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

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

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

Lilly Hiatt internal

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

Song Swap internal

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

Buck Meek internal

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

Sam Lewis internal

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

David Ramirez internal

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

Jade Bird internal

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

Hop Along internal

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

Ezra Furman

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

 

SXSW 2018: Wednesday night with artists from the UK, America and New Zealand

 
By on Thursday, 12th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

My first stop on the Wednesday evening of SXSW 2018 was at the Townsend for the highly anticipated Focus Wales showcase. The Welsh lineup would prove to be a popular one, starting with a pair of singer/songwriters before moving into heavier rock and dance music as the night progressed. I stopped in for the early part of the show, and editor Mary took the reins for the later acts, which you can read about in her Wednesday night recap. Unfortunately the fates conspired against us, and we both missed up-and-coming alt-rocker Stella Donnelly. Donnelly is definitely one to watch: you can read our preview coverage back here.

Christopher Rees internal

First on the Focus Wales bill was Americana singer/songwriter Christopher Rees, who dressed appropriately for his part in a distinctive Western-style shirt. Rees has been around the country music scene for quite some time, but this was my first real exposure to his songs. I have to say that his cowboy vibe didn’t quite ring true for me, though I do understand the difficulty of capturing it in such a contrived setting as SXSW. Putting him in comparison to some of the truly amazing country/folk singers I heard through the rest of the week, I can’t really say that Rees struck me as outstanding. He did, however, appear to have a few dedicated fans in the audience, and I feel sure that they would have a different take on his performance.

Dan Bettridge internal

Next up was alt-rock songwriter Dan Bettridge, with whom I had a quick one-on-one chat before the showcase began (stay tuned for that interview, to post as our SXSW 2018 coverage continues). I was intrigued by his in-depth description of his current project ‘Asking for Trouble’ and eager to hear a few of the songs in live performance. Bettridge was affable on stage, even a bit goofy at times, which unfortunately distracted a bit from the music he played. But getting beyond that, his songs were emotional and engaging, even pared back as they were from their soulful instrumental arrangements to single voice and guitar.

Field Report internal

Though the remaining bill at the Townsend was a promising one, I was eager to head to Swan Dive to see American alt-rock band Field Report, who have been on my radar since I first saw them back in 2013. Frontman and songwriter Chris Porterfield has a very understated but viscerally effective way with a lyric, and he didn’t fail to bring me to tears here. Their new album ‘Summertime Songs’ is out now on Verve Records, and I can report after-the-fact that it’s a stunner. Their set at the Swan Dive was no less brilliant, encompassing several of the new songs, including ‘If I Knew’, which you can hear below courtesy of Baeble Music.

Colin Gilmore internal

After taking a moment to pull my wits back together, I peeked back into a favourite spot of my mine during SXSW, the Victorian Room at the Driskill, for a quick taste of a more local flavour. Texas country rocker Colin Gilmore seemed pleasantly comfortable and very much at ease on the stage, inviting friend and fellow musician Betty Soo to join him midway through. The smattering of fans in the small crowd were clearly happy to have him there, a couple of them even daring to shake up the formality of the room with a bit of country dancing to his tunes. Though the Victorian Room is a nice venue for singer/songwriters, I couldn’t help thinking that Gilmore’s jukebox sound might have worked better in a more casual setting. If you get the chance to see him play in a bar or pub, bring your two-stepping shoes along for a spin around the dance floor.

Emme Woods internal

My next stop was a bit off the beaten path at the Iron Bear, where Scottish rocker Emme Woods was on the Glamglare showcase schedule. It was late in the evening by this point, and unfortunately Woods didn’t appear to be at the top of her game. The combination of alcohol and her thick Scottish brogue rendered her between-songs banter almost completely unintelligible to my American ear. Musically, her songs were sensual and bluesy, and the added brass instrumentation was interesting, but the band’s performance felt rather sullen and uninspired, and I was just as happy to duck out after 3 or 4 songs. Still, I could see that this might have gone differently on another night, and if you like sultry rock led by a rich female singing voice, you’d do well to give Emme Woods a listen.

Marlon Williams internal

My favourite new act of the Wednesday night came at the very end, when I hit the Palm Door on Sixth Patio to hear New Zealand crooner Marlon Williams. Williams was predictably smooth and suave on stage, with a retro rock style that felt at once fresh and vaguely familiar. The younger women in the crowd were especially taken by Williams’ flexibility, which he displayed both in his serpentine dance moves and his remarkable singing voice. Taking full advantage of the breezy outdoor stage, Williams and his band played a brilliant high energy set that came as a most welcome surprise in this notoriously difficult 1 AM time slot. Watch for him to make waves with his recent album ‘Make Way for Love’, out now on Dead Oceans/Caroline.

