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Liverpool Sound City 2012: Day 1 Gig Roundup

 
By on Friday, 8th June 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Of the nights TGTF was not hosting a stage, Thursday night at Sound City was the most stellar. After the Taiwan reception at the Hilton, I consumed a high calorie pub dinner full of fried food (yes, I was hungry) and getting chatted up by an LFC supporter drinking wine at the bar. (Search me. What is it with Northerners, why am I always chatted up in the North?). A PR friend and I went searching for the Academy of Arts; my goal was to get to the Mystery Jets set on time. Liverpool is not a big city. Not really sure how we got lost; I’m going with “everything looks different at night” as my story.

We honestly were directed to the wrong entrance to the venue; during the early evening hours, the Screenadelica film showcase area was also playing host to bands, so we entered the building on the Screenadelica side. Suddenly my friend jerks my shoulder – while I was trying to put on my earplugs, so god only knows where the case went – and I can hear ‘Half in Love with Elizabeth’ from behind a really heavy and really dark curtain. In all my time of blogging, I’ve never gone to a gig through the backstage, either on purpose or by accident. Check that off my list, because now I can say I’ve arrived to a gig in that exact way.

To my knowledge, Mystery Jets have never played a headlining gig in Washington. So after getting shut out of Brighton Corn Exchange the previous week at the Great Escape in Brighton, no way was I missing this. I got my camera out just in time for the beginning of ‘Greatest Hits’, which in my opinion should be the next single off ‘Radlands’ (album review here) because it sounds like classic Mystery Jets. (We’ll see about that…) After I fired off quite a few shots, I decided to hang back and just absorb. Part of me couldn’t believe I was within an arm’s length of both Blaine Harrison and William Rees (drummer Kapil Trivedi was in the stage right back corner, which made photographing him difficult). And there they were.

I think I finally realised the gravity of the situation when they played ‘Serotonin’: despite my insistence to my mother, there is nothing like the feeling of being in the middle of a gig, the instrumentation vibrating across your ribs, the words coming out of the speakers and laying right in your ears. Sorry to anyone who was annoyed but ‘Serotonin’ will probably stand as one of the pivotal albums of my career and life in music, so naturally in terms of singing along, I went for it. A little disappointingly, the band didn’t seem as animated as I had expected, though musicianship-wise, they were peerless.

Surprisingly, I was never called back (or barked at, as is the case at SXSW) by security to leave, so I just stayed in the photo pit, enjoying my first-ever Mystery Jets spectacle. I know I’ll never get a completely brilliant experience like that ever again. Other new songs like title track ‘Radlands’, ‘Sister Everett’ and ‘Lost in Austin’, while they didn’t fall flat, just couldn’t stand up to the great Mystery Jets legacy that has built up over the years. I completely appreciate and respect their desire to break out of their mold and do something different, but I think ‘Radlands’ is just too left field for most long-time fans. ‘Two Doors Down’ (video below) had a huge fan response, as did ‘Serotonin’ showstopper ‘Show Me the Light’ and set closer ‘Behind the Bunhouse’ (videos to come on TGTF soon).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnu5hvSVelQ[/youtube]

A handy thing about most venues for Sound City generally: the venues are pretty close together. I literally walked across a small square to get to the Red Bull Studios at the Garage, which looked like an actual garage. I caught the last third of Stealing Sheep’s set; Martin had covered them in Newcastle opening for Field Music back in February. Maybe it was the sound levels but I had come expecting a ‘folky’ sound but instead got loud and brash rock, with the brashness best physically exemplified by the drummer’s very bright and heavily sequined shirt. The harmonies were a bit lost in the mix in the songs I heard, and maybe this was the place was so big, each member was so far away from the next on the massive stage. But there’s nothing like watching a band having the time of their lives. Below is some video from the Von Pip Musical Express from their performance.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz0-0snEoLo[/youtube]

Truth be told, on this stage I was most excited to was to be up next. When I first joined up as USA Editor of TGTF, we were right in the middle of a campaign with the now defunct Radar Maker for a French label I’d never heard of. In the ensuing weeks and months, I became very familiar with the then little-known bands they were hawking around the UK circuit, bands who would soon figure significantly in my blogging career: La Roux, Two Door Cinema Club, Delphic and some touring mates of Delphic’s, electronic duo Chew Lips.

