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SXSW 2016: Friday afternoon with strong women at the International Day Stage and with Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales – 18th March 2016

 
By on Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 5:00 pm
 

Another day dawned after the awful event of Thursday evening at SXSW 2016. Despite my still shaken nerves, I was determined to make the most of my remaining time in Austin and my Friday afternooon would include the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30. First up though was a lovely breakfast and quick catch-up with our friends from Music from Ireland / First Music Contact’s Angela Dorgan and Brendan Millar at B.D. Riley’s ahead of the full Irish breakfast lineup (Carrie’s review of their act are forthcoming). Then I was off to the Austin Convention Centre for a visit to the panel entitled TV Promos: Sync’s New Best Friend, which was a follow-up of sorts to another sync-orientated panel I sat in on at Norwich Sound and Vision 2016 in October. (For a review of my time at convention panels during SXSW, read my roundup post here.)

TV Promos - Sync’s New Best Friend panel Friday at SXSW 2016 Music Conference

After being sufficiently buoyed by the hope that song syncing for tv, film and adverts continue to be a good way for artists to make much needed income to support the music-making side of their craft, it was off to start seeing band trying to make a go of it. Staying in the Austin Convention Center, I went up to the 4th floor to the International Day Stage to catch London-based electropop duo Avec Sans. They clearly had made a good impression prior this appearance, as several megafans of theirs appeared to see them again at this afternoon appearance.

Avec Sans at the International Day Stage at Austin Convention Center, Friday at SXSW 2016

Avec Sans are platinum blonde Alice Fox (originally from Manchester) on vocal duties and Jack St. James on electronics. As TGTF’s resident electro fan, I’ve seen my fair share of duos with a similar setup, and I can say without a doubt that this pair are in the top tier of acts I’ve had the pleasure to witness live. Like Claire L. Evans of YACHT at Easy Tiger the previous night, Fox is a charismatic presence live, providing the human side of Avec Sans with beautously yearning vocals and the perfect foil to the deliciously mechanical machinations of St. James. Watch and listen to the duo’s latest single ‘Heartbreak Hi’ below; their debut album will be out on the 3rd of June; you can donate to their recording effort on PledgeMusic. A headline UK tour will be accompanying its release (all the details here on their Facebook).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k993pVu1TY4[/youtube]

It was a nice coincidence, according to Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales manager Fionna Allan that their line-up scheduled for Friday afternoon at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 was entirely made up of acts with strong female or female-fronted acts. Allan was all the more prouder about her showcase when I explained to her that there was an important feminist element to this year’s SXSW, as Carrie previewed in this feature prior to our week in Austin. Three of the five acts performing on this bill were Welsh, including first two acts Rozi Plain (a favourite of BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley who I unfortunately missed) and Violet Skies, who I covered as part of the Trackd showcase and chatted with Monday night. True to her word and despite her relative newness to America, Violet was the consummate professional, garnering a massive audience hanging on to every soulful word she sung. As she sung her debut single ‘How the Mighty’, I became even more convinced in her chance at worldwide success. Good luck to her!

Violet Skies at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

As I had been with Jane Weaver on Wednesday, I was more than a little excited to finally see Gwenno perform live as part of the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase. After making the difficult decision to give her appearance Wednesday night at the Heavenly Recordings showcase at Barracuda a pass, I was grateful to have another chance, and to be honest, it was probably best to see her here, as part of and also swaddled by her fellow strong female artists’ presence. Further, Gwenno’s ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ – originally released in Wales on Peski Records, then given another life by Heavenly with its re-release in 2015, as well as winning Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod and the 2014-2015 Welsh Music Prize – is completely fitting for such an afternoon.

Gwenno at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016 1

The LP’s key themes include fighting against Big Brother and the constraints of a patriarchal society, which Gwenno helpfully and eloquently pointed out in between songs is sadly a reflection of today’s times, stressing the importance of individualism, strength and feminism. This banter between this strong, female and Welsh artist and the audience created an indelible connection between artist and fan, and that’s even before we even consider the music. As an electro head, watching her simultaneously sing like an angel and manage an impressive set of synths and sequencers and effortlessly was a real treat. Adding more fuel to Ms. Saunders’ argument of the Man holding women down, stage management warned her she had to cut her set. Instead of stopping when she was supposed to, in true revolutionary fashion, she kept going. Way to stick it to them, Gwenno! To hear my interview with her that we posted on TGTF last week, go here.

