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SXSW 2016: part of Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae’s, plus the second half of BBC Introducing (Wednesday night, part 2) – 16th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 4th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

After a sombre, less than thrilling start to my Wednesday evening thinking about Viola Beach and seeing two acts at Music from Ireland, it was time to move on. Thanks to my upgraded press status at SXSW 2016 this year (thank you, Elizabeth and SXSW Music!), I could jump the massive queue that went down 6th Street to get into Maggie Mae’s. I managed to catch most of Drowners’ set on the downstairs indoor stage.

Drowners were not a band I was familiar with until I happened to see their name on the SXSW shout list for this year. Their name rung a bell; I seemed to remember getting an email about them a long while back, but I couldn’t remember why I hadn’t listened to their music before. Upon further investigation, it all made sense: their eponymous debut album for Frenchkiss Records was released in January 2014, right around the time I suffered the loss of an important friendship, so it’s unlikely I would have enjoyed the album at the time anyway. During pre-SXSW preparations in late January, it tickled me pink to find a band whose own name came from a Suede song (‘The Drowners’), as Suede had just released ‘Night Thoughts’ and I was experiencing the resurgence of my love for Brett Anderson and co

While Drowners are based in New York City and is therefore considered an American band, much has been made about their Welsh frontman Matthew Hitt having made his way to the Big Apple in the first place to pursue a career in modelling. Their music is good time rock ‘n’roll and Strokes-y. But it’s also got a feeling of more pop with pomp. especially on their recently revealed single ‘Cruel Ways’, which will appear on their second album ‘On Desire’, due out in June. Their appearances this week in Austin gave them the opportunity to test out the new material, including LP tracks ‘Human Remains’, ‘Someone Else is Getting In’ and ‘Conversations with Myself’. Of the new material, the bass-heavy thuds of set closer ‘Pick Up the Pace’ won me over.

Drowners at Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae's, Wednesday night at SXSW 2016

Another great thing that I reiterate time and time again about SXSW is the fact that 99% of the acts who aren’t Drake or CHVRCHES will play multiple shows. So if you happen to miss a band at their first appearance, you’ll have a second (and quite possibly a third or fourth) chance to see them again. As I had to leave the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 early on Tuesday night to make it in time for Gold Class at the felte / Part Time Punks showcase at Barracuda at midnight, I missed seeing Liverpool’s Clean Cut Kid who were on after Oscar. Though it pained me to miss Gwenno at the Heavenly Recordings showcase at Barracuda, I was able to finally see both her and Stealing Sheep on Friday at the Cerdd Cymru afternoon showcase at Latitude 30 (stay tuned for that post).

Frontman Mike Halls of Clean Cut Kid has a beard that rivals Guy Connelly’s of Clock Opera. One wonders if the two bands will ever tour together, given this kinship of over the top, yet well maintained extended facial hair. Halls, with the very tattooed Saul Godman on bass guitar, look like they could be in a metal band. This makes the kind of music that Clean Cut Kid play – driving and fun indie pop – all the more incongruous. (I will say, however, that both of them have fantastic chops on their axes, especially Halls on his guitar solos, making me think that perhaps they were in a hard rocking band in the not too distant past.) Mike’s wife Evelyn on keyboards and her voice in harmony with him add another level of flair and uniqueness to the band’s music; I appreciated the perfection in their male plus female harmonies, something I didn’t otherwise hear all week at SXSW.

Clean Cut Kid at Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae's, Wednesday night at SXSW 2016

Though they came to Austin as virtual unknowns – and I’m almost positive no-one in Maggie Mae’s besides me had any idea who they were – the foursome quickly got the crowd, which steadily increased in size as their set went on, on their side. Despite the appearance of being unapproachable, Mike Halls is a likeable frontman, making jokes about how the word vitamin is pronounced in England vs. America (note: it’s different) and prefacing songs with deadpan comments such as “this is a hate song by a man who used to be in love” (not sure what song he was referring to!). ‘Pick Me Up’ is the Liverpool group at its finest and surely will continue Halls’ assertion that chicks dig beards”.

It was time to return to Latitude 30 and relieve Carrie of her place at the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music Foundation night. She had been there for the Viola Beach tribute, Isaac Gracie and Billie Marten, and it was my turn to cover the second half of the night. Following Marten were Steve Lamacq’s tip as Britain’s next great guitar band, The Sherlocks. If you’ve spent any time in Sheffield or indeed, you’ve had a listen to any number of their indie bands in the last 10 years, you have an idea of the Sheffield sound.