It seems almost like ‘going home’ to be talking about Kitsune because out of all the labels and people we’ve had the pleasure to work with on TGTF over the years, I am proudest of our early promotion of their bands not just because I cut my blogging teeth on Kitsune, I’m sure at the beginning, it was tough going for Gildas Loaec and his crew to break out of the Parisian scene and get his bands played elsewhere. That man has quite the ear for talent and thanks to him we’ve got many acts that I imagine will continue to thrive in the years to come.

Chew Lips’ ‘Unicorn’ in 2010 was an acclaimed album, so now we’re looking to single ‘Do You Chew?’ (video below) to be a harbinger of things to come with their next album due out later this year. I’m so used to seeing press photos of lead singer Tigs with blonde hair, I was in for a bit of a shock when she arrived onstage…brunette. She commands the stage with ease, using her deep voice; what started as a paltry and rather embarrassing showing of punters quickly grew as their set wore on, no doubt mesmerised by what was going onstage. As some friends had suggested to me previously, yes, there is something very sexual about her performance.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0da7oqQcvc[/youtube]

But hey, I’m there for the music – or maybe the riffs of James Watkins instead! – but I now understand what people have said. ‘Salt Air’, a song I immediately latched on to when we were given the green light to give the Plastician remix of it, sounded amazing, as did songs like ‘Slick’ and ‘Gold Key’. Several new songs like ‘Hurricane’, ‘Rain’, and ‘Speed’, as part of the Tigs-described “99 percent a love album”, sound brilliant live. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing when it’s finally released. Maybe this time I’ll get a chance to see Chew Lips on my side of the pond instead of waiting another 3 years for another chance!

It should come as no surprise that I would hang around for Django Django. After the Blind Tiger human oven incident at the Great Escape, I welcomed being able to see the band and being able to breathe at the same time. (Thanks Liverpool.) I was so disappointed they weren’t wearing the Planet Cheeto outfits! But unlike the unfortunate placement at the tiny Blind Tiger club in Brighton, the Garage was a huge place for them to play to, and punters eagerly filled in to hear what I predict will be the most talked about band come the end of this year’s festival season.

While the massive stage proved to be a problem for Stealing Sheep, the four chaps of Django Django bridged this distance with no problem, with singer Vincent Neff assuming a position at the back at one point to play an enormous tambourine. This is a band that doesn’t do anything on a small scale, so if you’ve had the chance to see them in a small club, (I’m not including Blind Tiger!), consider yourself lucky.

And thus concludes the Thursday night of Sound City. If you’re wondering why I ended so early (around 1 in the morning), it’s because John and I had a big day ahead of us on Friday, when we played host to a Sound City stage of our own. Stay tuned…

 

Great Escape 2012: Day 2 Evening Roundup – 11th May 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 29th May 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

I was back at LIFE, ready to roll to have an audience with another band we’ve written about, Hannah Clark and FOE. Maybe it was the great sunny weather, but by the time I made it back upstairs to the loft performance space of LIFE, the room was rammed. There’s this weird red glowing light in the place as well, so I felt like I was in one of the panic scenes in the film The Hunt for Red October. Since there was no way I’d get to the front for photos, I took advantage of my small size and anchored myself to the staircase, hoping for the best just to hear, since I couldn’t see.

I really like the way ‘A Handsome Stranger Called Death’ sounds on Lammo’s 6music programme, so it was disappointing to hear the loud buzzing sound of feedback coming out through the speakers, pretty much obliterating any chance of hearing the vocals clearly. I felt like leaving and then I felt a presence behind me. Something you learn in Brighton during the Great Escape: you will probably run into everyone you know from London, Manchester, etc. in the music business. I turned around to leave and head back down the stairs, and who do I see but Andy Clutterbuck, the singer of Films of Colour?

