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Hard Working Class Heroes 2016: editor Mary’s best band bets

 
By on Friday, 30th September 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: as we recommend with all of our festival previews, the information we post here on TGTF on Hard Working Class Heroes 2016, including my past preview of the event, is current at the time of posting. But we encourage you to check in at the event’s official Web site closer to the start of the event to confirm venues and set times. Weekend tickets are still on sale for €45, with nightly and individual venue tickets priced at €20 and €10, respectively. Weekend student tickets will be available for purchase for €25 upon proof of photo ID on Thursday 6th October from the box office at Film Base, Curved Street. To purchase your tickets, visit this page on the official HWCH Web site.

2016 North American emerging music festival alums: We’d be missing a trick not to give a shoutout to the artists we’ve already covered and enjoyed at this year’s SXSW 2016 in Austin (March) and CMW 2016 in Toronto (May):
Comrade Hat (Derry; 10:10 PM Thursday, Tengu Upstairs)
Elm (Dublin; 9:40 PM Saturday, Workman’s Club)
Fangclub (Dublin; 9:30 PM Thursday, Hub)
Jealous of the Birds (Portadown; 9:00 PM Friday, Tengu Downstairs)
Rosie Carney (Downings via Portsmouth; 10:00 PM Saturday, City Hall)
Rusangano Family (Limerick; 9:30 PM Saturday, Chocolate Factory Stage 2)
Search Party Animal (Dublin; 8:30 PM Thursday, Workman’s Club)

Let me introduce you to a lucky seven acts that caught my eyes and ears upon my research of the 100+ strong bill for Hard Working Class Heroes this year:

Orchid Collective (folk / Dublin; 1:30 PM Thursday, Accents Café Lounge [free show]; 10:30 PM Thursday, Wigwam)

The incredible success of Fleet Foxes in the late Noughties opened the door for the march of the alt-folk genre, paving the way for artists like Bon Iver, Family of the Year and Of Monsters and Men to garner global popularity. From one of the traditional bosoms of folk music of the world, Ireland, and with new EP ‘Courage’ out in late October, Orchid Collective look to be the next stars of indie folk.

New Pope (folk / Galway; 3:30 PM Thursday, Gutter Bookshop [free show]; 9:40 PM Thursday, Tengu Downstairs)

It’s easy to suffer from electronic overload and overproduction. So let’s take a step back and strip back to the basics of folk. New Pope is West Country singer/songwriter David Boland, proving that as long as you keep things simple during a thoughtful writing process, it’s possible to write a compelling song. Close your eyes for a fuller sense of the power of ‘Love’ below.

Exiles (electronic / Carlow/Kilkenny; 10:50 PM Thursday, Tengu Upstairs)

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for synthpop, so Exiles are a no-brainer on my Hard Working Class Heroes schedule. This month, they released a new EP ‘Red Lights’, already receiving loads of attention from domestic radio. Given the current music climate for everything synthy, I can see this band going far beyond the ‘80s influences that have been so important to them.

Slow Riot (post-punk / Limerick; 8:10 PM Friday, Hub)

Naming themselves after a Godspeed You! Black Emperor EP, Slow Riot takes the best of those who have come before and puts a unique Irish stamp on it. Having already played a sold-out show in the Capital, they will return to gig in London on the 10th of November at the Sebright Arms after this appearance at Hard Working Class Heroes.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJoBdRmek0o[/youtube]

Callum Stewart (pop / Belfast; 12:30 PM Friday, Nine Crows [free show]; 8:40 PM Friday, City Hall)

You know that feeling you get when you listen to a new artist and the chills run down your spine? Like I felt with Liverpool’s BANNERS in my SXSW 2016 research, I got that same kind of moment upon hearing Callum Stewart’s pop single ‘Parachute’. Despite being only 19, Stewart has already managed to achieve a poignancy in his songs that much older songwriters have difficulty with. Expect a major label snap-up in the coming months.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik1aTXfmP8Q[/youtube]