Gwenno at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy on Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016 2

Fickle Friends were up next. If you’ve been keeping tabs on indie British music in the last few years (and America’s similar scene, for that matter), you know that synthpop bands are a dime a dozen. If you have been keeping up with our SXSW 2016 preview coverage, you would have read Rebecca’s great Bands to Watch on both this Brighton band and their seemingly similar Liverpudlian counterparts Clean Cut Kid, who I saw on Wednesday night at the Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae’s. Due to Rebecca’s piece featuring both bands, I could not help but compare their performances in Austin.

Fickle Friends at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

Fickle Friends put on an admirable performance that received a great response with loads of cheering from the audience, especially when they swapped out the words to their song ‘Brooklyn’, changing them to ‘Austin’. However, I didn’t find anything about their music that distinguished them particularly from all the other synthpop bands Britain has been churning out over the last few years. Will there be a North vs. South divide over these two bands’ corresponding success? We’ll have to wait and see how things go this year.

Concluding the female-strong afternoon of Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales at the British Music Embassy were Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, who I had the great pleasure of seeing play in their hometown, at the cavernous Red Bull Studios at the Garage stage at my first Liverpool Sound City in 2012. Since releasing ‘Not Real’ in April 2015, they’ve adopted a much more colourful stage presence, which in Austin meant neon bright leotards and tights and mirrored sunglasses. Without a doubt, it’s an attention-grabbing look within a dark club; some may call it a gimmick, but it works for them and will keep them firmly in festival-goers’ minds. (In comparison, Fickle Friends looked like they could have been any American band in t-shirts, baseball caps and jeans.)

Stealing Sheep at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

The talent and fun with Stealing Sheep is multifold. Each of the three band members have a strong enough voice to take the lead, yet their harmonies together on album title track ‘Not Real’ are fantastic enough to make you think they’re all sisters (they’re not). The handclap-happy ‘Apparition’ (watch the video below) demanded audience participation, and you can’t help but get drawn into the percussive nature of their music. Despite stage management calling them to stop, they kept on going, to the delight of the punters. Of all the British acts I saw in Austin, I’d rank these Liverpudlian ladies in the top 5 of having made a lasting impression on American audiences that should serve them well in their continuing career.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-HmtWyAH0Y[/youtube]

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Clash in association with PPL, and NME in association with UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 18th-19th March 2016

 
By on Friday, 4th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy will return to Latitude 30 at 512 San Jacinto Boulevard, right by the heart of the action off 6th Street during SXSW 2016. On Monday and Wednesday, our editor Mary previewed the talent on show on Tuesday night (Huw Stephens with PRS for Music showcase) and Wednesday, then Thursday (Output Belfast and PIAS in association with AIM), respectively. This year’s showcases on Friday the 18th of March are set to include a host of artists from around the UK, including hotly-tipped acts from Wales and Scotland. The Welsh artists will be highlighted during the daytime show, presented by British Music @ SXSW in association with Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales. A pair of Scottish acts will feature on the evening showcase, presented by UK pop culture magazine Clash in association with music rights and licensing agency PPL.

The Friday afternoon show will feature a delightfully rich lineup of female artists, beginning with alt-folk singer/songwriter Rozi Plain and continuing with two Welsh acts, pop singer/songwriter Violet Skies and electronic musician Gwenno. Both Welsh women will be introduced in more detail in editor Mary’s upcoming preview of Welsh artists at SXSW 2016 later today.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/H4S0ME8Xyc0[/youtube]

Closing out the afternoon are two alliterative acts, our recent Band to Watch #372 Fickle Friends, followed by fellow TGTF alumnae Stealing Sheep. Fickle Friends vaulted to popularity in the UK with their debut single ‘Swim’ back in 2014 and have been on an upward trajectory ever since. Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep are sailing strong on their April 2015 release ‘Not Real’, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a hint of something new from them in Austin as well.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqVYDRM842s[/youtube]

The Friday evening Clash showcase is set to begin with DJ/producer/all-around-Renaissance-woman Throwing Shade, whose soon-to-be released EP ‘House of Silk’ features the above reflection on pop culture and social media called ‘hashtag IRL’. Scottish pop songstress KLOE and avant/experimental trio Hælos will fill in the middle part of the evening lineup, ahead of a rather intriguing To Be Confirmed notation at 11 PM; bets are open as to who might fill that coveted slot.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/vKakNhz2ToA[/youtube]

Playing at midnight will be Glasgow electro musician The Revenge, followed by London-based soul pop duo Honne (read more of our coverage on Honne here). The Revenge will feature in our upcoming preview of Scottish artists at SXSW 2016, along with the aforementioned KLOE.