Something else I learned in Brighton: expect to be sidetracked if the weather’s nice. There’s really nothing like hanging out on the seaside with your friends, soaking up the last rays of daylight, watching the sun set. You see, in Washington, the latest the sun sets is about half past 7. In England though, it can still be daylight past 9. I had a full night of bands planned and insisted to them I needed food, so I had my first Pizza Express experience (I know, shocking) with them. We’re sitting there, waiting for the food to arrive. The Pizza Express in Brighton looks out directly onto Jubilee Square, and there were bans schedule to play all night. This is where things get a little weird.

James, Films of Colour’s drummer, squints to look in the distance, says, “that looks like the guy that’s in our music video.” Andy dismisses this: “no way, that’s impossible.” James, not to be outdone, insists it is and says he’s going to go out and say hi. It wasn’t until days later when I was at 93 Feet East on Brick Lane in London that I figured everything out. James came back and announced it really was the guy they saw in New York City who had starred in their video. We all agreed this was serendipity. Then I could hear the thudding of a bass guitar and sense the melody. Wait a minute, I said to myself. That sounds like ‘Whole Again’ by Paula and Karol, the Polish band I discovered at SXSW. Independent of me, the two bands had seen each other in New York in the days before SXSW. Six degrees of separation? Nah. Just one degree of separation: TGTF.

I hated to dash, as having a sit-down dinner was a welcome and relaxing way to spend an evening, even at Pizza Express. But I bid adieu to the Films of Colour chaps, as I had a date with the Fly. Not literally, but the magazine was putting on a show at Blind Tiger starring the untypeable alt-J and the band that is probably going to be the toast of this festival season, Django Django. After getting shut out of their Pavilion Theatre show the night before, I requested guestlist for this show and swanned in without queueing. Which was a very good idea, judging from the massive queue outside.

alt-J are not going to need my endorsement, and I have been having a hard time getting down ‘Breezeblocks’. (Sorry, the nasal vocals really get on my nerves.) There’s something about the vibe of this band that makes me unsettled. Before you start getting sore with me and think I took advantage of the system, the Fly showcase was the only place all weekend I requested guestlist for, and it was specifically to see what the fuss about alt-J was all about. Unfortunately, my experience was tainted by the fact that the entirety of Blind Tiger felt like an oven and there were far too many people inside. Where was the Brighton fire department to lodge a complaint on the exceeded occupancy?

Many of these people were very pissed and unaware they were seeing a potentially future famous band. I decided to hang out on the side, instead of trying to cram in down the front for photos, determining this was a far safer vantage point. It was, except I felt like I was getting stood on by loud, annoying people shouting at each other who really didn’t care about listening at all. For goodness sakes, if all you’re here for is drinking, leave and go somewhere else to have your conversations, so you can let some people in the queue in!

So I heard alt-J – sort of – but was handicapped by the shouty discussions around me. What I did hear confirmed my previous opinion of the band. There’s something vaguely Everlast in Joe Newman’s delivery: he’s trying to be hip hop slick, in a disaffected way, which I guess is where the Radiohead comparison comes in? Not really sure. Sorry, not impressed. But if the crazy moshers down the front are any indication, no-one’s going to be listening to my opinion anyway.

Beyond the cancelled shows and showcases and bad luck of losing my camera bag earlier that day, I wasn’t expecting something else. Oh dear, somehow I managed to stand right where Django Django’s guitar tech needed to be. (You don’t want to see my photos. They’re horrible.) Granted, I give him a lot of credit for wedging himself into a small space closer to the stage, in front of the aforementioned obnoxious drunks, but the guy was taller than me, so I couldn’t see much of the soon-to-be-celebrated quartet who met at Edinburgh art college. Singer Vincent Neff had similar issues with the heat as I did, at one point complaining to the audience, “it’s like a pizza oven in here, does my hair look okay?” I laughed. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to perform under those conditions, if I was so uncomfortable just standing there, watching.

