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SXSW 2019: catching up with my top 6 acts of the festival – 16th March 2019 (Saturday, part 3)

 
By on Thursday, 4th April 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

One of the great things about SXSW as a whole and that doesn’t really happen at UK or Irish multi-day city festivals is that you usually have an opportunity to catch acts again. If you didn’t get a good look and listen the first time around? No problem! If you enjoyed yourself so much on the first go-around, good news, you can get a second helping! Rather conveniently, the 6 acts I saw again on Saturday turned out to be my favourites from this year. If you haven’t heard of them, you have been alerted. Write their names down, put them in your phone, tattoo them lovingly on your body, I don’t care what you do. Remember them, because they are who I thought shone the brightest this year in Austin.

ROE at Flatstock Stage, Austin Convention Center (see also Thursday the 14th of March at Output Belfast at Latitude 30; read more on her on TGTF through here)
As Music and Film wind down as the week ends, Saturday at the Convention Center during SXSW takes on an entirely different feel. Part of this is the growing influence and attendance of the Gaming portion of SXSW. It’s family-friendly, so it’s not uncommon to see kids at the Flatstock Stage with their parents. Two young girls were dancing around and in front of the ever-approachable ROE, her guitar and her impressive setup of electronics. She gestured around to her setup, quipping, “Me and my band members are having a great time here!” A very funny moment.


ROE Flatstock Stage Saturday SXSW 2019

In all seriousness, though, young Roisin Donald from Derry has a charmingly disarming nature, and the sincerity of her onstage banter continues into her songs, written out of personal hardship and deep emotions. One of the biggest hurdles a singer/songwriter of any genre has to overcome is one of credibility, and ROE has gotten past this easily before she is even allowed to touch a beer in our country. If there is one important message that we all should take to heart from the young people making their way in the music business, it should be that young people have a lot of say and can do it thoughtfully. All we need to do is listen. And if you haven’t seen an artist or band at the Flatstock stage, you simply must. It’s free to all, so what’s stopping you?

Mansionair at Antone’s (see also Thursday the 14th of March at Clive Bar; read more on them on TGTF through here)
Established before I was born, Antone’s is an Austin institution for the blues. When I first starting coming out for SXSW 8 years ago, I knew I would get there one day, but it just never happened over the years. While not an official showcase, American audio innovators Shure hosted 2 days of afternoon ‘Bedroom Sessions’ in the upstairs area at Antone’s on Friday and Saturday, free to anyone in the know. It wasn’t until I got there Saturday afternoon that I realised they weren’t kidding on the theme. Beds were on the floor where punters could sit or stand, and there was also a big bed onstage, I guess in case any of their scheduled acts needed a catnap? Ha. Jack Froggatt of Australian electropop group Mansionair was well aware of the strangeness of it all, commenting from the stage that “it all feels like a dream I once had”, as he felt disorientated because of the bed’s presence and drummer Alex Nicholls was on his right when he’s usually on the left.


Mansionair Shure Bedroom Sessions Saturday SXSW 2019 2

As weird as it must have been for the artists, without a doubt, it was one of the more imaginative performance spaces I witnessed this year. With coloured balloons in the air and plenty of seating if the audience wanted it (it’s Saturday, are you kidding?), I appreciated the super chill atmosphere. Neither stuffy as a traditional seated venue or a free-for-all like Clive Bar Thursday afternoon, it was more like a Sofar Sounds-kind of situation where you’ve been welcomed into an intimate room. Though I felt abnormally tethered to my chair during set closer ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’, I felt that Mansionair ‘beat the odds’ and gave a good performance, weirdness nonwithstanding. Following this unusual appearance, I also saw the Sydney trio perform in DC, which you can read about here.

APRE at Latitude 30 (see also Thursday the 14th of March at the International Day Stage)
Just prior to Boy Azooga at the British Music Embassy, London-based, electronic-driven duo APRE began the BBC Radio 1 showcase in exemplary fashion. Had it been my choice, I would have put them later on in the lineup for the night, as their super-energetic pop show here definitely puts them in my top acts seen at SXSW 2019. Alas, Radio 1 didn’t ask me for my advice. Moving effectively and effortlessly from song to song, from slow vibe to more upbeat, mark my words, these guys are gonna go far.