The Sherlocks at BBC Introducing PRS Foundation showcase, Latitude 30 Wednesday night at SXSW 2016

Of the biggest bands out of the Steel City, Arctic Monkeys are the most obvious of touchstones to the Sherlocks’ music. Given that Alex Turner and his mates have decided to follow the path of Josh Homme before them, it does seem that there’s an inescapable void where the Monkeys once trod, and the Sherlocks are a good fit for that void. Young, hard working and hungry for success, and as one of their songs are named and possessing a ‘Heart of Gold’, they certainly earned their moment under the lights at Latitude 30 this night.

After talking to Carrie about her experiences earlier at the BBC Introducing night, it sounds like Berkshire singer/songwriter Frances was much more confident and ready for her turn in the spotlight than earlier young female performer Billie Marten. The redhead was smiley and chatty, her stage patter between songs telling us more about herself and how her songs came to be, overall making a very engaging performance. Unlike Rosie Carney at the Music from Ireland showcase earlier in the evening, she was having a great time at SXSW.

Frances at BBC Introducing PRS Foundation showcase, Latitude 30 Wednesday night at SXSW 2016

Frances’ voice is beautiful, as was demonstrated on her newest single ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ performed live. But her versatility shines through on the soulful ‘Borrowed Time’, written with Howard Lawrence of Disclosure, who Frances insisted, and with a wide grin, was “wicked” and “he’s cooler than me!” While it makes my heart sink slightly that a talented lady like her feels the need to have songwriting collaborators (or more likely, her major label has that need), Frances’ vocal talent will take her far.

ESTRONS at BBC Introducing PRS Foundation showcase, Latitude 30 Wednesday night SXSW at 2016

The final act of the night was Welsh band ESTRONS, who realistically should have been on earlier in the lineup. Their sound is the result of frenetic playing and even at 1 AM in the morning, they showed no sign of slowing down. Bolstered by their uncompromising frontwoman Taliesyn Kallström, their brashness would have waken up the dead. Time to say goodnight to Radio 1’s Huw Stephens skulking round the back, to get a few hours of sleep and be back in town in good time the next morning to do it all over again.

 

SXSW 2016: Wednesday night at the first half of BBC Introducing and second half of Ground Control Touring showcases – 16th March 2016

 
By on Thursday, 31st March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The Wednesday night of SXSW 2016 turned out to be quite a busy one, with no shortage of interesting showcases to choose from, including stages hosted by Music from Ireland, Austin record label Modern Outsider, Paradigm Talent Agency, Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union Records, Dine Alone Records, and Communion Music, just to name a few. Mary and I had conferred at length about how to use our time most wisely, and it transpired that I spent my Wednesday evening at two venues, our beloved British Music Embassy for the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music Foundation showcase, and the Sidewinder (formerly Red Eyed Fly), a new-to-me location playing host to the Ground Control Touring stage.

BBC 6 Music presenter and indie artist champion Steve Lamacq was left with the rather daunting task of leading into the BBC Introducing showcase with a tribute to Warrington indie pop band Viola Beach, who were tragically killed in an automobile accident while touring in Sweden in February. Viola Beach had been scheduled to play the BBC Introducing stage on this Wednesday night; instead, Lamacq opened with a very brief eulogy emphasising the band’s promise and potential.

Lamacq closed his remarks with possibly the most appropriate commentary he could have made, reminding us that it’s not too late to listen to the brilliant music Viola Beach made before their untimely passing, and that our finest tribute to the band would be in doing so. Following Lamacq’s short speech, we were treated to a skillfully crafted video montage featuring live clips of Viola Beach, including their November 2015 studio session at Maida Vale, which you can view in part just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/LrhRlCf_NJM[/youtube]

The night’s first live set was then left to up-and-coming singer/songwriter Isaac Gracie, who was introduced to the British Music Embassy stage by BBC Radio 1 presenter Huw Stephens. Gracie took advantage of his audience’s somewhat sombre mood, opening his set with an as-yet-unreleased song called ‘Down and Out’ before proceeding into the heartfelt ‘Terrified’. He saved his more upbeat tracks for the end of his brief set list, in particular ’Running on Empty’ and ‘Last Words’, which I had the chance to discuss with him in this brief interview before he hurried off to his next engagement.

