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SXSW 2013: Final Impressions

 
By on Friday, 5th April 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

So after spending a full week in Austin for SXSW 2013, I thought it would be nice to do a summary post to reflect on the experience the second time around…

My SXSW by the numbers:
I saw 41 different bands/acts in total, some multiple times. The bands I saw the most were the Crookes and Kodaline, both 3 times.

I managed an average of 5 hours of sleep per night. Not really all that bad. I learned from last year to make sure I got as much rest as possible.

I saw shows at 8 venues that I’d not previously stepped foot in.

I rode a pedicab 3 times (versus zero times in 2012) and all the drivers were amazing. Note to all attendees: pay these people a little bit more – they’re hiking you up hills and over long distances while sweating their arses off in the Austin heat. A special mention goes out to Andrew who drove me all the way home Thursday night after I’d just about given up on finding a taxi and was ready to cry. He was a total sweetheart!

Unforgettable (good) moments of the week:
Learning that David Baldwin of the Dig is affectionately nicknamed “Baldy”, but it has nothing to do with the status of his hair follicles.

Accidentally running into Rhydian Dafydd of the Joy Formidable at a sushi bar and having lunch together to talk about the industry and such. I found out he’s a Dutch Uncles fan!

Finding out Adam Kane of Cave Painting and Dan Croll were schoolmates in this interview.

Jon McClure of Reverend and the Makers tried to hide his beer between his legs so the Austin police wouldn’t confiscate it during our interview Wednesday afternoon outside Latitude 30. Unfortunately, despite his great pains, it didn’t work.

Getting a genuine Stetson trilby gratis Thursday afternoon at Blackheart for knowing about British bands playing at SXSW. About time I got rewarded for all these random things I have in my brain…

Finding a kindred cider mate in Kris Harris of Story Books during our interview there.

Getting a ride back into the centre of town on the Joy Formidable‘s bus after watching them gig at the Fender stage and do an autograph session at Waterloo Records (photo at top).

Being recognised by Kodaline‘s tour manager at the Hype Hotel Thursday night before they played for the last time at SXSW. (Honourable mention: getting singled out and pointed by guitarist Lynval Golding of the Specials at the same showcase.)

Unforgettable (bad) moments of the week:
Being treated like cattle outside Stubb’s Tuesday night. I’m not likely to return.

Dropping my jumper by accident at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room Wednesday night after already resituating myself at its rooftop, then getting forced by security to go all the way up, down and around to retrieve it. Lucky I don’t have a walking impediment.

A crazy drunk bloke tried to pick me up on Cesar Chavez Street when I was trying to hail a taxi Thursday night. He said he was going to follow me home. I eventually somehow lost him when we ran into a group of people and I ran. It was terrifying at the time, but now I can laugh about it.

Getting pushed and shoved by kids at the HGTV / Paste showcase at the Stage on Sixth. We know you’re excited for the Zombies. But can you be a little less annoying?

Best quotes of the week:
“Thanks for interviewing us. You’re probably the prettiest person to ever interview us. We usually get interviewed by ugly dudes.” – Emile Mosseri of the Dig after this interview by the river outside Stubb’s. They said they want to start a new side project called “Poppa Squat”. I don’t know if they were joking.

“I like to confuse people!” – Tim Wheeler to me after his solo performance at Monday night’s NI@SXSW showcase (11th March 2013)

“It’s Dan from Bastille, everyone! Cheers mate for coming out.” – Steve Garrigan of Kodaline to Dan and the punters at Wednesday night’s Communion showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop

“Ahh, I see you’ve met the infamous Mary!” – Angela Dorgan of Music from Ireland, warning Girls Names about me outside B.D. Riley’s on Friday morning after our interview (as if this editor needs to come with a warning!)

“We have a very serious question for you, Mary. Why isn’t Washington, DC in Washington state?” – Tom Dakin of the Crookes on behalf of his band, after they played their British Music Embassy / Kilimajaro / PRS for Music slot at Latitude 30 on Friday night (if you were wondering, I set them straight with a story that involved both coasts of our country and the relative locations of myself and my brother, though I’m not sure how well that will stick in their minds.)

“Mary, Mary. You’ve been disowned!” / “But…a 5-string. You can play Korn on that guitar!” – George Waite / Tom Dakin of the Crookes to me the same night, after, perhaps a little too proudly, I showed off a picture of my 5-string ESP. We did some rechristening of guitars in Austin and he’s still yet to provide me a new name for mine.

