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BIGSOUND 2017: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 19th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

The first day of BIGSOUND is similar to SXSW in that conference sessions don’t really get going until the second day. Naturally, I used the opportunity to pop in and out of afternoon showcases and attend some industry mixers to get a better read of what I was about to experience. A Woman in Music welcome event at Eleven rooftop bar on Ann Street was a nice event on the docket to help situate someone like me who had never attended BIGSOUND before, with several industry luminaries giving both newbies and artists alike tips and tricks to make the most out of their time at the event. An international delegates event later in the afternoon at The Pig and Whistle felt bit awkward for myself from America to attend when surrounded by Australian industry people who seem to all know each other. Still, I guess it’s interesting to see that industry people in Oz act just the way they do in America and the UK?


Jess Ribeiro Tuesday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

Remote Control Records, a promotions group in Melbourne, was putting on one of the first afternoon parties of the week. The beer garden at the entry point for The Brightside isn’t big, but its feel is like those you experience at The Great Escape: pretty intimate, yet relaxed enough that going to the bar for a beer isn’t an offence, it’s practically encouraged. Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest idea for Jess Ribiero and her band to use this moment to premiere a new song live, but you have to give her credit for at least pushing out the boat.


Considering from where I come from, I find it highly ironic that one of the first bands I would see at BIGSOUND was a cover band. At least they were from Brisbane. Playing around the corner on the bigger outdoor stage for the Social State party at The Brightside were Bris-182, a collective of musicians usually numbering in sum over 10 and who are in their own indie bands, but they come together to form this supergroup to play songs by their guilty pleasure Blink-182. If you want to talk about surreal, just imagine how surreal it was for me to be thousands of miles away from home at the outdoor stage at The Brightside and see a covers band from my country. They even had a guest star on vocals, Jeremy from Velociraptor, join them on stage for a tune.

Jim Lawrie Tuesday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

During the stage break on the bigger outdoor stage, I wandered back to the front beer garden of The Brightside to catch a tune by Jim Lawrie. My initial research on the man prior to coming out to BIGSOUND suggested that I was in for a Bruce Springsteen-esque performance, which in general (for me anyway) would mean I wouldn’t like it. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with a mélange of jangly guitar and drums more reminiscent of a band important in my early musical upbringing, The Eagles. This is music for lonesome drives down long, lonely motorways, and I like it.

Evan Klar at BIGSOUND 2017 Tuesday

My main purpose of being at The Brightside in the first place was to see Evan Klar, who’s been signed to EMI Australia. A true globetrotter as described in my blurb suggesting him as a best bet at BIGSOUND 2017, it’s good to see a former London session musician coming into his own, making his own music and having been recognised by a major so early on in a new project. Funnily enough, I had unwittingly started a conversation with the currently Melbourne-based Evan when Bris-182 were loading in and got an insider tip that his performance would be a slightly stripped version of what he’d be bringing to his two evening showcases the following 2 nights. He has an interesting style, in that there’s a huge percussive element to his music (with help from his live band) that makes his points come across more emphatically and more vibrantly than the bog standard singer/songwriter. That said, in singles like the already released, dusky ‘Sleep’, he shows his pop music intelligence and writing ability.

Sadly, I left before Brisbane’s own WAAX took to the stage following Evan Klar and didn’t get a chance to catch them before the conclusion of the festival. There’s a lot of buzz around the band. Although simply being local with respect to BIGSOUND must have been a help, they also placed in the top 5 shortlist of acts among over 120 acts entered in Brisbane’s own The City Sounds’ Amplify competition, proving their worth. Despite my best attempt by my feet to see them Tuesday night, I missed them.

My afternoon concluded with what can certainly be named the most awesome venue I had the good fortune to visit during my time at BIGSOUND. Just to the left of the stage for the Spirit Level Records showcase in the basement of The Judith Wright Centre, a tactile, sound-resonating art installation hung from the ceiling (see the header photo at the top to see what I mean). This is where I got to see Melbourne’s Braille Face. A lot of people in America and the UK have become enamoured with the soulfulness of Matthew E. White. The surname of the prolific Jordan White, who releases music under the stage name Braille Face, seems a little too perfect. He’s a Melburnian who has fully embraced and chosen to experiment with the electronic technology that makes one-man bands these days possible but it’s his rich, compelling, soulful voice that will win him legions of fans.

