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Preview: Apollo 11 Celebration Concert with Duran Duran

 
By on Tuesday, 9th July 2019 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo of the Rocket Garden from the Kennedy Space Center; NB: TGTF returns for a short time this month for a preview of an upcoming unique event that has personal meaning to me.

Next Tuesday is a major anniversary for American space history and indeed, humanity itself. On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 spacecraft launched into outer space from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the world collectively held its breath.

In the Sixties, the Space Race was a real, wholly palpable, politically-driven contest between America and the then-U.S.S.R. to see whose spaceflight program would reign supreme. Following the Apollo 11 moon landing, the contest was over. The legacy of the Apollo 11 mission went far beyond its literal success. Sending a man to the moon had been seen as an impossibility. Once achieved, it has stood as an example of human ingenuity and an inspiration to all to that amazing things are possible if you never give up.

In 1981, a New Romantic band from Birmingham, England, released their debut single. Like the success of the Apollo 11 mission 12 years earlier that provided direct inspiration, ‘Planet Earth’ by Duran Duran was something special and like nothing that had come before it. Early music from the group was a blend of disaffected synthesizer notes and programmed beats, funky bass lines and drum beats reminscent of disco, and crashing guitar. The poetic lyrics of Simon LeBon brought everything together.

Duran Duran have reached legendary rock band status through their longevity – 40 years in the business and count ‘em, 14 studio albums and a 15th on the way – and yet their fascination with space has never really gone away. They even named their 2004 reunion album ‘Astronaut’. So who better that them to perform a late night (la la la ‘Late Bar’) show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s launch? To call this is a once in a lifetime event is an understatement. Part of the proceeds of show ticket sales will benefit STEAM education programs of the non-profit Aldrin Family Foundation, supporting children’s education in science.

Duran Duran and NASA have a unique connection in my heart. My father was a physicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for most of his working life. As a college graduation present, he agreed to take me to Tokyo to see the ‘Pop Trash’ Duran Duran line-up perform there. What an experience to hear ‘Anyone Out There’, ‘Mars Meets Venus’, and ‘Last Day on Earth’ live and in another country! It was the first time I had been abroad to see a rock show. I haven’t stopped traveling for gigs since.

My late father’s colleagues told me that he had reached somewhat ‘rock star’ status himself there once it was learned he’d taken his daughter to see Duran Duran in a foreign country. After we returned from our trip, he excitedly forwarded me this internal memo reporting that Duran Duran’s ‘Hold Back the Rain’ was used as an encouraging wake-up call to the astronauts on space shuttle Atlantis returning home. I think it’s safe to say there must be more than a few NASA staff who are Duran Duran fans! Although I cannot attend, I hope some of these hard-working people get to attend this unique show under the stars. I know my father will be there. If you’re lucky enough to live close by or to travel for this event, you can attend, too!

Tickets to this special late-night Duran Duran show at the Rocket Garden of the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, cost US$300.00. Get your tickets from the Kennedy Space Center’s official Web site here; note that the ticket price includes parking but does not include daytime admission to the center.

 

SXSW 2019: catching up with my top 6 acts of the festival – 16th March 2019 (Saturday, part 3)

 
By on Thursday, 4th April 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

One of the great things about SXSW as a whole and that doesn’t really happen at UK or Irish multi-day city festivals is that you usually have an opportunity to catch acts again. If you didn’t get a good look and listen the first time around? No problem! If you enjoyed yourself so much on the first go-around, good news, you can get a second helping! Rather conveniently, the 6 acts I saw again on Saturday turned out to be my favourites from this year. If you haven’t heard of them, you have been alerted. Write their names down, put them in your phone, tattoo them lovingly on your body, I don’t care what you do. Remember them, because they are who I thought shone the brightest this year in Austin.

ROE at Flatstock Stage, Austin Convention Center (see also Thursday the 14th of March at Output Belfast at Latitude 30; read more on her on TGTF through here)
As Music and Film wind down as the week ends, Saturday at the Convention Center during SXSW takes on an entirely different feel. Part of this is the growing influence and attendance of the Gaming portion of SXSW. It’s family-friendly, so it’s not uncommon to see kids at the Flatstock Stage with their parents. Two young girls were dancing around and in front of the ever-approachable ROE, her guitar and her impressive setup of electronics. She gestured around to her setup, quipping, “Me and my band members are having a great time here!” A very funny moment.