“Do you fancy a bit of pole dancing later, Kris?” – Andrew Parry of Story Books to bandmate Kris Harris, in reference to and gesturing to Kitty Clementine‘s writhing at the Captiva showcase Saturday afternoon

And with that…that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. See you next year, Austin!

 

SXSW 2013: Day 5 afternoon – Aussie BBQ taster at Maggie Mae’s and Captiva Records showcase at the Rooftop at 6th – 16th March 2013

 
By on Thursday, 4th April 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

If you are still standing after 4 straight days of punishing your body with running around, gigs and libations at SXSW and are no worse for wear, then you deserve a gold star. I’ll be the first to admit, Friday night…er, in the wee hours of Saturday morning I didn’t crawl into bed until about 6 AM after a very enjoyable night of dancing and boozing, having been taken out as a very special guest by some boys in a band I’m fond of. Ahem. I won’t embarrass by naming them but they know who they are, and if you are reading this my friends, that was truly one of the most fun nights of my life. Cheers for that. I owe you one when you make your first triumphant visit to DC.

I had such a good time on Friday night and gosh darn it, it was my last full day in Austin on Saturday the 16th, and I was going to give myself the gift of a nice lie-in. I had been invited to see Dan Croll at noon, but my argument was that he was going to be at Liverpool Sound City where we’re having a stage and I’d have a chance to see him then, and since he now has an American record contract (so I heard?) I will see him on this side of the pond eventually anyway.

I had made a promise to Larry and Johnny of our friends the AU Review to check out the Aussie BBQ this year, since I didn’t have time in 2012, so I stopped into Maggie Mae’s, where I was overwhelmed with all the Australian talent that was going to be showcased across the three stages there. I used to think the Brits were the only country to have an awe-inspiring presence at SXSW, but Australia makes good work of taking up the entire last day of the festival to showcase their country’s musical best. See all of the AU Review’s excellent coverage of this year’s Aussie BBQ, as well as previous years, through this link.

Bearhug Aussie BBQ SXSW

After popping my head in to say hello to Larry between his very busy schedule of video interviews, I went looking for Johnny, who was tasked to take photos of bands on all three stages. When I couldn’t find him, I went downstairs to enjoy a bit of Bearhug, an alt-rock band from Sydney. Kind of slacker rock / Lemonheads sounding. Then I went upstairs to catch a bit of indie band the Rubens, who I saw at the triplej Unearthed night at the Oxford Art Factory during ARIA Week in Sydney last November. I was hoping to see if I would change my mind on them, given that they were playing in an entirely different environment. Nope. ‘My Gun’ still sounds cheesy and a poor man’s Oasis. Sorry, guys.

After a brief catch-up, some laughs and hugs and wishes for each other for safe travels home, I was off to my next destination. Emails had flitted back and forth in my inbox the previous night before and after I caught some shut eye, and suddenly I found myself being invited to see a couple different bands at a free showcase on Sixth Street. As fate should have it, all three of the bands happened to be playing at the same exact showcase being put on by Captiva Records, a music promotion and indie record label based locally in San Marcos, Texas, taking place on the Rooftop at 6th. I am not sure who decided which bands would play on their afternoon shows that went on all week, as at least on Satruday there was no emcee present or anyone who looked like he or she was running the show. Whoever it was though, he/she did an impeccable job of choosing some great artists to play, especially on the Saturday.

Kitty Clementine SXSW

I was proud of myself that I arrived in good time before I really needed to be there. What I found when I arrived was Australian singer Kitty Clementine, who self-proclaims to be a “big mouth wee belter from down under” on her Web site. Her outfit was vaguely Mad Max apocalypse meets Lady Gaga, which I suppose was appropriate as she found herself using the raised platform in this outdoor atrium-cum-rooftop, writhing against one of the tent poles. I’m no feminist but just…ugh. Please don’t. It makes me take you even less seriously. Her vocal styling was like she was trying to be Amy Winehouse, but Amy has nothing to worry about: it felt like an imitation, and not a great one at that.The guys in attendance appeared to appreciate the sexual writhing around though, with some of the bands I knew joking that they should include some pole dancing routines in their sets. (Just for the record, it didn’t happen. Phew.)

