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SXSW 2018: Friday night at Canada House, Communion Presents, a Fluffer Pit party and more – 16th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 4th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Following an interview at the Omni that went swimmingly well, I skipped in dinner in favour of starting my evening strong at Canada House at Swan Dive. The venue’s two stages were taken over by Montreal’s two biggest music events on their calendar, POP Montreal and M is for Montreal. Though I arrived too late to see buzzed about Montreal rock band Corridor on the outdoor M is for Montreal stage, I did get a drink token and could settle in to watch fellow Montrealians Bodywash, friends who met at McGill University. They play a hybrid between shoegaze and synthpop, with dreamy vocals and a rich wall of guitars. Quite lovely.

I popped outside to catch a few songs from another synth-driven act from Montreal, Anemone (real name Chloe Soldevila) and her backing band. She’s the second signee to Luminelle Records, a new venture between the Gorilla vs. Bear blog and Fat Possum Records. Luminelle will be releasing her EP ‘Baby Only You & I’, featuring the sweetly seductive echoes of the title track.

Anemone Friday 2 Friday at SXSW 2018 at SXSW 2018

Back on the indoor stage at Swan Dive were Motel Raphael, three ladies who GQ UK anointed some years back as “the most exciting band to come out of Montreal since Arcade Fire.” A heady compliment indeed, and one entirely deserved. While successful, all-female harmonising groups are nothing new – consider Wilson Phillips, the Dixie Chicks and more recently, The Staves – I really don’t think there are enough of them in the public eye, and Motel Raphael are the kind of band young girls interested in becoming musicians need as role models. I was impressed with their vocal range on their songs that sat more on the folky singer/songwriter side of the spectrum, as well as those in a more straightforward, bright pop vein.

Motel Raphael Canada House Friday 2 at SXSW 2018

Friday was also an opportunity to see some friends in action. On that note, I was headed to what I knew would be a crowded showcase, Communion’s annual tradition of taking over St. David’s main room. Second on the Communion Presents lineup for the evening was rising Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy, with TGTF friend Micheal Quinn of Meltybrains? on drums. Along with SXSW, Kennedy was in the States for a series of shows, many of which sold out even before he set foot on American soil.

Dermot Kennedy Friday at SXSW 2018

Melding the popular genre of hip-hop like that of Drake with the evocative singer/songwriters like Glen Hansard who has become a friend, he offers an olive branch to fans of both types of music with his heart-on-his-sleeve type, accessible writing. As fans thunderously applauded him in the church following his last song of the night, I was reminded that watching a star in the making is a priceless moment. I had every intention of staying for part of Sam Fender’s set that followed Kennedy’s, but the stage was running so behind schedule, I decided I better make a move to my next destination.

I had never witnessed a Fluffer Pit party, but it was high time that I did. They had taken over both stages of Barracuda and I hadn’t been aware that there were two entrances to the place. I was so used to passing from one stage to the other through the internal door separating them. It seemed to take forever but I finally gained admittance through the alley door to the Barracuda backyard in the midst of The Wedding Present’s set.

Instead of having the artists perform on the stage, the ‘stage’ had moved to the gravelly ground, with the audience watching the talent in the round around them. Ironically or not, I had heard them playing ‘Kennedy’ (“too much apple pie”) and bopped my head to it when I was still in the queue outside. I entered just as they were just able to break into my favourite Wedding Present track ‘Brassneck’. What a difference from the Seven Grand show the previous night, under weird blue lighting and the pretension of a whisky bar. This was a much more appropriate venue for them.

LIFE Friday at SXSW 2018

The same could be said about TGTF friends LIFE, who appeared next on the Fluffer Pit bill. Hull’s finest were ready to enthrall the crowd with their politically charged numbers with plenty of welly. They appeared in Austin for the first time last year for SXSW 2017, and now they were back with debut album ‘Popular Music’. It was great to let loose with th’ lads as Mez Sanders-Green led the band through riotous tune after tune. You really haven’t lived if you haven’t shout-sang along to ‘Ba Ba Ba’ or ‘Rare Boots’ and headbanged until you couldn’t headbang any more. So that I would still be able to nod in the morning, I said goodbye to dear friends and re-emerged into the Austin night for something slightly more chill.