Braille Face at BIGSOUND 2017 Tuesday

‘Koya’, his album released last year, is chockfull of beauteous soundscapes and his appearance on the scene is much appreciated after East India Youth announced last year that he was hanging up his hat. While I arrived to his set late, I was rewarded with songs on which he was accompanied by a violinist, which added a traditional counterbalance, if you will, to what he was doing on keyboards. To get an idea of what this might sound live, watch the live piano version of ‘Because’ below.


 

BIGSOUND 2017: Introduction and pre-festival Rice is Nice X Spunk showcase

 
By on Monday, 18th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

I think that it’s inevitable after having gone to a wide range of events around the world that you will compare and contrast them. BIGSOUND in Brisbane, Australia represents a major commitment in time and money from America, or Europe for that matter. However, BIGSOUND offers a combination of positives that provide an advantage of over SXSW and The Great Escape (TGE) that pleasantly surprised me.

1. Like TGE, BIGSOUND lasts for a manageable 3 days. It’s the right length to really get stuck in and get into great music discovery while not feeling like an exhausting slog like the 6 days of SXSW.

2. Like TGE and unlike SXSW, the hordes of punters are manageable and of good cheer at BIGSOUND. While I didn’t enjoy the crush of bodies at the Brightside outdoor stage or triple j’s stage Oh Hello, the good nature of music fans who were attending the event reminded me much of Liverpool Sound City when it was a city festival, RIP.

3. Like SXSW and unlike The Great Escape, the weather in Brisbane is sunny and fantastic. If you have ever been stuck under a brolly in Brighton, trying to keep your spirits up, you understand what this means. I have wondered, too, if it’s the weather or the unruliness of the punters that make the many bouncers of Brighton surly and unhelpful.

4. Shows start on time. This might not sound like a big deal, but it makes things so much easier for someone like me who’s got a full schedule organised each day and night. From the general music fan’s point of view, this is also of benefit: if you’re really keen on seeing on a certain band, you won’t be kept waiting.

5. Related to the previous point, all venues are organised, with the soundboards managed by good engineers. Ever been to a festival and been bored to tears waiting for a band to go on after doing live soundchecks when they really should be performing? I can’t recall a single time this happened at BIGSOUND. Every band was ready to go from the start of their set.

6. There is plenty of stuff to fill your time at BIGSOUND, but there is also plenty of time to enjoy the Fortitude Valley of Brisbane if you so choose. A dizzying array of lunchtime and afternoon showcases made it hard for delegate to choose between professional sessions and more laid-back performances, many in outdoor and/or whimsical spaces. If you so wished, the James Street shopping precinct and boho neighbourhoods of New Farm, Newstead and Teneriffe weren’t far walks to get a flavour outside of the Valley, and the Brisbane CBD was an easy walk or taxi ride away too. Having great and varied food and drink options makes going to a festival much more an experience than the event itself.

Laura Jean at BIGSOUND 2017

But let’s get back to the music. Unsurprisingly, Aussie indie labels Rice is Nice and Spunk wanted to hit the ground running with BIGSOUND, offering up an entirely free showcase at the Black Bear Lodge in Brunswick Street Mall to ease folks into the event if they’ve arrived in town early like myself. The songs of keyboard-playing Laura Jean from Melbourne, supported by a backing band, while perfectly serviceable, didn’t capture my imagination. With major labels preferring to back solo artists these days for financial reasons, acts like her make sense. These acts have the unenviable task of trying to be different and exciting enough to separate themselves from their peers and those already famous, while also not veering too far from mainstream sounds and topics.