ROE Flatstock Stage Saturday SXSW 2019

In all seriousness, though, young Roisin Donald from Derry has a charmingly disarming nature, and the sincerity of her onstage banter continues into her songs, written out of personal hardship and deep emotions. One of the biggest hurdles a singer/songwriter of any genre has to overcome is one of credibility, and ROE has gotten past this easily before she is even allowed to touch a beer in our country. If there is one important message that we all should take to heart from the young people making their way in the music business, it should be that young people have a lot of say and can do it thoughtfully. All we need to do is listen. And if you haven’t seen an artist or band at the Flatstock stage, you simply must. It’s free to all, so what’s stopping you?

Mansionair at Antone’s (see also Thursday the 14th of March at Clive Bar; read more on them on TGTF through here)
Established before I was born, Antone’s is an Austin institution for the blues. When I first starting coming out for SXSW 8 years ago, I knew I would get there one day, but it just never happened over the years. While not an official showcase, American audio innovators Shure hosted 2 days of afternoon ‘Bedroom Sessions’ in the upstairs area at Antone’s on Friday and Saturday, free to anyone in the know. It wasn’t until I got there Saturday afternoon that I realised they weren’t kidding on the theme. Beds were on the floor where punters could sit or stand, and there was also a big bed onstage, I guess in case any of their scheduled acts needed a catnap? Ha. Jack Froggatt of Australian electropop group Mansionair was well aware of the strangeness of it all, commenting from the stage that “it all feels like a dream I once had”, as he felt disorientated because of the bed’s presence and drummer Alex Nicholls was on his right when he’s usually on the left.


Mansionair Shure Bedroom Sessions Saturday SXSW 2019 2

As weird as it must have been for the artists, without a doubt, it was one of the more imaginative performance spaces I witnessed this year. With coloured balloons in the air and plenty of seating if the audience wanted it (it’s Saturday, are you kidding?), I appreciated the super chill atmosphere. Neither stuffy as a traditional seated venue or a free-for-all like Clive Bar Thursday afternoon, it was more like a Sofar Sounds-kind of situation where you’ve been welcomed into an intimate room. Though I felt abnormally tethered to my chair during set closer ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’, I felt that Mansionair ‘beat the odds’ and gave a good performance, weirdness nonwithstanding. Following this unusual appearance, I also saw the Sydney trio perform in DC, which you can read about here.

APRE at Latitude 30 (see also Thursday the 14th of March at the International Day Stage)
Just prior to Boy Azooga at the British Music Embassy, London-based, electronic-driven duo APRE began the BBC Radio 1 showcase in exemplary fashion. Had it been my choice, I would have put them later on in the lineup for the night, as their super-energetic pop show here definitely puts them in my top acts seen at SXSW 2019. Alas, Radio 1 didn’t ask me for my advice. Moving effectively and effortlessly from song to song, from slow vibe to more upbeat, mark my words, these guys are gonna go far.

APRE British Music Embassy BBC Radio 1 SXSW 2019

Though it was so late in the week, Charlie Brown and Jules Konieczny gave it their all, proving to be some of the most energetic performers I’ve seen in a long time. ‘Gap Year 2008’, their rhythmically spellbinding single with an unforgettable chorus and a killer guitar line, was my set highlight. I thought they were so good, you would have heard no complaints from me if they had just repeated their entire set a second time. Read my pre-SXSW 2019 Bands to Watch on them through here. I’m glad they and Boy Azooga were the last bands I’d see here. Sniff sniff, sob sob.

Jealous of the Birds at Swan Dive (see also Wednesday the 13th of March at Central Presbyterian Church; read more on her TGTF through here)
Perhaps it already happened long before she and her band arrived in Austin and I just missed it by virtue of my being stuck here in the States. But I feel that the now Belfast-based Naomi Hamilton and her recording name/entity Jealous of the Birds truly came into her own this year at SXSW 2019. Hamilton rocked hard in sharp purple plaid and bright yellow suits and was backed by her band who were also thematically dressed in tartans, so the professional feel of their performance was unmatched by anyone else I had the pleasure of seeing.