Not like anyone cared. I don’t know what the crowd was like at the Pavilion Theatre but oh my, people really went for the Djangos. It was like everyone was under the liquid spell of their special ‘Firewater’. I’d not heard ‘Default’ live yet, after being denied it at another tiger-themed venue at SXSW, Easy Tiger Patio in Austin. Tonight, it was peerless. Blind Tiger may have been a hot, sweaty mess, but no-one cared. It was an all-out dance party.

That was the end of the Fly Magazine’s programming, as well as the venue’s for the night, so after the most of the punters had departed, I came outside for air. Fresh air had never felt so good in my lungs. I felt like I’d been in a war. No more bands for tonight. Even though it wasn’t even midnight, I went back to my hotel to make myself a cup of tea. Yeah, not very rock ‘n’ roll at all, right? But I had a very important gig and interview in the morning.

 

Great Escape 2012: Day 1 Evening Roundup – 10th May 2012

 
By on Friday, 25th May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

For some reason, my phone refused to let me subscribe to the Great Escape text service, and without adequate O2 coverage, I hadn’t had a chance in hell to load the official festival app. In hindsight, either of these may have informed me that the entire Island Records showcase at the Loft featuring Lower Than Atlantis, King Charles (my main interest in this stage, after Tom’s hilarious phone interview with the man) and Tribes had been cancelled. But as I learned over this weekend, it pays to have a plan B. And a plan C and D if you can manage it.

The next closest venue with a band I wanted to see was the Haunt, with Pixie Geldof’s band Violet. During my entire time in Brighton I had nothing but good encounters with punters, except for at this venue. It was supposed to be Avalanche City onstage when I arrived at the venue but seeing that I couldn’t see nor hear very well what was happening up front, I gingerly made my way forward in an attempt to get closer to take at least one photo.

Having been inconvenienced with light shoving and pats on the back indicating someone wanted to go past me in a club for nearly all of my adult life, I was taken aback by one punter’s admittedly semi-drunk but all the same nasty complaint, “are you going to stand there all night?” If you were wondering, there were large spaces in front and back of him (he was standing by the bar) and I had hoped that standing in front of him would encourage him to move back a bit to allow me to get a decent line of sight. Fat chance. What’s even stupider was he left right after the band finished. As the saying goes, “it takes a lot more effort to be nasty than to be nice”, and after having one preferred showcase cancelled that night, I was feeling a bit grumpy and I didn’t need further aggravation.

As the sea of festival-goers parted, I made my way to the front to situate myself in a good position to photograph. Good thing I did this early: who knows if it’s because she’s Bob Geldof’s daughter or people actually wanted to see if she was any good, but I witnessed the largest assemblage of photographers seeing Violet, so much it felt more like a flurry of paparazzi with the continual bursts of flash than a meet-up of run of the mill gig photographers. Whatever happened to, “first three songs, no flash”? Even I observe those rules. Grumble. Thank goodness most of them left after the first three songs; you can tell who’s there for merely professional and not actual music-loving reasons because they bolt even before the third song in is finished.

I suppose I’ve benefited from not having grown up with gossip about Geldof’s daughters and their lives, so I went into this with no personal opinion of her and the knowledge that Luke had seen her at a Guardian New Band of the Day show in April and said she was pretty good. If you were wondering, the girl’s got chops and has a spectacular voice. She opened her set with the single ‘Y.O.U.’, a slow-burning, sultry number, but it’s songs like ‘What You Gave Me’ (video below) that exhibit the soulfulness of Pixie’s voice. Given time and more experience, I think she could become one of the most compelling voices of her generation.

