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SXSW 2014: a short stay at the Hype Hotel before bidding this year’s festival adieu – 15th March 2014

 
By on Thursday, 27th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

After we left Latitude 30, I decided we needed a real meal before we went home for the week. (Come off it, people, that veggie burger that everyone was complaining about there was delicious! But it was probably because I was hungry, and you know how everything tastes 1,000x better when you’re hungry?) I’ve been a regular at Piranha Sushi just down the street from the venue every year I’ve come out for SXSW, so it made sense to get some good food and drink from there before we said goodbye to SXSW 2014.

Carrie ordered the one with the strawberries on top, which I have to say looked pretty good but it just wasn’t my thing. (If anyone fancies seeing what I ate while in Austin, I’ve got a whole slew of photos I can share. My love for music is the only thing that trumps my love for food and cooking. You can blame my Chinese upbringing.) Our waiter Zachary was ubercool and was so nice to us, even though we were a little tipsy from our time at the British Music Embassy earlier. Seriously though, it was Saturday afternoon, and how could I not indulge in multiples of my namesake drink, the Bloody Mary?

We had every intention of going home after our bellies were full. But after a fortuitous accidental run-in with more friends from the AU Review and the reappearance of our Canadian friend Jordy, who insisted we should join him at the Hype Hotel with the promise of the famous free drinks and free tacos, we relented. I argued with myself in my head, when else am I going to see Gary Numan? He ain’t coming to DC anytime soon! Actually, we didn’t need as much arm twisting as I make it sound. Edinburgh’s Meursault, who had rocked our world at the British Music Embassy just hours prior, were playing again right before Numan, so we could make it a two-fer.

Following minimal queueing, we got inside and I was surprised how much smaller the Hype Hotel was this year compared to previous years; the location moves every year. Last year when I saw then unknowns Kodaline and the Specials there on the Thursday night in 2013, the space seemed ridiculously cavernous and empty when I arrived, #2 in the queue to get in. To be honest, this time I was little crestfallen in the lack of overall grandeur. It also didn’t help that by the time I’d gotten the munchies and wanted a free taco, they’d closed up shop.

The first band on at the Hype Hotel Saturday night was Caught a Ghost, a project of LA songwriter and producer Jesse Nolan. His Twitter describes the music as ” vintage soul with modern electronic influences”, and I would agree wholeheartedly. Songs like ‘No Sugar in My Coffee’ show off Nolan’s soulful, jazzy tendencies, evident in the vocal stylings and the bass-y grooves. If the song sounds familiar, it’s because it was used in season 4 of Boardwalk Empire, probably for its sleazy slinkiness. As a full band, they’re pretty cool to watch and enjoy.


Next up as promised were Meursault. I was so pleased for them that by then – 9 PM – there was a sizable and highly receptive American crowd just waiting to hear then do their best (er, or worse, depending on which side of rock you’re on lingo-wise). What an exciting thing it must have been for them to play on such a massive stage and in front of so many more people who didn’t know who they were, and it was their chance to shine. I was excited for them too because the Hype Hotel was so much larger than Latitude 30 and the sound system at the E. 7th Street venue made them sound huge. Contrast that with the show Cheryl and I saw in Baltimore on Sunday night, and I think I’ve gotten the full Meursault live experience over a 9-day period. I’m a lucky girl.

Then came 10 o’clock. Time for Gary Numan. Gary Numan is not Carrie’s kind of music at all. So I give her a lot of credit for hanging in there for the first three songs before she bailed, patiently waiting outside for the set to finish and for me to come out. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to his new material; he is, of course, most famous for ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric’, his hits of yesteryear. But what was more amazing to me was how huge the sound was from his evolution into an industrial rock god in the late ’90s, following on from his mastery of being a commercially viable electronic artist with those aforementioned hit singles, at least for a time in his early career. (I apologise for the poor quality of the below photo, but I wanted to show you just how excited I was and how grateful I was to the Hype Machine to put him on the Saturday night bill.)

The ‘Splinter’ LP, released last year, continues Numan’s commitment to uncompromising industrial, goth-y rock. ‘Love Hurt Bleed’ sounds more Nine Inch Nails than Nine Inch Nails does, if that makes any sense. But in the same set, ‘Cars’, despite all its layers making it sound so much more complicated than in its original form, easily proved why the song has endured in the collective hearts and minds of us synth heads. It’s just that good, as is Numan. At age 56, the man is still wearing eyeliner, has a shock of punky hair on his head, can rock out on a guitar like nobody’s business and wail on the microphone too.