Jealous of the Birds Swan Dive Line of Best Fit Saturday SXSW 2019

Their busy week of gigging was capped off by an early evening performance at the Line of Best Fit showcase at Swan Dive, jam-packed with punters. The closest I got was crammed in on the side, white wooden railing in my face, somewhat mesmerised by the bobbing of her bass player’s new armadillo arm tattoo he got on this trip, ha. While the mood at Central Presbyterian Church Wednesday was overwhelmingly one of reverence, this last performance by Jealous of the Birds was one of revelry and pure joy, as bright as the gold of Hamilton’s suit.

The Dunts at 720 (see also Wednesday the 13th of March at Latitude 30)
Okay, so I wimped out and didn’t join The Dunts and the other excited moshers at the Rascalton show Friday night at Valhalla. Still, The Dunts themselves were scheduled to produce a sonic thrashing at my favourite place to see hard rock in Austin, 720, so how could I say no? I was stood safely by the bar (my version of being game, ha) as the Scots began their campaign of making the loudest, chaotic noise possible.

Although they bowed out of an earlier Second Play Stage appearance, arguing they weren’t an electronic kit band, their reputation off the back of their sweaty performance at the British Music Embassy Wednesday afternoon must have spread like wildfire. Though I didn’t see it firsthand – I smartly arrived early to stake my vantage point – a long queue had built up outside 720, no doubt curious to see what the fuss about these lads from Glasgow was all about. Some of the band reportedly celebrated a bit too heartily afterwards, necessitating yours truly acting as a big sister to assist in reuniting them. I remember what it was like at that age and frankly, had I gone down as well as they had in a foreign country on arguably the biggest stage for international emerging bands, I think I would have been celebrating, too! All good.

whenyoung at Swan Dive (see also Thursday the 14th of March at the Velveeta Room and Friday the 15th of March at B.D. Riley’s)
I decided to end my music loving time at SXSW 2019 with a band who had wowed me twice earlier in the week. I just couldn’t stay away. London via Limerick three-piece whenyoung also performed at the Line of Best Fit’s Swan Dive showcase and boy, did they bring it. I don’t think I can reiterate enough just how much fun their music is and how powerfully spirited they are in live performance. Run, run now, and get your tickets to see them live. Do not press snooze on this.

whenyoung Swan Dive Line of Best Fit Saturday SXSW 2019

You can’t help but enjoy the colourful, dynamic spectacle of whenyoung. Then when it’s over, you take a deep breath and walk away with a big, goofy grin on your face. We have enough pain and sorrow in this life, and there’s a time and a place for that kind of music. Saturday night at SXSW, all you want to do is live in the moment and go for it. Of all the bands I had the glorious opportunity to see live in Austin this year, whenyoung best epitomised the feeling of carpe diem.

And with that, my SXSW 2019 was over. To everyone who made SXSW possible, to all the staff, friends, artists and bands who made my experience so wonderful this year, I salute you. Goodnight and goodbye.

 

SXSW 2019: a mishmash of bands not yet seen during the week – 16th March 2019 (Saturday, part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 4th April 2019 at 11:00 am
 

In past years, I’ve used Saturday as a breather. I usually use it as a lie-in day. By then, everyone’s spent: they’ve drank too much, they’ve run around too much and the reality that we’re all going home on Sunday is sadly starting to set in. I also Saturday as my catch-up day to try and pick up anyone I might have missed during the week. In order to make this post and the next and last of my SXSW 2019 live review posts efficient, I will recount in this post the bands I only saw on Saturday.

Fatherson at Latitude 30
Fatherson are no strangers to TGTF or to Austin for that matter, having come out here for SXSW 2015 when frontman Ross Leighton had a much larger beard! The Scottish trio have undergone a musical evolution since then, trading their previous more all-encompassing anthemic sound for (dare I say it?) a more poppy, mainstream rock approach. These details inside a music editor’s mind were lost on the British Music Embassy crowd, Austinites and for-the-week British expats enjoying the music being bashed about on stage.