I next had to choose between Polish psych and Seattle synthpop. After the sweat and workout at the Fluffer Pit party with LIFE, I decided I could do with a nice, soft cushioned seat and a drink. To avoid the mayhem ensuing on 6th Street, I chose Sisters at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. Formerly the Wednesday night home of Music From Ireland, it was nice to revisit a place I’d come to regularly. Friday night, it played host to the Public Access Touring and Superior Music Publishing showcase.

Andrew Vait and Emily Westman are a synthpop duo with a difference. Given their academic backgrounds, that’s not surprising: they both were schooled at University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, which probably explains Vait’s onstage flute-playing and his squeals of guitar, sometimes in the same song. While they weren’t playing to a big room of people, Sisters didn’t let that bother them, putting on an energetic set punctuated by Westman’s big, booming drumbeats and her and Vait’s combined vocals.

 

SXSW 2017: A Friday night mix of British, American and Canadian acts – 17th March 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 19th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

It felt somewhat strange that I spent St. Patrick’s Day at SXSW 2017 on mostly non-Irish acts. Friday afternoon at SXSW has typically been reserved for the Full Irish Breakfast, but that had happened on Thursday this year. The only hint of Ireland I heard on this St. Patrick’s day was early on Friday, when I stopped briefly at Latitude 30 for the Output Belfast day show. My Friday evening was instead full to the brim with British and American acts, save one Canadian artist who made a strong impression near the end.

“DSC08894"

I started the evening with an early show at Stubb’s BBQ. Reading quartet Sundara Karma were first on Friday night’s bill, (as we had discussed in my interview with them on Tuesday) and they played before just as the sun was beginning to set over Austin. The crowd at Stubb’s trickled in slowly, with punters lingering over dinner and beer. But once the band started playing, all attention was on the stage.

“DSC08876"

Sundara Karma frontman Oscar Pollock didn’t spend a lot of time on pleasantries, instead allowing the band’s sharp lyrics and edgy guitar melodies to do most of the talking. But make no mistake, this band cultivates an almost psychedelic visual impression onstage as well, with long hair and flashy gestures to match their dynamic alt-rock sound. They certainly weren’t daunted by the large outdoor stage at Stubb’s, and their impact was successfully established. I overheard several punters enthusiastically sharing the name Sundara Karma as I made my way to the exit after their set. Stay tuned for more on Sundara Karma in my recap of Saturday night at SXSW, posting soon.

DSC08892

My next stop was west of Congress, at another venue I’d never visited before, the Tap Room at the Market. The Market is a bustling, trendy Austin night spot, with the smaller Tap Room nestled below. On this night, the Tap Room was hosting the Grammy Museum Homegrown showcase, which featured a curation of artists from the Los Angeles area. I arrived on the scene just in time to hear one of the singers I’d featured in my preview of L.A. artists at SXSW.

BeLL

Alt-pop singer BeLL was already onstage, and I was immediately taken aback by the power in her vocal sound. I was excited to hear her quirky but catchy single ‘Bang Bang (Remember My Name)’, which had caught my attention in writing the aforementioned preview. It debuted back in November and has already been featured in a television trailer on ABC Family here in the States; you can catch a listen below before it blows up on radio waves everywhere.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ljNVT3b5Y0A[/youtube]

Warbly Jets

Up next was a band who pride themselves on not fitting into the L.A. music scene, alt-rock quartet Warbly Jets. Their sound is certainly more in the supersonic jet-propelled vein than the sunny pop and laid-back folk you might typically expect to hear from Southern California. Onstage, they were both smoothly self-assured and and a tiny bit cocky, convincing their audience that they’re a force to be reckoned with. Their debut single ‘Alive’ was a highlight of the evening.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/hDVHvirhpKk[/youtube]