Story Books Captiva Saturday SXSW

The next band was Kent’s Story Books, who if you recall, I saw on the Wednesday night Communion showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop and then interviewed three of the band on Thursday at Blackheart. The show at night was miles away from this last hurrah for the band, playing in the sunshine. I guess you could say that the Austin sunshine is something magical indeed. Their keyboardist Andrew was even wearing sunglasses for the entire set. (Well, almost. Afterwards he said, “I tried, but they kept slipping off my face”. And it’s the trying that counts.) ‘Simple Kids’, from their debut EP ‘To Be a Hunter’ on Communion to be released on the 29th of April, is a melancholy number about young love and how Kris Harris insists, “stay close to your troubles, don’t let them interfere/ with your sense of wonder, ’til it disappears”. Which is what being young and falling in love is all about, right? I think though in Story Books’ case, what got punters into the band was the reckless abandon in which Harris and guitarist Jack Tarrant banged on their guitars. No, sir. This is not just a folk band. Cross those words out and write underneath “rocking out band with folk tendencies”. That’s more accurate.

Knot
Simple Kids
Furniture and Things
Peregrine
To Be Good
Glory and Growth
All Those Arrows

By nature of being close to the action, a good proportion of bands showcasing at SXSW every year happen to be Texan bands. Such was the case with the band up after Story Books, called In the Works. Later that night, I had a run-in with one band members’ parents on 7th Street; his mum recognised me from the venue, asked me why I was photographing all the bands, then asked me (putting it mildly) to write nice things about him on here. Er…

In the Works SXSW

Okay, so here’s my entirely unbiased opinion on this band after hearing them play. Point #1: I don’t know how long they’ve been together or have known each other, but it doesn’t engender much confidence if when you’re playing SXSW, you have to make a point to acknowledge that your next song “is an original”. This made me think most of their arsenal is made up of covers. Huh? Point #2: I didn’t find anything particularly exciting or noteworthy about their set. They’ve also got a vague country/western twangy vibe, which generally doesn’t go down well with me. The good news though is, the band are still in university and have plenty of time to find their sound – or rather a unique sound that will set them apart from any other American band from Anytown, USA. I wish them luck.

The Crookes Captiva Saturday SXSW 1

And then for the third time in 24 hours, it was again Crookes time. It was their fifth and final show of this SXSW and well, it’s like they say: go big or go home. Guitarist Tom Dakin and singer/bassist George Waite were dressed in colourful shirts they’d purchased in Austin; Tom’s, with a tropical flower theme, was most appropriate for playing a gig under the gaze of late afternoon sun. Out the gate they played ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ with so much gusto, it probably caused this neck ligament accident reported a couple days ago on Twitter. On behalf of America, I wholly apologise to the band and the whole of England for any injury caused by SXSW. But it was a wild week of shows, wasn’t it? Trust me, I know. I almost got impaled by George’s wayward mike stand. Last year I had a close call with one of Cashier No. 9‘s guitars.

The Crookes Captiva Saturday SXSW 2

I’ve questioned the wisdom of posting a video of mine of them playing ‘Backstreet Lovers’ because you can hear me singing along a little bit too loudly. There is also a lot of arms and legs flailing from the vocal Crookes’ American fan contingent described previously in Friday night’s review. Our crowd’s singing along was even more evident during the Crookes’ foray onto the atrium platform to perform ‘The Cooler King’, with Tom quipping and pointing at all of us, “you’re our official back-up section!” But what was more important was the amount of cheering and hollering the band got not from us, but from people who had just a half-hour before had never heard of the Crookes before. Maybe this best exemplifies why SXSW is like Christmas to music lovers: keep your ears open, take a chance on a band playing in the sun on a rooftop, and you might just have stumbled on your new favourite band.

Where Did Our Love Go
Maybe In the Dark
American Girls
Sal Paradise
Sofie
Afterglow
Backstreet Lovers
The Cooler King (on top of the atrium riser!)

The Ghosts SXSW

After the sweat-athon that was the Crookes’ set, there was a brief changeover before the Ghosts, who became the last band I would see at SXSW. They’re a project that was started by Alex Starling, who was a supposed “secret” fourth member of the all too short-lived Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, who disbanded following their singer Charles Haddon’s tragic suicide at 2010’s Pukkelpop in Belgium. Out of tragedy, Starling didn’t wallow in his sorrow long. He regrouped, joined forces with drummer Ian Palmer, then headed west to North America to pick up some additional band members.

There’s a roughness, a hardness to their sound, relying on guitars, synths and drums to make something like single ‘Everything Will Do’, with sections loud and punishing like Led Zeppelin’s height of grandeur, interspersed only slightly softer moments. At other times, they’re definitely channeling the most fun aspects of ’80s New Wave dance (have a listen to ‘Underrated’), and as a connoisseur of that era, I can appreciate this fully. It’s definitely a unique style, and I’m glad it just so happened that I got to see them at the conclusion of my SXSW 2013 experience.