Fatherson British Music Embassy Saturday SXSW 2019

Rizha at Austin Taco Project
I wouldn’t call Rizha an accidental find, as I happened to be passing through and wanted to be sure I did not miss who was up next. She is a young (19) Argentinian now in university in Madrid, continuing a musical career that I understand began in 2013. Most, if not all of her songs, contain swear words and therefore have been anointed as explicit on Spotify. This ordinarily wouldn’t disqualify an act for me, but I wasn’t impressed with the music or Rizha’s singing. Had I been a good 2 decades younger (or 3?), this music might have spoken to me. As it was, I found her synth-reliant music unremarkable.

Rizha Austin Taco Project Second Play Stage Saturday SXSW 2019

On the other hand, the Austin Taco Project, attached to the Hilton and which opened just in time for SXSW 2018, is worth a visit for the delicious tacos and the very nice bartenders, even if you’re not there to see a band on their Second Play Stage. While we’re talking about the Hilton, I’d be remiss to not mention the Hilton’s other restaurant Cannon + Belle, which also acts as a Second Play Stage during SXSW. Carrie and I saw Holly Macve and James TW there in 2016.

Kidsmoke at Austin Taco Project
The next band were much more up my alley. Having run around like somewhat of a crazy person on Wednesday night, I could not stay at the Focus Wales showcase for Welsh band Kidsmoke. Luckily for me, the Wrexham four-piece made another appearance at the Austin Taco Project before leaving for home. I’ve seen the term ‘pastoral pop’ being bandied around when they’re discussed, and I think it’s a good description of their music.

Kidsmoke Austin Taco Project Second Play Stage Saturday SXSW 2019

Maybe it’s just me, and admittedly I have never been to Wales (!) but I have this romantic vision of its picturesque countryside, of rolling green valleys and white blots of sheep. If I had the opportunity to drive around this beautiful land, I’d want Kidsmoke’s newest single ‘Passenger’ playing while I had the windows rolled down, my hair flying in the breeze. Want to make it feel like it’s summer every day? Guitar-driven melodic pop? Yes, please!

Boy Azooga at Latitude 30
Arguably the biggest success story out of The Great Escape 2018, Cardiff’s Boy Azooga capped off a busy week in Austin with a 9 PM appearance at the British Music Embassy during BBC Radio 1’s showcase. Probably dead tired, Davey Newington and his live band showed no signs of flagging and certainly brought out their Four Tops-ey dance posturing to the Latitude 30 stage. Coming into Austin on a raft of hype, the song ‘Taxi to Your Head’ seemed quite appropriate by title, its funky grooves received well by the audience. The laidback ‘Jerry’, another from the critically acclaimed debut album from last year, ‘1, 2, Kung Fu’, was another set highlight.

Boy Azooga British Music Embassy BBC Radio 1 SXSW 2019

 

SXSW 2019: a morning with Johnny Cash – 16th March 2019 (Saturday, part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd April 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

Photo of Johnny Cash from the official SXSW Web site

I’ve spent time in March in Austin every year for the last 7 years. And yet, all this time, I have never seen a film that was part of SXSW. That all changed this year. Of the days I knew I would be in Austin, I looked at the films that were playing and when, and I found something that I could slot in on Saturday morning, when most revelers would still be asleep. Or hungover. Or both. ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’ is a new, authorised documentary on the Man in Black that I saw at the Alamo Ritz. It’s a welcome continuation for those of us whose knowledge of Cash’s history, personally and professionally, is limited to the dramatisation of his life portrayed in ‘Walk the Line’ superbly by Joaquin Phoenix.

Grief over the death of his brother in childhood, the freedom of the open road as part of touring, and the effect of the Folsom Prison concerts are the primary touchstones music documentarian director Thom Zimny and screenwriter Warren Zanes come back to again and again in this film. It is, as one might expect, a much more comprehensive review of Cash’s life from childhood to the end than ‘Walk the Line’ ever could be. It benefits from soundbites from first-hand interview tapes with Cash, his family and friends, and they serve to drive home the relenting reality of his life as you experience the film.