OPS

I was already peripherally aware of next band on the docket, Ocean Park Standoff, because my kids know their current single ‘Good News’. It’s an infectiously upbeat track, perfect for radio play or maybe even for a summer 2017 Spotify playlist. As it turns out, the song is also pretty representative of what Ocean Park Standoff does in live performance. The band were smiling and relaxed throughout their set, and their good vibes were expansive enough for a much larger room. Keep an eye out for this trio to make their mark during their upcoming American tour dates with Third Eye Blind.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/TX9ODx2_Vqk[/youtube]

Following my stop at the Grammy Museum showcase, I had intended to try to catch Ryan Adams at Austin City Limits, even nabbing a SXXPress pass for that show earlier in the day. But while I was at Stubb’s, I got the news that Adams had cancelled his performance due to illness. I was mildly disappointed, but I did have a backup plan to catch another American singer/songwriter, David Ramirez at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop.

"David

People in Austin were out in full force to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and 6th Street was jam-packed. Adding to the crush and confusion was the fact that many of the music venues had multiple queues outside to deal with the different priority entries: Platinum and Music Badges, Interactive and Film Badges, Music Wristbands, and paying customers. Obviously this was only an issue for the high-demand shows, but it’s something SXSW organisers will need to focus on for next year, as many of the venues simply didn’t have the space or staff available to cope with up to 4 different queues for each show. Maggie Mae’s was one of the most difficult venues to get into, not only because is it located in the heart of 6th Street, but because it has two stages and only one entrance.

David Ramirez band

Austin native Ramirez had a full band in attendance for his show at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop. In my previous experience, this has been a nice addition to his sound. He’s a starkly effective performer alone, but the depth and vibrance of his country-rock sound really come out with the addition of backing vocals, keyboards and drums. Unfortunately for Ramirez, his Friday night set was plagued by technical problems. After a lengthy and apparently unsuccessful soundcheck, Ramirez and his band played a truncated set, leaving out several favourite songs that appeared on his written setlist. He did, however, play a couple of newer songs that got the local crowd’s attention, including the London-referencing track ‘Too Far Away’.

I finished the evening (and started the next morning) at St. David’s Episcopal Church, where the Communion Music showcase was being held. I’d been to the church’s Bethell Hall already on this trip to Austin, but I hadn’t yet visited the Sanctuary, and by midnight on Friday night, it was already becoming full in advance of a performance by Rag’n’Bone Man scheduled for 1 AM.

This was the one occasion during the SXSW week when the availability of SXXPress passes worked to my advantage. Earlier in the week, I had either failed to get passes in time, or I simply hadn’t needed the ones I did get. But I’d managed to get one for St. David’s on this night, and the staff at the church were remarkably adept at handling their queues, probably because the venue has been open to non-credential holders in past years. I intentionally arrived early to the Communion showcase, knowing by their reputation that the earlier performers on the bill would be worth seeing, even if I wasn’t already familiar.

"Charlotte

I wasn’t disappointed in that regard with French-Canadian pop singer Charlotte Cardin. Her silky, delicate vocals and soulful pop song arrangements were easy on the ears without being too saccharine, perhaps thanks to their ever-so-subtle jazz inflections. Her debut EP ‘Big Boy’ was released last July on Cult Nation Records and features songs in both English and French, including standout track ‘Like It Doesn’t Hurt’. She also won over a few fans with this cool, almost aloof-sounding version of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/OOzetKrKrrA[/youtube]

Very few punters left after Cardin’s performance, and despite the dreaded 1 AM time slot, there was a bit of hustle-and-bustle in St. David’s Sanctuary surrounding the arrival of Rag’n’Bone Man. Mary had reported to me the very long queue outside the British Music Embassy for his performance there earlier in the evening, and the audience here were fairly buzzing with anticipation.