REBEL YELL at BIGSOUND 2017

REBEL YELL was a surprising non-BIGSOUND showcasing artist who I found much more interesting. Despite her act’s name, no, Grace Stevenson’s music has nothing to do with Billy Idol. Okay, so in what some EDM heads and those in the know in Australia are calling ‘the post-Flume apocalypse’, there are more electronic producers – or people who are still too green, fancying themselves as genuine electronic producers – in Australia than the industry can actually support. I don’t think it’s Stevenson’s intention to truly shake things up in Brisbane, but she’s got good enough chops as a one-woman electronic dance show that I hope she shows up at a rave near you soon enough.

Big White at BIGSOUND 2017

From the 21st century, it was jarring to go into the next act. Sydney’s New Wave rockers Big White sound like you’ve gone through a time warp. Remember when we were in the late ‘70s and ‘80s and trying to pretend disco never happened? They’ve got a vibe that The Knack and The Vapors rode high on. Do we really want to go back to that time? Judging those in the lodge who were clicking up their heels, I guess some do.

 

TGTF X BIGSOUND 2017 Playlist: Focus on Showcasing Brisbane Bands

 
By on Thursday, 17th August 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Ahead of my first time at BIGSOUND, I thought it would be a nice gesture to celebrate the city that hosts this fabulous event every year. And what better way is there to pay it forward, then, to shine a light on the artists who call the Queensland capital home?

You might be asking yourself what kind of great music is coming out of down under. Queensland, in the northwestern part of Australia, has been the birthplace of quite a few bands you’ve heard of but perhaps might not have known have come from there. The Go-Betweens and Violent Soho (rock) and Savage Garden and The Veronicas (pop), ring any bells? Going off just those four names, it’s no surprise that there will be strong representatives in both these genres from the Sunshine State.

Sloan Peterson has already caught the eyes and ears of bloggers this side of the Pacific with her in-your-face single ‘Rats’. If you’re interested in shoegazey, slacker rock, Good Boy are your band. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got signed to Heavenly Records at some point soon. SXSW alums The Creases offer up more straightforward rock, but in a bombastic style. In the mood for something for something harder that will make your heartbeat race and make you lift your fists? Check out Driven Fear, The Comfort (male-fronted) and WAAX (female-fronted). Or maybe you want something that’s a little bit different. If so, the funk of Osaka Punch or the WTF-ery of WHALEHOUSE might be more your bag.

As we all know (and some of us lament at times), pop and r&b these days are pretty much intertwined. Depending on who you talk to, this is owing to the rise is popularity of hip-hop. Close your eyes, and the minimalist r&b vibe of Isabel sounds awfully like Lorde. Girl duo OKBADLANDS have perfected a nice blend of pop and soul, demonstrated nicely in new single ‘Mineral’. Aurelia and Miss Blanks are up-and-coming solo artists, the former embracing a more pop backing with an ephemeral vocal, while the latter serves up a more straightforward, beat-driven hip-hop sound. Originally from Fiji, Jesswar is another rapper calling Brisbane home, having already toured with the likes of Lady Leshurr and Akala.Golden Vessel is young producer Max Byrne: essentially, his music is electronic dance but with the addition of singers you’ve heard of like Woodes and now OKBADLANDS, his tracks bridge the gap between more cerebral electronic and pop.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGHUXd177oc[/youtube]

Speaking of electronic music, Australia’s music industry has been absolutely booming in this genre. This proliferation of electronic acts out of Oz required The Aussie BBQ at SXSW 2017 this year to expand to another full afternoon of electronic-specific programming to accommodate all their artists. The soulful, synth-driven pop of Cub Sport will be delectable at BIGSOUND 2017, while the dreaminess of Yoste’s tunes will provide much needed chill. As genres continue to blur year after year, it’s not surprising to see a performer like Machine Age come to the surface. A guitarist not shy to use a “sampler and other gadgets”, he’s able to churn out electronic (‘Don’t Look’) and ‘Chivalry’ (rock) masterpieces.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2ecih4hTn8[/youtube]

Are you into more conventional guy or girl with a guitar setups? Brisbane has those too. The stripped-back, autobiographical style of Emerson Snowe puts him well in the running to becoming the happier and Aussie version of Conor Oberst. Hearing the voice of Clea, it’s unsurprising she counts Laura Marling as one of her influences. His name makes it sound like he would be feel more at home at HWCH, but Sydney transplant Paddy McHugh is an Aussie through and through. Like Frank Turner, his musical roots began in punk, but he’s now a no-holds-barred kind of singer/songwriter. Keen for a richer sound via an act with more band members? The country rock Suicide Swans will fit the bill.