 

SXSW 2013: Day 3 afternoon – from Rainey Street to Waterloo Records and back to 6th Street – 14th March 2013

 
By on Thursday, 28th March 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

The title of today’s SXSW post isn’t very descriptive, as I didn’t stay in one particular place too long and my plans kept changing. And such is life at SXSW, because even with the best laid plans, there is still a chance that an opportunity comes along that you’ve just got to grab with both hands and savour the moment. If you had read my dog-eared, notation-covered schedule for Thursday, you would have saw that I had planned to St. Albans’ seminal rock band the Zombies at a house party in East Austin at the conclusion of the afternoon. But as it were, things didn’t really work out that way…

I actually didn’t stay out all that late Wednesday after the Communion showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop; Wednesday night was the last night (unfortunately) of a shift by a very nice bellman at the Four Seasons who was smart enough to come up with a clever scheme of organising punters’ rides home by direction. This is how I entirely accidentally sharing a taxi with someone I’d met last year, Nathan Graves of Imperial Music and Media, who recognised me before I recognised him. “I was with Films of Colour last year…I remember you!” I guess word gets around about the ol’ Chang, eh? (That’s an inside joke that will be explained in more detail later.) He was in town helping promote Skinny Lister, and we engaged in a bit of conversation as I’d seen the booker of the Glass House in Pomona, California (a very cool venue, at least by the way my friend Beckie describes it) holding one of their limited edition singles whilst stood outside Latitude 30 when I was futilely queueing for the 1975 Tuesday night. And yes, this is just how crazy SXSW can be, or at least it is this way for me because it’s how my brain works; some PR friends were telling me last week that SXSW for music professionals is like summer camp: you get away from your real life for a week to revel and party with people you may not see for the rest of the year. Anyway, I digress…

I was not thinking that it would be a problem to get up early enough and sort a taxi on my own to meet Story Books from Kent for an interview at Blackheart club on Rainey Street. I’d been taking the bus in every morning with no problem, but as you see, Rainey Street and all its clubs are a good jaunt southeast from the convention centre, and it would have taken my ages to walk even from the bus stop in town. So taxi it was. I got there a little late, but that was okay because Story Books were in the bar, talking to a woman from PRS for Music, and this gave me a window of opportunity to finally catch Duologue live in the beer garden out back.

Duologue SXSW

The five-piece London band were taking full advantage of the small but warmed by the sun outdoor stage. And really, when else would Duologue be able to say, “we performed inside a wooden box at SXSW, and we had to wear our sunglasses!” Right? Come now, even frontman Tim Digby-Bell looked at his ubercoolest, like a younger and way better sounding Ric Ocasek of the Cars. Their performance was living proof that it is very dangerous to lump bands into genre ‘boxes’; I’ll be the first to admit that I had lazily put them in the all too full synth/soul box after the release of their single ‘Underworld’, but their music is actually much more complex and exciting than that.

They’ve just released their debut ‘Song & Dance’ on Killing Moon and while there is an element of dance, it’s more so heavy beats that propel the dark nature of their songs and their songs are really quite spectacular live. After a hello and photo op with Killing Moon head honcho Achal Dhillon that I’d promised to Mike Bradford of the Recommender – yes folks, we are looking at 9 weeks to go until we’re back in Brighton for the Great Escape 2013 – it was back inside the Blackheart to find Story Books.

Story Books SXSW interview top

This was when I came upon an interesting sight: on a shelf usually reserved for revelers’ drinks, spread out in neat stacks were piles and piles of hats in front of a mirror that took up a good portion of one wall of the bar. People were coming and going, trying on hats in the mirror, and it wasn’t until I recognised the bass player from Mikhael Paskalev from the night before, getting his picture professionally taken with a genuine Stetson hat, that I sort of sussed what was going on. I found out from the lovely Mary-Joy of Tanq production company that the iconic country/western hat company has been looking for a way to rebrand themselves and spread themselves further than simply the American hat-wearing public. When I think of the name Stetson, I think of John Wayne and a whole slew of western film actors and their 10-gallon hats, which aren’t really hip these days, and I can’t think of a better place to be spreading the good word about a company internationally than SXSW. In exchange for informational assistance about the many British bands (my forte!) who happened to be passing through Blackheart’s doors, I was able to leave Austin this time with a very nifty souvenir of my own. Score! So if you see me in blighty in May sporting a smart trilby, you’ll know where I got it.