"RBM

In a bit of a surprise, Rag’n’Bone Man (aka Rory Graham) started his setlist with the song most of us already knew, ‘Human’. This was an acoustic version, less immediately bombastic than the one we’ve heard on American radio, but it was singularly and tastefully appropriate for performance on the St. David’s stage. Graham was equally gentle and mild-tempered in his onstage banter, though he did pick up the dynamic in his songs as the set went on. We were treated to current American radio single ‘Skin’ as well as a stunningly beautiful song I hadn’t heard before called ‘Grace’, which you can take a listen to just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/SCnsEy0tpbw[/youtube]

The authenticity of Rag’n’Bone Man’s performance, along with the high-quality of his songwriting and musicianship, exemplifies what I’ve come to expect from the Communion showcase over my years at SXSW. Though I wasn’t able to see the whole show on this Friday night, I was glad to at least catch the end of it, discovering a promising new artist and witnessing a rapidly-rising up-and-comer in the process.

 

SXSW 2017: visits to St. David’s, the Velveeta Room and the British Music Embassy (Friday, part 2) – 17th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 4th April 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

I want to add another rule to those I presented yesterday as part of how I saw five bands in 1 hour on my Thursday night at SXSW 2017. Rule #5: take advantage of secondary or even tertiary shows your favourite artist is playing. Knowledge is power, and any research you do into additional shows an artist is playing will help you make the most of your time in Austin. Research is not just for the purpose of avoiding schedule clashes: smaller, less prominently advertised shows, especially those off the beaten path, are likely to give you the priceless opportunities to meet your heroes and/or to see them in more intimate settings. And if you’re anything like me (short and small) and have any level of claustrophobia, this is an unsaid key to keeping your sanity during SXSW.

For a long while, the only show Berlin-based Dane Agnes Obel had scheduled at SXSW was Thursday night at Clive Bar, in the Rainey Street area of the city. Unfortunately (for me anyway), closer to the time of SXSW, it was announced Clive Bar would become the Twin Peaks Showtime venue to celebrate the reboot of the cult tv show. Further, on Thursday night the showcase would host a very special appearance by none other than FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper himself, Kyle MacLachlan. Coupled with the announcement that ‘90s boy band Hanson would be appearing at Bungalow around the corner, it didn’t make sense walking all that way and to queue up only to be disappointed.

Thankfully, Obel announced a second show at the main room at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary as part of the Communion Presents showcase, which afforded her fans like me to have a better chance of seeing her and to be able to sit down while doing so. Many did, filling the venue easily and well before she even took the stage. SXSW was just one stop in her North American tour that had already passed through the East Coast the week before. I’m still unclear why venues seem to think throwing red light on their performers is a good idea. The celebrated Obel and her truly international, all female backing band were under a sea of crimson for her entire set, so I took a rare break at shooting bands at St. David’s.

Released in autumn 2016, her third and latest album ‘Citizen of Glass’ demonstrates the imaginative Dane’s commitment to defying convention in an industry where fitting in is de rigueur. With a flurry of instruments both conventional (piano, guitar, drums) and unusual (cello, celesta, mandolin) the unique performance was beautiful, especially in the confines of such a hallowed space. ‘Stretch Your Eyes’, which I reviewed ahead of SXSW, was a masterpiece live, exceeding all my expectations.

While there are two queues for the two stages at St. David’s, the main room and Bethell Hall, I can think of only one time I’ve been in Bethell Hall in the last 6 years where the place has been packed and they weren’t letting anyone in. In that respect, it’s a placid, infrequently visited SXSW venue hidden in plain sight. Good news for me, as I was wanting to catch up on the new material from an artist who had wowed me in DC a few years ago. Stepping out of Agnes Obel’s show a little early, I was able to catch the tail-end of another set here.

Bethell Hall is less pretentious than its name suggests. It has a recreation / social room-type vibe, and therefore it has more of an everyman flavour. While it’s not like I didn’t enjoy his set at B.D. Riley’s Thursday morning at the Full Irish Breakfast, there’s something very special about seeing Ciaran Lavery performing in such of a room. Think about where many legendary singers of popular music honed their craft: that’s right, with their families and in the church.