On Saturday, the 19th of March, the afternoon show at Latitude 30 will start with Sheffield slacker punk pair Nai Harvest (read more about them on TGTF here) and Leeds goth-punk band Autobahn. Falling square in the middle of the docket, Liverpool indie rockers Sugarmen are sure to win fans with their psychedelic recent single ‘Plastic Ocean’, while grunge rockers Fizzy Blood and Demob Happy finish off the daytime slate.

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

Latitude 30 will be taken over by recently retooled and relaunched pop culture magazine NME in association with UK Trade and Investment on Saturday night, the final event at the British Music Embassy for SXSW 2016. Leicester brothers Andy and James Stone, known onstage as synth-rock duo Lusts will open the show (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here), to be followed by rap collective Section Boyz. London five-piece Pumarosa have already announced an autumn 2016 support slot for SXSW 2015 hit act Gengahr and will feature in the middle of this final night lineup.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/XA97m6L2-Dc[/youtube]

Deep-voiced Americana singer/songwriter Barns Courtney could easily follow in the successful SXSW footsteps of Hozier and James Bay before him. He’ll round out his trip to Austin with an appearance at the British Music Embassy, ahead of dance duo Formation (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here) and another tantalising to-be-announced special guest for the evening’s final set.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ckNWtmkA2_g[/youtube]

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Feminism at this year’s festival’s forefront

 
By on Friday, 4th March 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo: Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz, courtesy of PAHF

Sexism in music is hardly a new phenomenon. Female musicians have literally been fighting it for centuries, going back to the dawn of Western music. In those early times, female performers were often banned from churches or any public musical productions. Women who did perform were unfairly objectified or viewed as sexually promiscuous and morally depraved. By force of centuries-old habit, those attitudes have prevailed into modern times, manifesting themselves in more subtle but equally pervasive ways.

With the outbreak of controversy surrounding #Gamergate, sexism and misogyny in the online gaming community came to the forefront of our awareness in 2015. Along with it came renewed and often heated discussion of sexism and misogyny in the music industry. Artists like Bjork, Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupuis and CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry have jumped into the fray, along with major music publications both in North America and the UK, universally sounding off against the marginalisation of women in music.

Jessica Hopper

Jessica Hopper, courtesy of Featherproof Books

Despite the cancellation of two previously scheduled Interactive Conference sessions addressing misogyny and harassment, the organizers at SXSW have responded resoundingly to the ongoing debate in their Music Festival and Conference programming. Former SXSW showcasing artist Dupuis will appear this year as a panelist on the Wednesday 16th March Conference track Representations of Women in Music Media, which will attempt to analyze present and future portrayals of women in music. And on Thursday 17th March, one of 2016’s most highly anticipated panels will feature an interview with former Pitchfork editor and music critic Jessica Hopper.  Last year, Hopper published her second book The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, then burst the sexism conversation wide open on Twitter with a call for stories of marginalisation within music and music journalism.

Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo, courtesy of her Facebook

Recognising that marginalisation in the music industry isn’t limited to sex or gender, Feeling Ourselves? – Black Girl Power in Music (Wednesday 16th March) promises to address issues of both racism and sexism in music. In the same vein, another noteworthy panel choice on Friday the 18th of March is an open interview with world music artist and human rights advocate Angelique Kidjo. Hosted by NPR correspondent and music critic Ann Powers, the discussion will no doubt touch on issues related to feminism, racism, and intersectionality in music. More information on Powers’ scheduled interview with Kidjo can be found here.

Women in the music business are encouraged to pave their own paths in a Thursday 17th March panel titled She Who Goes First Sets the Rules – Women Innovators. By contrast, Business Rules for Women: Entertainment & Media on Friday 18th March seems on first glance to take a slight step backwards, as it implies a separate code of ethics and conduct for those of the feminine persuasion. Nevertheless, both panel discussions make a concerted effort to shift the traditionally male-dominant perspective and invite female participation on the commercial side of the music industry.