 

SXSW 2018: Wednesday afternoon with fantastic female artists at the AloftLive and Single Lock showcases – 14th March 2018

 
By on Tuesday, 10th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

After starting my Wednesday at SXSW 2018 with a keynote speech by Lyor Cohen at the Austin Convention Center, I decided it was time for both some fresh air and some music. With that in mind, I headed to the Aloft Austin Downtown hotel, which played host to a full showcase of female artists, sponsored by Aloft Hotels and Universal Music Group. The lineup included several artists on my “must see” list, and the breezy but intimate patio lounge proved an ideal venue for both listening and taking photos.

Liza Anne internal

Nashville alt-rock singer/songwriter Liza Anne came to Austin hot on the heels of her latest LP release ‘Fine But Dying’, which came out on the 9th of March via Arts & Crafts. As you might glean from the title, the songs on ‘Fine But Dying’ aren’t exactly upbeat, their lyrics dealing with such heavy topics as love, patriarchy, and mental illness. But in live performance Liza Anne didn’t shy away from even their most angst-ridden moments, addressing them with dark humour and unflinching candor. She gave a fiercely memorable performance of several of the new tracks on the Aloft stage, including ‘Closest to Me’ and ‘Small Talks’.

Natalie Prass internal

Richmond, VA native and Spacebomb Music associate Natalie Prass came on next to play songs from her upcoming sophomore album ‘The Future and the Past’, due out on the first of June via ATO. I’d seen her live previously, both at SXSW 2015 and in Tucson later that same year. In the three-year interim, Prass has written not one but two album’s worth of songs, one of which she scrapped in favour of what would become ‘The Future and the Past’. Prass gave a charmingly relaxed set here, with the new songs sounding remarkably jazzy and fresh in the cool breeze on the Aloft stage. We’ve already featured the new album’s first single ‘Short Court Style’; you can have a listen to the recently released and singularly appropriate track ‘Sisters’ just below.

Tank and the Bangas internal

New Orleans soul/spoken word group Tank and the Bangas are led by singer and poet Tarriona Ball, whose deliberately unassuming stage presence masks a sharp lyrical precision and an almost hypnotic vocal style. Backed by fellow vocalist Anjelika Joseph and a full band of instrumentalists, Ball had her audience enraptured from the first moments of the set to the very last. I’m not sure the visceral power of this kind of music can ever really be captured on recording, but if you have the chance to see Tank and the Bangas live, don’t miss it. My favourite track in their set was ‘Rollercoasters’, which you can hear in this live video from American public radio station WXPN’s World Cafe.

The remainder of the Aloft Live lineup included British singers Jade Bird and Bishop Briggs, both of whom I was (fine but) dying to see, but I took a rain check for the moment, knowing I’d have chances to catch them later in the week. At the moment, I had a long walk ahead of me, across to the east side of downtown, for the Single Lock Records showcase and Nashville folk rock songwriter Erin Rae. While the stage at Weather Up, which played host to Single Lock that day, was decidedly less glamourous than the one at Aloft, the songwriting on display was nonetheless strong. Rae appeared with a sparse band of two members, whom she admitted to having “borrowed” for the afternoon from fellow Nashville singer Tristen, to play songs from her upcoming album ‘Putting on Airs’. Rae’s wistful singing voice on the title track from that record, and especially on recent single ‘Can’t Cut Loose’, made a poignant and lasting impression as the afternoon sun began to fade into evening.

Erin Rae internal

 

SXSW 2018: an editor’s final surprises and wows in Austin – 17th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

For the first time all week, I didn’t have a plan at the start to my evening. I had some tentative ideas but then decided I should probably queue for Latitude 30, as I had been locked out of the press allocation of the SXxpress passes for Saturday night. Both Carrie and I have seen daunting queues outside the venue in past years but this year, the British Music Embassy didn’t seem as big of a draw. Friday night’s rap-focussed night headlined by SXSW 2016 showcasing artist AJ Tracey had trouble getting foot traffic in, they ended up opening it up to the public. I was surprised that I was able to get in and in plenty of time ahead of the start of Superorganism’s set. There’s been huge buzz around these supposed ‘aliens’ and so they were more of a curiosity to me than anything else. This evening was sponsored by BBC Radio 1 and the UK’s Department of International Trade (formerly UK Trade and Investment).