APRE British Music Embassy BBC Radio 1 SXSW 2019

Though it was so late in the week, Charlie Brown and Jules Konieczny gave it their all, proving to be some of the most energetic performers I’ve seen in a long time. ‘Gap Year 2008’, their rhythmically spellbinding single with an unforgettable chorus and a killer guitar line, was my set highlight. I thought they were so good, you would have heard no complaints from me if they had just repeated their entire set a second time. Read my pre-SXSW 2019 Bands to Watch on them through here. I’m glad they and Boy Azooga were the last bands I’d see here. Sniff sniff, sob sob.

Jealous of the Birds at Swan Dive (see also Wednesday the 13th of March at Central Presbyterian Church; read more on her TGTF through here)
Perhaps it already happened long before she and her band arrived in Austin and I just missed it by virtue of my being stuck here in the States. But I feel that the now Belfast-based Naomi Hamilton and her recording name/entity Jealous of the Birds truly came into her own this year at SXSW 2019. Hamilton rocked hard in sharp purple plaid and bright yellow suits and was backed by her band who were also thematically dressed in tartans, so the professional feel of their performance was unmatched by anyone else I had the pleasure of seeing.

Jealous of the Birds Swan Dive Line of Best Fit Saturday SXSW 2019

Their busy week of gigging was capped off by an early evening performance at the Line of Best Fit showcase at Swan Dive, jam-packed with punters. The closest I got was crammed in on the side, white wooden railing in my face, somewhat mesmerised by the bobbing of her bass player’s new armadillo arm tattoo he got on this trip, ha. While the mood at Central Presbyterian Church Wednesday was overwhelmingly one of reverence, this last performance by Jealous of the Birds was one of revelry and pure joy, as bright as the gold of Hamilton’s suit.

The Dunts at 720 (see also Wednesday the 13th of March at Latitude 30)
Okay, so I wimped out and didn’t join The Dunts and the other excited moshers at the Rascalton show Friday night at Valhalla. Still, The Dunts themselves were scheduled to produce a sonic thrashing at my favourite place to see hard rock in Austin, 720, so how could I say no? I was stood safely by the bar (my version of being game, ha) as the Scots began their campaign of making the loudest, chaotic noise possible.

Although they bowed out of an earlier Second Play Stage appearance, arguing they weren’t an electronic kit band, their reputation off the back of their sweaty performance at the British Music Embassy Wednesday afternoon must have spread like wildfire. Though I didn’t see it firsthand – I smartly arrived early to stake my vantage point – a long queue had built up outside 720, no doubt curious to see what the fuss about these lads from Glasgow was all about. Some of the band reportedly celebrated a bit too heartily afterwards, necessitating yours truly acting as a big sister to assist in reuniting them. I remember what it was like at that age and frankly, had I gone down as well as they had in a foreign country on arguably the biggest stage for international emerging bands, I think I would have been celebrating, too! All good.

whenyoung at Swan Dive (see also Thursday the 14th of March at the Velveeta Room and Friday the 15th of March at B.D. Riley’s)
I decided to end my music loving time at SXSW 2019 with a band who had wowed me twice earlier in the week. I just couldn’t stay away. London via Limerick three-piece whenyoung also performed at the Line of Best Fit’s Swan Dive showcase and boy, did they bring it. I don’t think I can reiterate enough just how much fun their music is and how powerfully spirited they are in live performance. Run, run now, and get your tickets to see them live. Do not press snooze on this.

whenyoung Swan Dive Line of Best Fit Saturday SXSW 2019

You can’t help but enjoy the colourful, dynamic spectacle of whenyoung. Then when it’s over, you take a deep breath and walk away with a big, goofy grin on your face. We have enough pain and sorrow in this life, and there’s a time and a place for that kind of music. Saturday night at SXSW, all you want to do is live in the moment and go for it. Of all the bands I had the glorious opportunity to see live in Austin this year, whenyoung best epitomised the feeling of carpe diem.

And with that, my SXSW 2019 was over. To everyone who made SXSW possible, to all the staff, friends, artists and bands who made my experience so wonderful this year, I salute you. Goodnight and goodbye.