I have been thinking about Cash’s addiction to amphetamines during his early touring years over the last few days before writing this, and I can’t help but draw a line between the reality of artists having to do a lot of late night driving to get from town to town and the tragedy that befell Liverpool Her’s and their tour manager last week. Like any other job, there will always be inherent dangers to being a musician, but to continue progressing in your musical career shouldn’t be a risk to your health or kill you. I don’t know how we do this, and I know Help Musicians UK and similar organisations exist, but we have to continue providing support to the music community. We simply must.

I had not been aware of just what a big influence gospel music was on Johnny Cash. His mother, upon hearing his adolescent singing voice, told him, “God has his hand on you. Don’t ever forget the gift.” I found incredibly bittersweet that although this gift of an incredible voice brought joy and emotion to his many fans, the actual act of singing appears to have been how he felt he could attempt to exorcise the many battles raging in his mind. His description of begging his brother not to go to work the morning he died, based on his own premonition that something bad would happen to him if he went, is painfully poignant. The theme of mortality would haunt Cash his entire life. Through substance abuse and the decline of his career, it is touching how Cash’s career was revitalised late in his life when Rick Rubin believed in him and put his trust in his talent. I’d say God or some other divine being(s) had a hand in making that happen.

As is the case with many musicians, Cash’s children who were born during the earlier years of his career had a mostly absentee father have different recollections than John Carter Cash, who was born when Cash was much older and realised the importance of family. Soundbites from his children and friends add another level of authenticity that wouldn’t have been possible if this hadn’t been an authorised documentary. Taken together, the clips of interviews make you feel not like you’re being talked to but you’re part of the conversation. I know when I’m watching a documentary, I want to have a personal connection with the subject. ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’ succeeds in this in spades. Leaving the Ritz, I was covered in tears. I hope this film gets a worldwide distribution deal soon.

 

SXSW 2019: the first half of the End of the Trail Creative showcase, Fangclub at 720 and Joshua Burnside at the Driskill – 15th March 2019 (Friday, part 3)

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd April 2019 at 11:00 am
 

Friday night began in a very relaxed way for me. After 2 days of hustling, I decided it was time for a nice break: a salmon dinner and a prickly pear margarita at Caroline on Congress Avenue. After such a civilised meal, I was back in the (crazy) game and high-tailed it to Valhalla on Red River, for the first few acts of the End of the Trail Creative showcase. Without fail, Valhalla is one of the hardest places to photograph musicians. Most are bathed in a steady, all-enveloping red light that does no favours to anyone’s looks. I didn’t have much of a prayer there shooting the Sandinistas or Laucan as part of the Sunday Best showcase there in 2017.

Preston singer/songwriter Pip Hall was up first. For an artist so obviously young, you don’t expect such a rich voice belying her tender years. Hall was smiley and confident, which isn’t something you necessarily see with young artists coming out to play in America for the first time. Her guitar-driven songwriting is definitely on the rock end of the spectrum, whether it be on one of her earliest songs ‘Devil You Don’t’ to newest release ‘So Easy’, which was released at the start of March and has echoes of Fleetwood Mac, one of her biggest influences. While Hall’s set of coming of age songs was never going to be one of the most exciting performances at SXSW – she played a guitar and was accompanied by another guitarist, and that was it – massive respect to her for coming out to Austin and performing with such aplomb.

Pip Hall at the End of the Trail Creative Friday SXSW 2019

Ah, yes. Sam Eagle. From one underage youngster to another. My friends I brought along to Valhalla this evening adored this Essex artist and his band. How would you describe the music? It’s jazzy – note the obvious trumpet onstage – but it’s clearly not straight jazz. It’s funky, but would it meet Prince and Bootsy’s standards? Possibly. Valhalla’s stage is not a large one and yet Eagle (is that really his surname?) managed to fit a five-piece band on there. Though the songs lacked linearity, the band – not to mention the audience – fully embraced the chaos, Eagle and band doing a great job in raising the energy level in the shadowy venue.