Next it was time to talk to the three awake members of Story Books. We had a very nice chat, including discovering that leader Kris Harris is a cider drinker like myself and that he had actually been to DC 3 years ago as a member of Laura Marling‘s during her first major headline tour of America in 2010. I think they gained a whole load of new fans at the Communion show the night before, and the mere fact that there are now two Communion showcases instead of just the one last year (starring then unknown in America Ben Howard, Daughter and Michael Kiwanuka) goes to show that the label’s influence is growing and goes far beyond the confines of Britain. You can listen to my interview with Story Books here.

The next part of my afternoon would take a long trip northwest. I’d never been to the hallowed Waterloo Records, and I figured this would be a good time, and the perfect opportunity to see my friends the Joy Formidable and not worry about getting shut out by badge holders. I hailed a pedicab and in the spirit of gaining good karma, let a woman who was dying for a pedicab share my ride. She never gave me her card, so I don’t know what label she runs, and I did not give her mine, so it’s unlikely she will read this. It’s not cool to pay someone who’s biking up and across Austin a paltry $2 to the centre of town from Rainey Street. It’s really not. I ended up paying my sweaty, unsuncreamed driver $20 for a comfy ride (the breeze!), not to mention a very cool way to see the city, for the trip out to the record shop.

Gold Fields Waterloo SXSW

I arrived just in time to catch the second half of Gold Fields‘ set. Cheryl saw them at U Street Music Hall recently, and I seem to have missed them every single time they’ve stopped in DC, but this time? No. There was already a huge crowd assembled for them, and unfortunately, I was stood just outside the protective awning above the stage, so I grabbed my tube of suncream and slathered it on liberally. After the ARIAs red carpet experience, I wasn’t taking any changes at becoming another walking warning advert for sun overexposure…the Joy Formidable. It’s always the best feeling to see your friends go from being virtually unknown in America (back when their premiere appearance in DC was playing Black Cat Backstage, not even the main stage, in 2010) to where they are now, at the top of their game and nowhere else to go but up, up, up. Dave Grohl endorsements aside, Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas have been touring and working nonstop to make this dream of theirs a reality, and to see massive queues following them wherever they were playing during nighttime showcases at SXSW are a testament to their hard-working ethic.

Joy Formidable Waterloo SXSW 2

They banged out old favourites like ‘The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade’ and ‘Cradle’, while also offering up new singles ‘Cholla’ and ‘This Ladder is Ours’ from the new ‘Wolf’s Law’ album that fit seamlessly in the hard-rocking oeuvre they’ve worked so hard to create over the last couple of years. The stage right punters, who had obviously been there since noon to claim their spots, were of the diehard TJF variety, moshing as soon as Ritzy hit her first note. Later on the set, rather hilariously there was a teenage boy (remember, this was an outdoor, free show, so those under 21 were allowed to attend) who faked being drunk and stoned so he could throw his body and get closer to the barrier. Err… I give him points for being so enthusiastic about the Joy Formidable, but the poor girls next to me had never witnessed anything like that (I have, many times, in gig situations) that their burly male friends shoved him and gave him a talking-to. The faux drunk eventually backed off…and got what he wanted later, greeting the band after with a “you’re awesome!” and high-fives. Glad it didn’t end in tears. Or fisticuffs… I just have to laugh at experiences like this. As music fans, I think when in the presence of our favourite bands, we all get overly enthusiastic!

Joy Formidable Waterloo SXSW

I could never promote a band I didn’t truly believe in; at every step of the way, I’ve enjoyed the Joy Formidable career trajectory and never once have I witnessed any sort of rock star / diva posturing by this band. They are truly down to earth, which is not something you can say about everyone in this business. While I am pleased to report that most everyone I knew that I happened to run into in Austin greeted me warmly, I didn’t expect the level of warmth given to me by the Joy Formidable. If you happened to be in the queue to get your TJF purchase signed at Waterloo Records, you probably saw me sitting in the background, trying not to look obvious, because they invited me to hang out with them while they took incredible care of interacting with their very excited fans. Afterwards, I got an unconventional lift back into town…on their tour bus. I think everyone outside the Belmont was wondering, “who the hell is that coming off that tour bus?” I just smiled.