 

SXSW 2019: Matt Maltese at the Back to Amy photo exhibition, ROE and Joshua Burnside at Output Belfast and APRE – 14th March 2019 (Thursday, part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 27th March 2019 at 11:00 am
 

After a luxurious sleep (read: more than 6 hours) and the breakfast buffet in my hotel, it was time for a trip to the often neglected west side of Austin, which has some of the most chill and interesting watering holes in town. Holy Roller played host all week to the Back to Amy photo exhibition, displaying never before seen images of the late and great Amy Winehouse at age 19, before she became a household name and before the release of her seminal debut album ‘Frank’. The photos were taken by Charles Moriarty and introduced by producer Gabriel Gornell, who also served as emcee for a specially curated group of promising young artists playing in a cute performance nook of the restaurant.

I was curious about both the photos and Matt Maltese’s performance there at 11 AM. Not the best time to perform during a full-on festival at SXSW, but let me say as a music editor, any opportunity at any time of day to sit down on a chair and enjoy a lovely hand-crafted pink beverage called the She Bad is more than welcome. Following his set the previous night at Central Presbyterian Church, I preferred this performance in more relaxed surroundings for its intimacy. We probably could have sat at his feet if we wanted to. A large cartoon drawing of Amy hung as the backdrop, a poster that all artists playing at this exhibition would sign after their performances. During a week of watching all sorts of artists with seemingly increasingly complexity in instrumentation, watching a master at work with the simplest of setups served as a good reminder that at its very basic, sometimes stripped back is best.


During this set, he had been introduced as creating Brexit pop; Maltese was quick to be humourously contrary in correcting this as he started, saying he was now in post-Brexit pop. Maltese wrote ‘As the World Caves In’ with two world leaders in mind, imagining them getting intimate as their decisions have led to the end of the world and humanity. Given the problems in his country and ours, it has become strangely more appropriate than he could have ever realised when he was writing it. ‘Strange Time’, another one of his songs that is no hurry to get to the finish, muses on an unconventional relationship that somehow works: “They say I’m too old for my age / And you’re just the same / Yet we make love like kids, again and again.” Like Maltese himself, it doesn’t sound like it should work on paper but is such a pleasant surprise when you’re finally get an opportunity to be properly introduced to it.


After some time mooching around at the posters on offer at Flatstock, I returned to the British Music Embassy for the first two acts of the Output Belfast afternooon showcase there. Young Derry singer/songwriter ROE impresssed straight out of the gate with her aplomb. Being stood on a stage entirely alone except for her guitar and electronics in front of Texan fans and industry types might have shaken the nerves of lesser mortals, but not her. The precocious, smiley artist explained the origins of her songs as she went along, lending sincerity to her stories of adolescent angst. The last festival we covered her at was Hard Working Class Heroes 2017, where she performed at Dublin Grand Social.


The poppy ‘Thomas’ specifically calls out a situation where she was teased for her short hair and compared to a male classmate, but the treatment is incredibly catchy. Songwriting was her method of catharsis from depression when coming up wth ‘Down Days’, broaching a difficult, ongoing subject that needs to keep being discussed and continually. ‘Wasted.Patient.Thinking’ is a surprisingly adult admission that we all should taking care of ourselves first, especially when a relationship no longer serves its purpose to us. It is a sobering thought that ROE has able to come to these conclusions and write them into infectiously amazing pop and at an age when the rest of us were all twiddling our thumbs. If she can keep this up – and I do think she can – she’ll have a long career ahead of her.

Joshua Burnside and his live band returned to Austin after a series of rousing performances at SXSW 2018 last March. This time, he arrived in Texas with a prominent moustache that made him look like a cross between a cowboy from days gone by and Matthew McConaughey. Throwing a beloved flat cap into the audience might not have been the best idea – I’m still not sure if he ever got it back? – but it sure led to a whoop of cheers around Latitude 30. ‘Holllllogram’, from his 2017 Northern Irish Music Prize-winning album ‘Ephrata’, still wows in its exposition of how a broken heart can remain haunted.


I unfortunately had to leave Burnside’s set early to catch what I thought would be an enlightening talk given by Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA and his work colleagues at Auddly at the Hilton. Auddly has been now rebranded as Session, though I had to find that out on social media, as there were technical difficulties preventing their Thursday afternoon session at SXSW from starting on time. I sat there for a good 20 minutes before calling it quits in favour of the International Day stage.