Superorganism Saturday at SXSW 2018

In reality, the band hail from varied locations as New Zealand, South Korea, and Lancashire, while being led by the teenaged American via Japan Orono Noguchi. As a friend of mine with me that night quipped, “they’re like a mad version of The Go! Team!” Hard to argue with that logic. Their schtick is to act like they’re not from this planet, from the funny raincoats they start their set with, to pretending they don’t know what Teddy Grahams are. I didn’t find them as funny and avant-garde as advertised. I have trouble stomaching young kids swearing and witnessing Noguchi do this as part of her stage patter just came across as uncomfortable. I can see the pop appeal of their weird songs: they’re easy to sing along to, and who doesn’t think dancing shrimp are cute? But is this a project that has legs? Clearly, Domino Records think so, they put out their debut album last year. They’re appearing at the Great Escape in May, and I’m just happy I can say I’ve already seen them and leave that show in Brighton to their crazy fans.

I hung in there so I could watch girl duo IDER, recent signees to Glassnote Records. IDER were invited to showcase at SXSW last year; we previewed them then and I was so disappointed they didn’t come out to Austin. A year of tightening their sound and live performance led to this week in Austin where they performed at show after show and did so with smiles on their faces. Their last chance to impress was at this BBC Radio 1 and Department of International Trade showcase at the British Music Embassy.


IDER Saturday at SXSW 2018

Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville certainly didn’t look like they’d been put through the SXSW wringer. Beginning their set with an arresting a capella duet, it seemed they were eager to prove that their voices could stand on their own and without electronic augmentation. Like their many shows in Austin before it, this one was full up and proof that word had gotten around about their talent. There’s nowhere for them to go but up from here.

Uncomfortable by the sardine situation at Latitude 30, I said goodbye to my friend, extricated myself from the crowd and walked on to my next destination on 6th Street, fully expecting to be to have arrived during a changeover. Returning to the Velveeta Room for a second timethat week, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to catch the latter half of Margate singer/songwriter Dan Lyons’ set. As regular readers of TGTF know, the singer/songwriter genre is Carrie’s forte, not mine. I find that after a while, these artists start to blur in sound and in my mind. Don’t sing to me from atop a stool. Others may think you’re cool, but I’ll just be bored. I’d rather rock out.

Dan Lyons Saturday at SXSW 2018 4

There is a dark edge to Lyons’ songwriting, a world of blown smoke rings, psych and blues and Laurel Canyon harmonies with his bandmate and partner Freya. The songs are Something tells me he’d get along with Stephen Duffy and they’d have a laugh, like I had described New Pope at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 should go drinking with Dylan and Tom Waits. Lyons was previously the drummer for Fat White Family in a previous life, so it’s nice to see an artist coming from behind the skins to do his own thing.

The label ‘synthpop’ LYLO have been given hasn’t done them any favours. I know what I think synthpop sounds like, and there are legends of the genre like my beloved Duran Duran and OMD that tend to used as examples. The Glaswegian band go far beyond the basic synthpop mould by having a saxophone player – seriously, what synthpop band do YOU know has a saxophonist? – and their cool attitude oozing from every pore.

LYLO Saturday at SXSW 2018

You remember Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, right? Recall that Rafferty was Scottish and this hipness is buried there in their DNA. On ‘Turn My Jacket’, there’s a lot going on, but it’s a happy kind of organised chaos. I found my head bopping to the beat and cheering on these lads. I cracked up as I watched the legs of their keyboardist move around as if they had a mind of their own. Mind you, this was all happening while his hands were at attention on the keys. I guess even he can’t control himself when he gets swept up in the rhythm?

What better way to finish out my SXSW 2018 than with a band that I’d discovered while listening through all the bands from the Continent, poised to find the next big band out of Europe. Moonlight Breakfast, who I’d previewed in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, were appearing at Friends. They were prepared: they had brought their own lighting and projection screens on which they could run their own visuals. These may not sound like much and possibly unnecessary at a dive like Friends. But taken together, they made their show stand out as a professional presentation from nearly all the others I’d seen all week. World class. I would like to think that the place was packed because people had heard about them through my write-up and word has spread fast.

Moonlight Breakfast Saturday at SXSW 2018

Make no mistake, ‘professional’ doesn’t mean stuffy. Like LYLO before them, they had a secret weapon in the form of the clarinet that their drummer ‘Bazooka’ played on ‘I Feel Like Dancing’, and to huge audience cheers. The bounce of singles ‘Time’ and ‘Shout’ made them irrepressible and so catchy, you could feel the energy building in the room. Singer Christie sang with a megaphone and with a huge grin on her face. She knew they’d done good. On the final night of SXSW, you couldn’t ask for a better high note. Fans were fighting over who would buy them drinks after their performance. I smiled to myself as I skipped out the front door of the bar. My job here is done.