I often think to myself that the music business would be such a better enterprise if there was less of a ‘us vs. them’ mentality between the bands and the industry, and the best example I can think of where this works is the special relationship between the music blogger and a band very beloved to him or her. It’d be entirely daft to say that it’s not money that runs this industry. But there is a huge part of me that wishes that everyone could see and experience what I’ve felt with certain bands and the level of camaraderie that exists between people that truly respect one another. You could melt a heart of stone with those experiences. And certainly, they’d be useful reminders for those record execs on why they got into the music business in the first place.

 

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

 

SXSW 2013 Interview: Kris Harris, Rob Wilks and Jack Tarrant of Story Books

 
By on Tuesday, 26th March 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Kent’s Story Books were one of my great discoveries pre-SXSW as I was preparing the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013 over Christmas holiday. While there were some conversational gems that weren’t recorded – such as how frontman Kris Harris is an avid cider drinker like myself – there is loads more that was recorded in this interview with Harris, fellow Isle of Sheppey native and drummer Rob Wilks and guitarist Jack Tarrant that we did in the lovely bar area of Blackheart club on Rainey Street Thursday afternoon of this year’s SXSW. Listen to the interview below.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013: Singer/songwriter and folk UK artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Tuesday, 29th January 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2013 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change.

So here we are, the last week of January. Each Tuesday we’ve been bringing you genre ‘chapters’ of the UK bands that have been given the all important shout for this year’s SXSW 2013 taking place in venues across Austin the 12th to the 17th of March 2013. On the 8th of January, we brought you the pop and pop hybrid acts list, with a follow-up addendum on the 14th of January after the SXSW people updated their books on the 10th. The 15th of January saw the posting of the sound heavyweights, on the list of rock, metal and punk acts. Last week, on the 22nd, we wanted to showcase the wizards of the music world with the list of electronic and electronic-based bands and DJs.

This week? Possibly the genre that is most prolific – and the most crowded: the singer/songwriters and folk artists. Last week it was interesting to read that in an interview with SPIN, singer Scott Hutchinson of Scottish band Frightened Rabbit complained of being compared to current folk rock behemoths Mumford and Sons. Love ’em or hate ’em, they brought folk rock to the forefront of popular music and proved that that brand of ‘popularised’ bluegrass could be popular around the world. There is no doubt a whole new generation of folk rock artists that are being given a second glance, instead of being ignored, thanks to the hard work of Mumford and other acts soldiering on in this genre. And then there are the singer/songwriters: we may romanticise the image of a solitary, guitar-wielding man in front of a crowd, the reality is that there are both men and women who are pouring their hearts out into song, sitting in their bedrooms wondering what might be. In that respect, SXSW does its best in giving these folks the proper credit – and surely the proper platform – that might propel them into the big time.

What I had envisioned this weekly guide to be was simply a handy resource if you were wondering which acts to catch at this year’s marathon week of showcases, parties and secret shows. But even if you’re not attending the big event, I hope it’ll also introduce you to the solo artists and bands you haven’t heard of, because that’s the most exciting thing about SXSW: at any one moment, you could walk into a bar, a club, a hotel, a warehouse, wherever…and you might just discover the next big thing in music. And that isn’t limited to one place or one event. You can find new music anywhere. And without further adieu…

‘Allo Darlin – Australia collides with Britain in this folk pop band fronted by Elizabeth Morris. Their songs are so cute, you wish you could just pinch their cheeks! Martin caught them at the End of the Road Festival in 2011.

Sounds like: the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, with a female lead

Read our previous coverage of the band here.

Lauren Aquilina – This 17-year old is from Windsor, but knock off the Royal Family jokes, please. She independently released her debut EP ‘Fools’ in October, so what a coup to get the SXSW nod when you’re still unsigned!

Sounds like: Lucy Rose, Ellie Goulding (but minus the synths)

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

Jake Bugg (added 10/01/13) –Noel Gallagher’s young protégé who has already found fame in the last year at the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City, the Nottingham native has made folk and country guitar rock popular again with his debut album

Read our previous coverage of Bugg here.

Bo Saris – blue-eyed soul delivered in a falsetto. It’s difficult for me to listen to, but if a Dutchman described as ” the new, male equivalent of the late Amy Winehouse” doesn’t make you shrink in horror…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-cUVZThQVs[/youtube]

Bwani Junction – Edinburgh band invoking the Afrobeat spirit of Vampire Weekend with their jaunty guitars. They even describe themselves as “Big Country were from the Soweto”. They made their Great Escape debut in 2012 with the Scottish contingent, so it seems only fitting that they make their SXSW debut this year.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbYjSamxS30[/youtube]

Matt Cardle (added 10/01/13) – the winner of the 7th season of the UK’s X Factor, it’ll be interesting if his popularity in Britain will translate into fame in America.