APRE’s most prominent appearance during SXSW 2019 would no doubt be their slot opening the BBC Radio 1 showcase Saturday night at the British Mustic Embassy. Given my past experience having difficulty getting into Latitude 30 for that showcase in multiple years, I didn’t want to miss out on seeing the London-based duo up close and personal. If you’ve followed APRE for any length of time or indeed, you read Bands to Watch preview of them from last month, you are well aware that they don’t take themselves seriously. They also enjoy wearing bright red jackets, which they brought to Austin!


okay, so there’s no red jacket here, but…

This electronic-driven duo occupy a nice niche between tropical pop and r&b, which gives them the opportunity to cover more music territory when songwriting. The delivery of the anthemic ‘Without Your Love’ and ‘Don’t You Feel Like Heaven’ suggest they could their music to stadiums. Conversely, in a different way, a r&b-inflected song like ‘Blackstreet’ pits them favourably against acts like Jungle who have proven they can reach those stages. Although like when I saw Elder Island the day before I got the distinct feeling I was probably the only person in the room who’d heard of them before this, APRE impressed a different set of punters than the ones who saw them the night before at the Communion showcase at Augustine.

 

Video of the Moment #2790: ROE

 
By on Friday, 16th February 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Northern Ireland’s ROE has a new video out this week. The Derry native, better known as Roisin Donald to her parents, has released the promo for single ‘Wasted.Patient.Thinking’. It’s kind of a performance video, in which the now perm-coiffed artist is singing in dungarees, playing a guitar and hitting drum pads, while lights strobe behind her. Quite a difference, I imagine, to her appearance last year at the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury. Soulful vocals? Check. Buzzy synths? Check. Watch the video below. You can snag ‘Wasted.Patient.Thinking’ now from Fictive Kin.

 

Hard Working Class Heroes Festival 2017: Saturday Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 19th October 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Catch up on Rebecca’s Friday night coverage of Hard Working Class Heroes 2017 by following this link.

On Saturday evening, we were pretty excited to see some of the acts that we had lined up on our schedule, as well as to try out Dublin’s newest music venue, The Underground. But first, we hit The Grand Social, following what seemed like a rabbit warren of corridors before we reached the music venue at the rear of the pub. We first saw the peach-haired ROE (pictured above), the 18-year old from Derry, known to her mum as Roisin Donald. Two standouts were ‘Fake Ur Death’, the track she released at the start of the year, and another that she talked about writing a track about her grandfather’s dementia, which she sang passionately and emotionally. Multi-instrumentalist ROE created a range of sound with her guitar and by looping rhythms and is certainly a unique talent to watch out for.

The Underground was next on our list, where we caught the end of Cinema’s set. I was pleased to find we’d not missed out on Peter Fleming’s most well-known track, the ethereal ‘Floating’. I’d heard it what seemed like a hundred times before but had never known who sang it. Cinema is a great chilled out electropop act for fans of celestial, airy tunes.

Kilnamana were up next at The Underground, which despite being a seriously cramped venue had an incredible vibe. It was also the act’s first Irish show. The duo are clearly in love with performing their music, dancing along throughout the set. I’m pretty sure they were also using a theremin; I’d never seen that particular instrument used on stage before, especially not laced with hypnotic synth sounds. Highlights were Miguel Garcia Soler swaying to the music, and Enda Gallery playing his flute into a microphone, while distorting the sound.

We briefly caught ROCSTRONG at Tramline, the venue that we’d fallen in love with the night before. A confident and charismatic performer, he instructed the audience to split into two halves, and chant phrases back to him when he pointed the microphone in their direction, but did seem put out by the some members of the audience choosing to sit down for the set.

Finally, we headed back to Workman’s to check out Bitch Falcon. I must admit, we chose this band purely on name alone, and they definitely aren’t the type of act that I would usually see. We ended up really enjoying their heavy, autotuned, intense set, with lead singer Lizzie Fitzpatrick headbanging away like the coolest front woman in town. The crowd were also delighted to see the band, and we could barely move as we stood watching the performance, being jostled around by the bopping crowd. [Catch all our past coverage on Bitch Falcon through here. – Ed.]