Influential government-funded radio station triple j have also pledged to bring attention to up-and-coming Brisbane acts, selecting three from a pool of local talent. Carmouflage Rose (hip-hop), Holiday Party (pop) and Nice Biscuit (rock) will perform at the triple j Unearthed stage at the venue Oh Hello! The full lineups for triple j’s three nights of music are listed here on Oh Hello!’s Facebook.

Check out the playlist I put together of all these artists below. The artists mentioned in this post and included in the playlist are those who are either from or currently are based in Brisbane and appear on the first or second lists of artists scheduled to perform at BIGSOUND 2017. To read my previous preview post on BIGSOUND 2017, go here.

 

Preview: BIGSOUND 2017

 
By on Thursday, 20th July 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Americans have SXSW. Brits have The Great Escape. The Irish have Hard Working Class Heroes. If you’re Australian and you fancy yourself having some idea of what is going on in new music in Oz, BIGSOUND in Brisbane is undoubtedly the top music discovery event on your calendar. The 16th annual edition of the conference and festival will be taking place over 4 days in September in Fortitude Valley, the Brisbane suburb known as the hub of nightlife in the city. Recall, too, that September in Australia – in the Southern Hemisphere, down under, natch) is springtime, so the weather’s likely to be absolutely brilliant, eh?

A plethora of both artists and conference alike have already been announced nearly 2 months ahead of the September. On the band front, there’s definitely some names you’ll recognise, including surf slackers Hockey Dad, past SXSW showcasing bands Mansionair and The Creases, plus the recently Stereogum-tipped Sloan Peterson, all Australian. There’s so many names I haven’t heard of being living outside of the country, but I look forward to cueing up all the names on various streaming services in the coming weeks ahead of the big event, then seeing if they’re the real deal on the ground and in the clubs in Fortitude Valley. Check out the growing list of artists scheduled to perform at BIGSOUND 2017 on this page.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GydxpxuRqw4[/youtube]

It’s important to note that while this is of course an Australian event, there will be plenty of representatives from outside of Oz to provide amazing presentations and mentoring opportunities. PIAS cofounder Kenny Gates, storied UK music manager and author Simon Napier-Bell and Sub Pop A&R Stuart Meyer are just three names who will be making the trip out to BIGSOUND, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the growing list of luminaries through here.

BIGSOUND 2017 will take place 5-8 September in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. It’s merely AU$85 for a Rainbow Pass that gives you access to all 4 days of the festival and the closing party. One night passes are still available for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights for AU$45 each. For those who want even more access, including to the conference sessions, be quick, because there’s a special promotion for the Purple Pass going on until 31 July. Members of certain Aussie professional groups (QMusic, AIR, AAM, IMNZ, WAM, Music Victoria, Music NT, Music Tasmania, Music Australia, AMPAL, AIM, WIN, A2IM, CBAA) can snag a pass for AU$470 (regular price AU$570), while nonmembers can get the same pass for AU$570 (regular price AU$670). Get your pass from the official BIGSOUND Web site now.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: best bets of Australian artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Monday, 27th February 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Australia and her neighbour New Zealand will be sending over 30 acts to SXSW 2017. The list includes artists we covered at previous SXSWs, including Demi Louise, Hamish Anderson and Mansionair. In this post, I introduce you to the Australian acts I think are the cream of the crop from down under, representing the various genres of pop, rock, electronic and folk. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Alex Lahey – pop / rock / Melbourne
Alex Lahey would be my pick for the next big Australian global superstar. The world is ready for another strong young woman to follow in the footsteps of Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson and Gaga, and with this kick in the arse, upbeat pop/rock sound, Lahey owns it. On this side of the Pacific with her own American tour to follow SXSW, plus even earlier this month, when Lahey supported Tegan and Sara on their UK winter tour, the interest in this young Aussie singer/songwriter is clear. There’s nowhere to go but up, up, up for her.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z32tgLHEEBc[/youtube]