I went back to the hotel to start packing for the trip back home and to mentally prepare for the difficult return to my normal life. Seeing Moonlight Breakfast wow a crowd like that was another reminder, like many reminders that week, that TGTF and my writing and opinion here makes a difference. I know for myself that although I can’t be that singer I wanted to be when I was a little girl, the next best thing I can do is to help that girl (or guy) with the same dream. Dream big, laugh, love. Goodnight, SXSW 2018.

For more of my photos from Saturday at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2018: a slower Saturday afternoon at the convention center and hotels – 17th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

I’m always amazed how I feel when I reach the Saturday of the SXSW Music Festival. Everyone who is going at it as hard as we do is exhausted. But we’re also sad. Months of preparation have culminated in our coming out to Austin for this event highlight of the festival calendar, and a part of you dies inside as you accept that it’s almost over.

The Irish rugby-crazy throngs were already up and at ‘em at B.D. Riley’s, so we slept in and decided to get brunch instead. The fancy schmancy Stella San Jac in the Westin was just down the road from the Omni where we stayed this time. At first, I was surprised to see that the place wasn’t crowded. But then I considered that maybe everyone else was still in bed at 1 PM, in the fetal position and nursing hangovers. I hadn’t eaten in nearly 24 hours, and Carrie noted I was hoovering a fried avocado and roasted corn salad in front of her. Ha. After Carrie had a few cups of needed coffee and I downed a bacon bloody Mary, we went down to the convention center for one last time.

avocado salad on Saturday
Wasn’t actually that healthy of a salad…

Carrie headed to a session, while I went into the Trade Expo for some music at the Flatstock stage. Unintentionally but altogether happily, I got a bit of a second helping (side dish?) of Montreal’s Bodywash. I said hello to the band afterwards and we had a nice chat about Pop Montreal vs. M is for Montreal. Pro tip: if you ever need information about an event, ask the people who live in the town where it’s taking place for advice. I came away wanting to visit Montreal ASAP.

The coolest thing for artists about the stages at the convention center – Flatstock, International Day and Radio Day – is that the people who attend these are probably going to be different than those who show up to your afternoon appearances and your evening showcases. It offers another opportunity to wow a different crowd. As the SXSW Gaming Expo was in full swing Saturday, some gaming-inclined kids had wandered into the Flatstock stage area and were spellbound by the next act, Ascot’s Febueder, who I previewed ahead of SXSW back in February.

Febueder Saturday at SXSW 2018

I want to describe their music is soulful, jazzy and catchy – it is all these things – but that would be simplifying it too much. If alt-J hadn’t happened, I don’t think an act like Febueder could dream big. Post ‘An Awesome Wave’, the possibilities are now much wider. I think I always worry how an act is going to be received in the bright lights of the convention center, especially on a Saturday afternoon. But in Febueder’s case, the concern wasn’t needed at all. Their trumpet and electronic drum-infused music was out there at times, yes, but it hit the spot for those keen on finding a new band to follow. Afterwards, people came up to the stage excitedly, wanting a handshake and to know how to spell the band’s name so they could find their act on Spotify. Mission accomplished, guys!

Following two drink interludes – hey, it was St. Patrick’s Day, I’m not turning down a green-coloured ginger beer – Carrie and I split up to catch two acts at Second Play Stages. In case you aren’t familiar with these, they are shows that are mostly before the 7 PM hour at hotels and other unconventional venues that are free and open to the public. Carrie used the opportunity to pick up a performance by Harry Pane at the Hilton that I happened to see on the Second Play schedule. I headed down to Davis Street to check out the Hotel Van Zandt for the first time and to see a band for a second time that week. I seriously wonder what kind of parents think it’s a good idea to bring their families with young kids out to Austin during SXSW. Well, at least if they’re hanging around a hotel lobby in the afternoon, they’ll see some good music, right?

STAL Saturday at SXSW 2018 3

Some of these kids sat in front of the stage were lucky, as STAL were ready to roll for their last performance in Austin. Weirdly, the stage was next to the front door with a steady stream of new hotel guests coming through, so for onlookers, it was distracting to say the least. Taking that into account, STAL admirably ignored the weird situation they found themselves in and performed their style of synthpop as if they were in any other venue in Austin. They sounded great, even if the people watching them weren’t dancing as I had hoped they would. Maybe the adults were as tuckered out as I was? For more of my photos from Saturday at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

man milking an armadillo
You think your week at SXSW was bad? I think this man is trying to milk his armadillo…

 

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.

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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