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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: a mishmash of bands not yet seen during the week – 16th March 2019 (Saturday, part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 4th April 2019 at 11:00 am
 

In past years, I’ve used Saturday as a breather. I usually use it as a lie-in day. By then, everyone’s spent: they’ve drank too much, they’ve run around too much and the reality that we’re all going home on Sunday is sadly starting to set in. I also Saturday as my catch-up day to try and pick up anyone I might have missed during the week. In order to make this post and the next and last of my SXSW 2019 live review posts efficient, I will recount in this post the bands I only saw on Saturday.

Fatherson at Latitude 30
Fatherson are no strangers to TGTF or to Austin for that matter, having come out here for SXSW 2015 when frontman Ross Leighton had a much larger beard! The Scottish trio have undergone a musical evolution since then, trading their previous more all-encompassing anthemic sound for (dare I say it?) a more poppy, mainstream rock approach. These details inside a music editor’s mind were lost on the British Music Embassy crowd, Austinites and for-the-week British expats enjoying the music being bashed about on stage.

Fatherson British Music Embassy Saturday SXSW 2019

Rizha at Austin Taco Project
I wouldn’t call Rizha an accidental find, as I happened to be passing through and wanted to be sure I did not miss who was up next. She is a young (19) Argentinian now in university in Madrid, continuing a musical career that I understand began in 2013. Most, if not all of her songs, contain swear words and therefore have been anointed as explicit on Spotify. This ordinarily wouldn’t disqualify an act for me, but I wasn’t impressed with the music or Rizha’s singing. Had I been a good 2 decades younger (or 3?), this music might have spoken to me. As it was, I found her synth-reliant music unremarkable.

Rizha Austin Taco Project Second Play Stage Saturday SXSW 2019

On the other hand, the Austin Taco Project, attached to the Hilton and which opened just in time for SXSW 2018, is worth a visit for the delicious tacos and the very nice bartenders, even if you’re not there to see a band on their Second Play Stage. While we’re talking about the Hilton, I’d be remiss to not mention the Hilton’s other restaurant Cannon + Belle, which also acts as a Second Play Stage during SXSW. Carrie and I saw Holly Macve and James TW there in 2016.

Kidsmoke at Austin Taco Project
The next band were much more up my alley. Having run around like somewhat of a crazy person on Wednesday night, I could not stay at the Focus Wales showcase for Welsh band Kidsmoke. Luckily for me, the Wrexham four-piece made another appearance at the Austin Taco Project before leaving for home. I’ve seen the term ‘pastoral pop’ being bandied around when they’re discussed, and I think it’s a good description of their music.

Kidsmoke Austin Taco Project Second Play Stage Saturday SXSW 2019

Maybe it’s just me, and admittedly I have never been to Wales (!) but I have this romantic vision of its picturesque countryside, of rolling green valleys and white blots of sheep. If I had the opportunity to drive around this beautiful land, I’d want Kidsmoke’s newest single ‘Passenger’ playing while I had the windows rolled down, my hair flying in the breeze. Want to make it feel like it’s summer every day? Guitar-driven melodic pop? Yes, please!

Boy Azooga at Latitude 30
Arguably the biggest success story out of The Great Escape 2018, Cardiff’s Boy Azooga capped off a busy week in Austin with a 9 PM appearance at the British Music Embassy during BBC Radio 1’s showcase. Probably dead tired, Davey Newington and his live band showed no signs of flagging and certainly brought out their Four Tops-ey dance posturing to the Latitude 30 stage. Coming into Austin on a raft of hype, the song ‘Taxi to Your Head’ seemed quite appropriate by title, its funky grooves received well by the audience. The laidback ‘Jerry’, another from the critically acclaimed debut album from last year, ‘1, 2, Kung Fu’, was another set highlight.

Boy Azooga British Music Embassy BBC Radio 1 SXSW 2019

 

SXSW 2019: a morning with Johnny Cash – 16th March 2019 (Saturday, part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd April 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

Photo of Johnny Cash from the official SXSW Web site

I’ve spent time in March in Austin every year for the last 7 years. And yet, all this time, I have never seen a film that was part of SXSW. That all changed this year. Of the days I knew I would be in Austin, I looked at the films that were playing and when, and I found something that I could slot in on Saturday morning, when most revelers would still be asleep. Or hungover. Or both. ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’ is a new, authorised documentary on the Man in Black that I saw at the Alamo Ritz. It’s a welcome continuation for those of us whose knowledge of Cash’s history, personally and professionally, is limited to the dramatisation of his life portrayed in ‘Walk the Line’ superbly by Joaquin Phoenix.

Grief over the death of his brother in childhood, the freedom of the open road as part of touring, and the effect of the Folsom Prison concerts are the primary touchstones music documentarian director Thom Zimny and screenwriter Warren Zanes come back to again and again in this film. It is, as one might expect, a much more comprehensive review of Cash’s life from childhood to the end than ‘Walk the Line’ ever could be. It benefits from soundbites from first-hand interview tapes with Cash, his family and friends, and they serve to drive home the relenting reality of his life as you experience the film.