Glaswegian punk band Rascalton has been on my radar since early 2018, being one of my best bets at last year’s editions of Live at Leeds and The Great Escape. I followed this up with this SXSW 2019-flavoured Bands to Watch piece on them in February. Having seen their frenetic performance at the Green Door Store Saturday night in Brighton, after fellow Scots and friends Declan Welsh and the Decadent West I might add, I was quick to recommend them to the friends of mine who had already taken to similar acts IDLES and LIFE. Their appearance at Valhalla didn’t disappoint and funnily enough, the mayhem on the floor was further ratcheted up by the front by their buddies The Dunts, shouting back lyrics to the stage with gusto.


Rascalton End of the Trail Creative Valhalla Friday SXSW 2019 by Pamela Erickson
photo of Rascalton frontman Jack Wyles crowdsurfing
taken from above by my friend Pamela Erickson

The feeling behind this performance was very different than Rascalton’s set at Green Door Store last year, a relatively tame experience save for a few folks cutting a rug good-naturedly. After falling in a Biffy Clyro-incited mosh pit at Roskilde in 2010, I know when to set back and to the side when things start getting violent. While I wasn’t part of the melee of aggro, mad fer it fans, even I could see the frenzied result of hearing the punk strains of Rascalton in this club. Checkmate.

After their fine showing on the sunlit stage of B.D. Riley’s that afternoon as part of the full Irish breakfast, I decided I wanted to see Fangclub in a venue tailor-made for them. If Plush is the place to be to watch the hottest electronic producers, 720 – at 720 Red River, natch – is where you go for hard rock.

Fangclub 720 Friday SXSW 2019

You don’t come here for high production values and an awe-inspiring light show. No further decor beyond clinical white walls and a simple bar that only serves alcohol in cans, it’s the place to see rock at its most primal and visceral on show. As expected, 720 was perfect for Fangclub. Long hair flying and with sustained, menacing chords up to 11 aplenty, they wowed the crowd waiting for a good sonic pummeling. And that we got. I only took a handful of photos because I wanted to step back and take in the spectacle.

After two back-to-back, no-nonsense hard-rocking groups, I decided sitting down and resting my feet at the end of my third day in Austin was just what the doctor ordered. For a second year in a row, Joshua Burnside and his band were set to perform at 11 PM at the Victoria Room at the Driskill. Though I saw part of the band’s performance at the Output Belfast showcase at the British Music Embassy Thursday afternoon, this performance at the Driskill was truly what I was waiting for. Like that show, Burnside threw his hat of the evening in the crowd but implored to the Victorian Room crowd that he wanted it back. Ha. Dressed in decidedly relaxed togs – well, we were in Austin after all, right? – he and his band proceeded through a lovely set of songs that showcased Burnside’s twangy, folky Irish accent against eclectic instrumentation.

Joshua Burnside Victorian Room at the Driskill Friday SXSW 2019

Emotional, beautiful and touching in equal measure, I thought I might float away on a cloud from the gorgeousness. ‘Holllllogram’, which I mentioned of my review of him on Thursday, was introduced with a joke. Burnside explained that the song was intended to be a duet for a man and a woman, and he suggested that we “…imagine I’m a beautiful woman singing the second verse…or you can just imagine I’m beautiful the whole way through!” A disarming comment that led to peals of laughter.

 

Live Review: Mansionair with Beacon at U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC – 20th March 2019

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd April 2019 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo and photos of Mansionair and Beacon throughout article by guest photographer Patrick Ryan

On the first day of spring 2019, we had a visit from one of the brightest rising bands from Down Under. Jack Froggatt, Lachlan Bostock and Alex Nicholls, collectively known as the evocatively named Mansionair, were in the latter days of a North American headline tour, their first major one, which included a series of appearances at SXSW 2019. (Read my review of their appearance at Clive Bar Thursday afternoon at Next Level Apparel’s day showcase through this link.) The Sydney band’s previous visit to Washington was as part of the 2018 Sirius XM Advanced Placement Tour with NoMBE and Mikky Ekko last April. A few weeks later, they also appeared at the ATC Live showcase at Brighton Komedia Thursday night at The Great Escape 2018.