Hiva Oa (electronic/rock / Belfast; 8:20 PM Saturday, Tengu Downstairs)

Stephen Houlihan and Christine Tubridy have returned to Ireland after a spell in Edinburgh, and they’ve just released a new EP. ‘mk2 (part 1)’ illustrates well their sound described on a press release as “marrying primal, dizzying electronica and a swelling bass hum, with minimal guitar patterns to create a tightly wound, suffocating and intense atmosphere”. Intrigued? Check them out on Saturday night.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0pqMgLDnsY[/youtube]

Kid Karate (punk / Dublin; 8:30 PM Saturday, Chocolate Factory Stage 2; our past coverage on them on TGTF here)

Kid Karate are veterans of past SXSW events and this year, the noiseniks really have something to shout about. Their newest and also self-titled album was released in April. Single ‘Louder’, with its unrelenting, thudding backbeat and punky swagger, should give you a good clue what you’re in for if you pop into the Chocolate Factory’s Stage 2 Saturday night.

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

 

SXSW 2014: Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s – 14th March 2014

 
By on Monday, 31st March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

One of the events I was most looking forward to at SXSW 2014 was the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s hosted by Music From Ireland. I must admit upfront that the actual meal is not my particular cup of tea (and in the interest of full confession, I drank coffee) but it was a nice part of the general atmosphere of the event. Our editor Mary joined me for part of the day’s festivities and has already touched on the Irish Breakfast in her Friday coverage.


When we walked in to B.D. Riley’s, we were warmly greeted by Mary’s friend and event organizer, Music from Ireland’s Angela Dorgan, as well as a host of other now familiar faces including several acquaintances made at the British Music Embassy over the course of the week. We were sat at a table in the front of the room near the sound desk, which gave us easy access to photos and quick chats with the artists on the schedule, and I quickly made the decision to set up camp there for the entire day. I was over the moon, as the lineup for the day included several acts I’d been dying to see.

Music From Ireland playbill SXSW 2014

We had missed UNKNWN earlier in the week at the Creative Belfast showcase, but we didn’t have to wait long to have our curiosity satisfied at B.D. Riley’s. The Northern Irish electro duo of music producer Chris Hanna (identified singularly as Unknown) and vocalist Gemma Dunleavy provided us with our morning slow jam, even as the clock crept into afternoon territory. Hanna’s deep and dreamy bass groove combined with Dunleavy’s smooth, clear vocals created a very chill, relaxed sonic atmosphere to start off the day.

UNKNWN at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

The next band, Dublin sister act Heathers, couldn’t have been more of a stylistic contrast to UNKNWN. I had gotten a sneak peek at them at the Music From Ireland showcase on the Wednesday night, so I knew to expect a change of pace. Of course, it helped that before they went on stage, Ellie Macnamara was kind enough to grant me a cheeky photo of her set list.

Heathers set list BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Heathers’ edgy, energetic rock, interlaced with tightly woven vocal harmonies and countermelodies, was the perfect antidote to the hearty Irish breakfast we’d just consumed. After their set, I was able to set up a quick interview with the sisters Macnamara for a bit later in the day.

Heathers at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

I was especially excited to see Rams’ Pocket Radio again, after having heard his set at Creative Belfast on the Monday night. As he mentioned in my interview with him from that night, he came to SXSW with a full band of musicians, who were tightly packed onto the small stage at B.D. Riley’s. Once again, they played a set featuring several tracks from Rams’ Pocket Radio’s album, ‘Béton’, including ‘Dogs Run in Packs’, ‘1+2’, ‘Dieter Rams Has Got the Pocket Radios’, and current single ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’. (My recent review of ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’ can be found here.)

Rams' Pocket Radio at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

As I’ve previously mentioned, I found Rams’ Pocket Radio a bit difficult to photograph due to his emphatic performance style. I was able to catch a few decent photos at the Irish Breakfast, but unfortunately it distracted me a bit from listening to the music. I made a mental note to try to return for his late show that night, also at B.D. Riley’s, so I could listen unfettered by the camera.