She exudes the sexiness of Marilyn Monroe, yet dressing demurely in a white top and an iridescent long (and not short – shocking!) skirt, indicating respect to both the festival and her audience. Like many of the random revelers I’d see over my time in Brighton, she could have worn a skimpy clubber’s type outfit – one that would have been spread round the internet like wildfire – and yet she didn’t’. It’s a shame in this case that most people will probably not bother to listen to her, thinking that she must only be getting the limelight because of her family. And if you are one of those types, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Forget who her father is and follow the talent. Good on her.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJCDjwNUUgg[/youtube]

One band that was on everyone’s lips all weekend was Niki and the Dove, who were scheduled to play at Horatio’s on Brighton Pier at a NME-sponsored showcase. (Note: they ended up cancelling their appearance at Liverpool Sound City due to illness, so I never got a chance to see them. Which is okay because I’m not really a fan of their sound based on the recordings I’ve heard.) Friends, an equally hot commodity but has always sounded to me too much like a Phenomenal Handclap Band imitator, were slated to perform before them. However, I’d been advised by long-time Great Escape gig-goers that if I planned to making the trip down the pier, I’d never get back up the hill in time for anything else. Seeing that it was still raining, and the wind had now picked up, the idea of standing on Brighton Pier, especially in a long delegates queue, wasn’t at all appealing. From debriefings from fellow bloggers, it sounds like I missed a great show. But you’ve got to make tough choices sometime…

Thanks to not being able to check my email, I completely missed the confirmation on Maximo Park press passes for their performance at the Dome, so I decided to switch gears again and head to Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar for New Look, followed by the guys I’d serendipitously seen earlier, Zulu Winter. New Look, not to be confused with the high street womens’ clothing shop, is a Toronto husband and wife team who make an engaging brand of electropop. In the currently crowded electronic market, they came up with their own genre, ‘futurepop’, which incorporates unashamed ‘80s synth stylings (can you say ‘keytar’?) with r&b and dubstep. Interestingly, I saw quite a few couples watching the couple onstage, dressed in matching outfits of white dress shirts and black trousers, grooving with their loved ones to the good beats. Verdict: while they sound pretty good, they risk being forgettable.

Zulu Winter followed shortly thereafter. I should probably mention here that Sticky Mike’s performance space is a basement with badly placed support poles and a low ceiling. Not only is it difficult to see if you’re standing in the wrong place, it’s quite claustrophobic and I can’t even imagine being down there if you’re very tall. The stage is also pretty small; Zulu Winter comprises five band members and keyboardist Dom and his many synths had to be placed off the stage because there wasn’t enough room for all of them. That said, if you’re up front like I was, there is no problem. I’m sure singer Will Daunt will never forget this performance, as a large Norwegian made his presence known by shouting, rather annoyingly I might add, for ‘Silver Tongue’ about 3 times between every song.

Considering they hadn’t even released their debut ‘Language’ yet (it was due to be out on PIAS the following Monday the 14th of May), they played a fun, energetic and well-received set that was not at all hampered by bassist Iain Lock’s foot injury, forcing him to get and off stage on crutches. What a trooper. Below is the opening song of their set, ‘Key to My Heart’. (If you’re wondering, the crazy Norwegian’s hooting can be heard at the end of the video.) Keep an eye on these guys; if the album does well, they could be the next big British indie pop band.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2qgHQRTk6Y[/youtube]

Part of the original plan was to see Mystery Jets at the Corn Exchange, so I trudged back up the hill with renewed purpose. When I inquired about the delegates queue, I was told sternly, “there’s only one line [for everyone, with wristbands or badges]. And it’s one in, one out.” I pressed further on why oh why there wasn’t a delegates queue, I was met with stony silence. I saw the queue going around the building and down the block past the Dome. Not getting in there then. I got into the queue for the Pavilion Theatre in an attempt to get in for Django Django and found myself directly in front of Mike Bradford of the Recommender (it’s amazing how many times you accidentally run into everyone at this festival!), who asked staff what the probability of us getting into the venue that night was. It wasn’t looking good. Instead of getting frustrated, Mike suggested we head down to Sticky Mike’s to round off our evening with some drinks, followed by a performance by White Arrows. If a fellow blogger recommends it, you can’t turn it down.