Ciaran Lavery, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017

With the acoustics of the bare walls of Bethell Hall bouncing back Lavery’s gritty yet gorgeous vocals and acoustic guitar chords to us, you couldn’t have asked for a better venue to see the Northern Irishman. Deadpanning that he would warn us next time if he was to perform another set of “overly positive songs”, he had the audience not only in rapt attention but also chuckling at his dry Irish wit. Ending with an incomprehensibly rich sounding a capella version of Tom Waits’ ‘If I Have to Go’, it’s not an understatement to say Ciaran Lavery slayed the audience at Bethell Hall.

Ciaran Lavery, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017, 2

It fell to Oxfordshire’s Lewis Watson to follow such a great performance. The contrast was unfortunately stark, as even though I don’t think the two artists differ that much in age, lack of festival experience (or perhaps lack of practice in recent months) showed in Watson’s comparatively lacklustre set. While I am very familiar with and loved Watson’s 2014 breakthrough LP ‘the morning’, I haven’t yet had a chance to listen to his latest album released the week after SXSW, ‘midnight’. Based on his performance in Austin, I’m not sure I want to. Maybe his latest breakup knocked him harder than he’s willing to admit? The one bright spot of new material was the wispy ‘Hello Hello’, in which he asked the audience to join in.

Lewis Watson, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017

Watson’s nervously chuckled assurances that the new songs sounds better with his full backing band and his asking us to imagine one song or another with a thumping drum beat implies, whether he meant it or not, that these new songs cannot stand on their own in their original form in which they were written. Further, while I completely understand the prohibitive travel and visa costs involved in bringing a full band over from England to America, one wonders why Watson appeared at SXSW solo at all, when a North American tour with his band was already in the works for later in the spring. It’s also hard to overlook that he broke not one, but two strings in the middle of his set. Chalk it all up to nerves or unpreparedness, but I was sorely disappointed.

After a quick brisket and coleslaw break and a gawk at and a farewell wave to the hordes already queued up to see Rag’n’Bone Man’s show in St. David’s main room at 1 AM, I headed back down to 6th Street. It was St. Patrick’s Day, so a visit to The Velveeta Room’s Music from Ireland showcase was definitely in order. (Sadly, there was not even time for a Guinness!) I had been interviewing Hull punks LIFE at the British Music Embassy while Carrie caught the Academic at the Full Irish Breakfast Thursday afternoon. It was now my turn to catch part of a set by the band I’d been wanting to see live for a long time.

The Academic, Music from Ireland showcase, The Velveeta Room, Friday 17 March 2017

Having seen the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room for so many years, I have to say the Velveeta Room feels like a much better venue for the bands. It also oddly reminds me of The Tivoli where MFI’s Canadian Music Week showcase was in 2016, so it has that going for it. The Academic from Mullingar were worth the wait. Full of the fun and vigour that made me fall in love with Two Door Cinema Club back in 2009, they brought an intensity and energy to the venue that only youth can. Singer/guitarist Craig Fitzgerald is an effective frontman, leading his band into every dynamic number, from single ‘Mixtape 2003’ that we reviewed last summer to their 2015 EP standout ‘Different’. Check out my very funny interview with the whole band that we did after their set through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu8M3Cw6fuU[/youtube]

I then returned to the British Music Embassy for the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music showcase to witness Glasgow pop rockers Catholic Action have Latitude 30’s punters in the palm of their hand. They proved that being given a much bigger room that earlier at the Mohawk was no problem at all. (Stay tuned for Carrie’s report of their performance Saturday afternoon at El Sapo, which was additional evidence that outdoor Mexican-themed venues are no match for them either.) Following the Scots was another band I’d been recommended to see, though to be honest, I was expecting it to be full of shenanigans. I wasn’t wrong, and it seemed everyone who was there that Friday night to see them couldn’t talk about anyone or anything else the last day of SXSW.

Bristol punks IDLES (yes, all caps again) are probably best known to 6 Music listeners for their track ‘WELL DONE’, which hilariously name-checks not only Steve Lamacq but also ex-Great British Bakeoff octagenarian Mary Berry having a job and enjoying reggae. People are angry with what’s going on in Britain and in a similar vein to what LIFE are doing in East Yorkshire, IDLES are the South West equivalent in providing the opening of a pressure valve. In Red Hot Chili Peppers-style, guitarist Mark Bowen seems to enjoy performing in nothing but his underpants, which if you’re a photographer is not for the faint of heart.