All Our Exes Live in Texas – Sydney / folk
The band with the name most appropriate for coming to Austin to perform, All Our Exes Live in Texas (pictured at top) take their cues from the greats of country and folk. The incredible melding of the talents of four individually brilliant musicians is the true success of this folk group, who take full advantage of the beautiful four-part harmonies they can achieve and their charismatic live shows, which have already left Sydneysiders breathless. They might still be some ways off from the Grand Ole Opry when they showcase at SXSW 2017, but something tells me they’ll get an invite soon.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElcYePVbv2w[/youtube]

Cameron Avery – rock / Perth
Are we allowed to call a 28-year old a Renaissance man? Sod it, we are when it comes to Cameron “Cam” Avery. From the capital of Western Australia, Perth, the singer/songwriter is probably best known outside of Oz for being a member of indie favourites Pond and Tame Impala, the latter of which he plays bass for. But this time in Austin, Avery will be playing for and promoting himself and his debut album ‘Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams’, which will be out on the 10th of March on Anti- Records and Spinning Top. As a solo artist, Cameron Avery’s music is as far as you can get from the psychedelia of Tame Impala: his is straightforward songwriting with a rich voice evocative of his Anti- labelmate Cass McCombs.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdN7bhUIOQw[/youtube]

Castlecomer – pop/rock / Sydney
Remember when Two Door Cinema Club’s music felt like a guilty pleasure, in the ‘Tourist History’ era well before their meltdowns? That’s what Castlecomer’s new single ‘If I Could Be Like You’: high energy, infectious guitar pop with a driving rhythm that can get tail feathers shaking at a music festival. While it’s a formula overused in the last few years because of the success of bands just like Two Door, Castlecomer’s success in the form of 2 million streams on Spotify for their 2016 EP ‘All of the Noise’ bodes well for their future. Hey Glassnote Records, are you looking for an Australian Two Door?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phwT4b9seAQ[/youtube]

Food Court – garage punk / Sydney
I’ll never understand why bands choose a name that will always produce unhelpful Google results. But it hasn’t prevented Food Court, from the neighbourhood of Glebe in Sydney, from already becoming a bit of an internet sensation. It’s kind a no-brainer: their scuzzy, fuzzy, garage punk style follows in the style of the Ramones and the Clash and has plenty of admirers. We hear their debut album will be out in March, which seems more than simply fortuitous serendipity, given their SXSW 2017 shout.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ0e5OwkSJg[/youtube]

The Heart Collectors – folk / Murwillumbah
The kind of band the Cambridge Folk Festival would give their right arm to book? The Heart Collectors, originally from the rural village of Tyalgum in New South Wales. I’m going to venture that this is like bluegrass country in America or the remote regions of Western Ireland, where a healthy reliance on harmonies conveying emotional themes, guitars and simple percussion is de rigueur. And sometimes simple is best.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jay7f53vmoE[/youtube]

Middle Kids – alt-rock / Sydney
Fronted by Hannah Joy, alt-rock group Middle Kids fill the place that was never really adequately filled after Melissa Etheridge: guitar pop with a slight country twang still palatable to the masses, yet able to show female vulnerability through the lyrics. Already introduced 2 weeks ago to the American public by getting the chance to perform on Conan O’Brien’s late night show – on Valentine’s Day no less – and with a brand new, eponymous EP to show off, Austin is for Middle Kids’ taking.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj8kWGx9xVU[/youtube]

Oscar Key Sung – r&b / electronic / Melbourne
Some people are surprised to see the marriage of r&b and electronic music, but ultimately both are rooted in the beat being the driving force of a song. Oscar Key Sung embraces both r&b and hip-hop in the electronic music he creates, intended for clubs and with a focus on fluidity and movement. The Australian’s approach is likely more brainier than the average dance producer (there’s a longer exposition here on his methodology and what makes him tick) but one does wonder if Oscar Key Sung could get SOHN out of his hoodie and on the dance floor. I’d say yes.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8ToRL6sE98[/youtube]