For me, it had been an extremely emotional week, meeting up and spending time with the dear people in my life I don’t often see, while also finally meeting others who I had known for a while online but this being the first time I got to meet them in person. Saturday night was the culmination of a marathon I and all of us at TGTF had been running since the first band announcement was made in November, and now it was over. So this was the show where I truly let my hair down, allowing it to fly as I just gave myself over to the music.

I had been sad for the needless deaths of innocent music fans at the Mohawk Wednesday night, and I had been sad because I received signs over the weeks before arriving and while I was in Austin that certain things in my life had reached an end. But after several important conversations on Saturday, I became optimistic that my music career had only just begun, like the feeling you get when you open a brand new book for the first time and you run your fingers down the first page, anxiously awaiting for what is yet to come. I’m a little scared but also raring to go into this next phase of my life. Gary Numan looked over at me a couple times and smiled; I doubt he realised he was witnessing a transformation.

I gave Jordy a final hug and when I finally emerged into the night to meet up with Carrie, I found her grinning from ear to ear as we were leaving. She said we definitely had to do this again next year. Shall we? I think yes. Until then…goodnight, dear Austin.

 

SXSW 2012: Day 1 – Initial Impressions and Oberhofer at Hype Hotel – 13th March 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 21st March 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Tuesday at South by Southwest (which will henceforth be referred to as SXSW) is similar to Roskilde and other festivals in that it’s the calm before the storm. People are settling in to the rhythms (no pun intended) of their new surroundings. That said, after you’ve spent most of your day travelling to “the Live Music Capital of the World” (yes, Austin have trademarked that as their official motto), you owe it to yourself to catch some shows. Committing to a lighter schedule in the midst of your jetlag is the way to go.

And this is probably good advice, as I was told Tuesday is the day most people come to claim their badges and wristbands. As explained in the preview, wristbands are really only supposed to be going to locals with Austin billing zip codes, though unfortunately I could overhear people about badges and wristbands being sold under the table or swapped based on physical appearance, e.g., “I’m looking for a blonde who will buy my badge at half-price”. (I know how desperate some people are to see certain bands. But seriously, not cool.) I was stood in line with hundreds of others in the wristband line. When you’re jetlagged, you’re tired and cranky. Props to the convention centre staff who were giving out bottles of water and bags of Doritos to keep folks from going postal.

I don’t know what happened but I guess the festival pass gods were looking favourably down on me, as I managed to be directed to the fastest moving wristband line and got wristbanded up and my camera tags for press on my equipment in less than 3 hours, so I’m not complaining. But be forewarned, prepare to queue everywhere – for credential pick-up, to get into venues, to get free tacos, etc. Come to think of it, I must have RSVPed to a bunch of brunches, breakfasts and lunches and I don’t think I got any free food, except from the kind woman at the door for the Music from Ireland Irish breakfast Friday morning at B.D. Riley’s who realised I was good people when I explained I’d seen the Northern Ireland showcase on Wednesday night. (Cheers Angela.) I’ll stop moaning now, as I’m sure you want to hear about the bands I saw on day 1…

After a relaxing dinner with a PR friend, we headed over to the Hype Hotel (venue sponsored by the Hype Machine) on Trinity. He had his wristband but I didn’t, so I expected a massive queue like all the others I’d seen around town. Again, I had unusually good luck, as when we asked security on a side entrance if that queue wrapped around the block really was where I was supposed to go, he handed me what I needed and shooed us inside. The Hype Hotel has a very cool vibe; it looks a bit like a warehouse, but it has amazing brick overhangs that give it character. The stage was big but not too big; it reminded me a bit of the Music Hall of Williamsburg except there wasn’t a balcony.

Sneaking in through the alternate entrance and effectively skipping the queue, we were able to catch most of Oberhofer’s exuberant set. Upbeat and full of energy, this was a great band to stick my toes into the water of SXSW, and good timing too: I saw Paul Lester just wrote about the Brooklyn band on his New Band of the Day feature last week, so now I can say, “nyah nyah, I saw them at SXSW and you didn’t!” But no, I’m too polite to be that obnoxious. But trust me, there were plenty of people I ran into who were doing just that and wanted me to dissolve into tears because I hadn’t seen Bruce Springsteen. (I’ve never been a massive fan of his, so missing him entirely didn’t faze me one bit. British indie bands, please!) I don’t really get jealous of this kind of person, as I’ve been incredibly fortunate to see the bands I have in all my years of blogging. I just laugh at them in my head.

More photos (and in higher resolution too!) are available on my Flickr here. Stay tuned for much more coverage of SXSW 2012 in the coming days.

 
 
 

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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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