their set. The informal atmosphere seemed very much to Ramirez’ liking, and he played a gorgeous show for the occasion, finding a pitch-perfect blend of old songs and new ones alike. He and his band were in top form here, showcasing themselves collectively under the newly minted moniker David Ramirez and the Hard Luck.

Jade Bird internal

I had noticed in passing that the Luck Chapel had a constant queue outside it throughout the afternoon. With a capacity of only 50 people, the intimate stage was in high demand all day long, but never more so than for British singer/songwriter Jade Bird. Disappointed that I wasn’t able to get inside to see her performance, I went around to the side of the building and spectated through an open window. The collection of punters standing outside with me were as delighted with Bird’s performance as the lucky ones who’d gotten in, and she quickly gained a reputation as “one to watch” for the remainder of SXSW. I was fortunate to hear Jade Bird sing again the following morning; keep an eye on TGTF for my Friday recap.

Hop Along internal

From there, it was a quick few steps back to the Revival Stage, where I saw a pair of rather unusual acts, Hop Along and Ezra Furman. Hop Along were unfamiliar to me, but I took an instant liking to lead singer Frances Quinlan’s voice. Their new album ‘Bark Your Head Off, Dog’ is an odd but appealing collection of songs painted with a broad sonic palette, out now via Saddle Creek. I was slightly more familiar with Ezra Furman, and the Luck Reunion seemed at first glance an odd choice of venue for his brand of angsty rock. However, if the event’s focus was indeed on “outlaws” of songwriting, Furman was in the right place, despite the oddity of seeing him perform in typically-female attire against the backdrop of a functional stable and horse pen. His recent fourth solo album ‘Transangelic Exodus’ is a brilliant and bizarre display of lyrical storytelling, out now on Bella Union.

Ezra Furman

By this point, I needed a break before hitting the World Headquarters Stage for evening sets by Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, Kurt Vile, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and of course, Willie Nelson and Family. Drinks at the Luck Reunion were complimentary and freely flowing at various locations throughout the day, but I took this time out to avail myself of the food choices provided by a selection of local vendors. There was no shortage of delicious options, and if you appreciate a deftly-designed culinary experience alongside your carefully-curated music, then the Luck Reunion would certainly be your cup of tea. Stay tuned to TGTF for my Thursday evening recap, which will include more from the Luck Reunion as well as two late night shows back in downtown Austin.

 
 
 

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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 is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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