Loretta Lynn internal

Loretta Lynn, photo by David McClister

In terms of showcasing artists, the Music Festival has the potential to propel the feminist dialogue even further forward. Legendary country artist Loretta Lynn has been announced as a showcasing performer, which might not seem immediately relevant until you consider that Lynn has been an outspoken feminist in her music dating back to the 1960s. Songs like ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)’ and ‘The Pill’, not to mention ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’, placed Lynn squarely in the center of the feminist conversation, whether she initially intended it or not, and the subject matter of those songs is no less germane in 2016. Lynn’s upcoming new album ‘Full Circle’ will contain both revised versions of past hits and a few newly composed songs, including ‘Everything It Takes’, recorded as a duet with Elvis Costello. The new single continues Lynn’s established predilection for writing songs with empowered female characters, and Lynn herself described the new single in a recent interview with Rolling Stone as a “woman song—something more for a woman.”

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep, courtesy of their Facebook

We here at TGTF already have our eyes and ears on a host of outstanding female artists from the UK who will be heading to SXSW this year. Among them, Liverpool dream pop trio Stealing Sheep, will make their first appearance in Austin with funding from the PRs for Music Foundation on the strength of their album ‘Not Real’ (reviewed here last spring). New TGTF writer Rebecca has already penned a Bands to Watch feature on up-and-coming female acts Abjects and The Big Moon (the latter of whom have unfortunately cancelled their SXSW appearance since publication).  Additionally, our continuing preview coverage of SXSW 2016 showcasing artists will soon feature singer/songwriters Jane Weaver and Holly Macve. Having touched on the issue of feminism several times last year in my own reviews of music by Esmé Patterson, Warpaint’s Jenny Lee Lindberg and the aforementioned CHVRCHES, I am particularly keen to observe and contribute to the discourse at this year’s SXSW.

 

Beat-Herder 2015 Preview: editor Mary’s best band bets

 
By on Tuesday, 14th July 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: Beat-Herder Festival 2015 is completely sold out, so beware of dodgy resellers. Information provided in this post is current at the time of posting but we encourage you to visit the official Beat-Herder Web site and keep up to date on their Twitter for news on the event as it happens.

Beat-Herder Festival 2015 starts up this Friday, the 17th of July, in Sawley, Lancashire. We ran a contest for a pair of weekend tickets earlier this month, and now I’ve been asked to provide my best bets for the 3-day event. And without further adieu…

The Lancashire Hotpots
It’s not really a Lancs event with The Lancashire Hotpots. The Merseyside comedy man will be sure to raise a smile with their Northern wit and catchy tunes.

The Lancashire Hotpots will be performing Sunday on the main Beat-Herder stage.

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

Leftfield
Some have argued that Leftfield isn’t really Leftfield anymore with the absence of founding member Paul Daley. What cannot be denied is ‘Alternative Light Source’, the act’s first album in 16 years that was released in June, has already made a huge impression on the record-buying public, handily cracking the top 10 of the UK albums chart despite such a long absence. From Neil Barnes, you should expect nothing but bangers.

Leftfield will be headlining the main Beat-Herder stage Sunday night.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4kwatovztI[/youtube]

Mr. Scruff
He’s a very funny, tea-drinking guy from Manchester who stumbled into his own eclectic style DJaying from what else, his own eclectic influences ranging from “(in order of appearance) Blues, 2 Tone, Ska, Nasty pop music, Electro, Hip Hop, Soul, House, Funk, Jazz, Reggae”. I think it goes without saying that his will be a very enjoyable set to experience.

Mr. Scruff will be performing at Toil Trees on Sunday.

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

Only Real (pictured at top)
Continuing on with the theme of artists not taking themselves too seriously, Niall Galvin aka Only Real will be bringing his sunny ‘Jerk at the End of the Line’ tunes to Beat-Herder. Hopefully the vibes will get the natives to dance as they did at SXSW 2015.

Only Real will be performing at the Jagerhaus (date / time TBA).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5i_uAh4YTs[/youtube]

Stealing Sheep
Having released their synth-heavy second album ‘Not Real’ in April, the all-girl trio from Liverpool are no doubt raring to unleash their newest tunes on a sympathetically Northern crowd. Let’s hope they bring along their coloured nylons!