Rams' Pocket Radio at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

After Rams’ Pocket Radio, I stepped outside and around the corner for the aforementioned interview with Heathers, which you can read here. On my way back in, I noticed that there was a passing crowd gathered outside B.D. Riley’s, listening to the music from the open air stage. The space outside the venue proved to be a popular gathering place and was almost as full as the inside bar area for most of the day.

Mary and I were both excited to hear the Wonder Villains play again after speaking with them at the British Music Embassy on the Monday night. We were once again somewhat amazed by the colorful attire of the Wonder Villains’ leading ladies, Eimear Coyle and Cheylene Murphy. But more importantly, we were also amazed by the band’s high-spirited performance. Their latest single, ‘Marshall’, had been playing on the PA system between sets, and by the time the band played it live, everyone in the bar was singing and dancing along, including our indefatigable editor.

Wonder Villains at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Mary ducked out after the Wonder Villains played, leaving me to the saccharine-sounding garage pop charms of Dott. Their single ‘Small Pony’ is every bit as bouncy and danceable as ‘Marshall’, but Dott were, inevitably, more reserved on stage than the bright and brash Wonder Villains. Little wonder, as I discovered later that they were nearing the end of a full American tour. Their tour diary for the trip, including their time at SXSW, can be viewed here.

Dott at BD RIley's 14 March 2014

I was practically dancing with excitement myself to hear the next band on the playbill, The Young Folk. I’d met them briefly on the Wednesday night at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room and gotten a sneak preview of their forthcoming album, ‘The Little Battle’, and frankly, I was already hooked. Their live performance didn’t disappoint, despite the number of instruments they had to squeeze onto the tiny stage.

Young Folk at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Young Folk at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Songs from ‘The Little Battle’ predominated the set, but The Young Folk also included non-album tracks ‘A Song About Wolves’ and ‘Hold On To Your Hat’. I was impressed most by their ability to convey the tender lyrical moments in their songs without dampening the lively mood of the crowd. Their relaxed but animated performance style was definitely a hit among those in attendance at B.D. Riley’s

Young Folk at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Note ‘The Little Battle’ CD taped to Anthony’s guitar.

After The Young Folk played their set, I ducked outside again for an interview with them, which you can read here if you haven’t already. They proved to be quite easy to talk to, and before I knew it, I had missed most of the next set inside the venue. When I came back in, September Girls were rocking the stage with their reverb, rhythm and vocal harmonies. I did manage to peek between the enthusiastic patrons at the front to snap a few quick photos before the band wrapped up.

September Girls at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Mary returned from her own afternoon interview adventures with DJ Colette and Until the Ribbon Breaks and checking out some of the day’s activities at British Music Embassy in time to catch the last two bands on the schedule, WOUNDS and Kid Karate. I would never have guessed that she would be a fan of either band, but the bass player in her showed through as she headbanged along with WOUNDS.

Mary at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Editor Mary got her groove on.

Both WOUNDS and Kid Karate required the use of earplugs, especially at the close range where we were seated. Of the two, WOUNDS were definitely the harder, heavier thrashing rock, but they managed to keep their performance confined to the stage.

WOUNDS at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Kid Karate, on the other hand, were not inclined to that much restraint. By the end of their brazenly bluesy set, guitarist and front man Kevin Breen had completely abandoned drummer Steven Gannon to join the audience for an impromptu moshing session. It was the perfect surprise ending to what had been a showcase full of variety and high quality music.

Kid Karate at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Kid Karate at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, I hated to leave after the end of the showcase. Part of my mind lingered at B.D. Riley’s when I dashed off to my next appointment, even as I eagerly anticipated the Communion Records showcase that was still to come at St. David’s Episcopal Church.