Oh, White Arrows. The lead guitarist looked stoned as he clicked his pair of claves together. I guess that’s okay, considering “the blackest ‘white’ band”, described by the Owl Mag as making a “psychostropical” sound, were throwing down very tropical yet electronic and funky beats. ‘Coming and Going’ is a good example as any of their jangly guitars paired with a danceable and powerful backbeat. Was it really past 1 AM? Didn’t feel like it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK7UPhTj6D8[/youtube]

2 AM is probably a good time for bed but somehow I found myself at the very crowded Queens Hotel lobby, surrounded by loud and pissed delegates from all over. Having not eaten anything solid since the afternoon, I also was the proud holder of a large cone of fish and chips procured from the boardwalk, Despite getting frosty looks from hotel security for having brought outside food in, I shared my fish with a very hungry CMU rep who was grateful for some food. That was my attempt to solidify American and English relations for the evening. I said goodbye to my new friends and tucked myself into bed at about, oh, 4 AM? 4 hours of sleep ahead of me? Eep. Well, it’s like Blaine Harrison says in the Mystery Jets song ‘Dreaming of Another World’: “sleep is for the dead”. Right?

 

(Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City 2012 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #243: Django Django

 
By on Wednesday, 9th May 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

You’re probably wondering why it’s taken us so long to cover Django Django officially. I already had an inkling they were going to be a big deal after their self-titled debut album came out at the end of January, following on the strength of the very poppy and very infectious ‘Default’. However, it wasn’t until I caught them at the Vic Galloway-curated SMIA night at Easy Tiger Patio on the Wednesday of this year’s SXSW that I felt had a better informed opinion of the band. Now that I have that, I feel comfortable talking about them with some level of authority. That and I figured it wasn’t worth fighting with everyone else over the last 3 months, every other outlet that was anointing them just solely based on ‘Default’ that they were the best thing since sliced bread. So here goes…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDjpOrlfh0Y[/youtube]

The basics: they met at art college in Edinburgh but didn’t actually get together until later, and in London; they’re not named after Django Reinhardt but ‘Son of Django’, a rave record that caught the attention of singer Vincent Neff, who turned his back on a probably lucrative and successful architecture career; Neff is from Northern Ireland (Templegrove, Derry to be exact), a tidbit gleaned out of an interview he did with RTE 2fm’s Jenny Huston at SXSW; ginger drummer David Maclean acts as their producer. Got all that?

I’d now like to dispel the ‘psychedelic’ label. While there’s a definite detached air of cool pervading their music, I think ‘psychedelic’ is a too simple genre for Django Django. The psychedelic age back in the ’60s is probably best remembered for stoned hippies, smelling of hash and going round with their flower power, and the music of the times, which seemed to be made by slightly better looking, better dressed musicians who were also under the influence. What seems to be forgotten is that even with the drug haze that hung in the air, there were some really lovely harmonies that came out of the period, typified best by bands like the Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, and later on the Eagles. The harmonies on ‘Django Django’ make this album transcend any other pop album; there’s a richness just on the vocals alone that have few real competitors in the music market today.

But it’s not just the harmonies that shine on this fine debut. The music, which is rhythmic and wholly engaging at times, mesmerising and beguiling at others, sometimes fights with the vocals for centre stage on this album. In other cases, I’d say this is not a good situation of the two halves of a song being at odds with each other. But instead, Django Django plays the lyrics off the music and vice versa, creating a mini-world with each song. Take for example, ‘Storm’ (video below), their latest single that was on this past Monday. Yes, it’s psychedelic looking with its bright colours and unfocused images, but forget that for a moment.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny67ABAGKh4[/youtube]

Listen to the beginning rhythms right from the start. Hypnotising. There’s a verse that goes “you are made / of complex sums / I’m counting all my fingers now I’m down to my thumbs” – it’s witty in the droll funny way Morrissey did it with the Smiths, but Django Django have the benefit of an even more earworm-y melody. ‘Waveforms’ follows a similar rhythmic path, though the vocals lift off from the ground to reach the heavens, with admittedly a trippy lyric of “and you wanna know why / all the rivers run dry / when I see you again / I see the look in your eyes…”, before heading back into percussion land, bouncing in such a way you’d have to be dead not to bop your head around and chair dance. Incredible, memorable pop. Good stuff.