IDLES, British Music Embassy, BBC Introducing / PRS for Music showcase, Latitude 30, Friday 17 March 2017

I get that it’s part of their anarchic style that continues into their debut album ‘BRUTALISM’ out now, but it’s distracting (I think negatively) from the messages Joe Talbot wants to send in his lyrics. Their live performance is everything you would expect: a ruckus onstage, leading to equally crazy scenes down on the floor. IDLES did everything they set out to do: create havoc.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Oxqf_15k0w[/youtube]

 

Album Review: Bear’s Den – Red Earth & Pouring Rain

 
By on Friday, 22nd July 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

"BearsLondon neo-folk artists Bear’s Den have spent their fair share of time on the road in their 5-year history. TGTF’s own first feature on the band, way back in 2011, found them playing for the now-defunct project Bands in Transit. They subsequently joined Mumford and Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover tour and Communion Music’s Austin to Boston tour, as well as making two appearances at the SXSW music festival and playing worldwide headline dates around their debut album ‘Islands’, released back in 2014.

Now, just under 2 years on from that first LP, the band’s relentless toil and travel has resulted in a breathtaking new album, titled ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’. In the process of making the record, Bear’s Den have slimmed down from a trio to a duo, with the amicable departure of Joey Haynes in February of this year. “Being on the road so much pushes friendships to the limit and really affects your relationships outside of it. You get extreme highs and lows,” remarks lead singer Andrew Davie.

Bear’s Den have also streamlined their sonic identity, finding inspiration in the FM radio soundtracks of road trips past – Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Bruce Springsteen – as well as current artists like The National and Sufjan Stevens. “We spent a lot of time on the road and that music really fitted our head space,” Davie explains. “It felt like the natural musical progression.” Davie’s bandmate Kev Jones continues that train of thought: ”We wanted to make a great album for driving at night. There’s a technical level to that, matching the sounds to Davie’s lyrics, but thematically, a good metaphor for the mood is the idea of driving forwards while looking in the rear view mirror. A sense of contrary motion.”

The album starts with a quick hit of adrenaline in its anxious title track ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’. The song could depict either a desperate escape or a pleading return as Davie sings, “please don’t pin all your dreams on me / you can count on me to fuck up everything”, but the blindly repeating chorus “don’t you remember, love? / don’t you remember anything?” propels the song, regardless of its ambiguous direction. Sharp guitar riffs and anxious pulsing rhythms maintain the album’s restless momentum through the emotional crossroads of ‘Emeralds’ and ‘Dew Upon the Vine’. Both songs combine the familiar folk element of Davie’s Romantic-style lyrical imagery (“though the morning light will burn away / all the fog that night creates / there’ll still be a trace of our love left behind / in the dew upon the vine”) with sleek, synth-laced instrumental arrangements and angular vocal harmonies to create a darker, more visceral soundscape than what we heard on the diffuse and dreamy ‘Islands’.

The choruses throughout ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’ aren’t so much catchy as acutely gripping. The excruciating refrain “somewhere deep down I still believe / you’ll always be / the love of my life” punctuates the off-kilter rhythm and stream-of-consciousness lyrics in ‘Roses on a Breeze’. The introspective and acoustic-flavoured ‘New Jerusalem’ entwines and circles around itself in the lines “love is just a word you thought you heard / all it means is never, never say never, no / don’t give up on me yet / can you learn to forgive all that you learned to forget?”. ‘Greenwoods Bethlehem’ has a similar acoustic tone, but a jarring dynamic change in its chorus marks the thematic contrast between sweet memories and bitter present reality.

Memory is a central theme on the album, and it stands out particularly in a pair of intense mid-album tracks. ‘Love Can’t Stand Alone’ is a painful childhood recollection of loss that finds Davie channeling Springsteen to astounding effect in the lines “I prayed for the day my prayers would end / but nothing ever came that was heaven sent”. Lead single ‘Auld Wives’ is equally dramatic and emotionally effective, with a haunting keyboard melody and deep chugging guitar rhythms underscoring the anguish of losing a loved one to dementia.