Isaac Gracie at British Music Embassy Latitude 30 SXSW 2016

Next on the docket, BBC Radio 2 host Jo Whiley shepherded the youthful and somewhat shy singer/songwriter Billie Marten, who played a lovely handful of songs and impressed me with the sweetness of her singing voice and her delicate touch on the guitar, despite having to work through a bit of a battle with her own nerves. Marten played tracks from her 2014 EP ‘Ribbon’ before switching to last November’s EP release ‘As Long As’, which includes the female-centric track ‘Bird’ and the eponymous title track. Steeling her nerve, she also played a remarkably effective cover of Royal Blood‘s ‘Out of the Black’ before diving into two new tracks, ‘Milk & Honey’ and ‘La Lune’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/iJx8dGYbGBc[/youtube]

After Billie Marten’s set, Mary and I swapped places, as she came over to the British Music Embassy for the end of the BBC Introducing show, which would feature Sheffield indie pop quartet The Sherlocks, Oxford songstress Frances and Welsh punks ESTRONS. Meanwhile, I headed down East 7th Street to the Sidewinder to catch three American bands on the Ground Control Touring showcase.

Your Friend at Sidewinder SXSW 2016

I arrived just in time to catch the end of avant-experimental act Your Friend, who I wrote about in my preview of the Savannah Stopover Festival back in December of last year. Your Friend, aka Taryn Miller, hails from Lawrence, Kansas and released her debut LP ‘Gumption’ in January on Domino Records. Miller was accompanied on the small and dimly lit Sidewinder stage by a full band, notably including a flautist, who helped her to realise the drones, loops and thick textures of the songs on the album.

Big Thief at Sidewinder SXSW 2016

Following Your Friend was a band I’d seen before in Phoenix, Brooklyn-based quartet Big Thief. Led by frontwoman Adrianne Lenker and guitarist Buck Meek, the band played almost exactly the same set I’d heard from them on that previous occasion, when they had opened for fellow Brooklynites Here We Go Magic. Lenker hadn’t been particularly chatty with her audience on that evening at Phoenix’s Valley Bar, concentrating her energy instead on the songs, but on this night at the Sidewinder, she was even more subdued, playing through the set in a pair of large headphones. As I found out later, Lenker had burst an eardrum just before playing the aforementioned Savannah Stopover festival prior to SXSW. Despite the obvious difficulty, Lenker and company made it through their set without any major problems, and their latest singles ‘Masterpiece’ and ‘Real Love’ were among the highlights of the night.

The final act of the evening on the Sidewinder stage was the much-hyped, Chicago-based indie pop band Whitney, who had come up in conversation earlier in the day during my interview with singer/songwriter Roo Panes. Despite their billing as a duo comprising Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek (both formerly of the Smith Westerns), Whitney somehow managed to cram no less than six band members onto the Sidewinder stage, with Ehrlich’s drum kit shoved to the front so he could double as drummer and lead singer.

Whitney at Sidewinder SXSW 2016

This might normally have been an engaging setup, but on this particular occasion it opened Ehrlich up to a bevy of proffered beverages from the female audience members at the front of the stage, and he appeared to have had plenty to drink already. Not that the band weren’t tight on stage – guitarist Kakacek seemed especially sharp – but they trudged through their 1 AM set in a rather uninspired manner, and I have to admit that to my own ear the songs were largely indistinguishable from one another. Nevertheless, the crowd inside the Sidewinder were eager to hear them, grooving along from the first notes of the set through to the final strains of Wednesday night.

 

SXSW 2015: bits of BBC Introducing, Music from Ireland and more – 18th March 2015

 
By on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 5:00 pm
 

Given our Web site’s generally UK-directed alignment, it would have been rude not to stop by the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation night at the start of Wednesday night programming. I’m not really into psych rock, but I had been pleasantly surprised seeing Kettering’s Temples live in DC 6 months after giving them a pass at their high-profile slot on the Saturday night at the British Music Embassy of SXSW 2014. So I decided I was ready to have an open mind about Blossoms, whose songs played on 6music didn’t excite me much. I was very pleased that as a live prospect, the Stockport band are much more engaging.

Blossoms at BBC Introducing PRS for Music at SXSW 2015

Despite their young age (read: too young to drink in America), they’ve got a lot of swagger, and not just for appearances: musically, they’re a very tight unit. As frontmen go, Tom Odgen is a lanky, Pantene-beautiful, long-haired lad, bound to be a pinup on teenage girls’ walls in the very near future, but he also does a good job at commanding the audience. Then again, I’m a sucker for a Mancunian accent; 2 nights later, out in what seemed appropriate for boys from Manchester, sat out in the rare Austin rain, we complimented each other on our accents…