What I hope you take from this piece that Django Django is far, far more than just ‘Default’. You’d be doing yourself a grave disservice if you didn’t check our their debut album, which is guaranteed to be an album everyone will be talking about in years in come, as well as appearing on top albums of 2012 lists. They’re not just psychedelic. They’re timeless.

Catch Django Django at the Great Escape on Thursday 10 May at the Pavilion Theatre at 23.45 and Friday 11 May at 22.15 at Blind Tiger as part of the Fly Magazine showcase. They will also appear at the Red Bull Studios Live at the Garage at Liverpool Sound City on Thursday 17 May at 23.30.

 

SXSW 2012: Day 2 – Scottish Music Industry Association showcase at Easy Tiger Patio – 14th March 2012

 
By on Monday, 26th March 2012 at 3:00 pm
 

With my previous music festival experiences, time proved to be my greatest enemy. At SXSW this year, I found a new foe: distance. While I’m a native Washingtonian and our town ranks in the top 10 of most walkable American cities, even I was flagging after day 2 in Austin. When you’re subsisting on less than 4 hours of sleep per night, dehydrated and hungry, all signs point to you not crossing the road to meet Adam (Duritz of Counting Crows, whose name was on a sign I spotted in the airport the afternoon I arrived but sadly did not accidentally run into at baggage claim). After a brief respite sat on Cashier No. 9’s guitar cases, sitting out in a fenced in section outside Tap Room at Six after the Northern Irish showcase there, my next stop was Easy Tiger Patio on the east side of town to catch the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) showcase. Predictably, the place was already near full and rammed with people of varying stages of inebriety. Wending my way through the crowd was about as simple as walking through quicksand; I’m also not a fan of people smoking during gigs and I guess because it really was a patio covered by a tarp, smokers thought it was still outdoors enough to light up. Ugh.

I could hear (and liked what I heard) but could not see Three Blind Wolves playing. By the time I got halfway up towards the front of the stage, their set was over and the sea of punters parted, many of them dashing over to meet the band off the side of the stage. Now’s the chance to get down the front for a band I was dying to see at SXSW and expect to also catch at the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City this year, Django Django. I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know they were Scottish until I saw them listed on this showcase’s line-up, but I should be forgiven, seeing that it’s not like their music is all about tartan flag waving? While they set up, they looked like four average blokes from anywhere. Three days later I saw them wearing football kit, leaning over bar tables and getting drunk during a Slow Club set. They looked like ordinary punters…

But then they changed into outfits that could make you believe they were male nurses from Planet Cheeto. How unusual! I hope I’m not the only person making note of their stage clothes: it reminds you just how unique Django Django are. They have this dance vibe that underlies some great harmonies and guitar riffs harkening back to the great California rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s (think the Byrds and the Eagles); the combination sounds unsettling on paper but somehow resolves into this extremely tight and fun unit live.

The atmosphere was amazing for ‘Skies Over Cairo’; I’m positive there’s never been such an enjoyable dance party in the Egyptian capital. Their set was unfortunately cut short due to a curfew, so shockingly they didn’t play ‘Default’ but they ended instead with ‘Wor’, complete with its warning sirens and surf-y guitar riffs not heard since the Surfaris (watch it below). YES. That’s it. I’m plastering myself on their appearances in Brighton and Liverpool in May.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nceKdyedEYw[/youtube]

So after the brill party atmosphere of the Djangos were the actual headliners of the Scottish showcase, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and I felt their set was a bit of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, I thought they sounded great and the fans were certainly up for it, going completely manic for Adam Thompson’s impressive showing with the vocals for ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’. But they couldn’t elicit the same kind of energy Django Django could. Also detracting from the performance was a very pissed woman whose mates kept bumping into the new friends I made, not caring that they were being completely obnoxious. The woman was so drunk, she kept testing the invisible line separating stage and band from the crowd. At one point, she stepped onstage and her boyfriend was taking a photo of her “with” guitarist Michael Palmer, who was trying to do his job and play and really wasn’t having any of it, giving her bunny ears; later, he yelled at her to shut up and “back off”. Not wise to anger a Scotsman!