Hard Working Class Heroes is one of those festivals that not only allows you to see some fantastic acts, but also enables you to check out some of the fantastic venues that the city has to offer. For a relative newcomer as myself, it was particularly enjoyable, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

 

Live Review: PORTS with ROE at Derry Glassworks (‘The Devil is a Songbird’ album launch) – 28th May 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 8th June 2016 at 3:00 pm
 

Words by Aine Cronin-McCartney, header photo by Olga Kuzmenko

Releasing their highly anticipated debut album ‘The Devil is a Songbird’ on the 26th of May to momentous acclaim, PORTS embarked on a short Irish tour. They returned home to Derry to celebrate their success on the road. The charming setting of the Glassworks, with its old and exquisite feel, was the perfect location for such beautiful acts. Sitting upstairs, it was almost like sitting in the pews of a church, with PORTS commanding the sermon, adding a very spiritual element to the night.

In front of an already decent sized crowd so early in the night, opening act ROE is tranquil with her soothing voice accompanied by her serene guitar playing. While nerves are evident, it does nothing to diminish her ability, as her confidence grows through each song, especially as it is just herself and her guitar on stage. The simple but melodic tune of ‘Ghost’ is reminiscent of early Laura Marling. With her tender and authentic lyrics, Roe makes for a lovely opening act for the evening. With definite potential, her last song called ‘Echoes’ is the highlight of her set, receiving a joyous reception from the crowd. This is certainly just the beginning of what we are to see from her.

With his entertaining stage presence, BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen McCauley insured there was never a dull moment while the audience anticipated the arrival of the main attraction of the night. As the whole stage becomes occupied by both PORTS and the Prima Quartet, as the musicians gather onstage, they’re evidently elated at the reception they are greeted with. At this point, the Glassworks is brimming with an audience who have waited for this night for a long time, and the atmosphere surging through the venue is one of excitement and pride.

They open their set with the faultless and stirring ‘Remedies’, the perfect introduction with singer Steven McCool’s fervent vocals and the band’s characteristic harmonies. With the striking guitar from Ryan Griffiths and effortless playing from Mark O’Doherty, it’s palpable that the night has truly begun, as the audience edge ever closer to the stage. ‘Gameplay’ emphasises only further the beautiful and echoing harmonies the band have perfected, with the song building to a crescendo that sees the audience react joyfully.

The absolutely exquisite ‘I’d Let You Win’ is made all the more stunning with the accompaniment of the Prima Quartet and Conor Mason’s emotional piano, and the audience responds ecstatically. Making their way through the full tracklisting of ‘The Devil is a Songbird’, it becomes obvious the musicianship and artistry that goes into each of their songs, with McCool managing to so carefully entwine his way through the music with his words. The lyrics prove as emotive as poetry alongside his gifted band, making the perfect combination.

Leading into their album title track, McCool asks the audience to be quiet while he begins something special. Taking two phones out, McCool explains to the audience that he wants to create a low humming reverb that happens when one phone calls another and is held close. The noise produced is similar to that of buzzing crickets, and the sound pulsates through the venue as every member of the audience takes part with their own phones. While this is something the band have done many times before, there is something exceptional about tonight, as the audience remain completely silent throughout, making the moment evocative and moving. Tenderly framing profound and insightful lyrics, McCool stands at the front of the stage confident and self-assured while softly whistling a lonesome melody through his own phone, the Prima Quartet pluck their strings to create a haunting and enduring background with a subtle and isolated resonance.

Just as you think they can give no more, the band exude their last burst of energy. Concluding their set with ‘Ancient Wave’, the audience sing and dance as ardently as ever. The crowd have not wavered from their intense and impassioned position all evening, still eager for more as PORTS and the Prima Quartet leave the stage. Their ovations last long after they have left.

Home shows are always an emotional event particularly when celebrating something as colossal as an album release. But even more so for a band like PORTS, who have poured their heart and soul into the local music scene for such a long time, and this performance celebrated the pinnacle of their success. The whole night was a dream, with the beautiful, old and mystic venue to the ethereal harmonies by PORTS themselves. It has been a long time since I have witnessed such a committed and dedicated crowd who hung onto every word uttered by frontman McCool. The addition of the Prima String Quartet took PORTS songs to another level of beauty and at times, the raw emotion of the band was overwhelming as you could see the genuine sense of gratitude in each band member’s face. The whole evening was spectacular and will be a show that I will not forget soon.

 
 
 

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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.

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