Jamie N Commons – Has singing the blues, just like plaid shirts, become trendy again? If yes, then Jamie N Commons is its poster boy. And if for some reason you miss him and you live in America, don’t fret: he’ll be supporting Lianne La Havas (his fellow BBC Sound of 2012 longlist alum also at SXSW) on her North American tour directly following the festival.

The Dunwells – it is unfortunate that in the post-Mumford and Sons world, other folk bands that came out in 2009 were left behind. Hopefully, Leeds’ Dunwells will use this opportunity in Austin (and New York in January and Colorado in March post-SXSW) to show everyone just how talented they are and they’re not Mumford wannabes.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDuv-cG5rtM[/youtube]

Paloma Faith – imagine my surprise to hear that Paloma Faith is now on my mum’s approved list, after watching her perform on Graham Norton. I’m kind of interested to see what kind of people would show up to see her in Austin: Amy Winehouse fans?

Read our previous coverage on Paloma here.

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

Fossil Collective – If you transported the Byrds to Leeds, what would they sound like? Probably something similar to Fossil Collective. I might have compared them to Fleet Foxes, except that in the press shots I’ve seen of Dave Fendick and Jonny Hooker, only one of them has a beard so…

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

For some mp3s and John’s review of their EP ‘On and On’, head here.

Goldheart Assembly – Having loved their 2010 debut album ‘Wolves and Thieves’, I felt like it’d been nearly forever since I last heard anything about Goldheart Assembly. When I checked on TGTF, the last thing I’d written on them, a post about their single ‘Harvest in the Snow’, was posted in March 2011. It’ll be 2 years, then, when they make their way to Austin, and not a moment too soon. Were they waiting for the Fleet Foxes love – and expected backlash – to die down? We’ll never know for sure, but I for one will be eager to see them live for the first time.

Catch all our previous Goldheart coverage here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeRse7-lXM4[/youtube]

Ed Harcourt – Compared to the other singer/songwriters on the SXSW list, Ed Harcourt is a relative granddaddy – at 35, he’s released five studio albums to date, with an sixth, ‘Back into the Woods’, to follow in late February 2013. ‘The Man That Time Forgot’, the first song to be offered up from the new album, can be downloaded for free here.

Robyn Hitchcock – When your own Web site is called ‘a museum’, you know you’ve paid your dues to the music industry. This is where cult singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock finds himself, revered in the UK for his English eccentricity, though I am very curious at the kind of turnout for his shows at SXSW and indeed, where they will have him play.

Jesca Hoop (added 10/01/13) – to some of us, she’s better known associated with Elbow. Not actually British (she’s a Californian transplant to Manchester after Guy Garvey discovered), she started with a very eclectic sound which turned decidedly poppier with ‘Hospital (Win Your Love)’, the last time we checked in with her.

Read our previous coverage of Hoop here.

James Hunter – from the same town as Lammo (Colchester) comes this r&b and soul singer, previously nominated for a Grammy for his 2006 album ‘People Gonna Talk’. This is exactly the kind of music I don’t usually seek out, so I’m rather keen to see him play. I’m imagining the scene to be as hopping as JD MacPherson’s at last year’s Great Escape.

Josephine – if Morrissey was a young black woman, he might just sound like Josephine. (And yes. I didn’t believe Paul Lester either until I heard ‘What a Day’.) I haven’t heard her debut album but I’ve been told the rest of it doesn’t sound Smiths-esque, so you can’t blame Manchester for it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hngRpjPafI[/youtube]

Kodaline – Gary Barlow’s favourite new band from Dublin doesn’t show any signs of slowing down after getting a BBC Sound of 2013 longlist nod, We’ve written quite a bit about this band, so you can read all of that here. They have new EP out in March, and the promo video for its title track ‘High Hopes’ is below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4povfmX144[/youtube]

Cate Le Bon – Cate Le Bon is a breath of fresh air compared to most of the other Welsh acts tipped for 2013’s SXSW, which appear to all be thrashy, hard rock bands made up of men.

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

Sounds like: Beth Jeans Houghton with a fixation on death

Let’s Buy Happiness – happy guitar rock/pop band from Newcastle.