Stealing Sheep will be performing at the Jagerhaus (date / time TBA).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q0UCBNYsms[/youtube]

 

Album Review: Stealing Sheep – Not Real

 
By on Thursday, 30th April 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Stealing Sheep Not Real coverJust ahead of the upcoming festival season, Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep have released their second studio album ‘Not Real’, which comprises a shimmering set of hazy dream-pop tracks perfect for easing into the bright sunshine of summer. Noticeably more streamlined than their 2012 debut LP ‘Into the Diamond Sun’, the new album sets the band’s ethereal three-part vocal harmonies over austere tribal-sounding percussion rhythms and glistening synth and guitar arrangements to create an overall sound that is both bright and breezily cool.

‘Not Real’ is a quick listen overall, without any rough edges or extraneous material to interrupt the concise impact of the individual songs. Opening track ‘Sequence’ starts with sparkling electro-synth keyboards over an immediately catchy bass groove and a lively melody decorated by the trio’s signature vocal harmonies. ‘Apparition’ takes a slightly heavier tone, the harmonies becoming more darkly haunting over its ominous bass line.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q0UCBNYsms[/youtube]

The album’s current single ‘Not Real’ has been featured in two previous TGTF Video of the Moment pieces, one for the song’s official video and one for a live performance at Liverpool’s Vessel studio. Aside from being the title track, ‘Not Real’ clearly wasn’t chosen by accident as the first release from the album. It catches attention instantly with the dramatic simplicity of its opening vocal line, “Don’t let the daytime fool you that you’re not real”. The stridently singsong quality of that lyric combines with a stark dance beat and bending guitar lines that are glossed over by the angular synth melodies and soft backing vocals.

Heavily beat-driven tracks ‘This Time’ and ‘Greed’ both feature visceral percussion rhythms and deep bass riffs under hazy, psychedelic vocal effects. ‘Greed’ in particular has a more muscular sound, realized in its initial lyric “The sun is tough / the ground is dry / your blood is thick / your skin is worn’. The brief but effective instrumental section at the end of the song stands out in contrast to the more straightforward arrangements of the other tracks on the album.

The most austere track on the album, ‘Evolve & Expand’, is a slow, stark acoustic ballad whose haunting harmony and angular guitar line somehow feel very much in place with the rest of the songs, despite the dramatically stripped-back instrumentation. It creates an interesting contrast, but one that perhaps could have been evolved and expanded upon a bit more.

The pace of the album slows a bit toward the end, with the simple, repeated lyrics and the singsong quality of the vocal delivery, particularly in the trite chorus of the rather unimaginatively titled track ‘Love’: “L-O-V-E / spell it out so I can see your love”. However, final track ‘She’ closes the record on a stronger note, with a slow burning introduction that gracefully evolves into a sensual rhythm and a gradually layered instrumental texture. The hazy three-part vocals lend themselves remarkably well to the allusion to the feminine mystique in the lyrics “she has gone, I feel it in the air”.

While the simplicity of the lyrics on ‘Not Real’ might at first seem to be a detriment, the vocal lines make perfect sense as part of the overarching instrumental texture, especially with the trio’s effective blend of lightly layered vocal harmonies. Focusing on their delicately psychedelic instrumentation, Stealing Sheep have created here not a sharply-defined sound, but more of a surreal, otherworldly aura.

7/10

Stealing Sheep’s sophomore album ‘Not Real’ is out now on Heavenly Recordings. The trio are currently touring in the UK and will appear at Liverpool Sound City 2015 at the end of May. They have also announced a September/October UK tour. Previous TGTF coverage of Stealing Sheep can be found here.

 

Stealing Sheep / May, September and October 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 30th April 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Header photo by Amy Ryan Brew and Hannah Bitowski

Liverpool synth-pop trio Stealing Sheep, who just released a new album ‘Not Real’ this month, are about to embark on a short list of live dates in May ahead of their scheduled appearance at Liverpool Sound City 2015. They have also announced a set of autumn dates to follow the summer festival season. A full listing of Stealing Sheep’s live shows can be found here. Tickets for the following UK dates are on sale now.

Saturday 2nd May 2015 – Belfast Black Box
Sunday 3rd May 2015 – Bristol Louisiana
Monday 4th May 2015 – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Thursday 7th May 2015 – London XOYO
Friday 25th September 2015 – Guildford Boileroom
Monday 28th September 2015 – Glasgow Broadcast
Wednesday 30th September 2015 – Birmingham Rainbow
Thursday 1st October 2015 – Cambridge Portland Arms

 
 
 

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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 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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