Thanks to Brian, Ciaran and Jim for their assistance with interviews and photos at this event. (And special thanks to Angela and the staff at B.D. Riley’s for their help in rescuing my lost voice recorder!)

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014: Artists from Ireland and Northern Ireland showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Wednesday, 5th March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2014 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite band is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the band’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

This installment of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014 explores the contingent of SXSW 2014 showcasing bands from Ireland and Northern Ireland. These acts range from traditional folk to pure electronic, with a healthy dose of plain old pop and rock falling somewhere in between.

Cian Nugent is listed on the SXSW 2014 schedule as being in the “avant/experimental” category. His expansive, virtuosic solo electric guitar compositions are backed by traditional rock instruments, including electric bass and drums, as well as more orchestral bowed strings, woodwinds, and brass. His latest LP ‘Born With the Caul’, released in November 2013, is his first recording with a fully dedicated band. Cian Nugent and The Cosmos are currently touring in America leading up to SXSW.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/ITuigRBWhlM[/youtube]

Dott are a “shiney, harmony-driven guitar pop” band hailing from Galway. Their laid back, low-fi debut album ‘Swoon’ was released on Graveface Records in December 2013; stream it here. For a quick sampling of their sound, take a listen to ‘Love You Too’.

Heathers are Dublin twin sisters Ellie and Louise Macnamara. Their mainstream guitar pop second album, ‘Kingdom’, was released in the UK in September 2012 and nominated for that year’s Meteor Choice Music Prize for Best Irish Album. It is due for release in America on the 8th of April via SonyRED, just after the band’s appearance at SXSW. The album’s first single ‘Forget Me Knots’ has already scored over 250,000 YouTube hits.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/BTLbR80pIqY[/youtube]

Hozier is the stage name of County Wicklow’s Andrew Hozier-Byrne, a soulful singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose poignant single ‘Take Me To Church’ turns romantic love into a religious experience. Already receiving radio play in America, the track was nominated for the Meteor Choice Prize Song of the Year. March looks to be a busy month for Hozier, with the release of his EP, ‘From Eden,’ and his appearance at SXSW, along with his St. Patrick’s Day birthday.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYSVMgRr6pw[/youtube]

Dublin rock duo Kid Karate have been compared to the likes of Jack White and The Black Keys. Their brash, bluesy brand of rock seems more sonically suited to stadiums than the small venues of SXSW, but they are sure to make their boisterous presence known in Austin next month. They have just finished recording their debut long player ‘Night Terrors’, to be released later this year. Be sure to adjust your volume settings before streaming their first single, ‘Two Times’.

Rams’ Pocket Radio is the stage moniker for Northern Irish solo artist Peter McCauley. He is categorized by SXSW organizers as pop, but based on his opening performance for Foy Vance last year (reviewed here), I’d say his keyboard-based rock is more experimental or progressive than most pop artists. Think Ben Folds without the flippancy. Despite its unwieldy title, Rams’ Pocket Radio’s eponymous tune ‘Dieter Rams Has Got The Pocket Radios’ is a surprisingly infectious earworm.

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

Female garage pop band September Girls are aptly named for a Big Star song once covered by The Bangles. The fuzzy guitars and vocal harmonies on ‘Heartbeats’ are a slightly scuzzier version of The Bangles’ signature sound. The single features on September Girls’ debut album,‘Cursing the Sea,’ which was released in January on Fortuna Pop! Records.

The Strypes’ official Web site describes the band as “a 4-piece rhythm and blues band hailing from Cavan, Ireland,” and their single ‘Blue Collar Jane’ clearly pinpoints their style as reminiscent of the early Beatles R&B sound. Their first EP release ‘Young, Gifted & Blue’ is a set of four homemade recordings of classic blues songs, including a cheeky version of Bo Diddley’s ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover’. ‘Blue Collar Jane’ appears on the band’s debut LP ‘Snapshot’, released in September 2013. Their latest EP release ‘4 Track Mind’ coincided with their February tour dates in the UK, which included several sold out shows.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZb8nEemK2k[/youtube]

Unknown is the professional name of Belfast music producer Chris Hanna, who began his career attempting to create his music anonymously and without hype. He started producing music in 2012 with a series of tracks titled simply ‘#001’ – ‘#010’. He currently performs with vocalist Gemma Dunleavy under the stage name of UNKNWN, but the official SXSW schedule lists him as “Unknown,” which might imply that he will be performing solo at the festival. Check out the groove of ‘#008’ below.