I’m sure you can tell from this portion of the review that I was really cheesed off by these few bad apples ruining the show; part of me wondered about the ambience at the Lionel Richie show at the Moody Theatre on the west side of town, where the Austin City Limits tv programme is filmed, taking place at that very moment and if I’d made the wrong choice. (Turns out Kenny Rogers showed up as a special guest. Humph…) But I’m glad I caught the Djangos when I did. Further, after the showcase was over, I went over to thank Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway (pictured above introducing the Jetpacks) for having a hand in putting the show together but was quickly steered clear that Stuart Thomas of the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) was really the man to thank.

Then, all of a sudden, Planet Cheeto’s drummer Dave Maclean of Django Django showed up and we were chatting away. In these electronic times, it’s all too common for bands, radio folks and bloggers never to meet in person even if they know of each other over the internet; as a blogger, it’s a rare treat to put names with faces and make new friends in places like SXSW. It’s moments like these when I really treasure and come to full realisation how lucky I am to be able to do what I do in my free timeVic and Stuart hoped I’d come out to their Discovering Scotland show, part of the British Music Embassy programming on Friday afternoon, and I promised I’d try my best. So after receiving Scottish hugs and thank yous all around, I went home to rest my weary head on my pillow, smile on my face. Tomorrow was another big day in Austin.

 

Luke’s Alphabet Tour – D: Django Django at London XOYO – 27th February 2012

 
By on Friday, 2nd March 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

As the sun sets over London the mid-week gig goers begin to leave their flats and head toward the vibrations. Tonight’s gig at XOYO is sold out and there is an abundance of music lovers loitering across the road hoping to attract a tout or seduce the door staff for free entry. The headliners of this jamboree are the Scotland via England indie-electro boys, Django Django. Having released their debut self-titled album last month, tickets for this subsequent tour are proving to be hot property.

Before the 800-strong crowd are treated to the electro vibes they crave, openers Omnivore Demon take a different slant on experimental. Featuring three members of Glaswegian indie rockers the Phantom Band, the collective on stage are a completely different affair by being wholly improvisational in their performance. Covering their faces in towels the band make an instant statement which is complemented by their ominous, groove-laden beats that often verges on the noise rock scene. As a trio the band don’t have a vocalist and are more of a post-rock outfit, but are less This Will Destroy You and more Lightning Bolt. The Mastodon-sized riffs, pounding drums and various squelches, bleeps and blips from the synthesiser create such a racket XOYO doesn’t know what to make of it. But it’s bloody good.

Once Omnivore Demon have finished annoying the majority of the audience, the room (well, the first few rows) comes to life after Django Django take to the stage after an excessive 30-minute interval between acts. Complete with full light show the party starts with a Kraftwerk-esque synth beat that gets the fans bopping and dancing how only a London crowd can – awkwardly. Despite London’s inherent fear of dancing at gigs, the Scottish lads give it their all and put on a five star show. Various images encircle the stage such as ‘smiley’ that was synonymous with the 90s rave scene, but 20 years on it’s comforting to know the simplicity of the image oversees the complexities of how electronica has evolved.

Despite the upbeat nature of the set, the crowd here tonight only really elevates for the big numbers. ‘Waveforms’ receives a fantastic ovation as the laser show kicks in and the stomping beat shakes the walls. There’s a slight air of early Metronomy during the instrumentals and the crowd are lapping it all up, begging for more. The highlight, though, surely has to be single ‘Default’ that opens the dancefloor and the lungs of Django Django’s southern contingent. For a band who are still fairly unknown – generally speaking – tonight has been a monumental achievement. With quite a few festivals booked already this summer, the band are ready to skyrocket in 2012.

 
 
 

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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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