Throttle – DJ / Melbourne
Already a big deal in the dance world, Australian DJ Throttle is a self-described ‘dirty disco music’ maker. He’s remixed AlunaGeorge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LvWzwxMpuw and taken on Michael Buble’s vocals https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQDVj3o_dnQ (I’m assuming without his permission). He’s a badass. Don’t fight it.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjW4c1zsAxg [/youtube]

Woodes – pop / electronic / Melbourne
Elle Graham aka Woodes is a triple threat: she’s a young singer, songwriter and producer. The young Australian talent previously collaborated with fellow Aussies Atticus Beats, Golden Vessel and Ellkle. from her early solo singles ‘The Thaw’ and ‘Knives and Daggers’, she’s ready for her close-up. With an expansive vocal laying on top of a dancey, yet minimalist electronic beat reminiscent of the xx, her sound is reminiscent of a more pop Lykke Li. She wowed me at CMW 2016 last May in Toronto, and I’m sure she’ll slay in Austin.

To read more of our coverage on Woodes here on TGTF, go here.

 

SXSW 2015: an Irish lass and breakfast, a Swedish supergroup, bands at the Aussie BBQ and some more English tweed – 20th March 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 1st April 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

My traditional start to Friday at SXSW every year is to arrive at B.D. Riley’s Irish pub in time for the full Irish breakfast and stay for the related showcase put on by Music from Ireland. The only problem in the SXSW 2015 edition: I wasn’t able to stay for the whole showcase, so you’ll have to read Carrie’s review later of the whole shebang. I was however able to partake in the actual breakfast (and I never turn down a decently cooked egg, even if it should have been sunny-side up and not scrambled, and there was no black or white pudding either ::grumble::) and get another opportunity to see the sunny and sweet pop singer/songwriter Orla Gartland play another set. After doing my part on proselytise and promote her as the sound of young Ireland (something I decided the night before at the Music from Ireland evening showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room), I had to bid my goodbyes and head out.

Orla Gartland at SXSW 2015

Luckily, it wasn’t raining. Yet. You know how you can usually smell and/or sense impending rain? Well, I usually can. The winds were swirling above, yet the heavier drops from the sky held out long enough for Swedish supergroup and super buzzed about band Amason to play their set at the Sweden showcase early at FLOODfest Friday at Cedar Street Courtyard. To be honest, I was relieved for them, thinking about how much equipment could be ruined, not to mention how many band members might be electrocuted, if the sky decided to open up and pour down on them in the middle of the set.

Amason at SXSW 2015

Instead, their songs – driven by determined rhythms, the strong vocals of each member of the band and their excellent musicianship – wowed the crowd at who were also enjoying the complimentary Swedish meatball buffet. You can read more about this set of Amason’s as part of my introduction to the interview I did with Nils Törnqvist (drums and percussion) and Petter Winnberg (bass) in this post from last week.

The rain turned out to be quite a damper for most of the day Friday. Because of the bad weather outside, I reckoned that most people either gave Friday at SXSW a pass, not wanting to venture out in a less than fashionable poncho, or they just stayed where they were as long as possible, which is what Carrie opted to do at B.D. Riley’s and St. David’s church later on in the night. Me? I’m not so easily satisfied and so I braved the weather to stick to my original plan of seeing an afternoon of great Aussie bands at the Aussie BBQ, which I unfortunately missed out on last year. While I think Sounds Australia did a great job being prepared for the rain, passing out free ponchos and a handy guide to the Aussie BBQ’s line-up to any punter coming into Brush Square Park, as well as continue serving their promised free loaded hot dogs that punters were grateful for, I think everyone questioned the wisdom of moving the event away from Maggie Mae’s to two outdoor venues.