Indie pop wunderkinds the Wonder Villains hail from Derry, Northern Ireland and have already become major players on the Northern Irish music scene. They released two singles on No Dancing Records, ‘Ferrari’ and ‘Zola’, the latter of which was playlisted on BBC Radio 1 in February 2012. Their spunky forthcoming single ‘Marshall’ is due out on the 24th of March. After SXSW, the Wonder Villains are expected to return to the studio to finish their debut album, ‘Rocky’, which is scheduled for release in June.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/A-OP2FxCB6c[/youtube]

Dublin punk outfit WOUNDS released their first EP ‘Dead Dead Fucking Dead’ and began work on their debut LP before guitarist James Coogan fell from a four-story balcony and spent 3 months on life support. After Coogan’s painful recovery, Wounds licked their wounds and moved forward, releasing the LP ‘Die Young’,in January 2013. Listen to the merciless thrashing of ‘Dead Dead Fucking Dead’ below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lKnGvlYetU[/youtube]

The Young Folk, as you might have already guessed, are a folk quartet of a “certain youthful age”, according to the bio on the band’s Web site. Their brand of folk pop includes subtle and eclectic instrumentation, introspective lyrics, and lightly lilting vocals along with a relentlessly energetic performing style. Having recently signed with ARC Music UK, The Young Folk are set to release their debut album in the early part of 2014.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm8gYScu2Xw[/youtube]

 

Great Escape 2013: Mary’s Day 2 Afternoon Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 30th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

I had arrived in Brighton the Tuesday prior to the Great Escape 2013 and was suffering from some kind of stomach bug that was not making me very happy. (It’s just not normal for me to be in Britain for so long and not have Indian at least once.) Add to that borderline exhaustion and admittedly too many things on my mind on what was coming up in a couple days, and nerves were fraying. So comparatively, my schedule for Friday was relatively tame, which I suppose shouldn’t be such a surprise, as I spent the previous night up too late at the Waggon and Horses pub across the street from the Dome with several of Everything Everything, Kodaline and PR mates and happily being on the receiving end of comments like, “the Irish will never leave you!” (Guess you had to have been there…)

New Desert Blues Great Escape live

I was really touched by the thank yous from Kodaline for coming out to their Dome show that I felt compelled to see them again the following afternoon at Audio. This was their second scheduled appearance in Brighton, with only one other at what I’d been told was a very small space at the Warren Friday night, so it was either see them at Audio or probably not see them again until they returned to Washington. After the previous rough night, I woke up later than I should have, and then decided I couldn’t leave the flat until Liverpool Sound City reports were all sorted for that week (you lucky people). John swanned off to meet our friends for breakfast while I was feverishly typing into my laptop and then I got a text to meet him at the Fish Bowl for a band called New Desert Blues. So I arrived just in time for the band’s last song, so I’ll let John fill you on their set.

From there, it was on to Above Audio to catch a taster of one of Martin’s faves from Sound City, Night Engine. Again, John stayed for the whole thing so I’ll let him talk about their set, but from the little I heard, I wasn’t really wowed or anything. However, I will say that Above Audio is a decently large space and it was packed, so obviously their reputation preceded them. I saw the band later that day, with their gear in the middle of a street, talking to each other, but was too shy to say hello.