Heavy and formidable track ‘Fortress’ features some of Davie’s most striking and convincingly sung lyrics, “I’m calling the blame / won’t you let me own it . . . a coward might call it a conscience / and a liar might call it the truth”. Current single ‘Gabriel’ is instrumentally lighter and warmer, but its lyrics are deeply introspective, and its exquisite vocal harmonies keenly illustrate their duality and sharp internal conflict.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/mLwS0p7U190[/youtube]

Album closer ‘Napoleon’ makes skillful use of lyrical analogy and musical device to portray the uncertainty and pain of childhood with an emotionally destructive parent. The song’s melodic counterpoint, march-like drums and regal brass lend a rather ironic sense of optimism as Davie compares an alcoholic father to the eponymous and ill-fated French Emperor in his opening lines “I still see you there / a tall glass of Napoleon and an off-white leather chair” and his closing refrain “we’ve only got one shot now, Napoleon / it’s not too late to mend what we’ve broken”.

While time spent on the road has clearly given Bear’s Den the opportunity to reflect upon relationships and ponder past memories, it has also provided them the means and motivation to refine and even redefine their sound. Davie and Jones have jump-started their alt-folk lyricism and atmospheric musicality with a bolder, darker dynamic and a more technically focused, purposeful approach to their songwriting. Sonically compelling and emotionally evocative, ’Red Earth & Pouring Rain’ is, quite frankly, a stunning success.

9.5/10

‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’, the sophomore album from Bear’s Den, is due for release on Friday the 22nd of July via Communion / Caroline International. They will play headline dates in the UK this November in support of the album; you can find the details here. TGTF’s complete previous coverage of Bear’s Den is conveniently collected here.

 

Communion New Faces / April 2016 English Tour

 
By on Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 8:00 am
 

Communion Music has recently announced its spring New Faces tour, which will start on the 23rd of April in Liverpool and run through the 30th of April in Bristol. The lineup for this series of New Faces shows will feature four rapidly emerging singer/songwriters: The Beach, Adam French (pictured above), Rukhsana Merrise and Matt Woods.

Tickets for the following shows are available on the Communion Web sit,, where each ticket purchased will include an exclusive EP with a track from each artist on the bill. Just below the tour date listing, you can have a listen to Rukhsana Merrise’s sassy new single ‘Money’.

Saturday 23rd April 2016 – Liverpool Loft Arts Club
Sunday 24th April 2016 – Manchester Ruby Lounge
Monday 25th April 2016 – Birmingham Rainbow
Wednesday 27th April 2016 – London St. Stephen’s Church
Thursday 28th April 2016 – Oxford Bullingdon
Friday 29th April 2016 – Brighton Green Door Store
Saturday 30th April 2016 – Bristol Louisiana

[youtube]https://youtu.be/-YnDuUMu2Rc[/youtube]

 

Communion New Faces / November 2015 English Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 8th September 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Communion Music is gearing up for the latest installment of their New Faces tour, commencing in November. Last year’s lineup starred Kimberly Anne and Amber Run, both of whom have done splendidly since their star turns on the Communion-supported stage.

This autumn’s series in venues across England will star haunting pop duo Seafret (pictured at top), guitar-pop group Flyte, Shrewsbury-born singer/songwriter Dan Owen and Brighton singer/songwriter Jack Watts. Tickets to this tour are on sale now.

Thursday 19th November 2015 – Manchester Ruby Lounge
Friday 20th November 2015 – Liverpool Studio 2
Saturday 21st November 2015 – Birmingham Rainbow
Monday 23rd November 2015 – Oxford Bullingdon
Tuesday 24th November 2015 – Bristol Louisiana
Wednesday 25th November 2015 – London St. Stephen’s Church
Thursday 26th November 2015 – Brighton Green Door Store

 
 
 

About Us

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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