Blossoms at BBC Introducing PRS for Music at SXSW 2015

But the real expert on stage was lead guitarist Josh Dewhurst, whose axe-playing prowess was on full display on the single ‘Cut Me and I’ll Bleed’, among others. The single itself also is a primer on how to construct a radio-friendly pop song, going from a sinister, Scooby Doo-like minor key verse led by Myles Kellock’s keys to more positive chord progressions in the chorus. I had an accidental but entirely enjoyable opportunity to see the Northern lads play again Friday, when they filled in last minute for an absent Ghetts. In short, they won me over, including this possibly unusual tender moment about “the stately homes of England” in ‘Blown Rose’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LsMF5WGQ_g[/youtube]

After greeting friends from the Beeb, I was off to see Public Service Broadcasting play at LA promoter School Night!’s show at Red 7’s outdoor patio. I wasn’t about to miss my favourite tweedy chaps play a rare outdoor performance. I would have preferred better lighting – the dark reds and blues projected onto the stage seemed more appropriate for later acts to come Beat Connection and Urban Cone.

Public Service Broadcasting at School Night! at SXSW 2015

But despite the darkness, both their older songs from ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ sat well alongside newer ‘The Race for Space’ tracks. “This is a song about an airplane” ‘Spitfire’ was met with audience cheers, as was early ‘The Race for Space’ cut and uber funky number ‘Gagarin’ and 6music favourite ‘Go’. (Catch my interview with J. Willgoose, Esq. of the band here.) I was sad to leave just as ‘Everest’ began his ascent towards its climax, but I had a date with some new Irish friends.

Public Service Broadcasting at School Night! at SXSW 2015

I arrived to Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room in the midst of Meltybrains? mental set for Music from Ireland. Another group of young European lads let loose on the festival environs of Austin, but entirely different results: at one point, everyone in the band jumped off the stage to start a conga line, and their fans were more than willing to join them in the impromptu dance formation. Their thing is masks, having handed out hundreds of lovely spray-painted ones to punters at the Gibson room that night, which was quite the marketing coup. All week, I saw music fans walking around Austin with their mask attached in varying alignments on their heads. You knew immediately they’d been at the Meltybrains? show Wednesday night and had enjoyed it so much, they wanted to help promote the band. Super cool.

Meltybrains? at Music from Ireland at SXSW 2015

The band’s most recent single ‘Donegal’ demonstrates their comfort with mixing up styles and genres, with lyrics in falsetto, atmospheric electronica and compelling beats and percussion, all mixed together, and live, the energy of young Ireland comes through loud and clear through their music. At one point I mused that maybe they were alien Rastafarians.I kind of wish I had arrived earlier to witness more or all of their live set, as I knew I had other obligations Friday afternoon during the full Irish breakfast at B.D. Riley’s and this would be the only time I’d get a chance to see them gig. But of what I did witness, it became abundantly clear that they were one of the top, if not my top band discovery at SXSW 2015. Stay tuned for Carrie’s interviews with both acts at the full Irish breakfast coming soon on TGTF.

Orla Gartland at Music from Ireland at SXSW 2015

Another nomination for my sound of young Ireland is the lovely Orla Gartland, who already had her first headline tour of North America under her belt even before she arrived in Austin. Wide smiles from the lovely ginger lass and her band were the order of the day, as Gartland played a selection of super poppy, super catchy songs from her catalogue that you know will hit the spot for teenager and tweenager crowds that are already stalwarts of Kodaline and The 1975. I think her success is already assured, with upbeat, synthladen numbers like ‘Lonely People’ and ‘Souvenirs’, driven by her clear, confident voice, which were accompanied by the squeals of delight from young fans excited about every one of her songs.

I found myself at a loose end and let’s face it, there will be moments during your SXSW where you physically do not want to move anywhere, especially if you’re stuck in a mob of people and you can’t move anyway. I caught a bit of James Vincent McMorrow, whose headgear could rival James Bay’s for biggest and most annoying hat of the festival. I very rarely enjoy falsetto – it works in Meltybrains? because there is more than just the voice to lead the song – but I found myself completely underwhelmed by his singer/songwriter machinations. Funnily enough, Carrie was somewhere else in the crowd but because the place was so packed, we never ran into each other; despite her affinity for the singer/songwriter genre and her excitement in seeing McMorrow, we came to the same conclusion about his performance.

I returned to Latitude 30 for the final act of the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation show, Spring King. If there was something that certainly was not lacking this year at SXSW, it was loud rock music, played fast and raucously. While what they offer is not earth-shattering (watch the BBC filmed video of ‘City’ from this set below), hey have the kind of ethos that the Vaccines had on their first two albums, before they went pop with this year’s single ‘Handsome’. Which one of these up and coming bands are ready to take over the Vaccines’ mantle in that part of the music scene is anyone’s guess, but for sure, Spring King is one option.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVgtVq8HuT4[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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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