Gavin James Great Escape live

Then it was downstairs to catch two of the three acts of the Music from Ireland showcase. I missed Kid Karate but had seen them at SXSW, but I was keen on catching singer/songwriter Gavin James. It may be a bit of a cliche to talk about cute Irishmen like they’re leprechauns, but James actually alluded to the fact that he probably looked like one that afternoon. He explained he’d purchased a green coat earlier that week but it wasn’t until he arrived at Audio that he realised out loud that it was very green and half-jokingly explained with his ginger hair and beard and this jacket, he probably looked like the largest leprechaun there ever was. Ha! This made everyone in the place laugh so hard.

I can take or leave the singer/songwriter genre, but in this particular case, there was something just so disarming about him that made to stop and take notice. James seems like the affable chap at the end of a bar, downing pints while making you laugh with his stories. I don’t know as many Irishmen personally as I’d like but even I’ve heard how legendary the gift of gab and craic is supposed to be among the Irish, and this is the kind of guy I think everyone wants on their side. With songs like ‘Carolina’ and ‘For You’ under his belt, he definitely has the chops to make it in this business.

Kodaline Brighton Audio Great Esccape live

There was a decent-sized crowd for Gavin James, but geez, when it came time for Kodaline‘s crew to set up their gear, I started to get the sardine-in-a-can vibes. I was reminded how in Brighton, in stark contrast to Liverpool, you’ll be jostled, bumped and shoved out of the way if someone else wants your spot. I’d earned my place fair and square, yet two women unrelated to each other thought it was perfectly okay to push me from either side so that there would be room for them down the front. I was none too happy, but I stood my ground. No-one was going to ruin this experience for me.

Despite the pushing and shoving and the obligatory Facebook snaps with the band playing in the background taken by some of these punters with low attention spans, this Kodaline experience was near perfect for me. I always say to people that the absolute best thing to happen to you as a music fan is to watch an up and coming band gig in a teeny, tiny place and completely nail it, and of course, this doesn’t always happen, as you can’t always predict which band is going to be the Next Big Thing or indeed present when they play that hole in the wall place in your town. Kodaline have already gotten a taste for DC’s 9:30 Club and its cupcakes earlier this month, and I missed it. But I can say I saw them in places like Brighton Audio, where in a small room they left new fans spellbound. ‘All I Want’ is getting the lion’s share of attention here in America, and I don’t understand why ‘High Hopes’ doesn’t get more credit. It’s a huge, huge song that proves this band from Dublin can write anthems with the best of them. When I say to people, “they’re going to be the Irish Coldplay‘, I mean it.

Pray
Perfect World
High Hopes
Love Like This
All Comes Down to You
All I Want

 

SXSW 2013: Day 2 evening – Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room and Communion showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop – 12th March 2013

 
By on Tuesday, 26th March 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

I’m not sure if this was a problem that only massively plagued UK bands or if it bled into bands from other countries as well, but I must have done and redone my SXSW schedule 10 times in the lead-up to the week of SXSW 2013. And this was all owing to band cancellations: some bands had ‘a family emergency’, others simply didn’t respond to my questions of “are you still coming to SXSW?” With the first version of my schedule, I thought I would have to make some seriously tough choices between the Irish and the Scottish. It was playing out in my head in a terrible civil war, and I didn’t like to have to choose, and why should I have to? Equally great bands have come from both places, surely there was a way to figure this out between afternoon and evening showcases?

Early on, it was revealed that Camera Obscura would be playing a headline set as part of the Showcasing Scotland on the Wednesday night. Upon hearing this, and given how important an album their last, ‘My Maudlin Career’, meant to me (I’ve recorded a cappella versions of songs from there, because I think the album is so brilliant), the original plan was to drop everything for Traceyanne Campbell and the rest of the night would just have to be built around their set. However, once it was announced that a family thing precluded them from coming to SXSW, I had to rethink the whole evening. I had planned to catch Tango in the Attic earlier on the same bill, but with Camera Obscura pulling out, Tango…’s set moved to their time, and suddenly I had a conflict with another showcase. ARGH. But, just like the way I view love, I always say things happen for a reason, and at the times these things happen, they are for a reason too.