Sounds like: ‘Allo Darlin, without the harmonies.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-1nLr6Gl4I[/youtube]

Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun – Jim Lockey sans band was the first band of the Xtra Mile Recordings showcase on my first night at SXSW 2012, so let’s see if he can manage to bring his entire band out for 2013. I think of his as ‘Frank Turner lite’, if that helps you imagine what he sounds like.

Read our previous live coverage of Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun here.

My Darling Clementine – ‘country/soul’ duo from Birmingham by husband/wife coupling Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish. Long Facebook profiles seem overdone to me, so…

Willy Moon (added 10/01/13) – placing #6 in the TGTF 10 for 2012 readers’ poll, signing to Jack White’s Third Man Records, having one of his songs play on a new iPod advert in America? Willy Moon’s life just gets better and better. A little bit pop, a little bit soul, a little bit ‘50s styling for one hip sound.

Read our previous coverage on Willy here.

Tom Odell (added 10/01/13) – Having already won the BRITs 2013 Critics’ Choice award, the sky’s the limit for this Chichester-born singer/songwriter.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwpMEbgC7DA[/youtube]

Christopher Rees – Cardiff singer/songwriter that NME describes like this: “It’s not easy to achieve noise metal god status accompanied by a cello but Christopher Rees makes an awesome, bloody fist of it. Pumped up and snarling but managing to wrench beautiful tunes out of the wreckage… This is seriously amazing stuff”. This description has us intrigued!

Roo Panes – ‘classical folk pop’ is not a genre normally explored here, but I’m always up for a challenge. This is Andrew ‘Roo’ Panes’ project with a strong backing and voal harmonising band. He has already been singled out for his handsomeness, as Burberry chose him to model their autumn/winter 2012 collection. Given Mumford and Laura Marling‘s recent meteoric rise to fame in America, Roo Panes is the odds-on favourite to follow in their footsteps.

Sounds like: he should be signed to Communion, if Ben Lovett hasn’t come sniffing round yet

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGP-TnIoejk[/youtube]

Lucy Rose – We, of course, already knew how talented she was. But 2013 could just be the year that Lucy Rose breaks out of Bombay Bicycle’s shadow and becomes a huge worldwide success in her own right. Though I worry what would happen to Lucy if she suddenly became massive; would she stop doing the things like Tweet at her mother on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable that make me go, “oh, bless!”? A scary prospect…

Read our previous coverage on Lucy Rose here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adBPg8Zdp2g[/youtube]

Paul Thomas Saunders – it must be hard to be Paul Thomas Saunders, a Leeds singer/songwriter in his late twenties and allergic to alcohol. But I guess he must use all that extra free time not boozing at the pub to write. Evidently I missed a “triumphant” appearance at last year’s Great Escape. Need to rectify that.

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

Jack Savoretti – part Italian, but that’s where any comparison to Paolo Nutini ends. Savoretti has already been on the road with Corinne Bailey Rae and shored up Radio2 support, but why isn’t he massive? Just wait until one of his songs gets synced on a major film soundtrack.

Sounds like: a harder, more pop Bob Dylan, a gentler Bruce Springsteen

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umBAmzf0SXs[/youtube]

Skinny Lister – this London folk band have already made quite an impact on America, through a previous appearance at SXSW and then an even more surprising appearance last year on the Vans Warped tour of North America. Could they be riding the Mumford wave? Possibly. Their debut album ‘Forge and Flagon’ gets an American release this month, so we’ll see if the momentum lasts.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsqaLfWMcp8[/youtube]

The Staves – three harmonising sisters with guitars from Watford who are no stranger to America, having toured here a couple times now with the (now defunct?) Civil Wars, I was surprised to see them get another turn at SXSW. If they do get an opportunity to sing in St. David’s again like in 2012, go, go, GO. You won’t be disappointed.

Story Books – Kent band sounding at times haunting and at times bombastic. Not really sure why they’re not more popular or, frankly, why we haven’t heard of them yet.

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

Richard Thompson – like Robyn Hitchcock, I’m not entirely sure what Richard Thompson is doing on a list of acts scheduled to perform at SXSW. Having already made a name for himself as a member of Fairport Convention and then with his wife Linda and now as a solo artist, I suspect he’ll be using the guest spot to advertise his latest album ‘Electric’, out in February.

Washington Irving – jaunty folk rock wrapped around a Scottish accent.

File next to: Arcade Fire

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

That’s it for the genre chapters in the TGTF Guide to SXSW in January. To not miss any of our SXSW 2013 coverage, bookmark this tag and of course, keep it here on TGTF for even more great content in the weeks leading up to the big event in March!

 
 
 

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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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