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SXSW 2016: Tuesday night’s DIY Presents showcase at Hype Hotel – 15th March 2016

 
By on Friday, 25th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The Tuesday night of SXSW 2016 found me queueing on East 5th Street (east of the interstate) for the DIY Magazine stage at Hype Hotel. The street outside the venue was packed with punters headed for either the highly anticipated Hype Hotel showcase or the equally popular Fader Fort event just across the street. I waited in line for over an hour before finally getting into Hype Hotel, just as hotly-tipped American duo Diet Cig struck their first guitar chord and drumroll.

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Descending on Austin from New York, Diet Cig were the subject of much chatter in the queue outside the venue, and once I saw them on stage, I realized why. Frontwoman Alex Luciano introduced her bandmate Noah Bowman with the witty one-liner “this is your mom’s new boyfriend,” setting a deliberately not-so-serious tone for the evening’s festivities. The bratty lyrics to Diet Cig’s early tracks ‘Sleep Talk’ and ‘Dinner Date’ struck a chord with everyone’s inner teenaged self, and Luciano’s punchline “it’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt”, seemed remarkably appropriate to her vivacious but wildly irreverent personality. The stage at Hype Hotel at first seemed too large for the pair’s single guitar and drum kit, but as it turned out, Luciano was quite a spirited guitarist, running and jumping around the stage (dare I say it? even ironically?) like a high school cheerleader.

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Even fresher on the music scene than relative newcomers Diet Cig, Los Angeles band PARTYBABY proved themselves straightaway as an act to be reckoned with. Comprising veteran musicians Noah Gersh and Jamie Schefman, the band premiered their defiant first single ‘Everything’s All Right’ just last summer, and they quickly followed it up with the equally pugnacious ‘Your Old Man’. Gersh and Schefman already have a full album prepared for release, and they chugged through their setlist at a frenetic pace. Despite the obvious aggression in their music, PARTYBABY were clearly determined to party as hard as they rocked, and the Hype Hotel crowd on Tuesday night seemed fully in favour of that idea.

Hinds

After a brief DJ set by Bleached, Spanish band-of-the-moment Hinds swept breathlessly onto the stage, appearing to be dressed for a slumber party rather than a gig. Co-lead singer Carlotta Cosials mentioned that the band had only gotten to town half an hour before their set, so perhaps their attire could be excused on those grounds. However, a slumber party theme isn’t entirely inappropriate to Hinds’ lo-fi and free-wheeling style, and despite their somewhat disheveled appearance, Hinds sounded much more polished than when I heard them at the British Music Embassy last year.  The ladies certainly appeared to enjoy their all-too-brief moment on stage as they raced through a set comprising tracks from their recent debut album ‘Leave Me Alone’.

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London synth-rock band Pumarosa played an equally short but sweet set, after apparently sorting through some sound issues before they were able to begin. Their playlist included ‘Lion’s Den’, which saw frontwoman Isabel Munoz-Newsome bowing her guitar strings with a fuzzy mallet, and the dramatic breakthrough dance hit ‘Priestess’, which has quickly become a personal favourite track of mine.  It might well have set everyone in the room into motion, except that we were all completely mesmerised by Munoz-Newsome’s own interpretive movements on the stage.

Jack Garratt

Pumarosa were followed by another British act, electro singer/songwriter Jack Garratt, whose Mercury Prize-nominated, Brit Award winning reputation had evidently preceded him to Hype Hotel. Having gained a fair few followers at SXSW 2015, Garratt played a blinding set on the Tuesday night that was in sharp contrast to the more muted tone I had heard from him on last year’s Communion showcase. His enthusiastic reception has been well and truly earned over the course of a year, and I was most pleased to see him having this kind of success on American shores so quickly upon the release of his debut album ‘Phase’.

Empress Of

The headline act of the DIY Presents showcase was American synth-based artist Empress Of, who is better known off stage as Lorely Rodriguez. Much like the electronic sound of Jack Garratt before her, Empress Of’s quirky dance pop belies the emotional depth of her lyrics, creating songs that are at the same time cerebral and intuitively visceral. Her show on the Tuesday night drew largely from her 2015 debut LP ‘Me’, and apropos to the album’s shimmery synths and ethereal vocals, this late night (er, early morning) set was swathed in hazy blue stage lighting, which cast a markedly chill vibe over the night’s final stretch.

 
 
 

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