So this is how I found myself first at the upstairs bar at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. I’d convinced myself that I would hang around at the start for So Cow, a band that from my research had ‘been around the block’ so to speak in North America, arguing that they must put on a good live performance if they’d been over here so many times, then wait for Gary Barlow favourites and BBC Sound of 2013 longlisters Kodaline to appear. I arrived a little after the band started, but after I caught a glimpse of the night’s schedule, which started with Kid Karate and not So Cow. I made the mistake of not putting my earplugs in before I went upstairs, and really the one word I can describe Kid Karate with is *loud*. Yikes.

Kid Karate SXSW Music from Ireland

I don’t know, but the sound was awfully muddled, and I could not tell if it was the band’s equipment, or the in-house equipment. (I sincerely hope it was not the latter…because if so, Gibson has a lot to answer for!) Loud, punky instrumentation with shouty lyrics. Not my thing. For some of their set, one of their countrymen in Squarehead sat down in front of the bass drum with his hands over his ears. What? Why? I guess that is a mystery that will remain unsolved. {Edit 27/03/13: Angela of Music from Ireland explains: “The reason Ruan from Squarehead sat in front of the Kid Karate drums is the drum kit was slipping off the mat on the stage and Ruan jumped to the rescue, I’m confident that he had his hands over his ears is cause Steven is a very loud drummer.” Mystery solved!]

The idea that there was a problem with the sound in the Gibson Room was only partially supported by Kodaline‘s set next. I know and have heard just about as much as all of you do about the band from Dublin, especially from their ‘High Hopes’ EP released earlier this month that Cheryl reviewed in February. I have been spreading the good word about Kodaline round to my work colleagues, using ‘High Hopes’ as proof that the boys from Dublin will be the next great stadium rock band to dethrone Chris Martin and Coldplay, and do it 1,000x better. Frontman Steve Garrigan already looks the part: I noted that he has the unkempt but adorable haircut favoured by Jon Bon Jovi back in their ’80s heyday.

Kodaline SXSW Music from Ireland

As a song, ‘High Hopes’ is a less complex number in the sense that Steve Garrigan’s voice, with minimal instrumentation (nice, easy piano and guitars), showcases their musicianship. As horrible as the lighting was in the Gibson Room, as they played their soon to be global hit, it felt all the more like a brilliant diamond was being revealed to me, as the song just shone in the near darkness. I feel incredibly blessed to have been there for what was probably their first industry show in America.

Well, after that Kodaline-fueled epiphany, there was no question where I’d end up at the end of the night. But first, I had a date with another band in 2 hours, and all I had to do was walk through a single door to get to Maggie Mae’s Rooftop where I was earlier watching the 1975 wrestle with a bum electrical connection. Easy peasy, eh? Well, in all fairness, it wasn’t actually that easy. You learn from your first SXSW that if you’re prone to catching cold, you have to bring a jacket or some kind of jumper, and it was after I’d’ passed through that storied door that I must have dropped my jumper in the Gibson Room. They wouldn’t let me back through the same door, so I had to all the way downstairs at Maggie Mae’s proper, go around the block and queue up to get back into the Gibson Room with its entrance on a different street. I thought I’d figured this out, that I could have gone through that special door again but this time they would not let me! So I was forced to go down and out again, only to queue back around the block at Maggie Mae’s again. It is only with god’s good grace that there wasn’t a huge badge queue there and I got in without missing the next band.

Mikhael Paskalev SXSW Communion

Switching gears from the Music from Ireland showcase and just steps away from where I was previously, I was now at the first of two Communion evening showcases of the week. And that next band was a Nordic band fronted by Norwegian / Bulgarian singer/songwriter Mikhael Paskalev. The first that strikes you about Paskalev is his large beautiful fluff of hair, and then the next is his bushy eyebrows. But don’t let the Pantene lumberjack look fool you. You know how Icelanders Of Monsters of Men just took off like a rocket? Well, if Paskalev plays his cards right, he and his accomplished band might headed for the same trajectory, with a hint more rock in the rockabilly vein in terms of songwriting. It’s just incredibly infectious, happy, get up on your feet and dance kind of music, so it’s no wonder they’ve already been announced for Latitude, among many other European festivals. So if this sounds like music you’d be keen on, best get on this band while the getting is still good.