SAFIA at SXSW 2015

Thankfully, as the setup at Brush Square was the same as for Sounds from Spain on Wednesday, with tents keeping most things dry. Despite the rain and the inconvenience of rain gear and errant brollies, the mood was up in the West Tent as I arrived in the middle of SAFIA‘s set. The Canberra trio – Ben Woolner, Michael Bell and Harry Sayers – are of that crowded electropop genre, but Woolner’s voice is soulful, making beat-driven, hand-clappy songs like ‘You Are the One’ and ‘Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues’ stand out. They got the crowd riled up and ready for a full day of their countrymen’s music.

I knew nothing of Clockwise before he played, so I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get. You know how Nick Cave is a beloved, legendary performer from Oz? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m pretty sure Andy Clockwise is jonesing to grab that mantle away from him. And he can do it with his stage presence. His music’s good too; at first I thought, hmm, an Australian Bruce Springsteen, this is going to be interesting… Then the sound morphed from rock into one that was more mainstream pop. Huh! Things are really interesting now!

Clockwise at SXSW 2015

Then the man jumps off the stage, hands over his guitar to a random member of the audience, faffs maniacally with the knobs of the amp, and tells her to get onstage and wail on it. She does. He then brings the drummer’s high-hat down and hands over a drumstick to another all too eager audience member, who is instructed to bang on the high-hat as hard as he can. Mayhem, I tell you, utter mayhem. Yet it was so quintessentially mental – and fun – as SXSW goes.

Well before her set, I interviewed pop singer/songwriter Lenka, who wore a poncho even inside the tent to prevent the slightest damp or drip from getting on her sundress (it worked) but who was understandably nervous about any of her and her band’s instruments getting wet in a freak accident (it appears everything was spared and in reasonably good working order). Now, I can’t be sure if the rain had anything to do with the terrible feedback that was coming up through her microphone, but during her set, Lenka decided to go unplugged, going out into the crowd to sing a song accompanied by her guitarist. When in Rome, right? It just goes to show what a professional Lenka is, not letting malfunctioning equipment ruffle her feathers one bit.

Lenka at SXSW 2015

As promised by her answers to our SXSW 2015-flavoured Quickfire Questions, her stage setup showed off her keen crafting skills, with clouds and rain being represented on artwork hanging from Macbooks and even her own keytar. While recent single ‘Blue Skies’ didn’t manage to bring out their promised nice weather and at times you could hear thundering from above, it was still great watching Lenka do her thing to a crowd of appreciative fans. I’m looking forward to hearing her upcoming album ‘The Bright Side’, due out this summer.

Sydney’s Mansionair were up next on the West Tent bill. Prior to coming out to Austin, I’d heard several of their songs on YouTube, notably the title track to their 2014 EP ‘Hold Me Down’, and enjoyed what I heard. The combination of haunting, yet minimalist synth notes, guitar and percussion, effective production, and a warbling vocal is one that is not soon forgotten, and the same could be said for their whole set Friday afternoon.

Mansionair at SXSW 2015

Even before seeing them live, I had a feeling of complete validation mid-week in Austin when I’d seen on my Twitter feed that during their time here, they’d been signed to Glassnote Records, aka the NYC indie but not really indie record label that launched the mega careers of Two Door Cinema Club and Mumford and Sons in the States. Hold tight, Mansionair, your lives are about to get very crazy very soon.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KslY_vf_V24[/youtube]

I had an interview date in a little while with Public Service Broadcasting, so I thought I’d duck into their set closing out the Friday afternoon programming at the British Music Embassy. Heh. What I expected: a well-attended but not packed out affair full of Anglophiles like myself. What it was like, actually: a totally rammed venue where the audience was even more enthusiastic for the quirky history boffin duo than the night before, which was to my utter surprise, especially for an afternoon showcase. The amount of cheering for ‘Spitfire’, wow! Perhaps we Americans don’t know how to do tea properly, but at least we recognise – and appreciate, often loudly when it’s warranted – our British cousins and their talent.

Public Service Broadcasting Friday afternoon at British Music Embassy at SXSW 2015

 
 
 

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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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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