Joining Mansionair on their cross-country jaunt were Ghostly International’s Beacon, a electronic duo originally from and based in Brooklyn. They’ve been around for a while – their third album, ‘Gravity Pairs’, was released last November – but this is the first I’ve heard of them. What a coup to be touring with another band with a similar sonic palette. Don’t let looks fool you: Thomas Mullarney may have long hair that goes way past his shoulders and would be more appropriate for a hard rock or grunge band, his soulful vocals are intended to be gentle and completely complementary to the soundscapes he and Jacob Gossett have crafted.

Beacon, by Patrick M. Ryan

Live, they rely on programmed beats instead of a drummer but wonderfully, their live presence isn’t at all static or boring. What you witness is an energetic performance that hits the spot for electronic and pop fans alike. True, their chosen lighting scheme leaves a lot to be desired if you’re trying to photograph them. However, you could also argue that the dark, rave-like stage environment is intended to focus the punter’s attention squarely on the music. Check out their rhythmically beguiling Spotify hit ‘Bring You Back’ and the darker ‘IM U’.

Beacon, by Patrick M. Ryan

Mansionair signed to star maker American record label Glassnote Records in 2015, so to say that I have been impatiently waiting for a debut album would be an understatement. From this article from Australian outlet The Music, one can gather that the delays have been attributed the group’s tiring touring schedule but also not feeling confident in their songwriting ability. I’m glad they finally came up with a way forward that worked: holing themselves up in a secluded cabin in California, away from everyone else and their opinions, to hunker down and write the album that they were proud of. Their debut LP ‘Shadowboxer’, which dropped on Glassnote in February, is a 16-track collection of songs celebrating their past single successes, interspersed with fresh tunes that fit perfectly into their electropop aesthetic.

Jack Froggatt of Mansionair, by Patrick M. Ryan

In case you have somehow missed the genesis of Mansionair, let me bring you up to date. Bostock, the electronica pedant of the group, hooked up with Nicholls, a jazz drummer. Bostock met the then-folk singer/songwriter Froggatt at a music festival and invited him to contribute vocals to an electronic track that would become their 2016 single hit ‘Hold Me Down’. Froggatt’s vocals are incredibly effective in conveying emotion, whether it be through his sultry falsetto, bombastic power and everything in between. Combined with Bostock’s electronic, guitar and bass and Nicholls’ drumming contributions, what you end up with are dynamic, emotional, engaging songs never to be forgotten.

Lachlan Bostock of Mansionair, by Patrick M. Ryan

The greatest failing of most pop bands these days is the homogeneity of their songs. Enter ‘Falling’, a great example of what exactly you wouldn’t expect from 21st century electropop: a sweet, floating, major key ballad that thoughtfully considers the people who support us through our ups and downs and coming to terms with the trials we go through in life. On this night, Mansionair followed it with ‘Easier’, an older single that wowed me live at BIGSOUND 2017 in Brisbane. Booming with a syncopated melody, spurts of percussion and compressed synths, it’s a song that successfully translates the feeling of paralysis you feel when battling with what’s going on inside your head. Indeed, what ‘Shadowboxer’ does incredibly well is communicate the mental struggles with anxiety and insecurity we all go through and offer that sense of understanding to the listener that we aren’t suffering alone.

Lachlan Bostock and Alex Nicholls of Mansionair, by Patrick M. Ryan

On the new song side of things, ‘Harlem’ shows off the band’s penchant for film soundtracks. It’s a driving, beautiful soundscape that lets each band member shine, while the sum of its parts draw you into this world. ‘Best Behaviour’, which appeared as the penultimate track of their set, puts the electronic chords and vibrations front and centre and ahead of Froggatt’s sultry vocals. The result? You feel like you’re being enveloped, cocooned by the synths, while the song works towards its ending crescendo, any insecurities falling away. Through words, synths and rhythms, Mansionair create a world where your dreams and fears can be addressed and you know you’re not alone. When you come out of it, you come out stronger and know you’re gonna be okay. All my past coverage on Mansionair on TGTF is through here.

After the cut: Mansionair’s set list for the night.
Continue reading Live Review: Mansionair with Beacon at U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC – 20th March 2019

 
 
 

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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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