Remember that date I was telling you about? It was with Kent’s Story Books. (Rather funnily, I had seen their frontman Kris Harris before and did not even known it: he had toured as a band member of Laura Marling‘s during her first major headline tour of America in 2010. Talk about a small world.) During my Christmas holiday when I spent too many hours working on the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013, I stumbled upon this band’s song ‘Peregrine’, which had a folky yet bombastic vibe that recalled one of my favourite quirky artists, Patrick Wolf.

Story Books SXSW Communion

I had a conversation a long time ago about SXSW with We Are Scientists one time when they visited Washington; at the time I’d never been to SXSW once, and they had warned me that it had become less about the discovery of new bands than to provide more mainstream, popular acts a platform for punters to see them on. In that respect, I think SXSW punters are doing themselves a grave disservice not venturing out to see bands beyond the most popular. Last year as well as this year, I made some great discoveries simply by accident or by virtue of arriving somewhere earlier and watching a band I not intended to catch.

This is where I think many people at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop found themselves, as they waited for Noel Gallagher protege and far too much buzzed about wunderkind Jake Bugg, they caught Story Books too. While there was at least one inebriated lady making strange Native American tribal calls throughout the night, Story Books took it in stride, proving that they’re not just folk, they’re also highly capable of rocking out with guitars flying. I was truly glad to have seen them gig before my interview with them the next day, which you can listen to here.

Jake Bugg SXSW Communion

Okay, okay. So after all this buzz that’s been following Jake Bugg around since early 2012, by this SXSW I still had not managed to see him. I hadn’t been bothered up to that point, really. But I thought, ok, it’s Wednesday, let’s not destroy myself on the second day, why not hang around for the Bugg’s set? I knew he was underage, but I didn’t realise just how small he was until he came out on the rooftop stage and started tuning his guitar, which looked almost too big for him. It was like watching a junior high kid at a talent show.

However, the difference is this kid has the technical chops. I can’t fault him Bugg at all for his guitar-playing; even at his young age, he’s brilliant. The more I watched and got sucked into the masterfully played guitar notes (I’ve never cared for his country/western twang), the more things became clearer. As he tried to look like he didn’t care and this was way too easy for him, halfway sneering at the crowd that had assembled to watch the prodigy at work, he looked like a young, petulant Noel Gallagher. They even have the same haircut! Is Noel moulding a little Mini-Me of his own? Quite possibly.

So if you have been paying attention, you will have already sussed who I’d been waiting for at the end of this night. If you guessed Kodaline, you would be right. I didn’t think there was a large enough crowd worthy of their performance in the Gibson Room and I wanted to see if the change in venue would translate to better sound and an even better performance. Steve Garrigan admitted in the middle of this second set that they had left New York City that morning at 5 AM (yikes) and were trying their best to soldier through the night.

Kodaline SXSW Communion 1

Judging though from a rousing hoedown atmosphere created by stomper ‘Love Like This’, with Garrigan on harmonica and mandolin and engaging harmonies offered by his bandmates, Kodaline took the SXSW opportunity they were given and grabbed it with both hands. They absolutely killed it. I learned later that they were only in town for 2 days before they had to return east as good Irish lads to make loads of appearances in Ireland and Britain during St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and as of this writing, they are on tour in the UK. Cheryl will be covering their first DC appearance in May, supporting the Airborne Toxic Event at the 9:30 Club, as I will be in England then. But boy am I glad I got to see Kodaline at this point of their career. Just amazing.

Kodaline SXSW Communion 2

 
 
 

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.

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

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