I have been thinking about Cash’s addiction to amphetamines during his early touring years over the last few days before writing this, and I can’t help but draw a line between the reality of artists having to do a lot of late night driving to get from town to town and the tragedy that befell Liverpool Her’s and their tour manager last week. Like any other job, there will always be inherent dangers to being a musician, but to continue progressing in your musical career shouldn’t be a risk to your health or kill you. I don’t know how we do this, and I know Help Musicians UK and similar organisations exist, but we have to continue providing support to the music community. We simply must.

I had not been aware of just what a big influence gospel music was on Johnny Cash. His mother, upon hearing his adolescent singing voice, told him, “God has his hand on you. Don’t ever forget the gift.” I found incredibly bittersweet that although this gift of an incredible voice brought joy and emotion to his many fans, the actual act of singing appears to have been how he felt he could attempt to exorcise the many battles raging in his mind. His description of begging his brother not to go to work the morning he died, based on his own premonition that something bad would happen to him if he went, is painfully poignant. The theme of mortality would haunt Cash his entire life. Through substance abuse and the decline of his career, it is touching how Cash’s career was revitalised late in his life when Rick Rubin believed in him and put his trust in his talent. I’d say God or some other divine being(s) had a hand in making that happen.

As is the case with many musicians, Cash’s children who were born during the earlier years of his career had a mostly absentee father have different recollections than John Carter Cash, who was born when Cash was much older and realised the importance of family. Soundbites from his children and friends add another level of authenticity that wouldn’t have been possible if this hadn’t been an authorised documentary. Taken together, the clips of interviews make you feel not like you’re being talked to but you’re part of the conversation. I know when I’m watching a documentary, I want to have a personal connection with the subject. ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’ succeeds in this in spades. Leaving the Ritz, I was covered in tears. I hope this film gets a worldwide distribution deal soon.

 

SXSW 2019: the first half of the End of the Trail Creative showcase, Fangclub at 720 and Joshua Burnside at the Driskill – 15th March 2019 (Friday, part 3)

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd April 2019 at 11:00 am
 

Friday night began in a very relaxed way for me. After 2 days of hustling, I decided it was time for a nice break: a salmon dinner and a prickly pear margarita at Caroline on Congress Avenue. After such a civilised meal, I was back in the (crazy) game and high-tailed it to Valhalla on Red River, for the first few acts of the End of the Trail Creative showcase. Without fail, Valhalla is one of the hardest places to photograph musicians. Most are bathed in a steady, all-enveloping red light that does no favours to anyone’s looks. I didn’t have much of a prayer there shooting the Sandinistas or Laucan as part of the Sunday Best showcase there in 2017.

Preston singer/songwriter Pip Hall was up first. For an artist so obviously young, you don’t expect such a rich voice belying her tender years. Hall was smiley and confident, which isn’t something you necessarily see with young artists coming out to play in America for the first time. Her guitar-driven songwriting is definitely on the rock end of the spectrum, whether it be on one of her earliest songs ‘Devil You Don’t’ to newest release ‘So Easy’, which was released at the start of March and has echoes of Fleetwood Mac, one of her biggest influences. While Hall’s set of coming of age songs was never going to be one of the most exciting performances at SXSW – she played a guitar and was accompanied by another guitarist, and that was it – massive respect to her for coming out to Austin and performing with such aplomb.

Pip Hall at the End of the Trail Creative Friday SXSW 2019

Ah, yes. Sam Eagle. From one underage youngster to another. My friends I brought along to Valhalla this evening adored this Essex artist and his band. How would you describe the music? It’s jazzy – note the obvious trumpet onstage – but it’s clearly not straight jazz. It’s funky, but would it meet Prince and Bootsy’s standards? Possibly. Valhalla’s stage is not a large one and yet Eagle (is that really his surname?) managed to fit a five-piece band on there. Though the songs lacked linearity, the band – not to mention the audience – fully embraced the chaos, Eagle and band doing a great job in raising the energy level in the shadowy venue.

Glaswegian punk band Rascalton has been on my radar since early 2018, being one of my best bets at last year’s editions of Live at Leeds and The Great Escape. I followed this up with this SXSW 2019-flavoured Bands to Watch piece on them in February. Having seen their frenetic performance at the Green Door Store Saturday night in Brighton, after fellow Scots and friends Declan Welsh and the Decadent West I might add, I was quick to recommend them to the friends of mine who had already taken to similar acts IDLES and LIFE. Their appearance at Valhalla didn’t disappoint and funnily enough, the mayhem on the floor was further ratcheted up by the front by their buddies The Dunts, shouting back lyrics to the stage with gusto.


Rascalton End of the Trail Creative Valhalla Friday SXSW 2019 by Pamela Erickson
photo of Rascalton frontman Jack Wyles crowdsurfing
taken from above by my friend Pamela Erickson

The feeling behind this performance was very different than Rascalton’s set at Green Door Store last year, a relatively tame experience save for a few folks cutting a rug good-naturedly. After falling in a Biffy Clyro-incited mosh pit at Roskilde in 2010, I know when to set back and to the side when things start getting violent. While I wasn’t part of the melee of aggro, mad fer it fans, even I could see the frenzied result of hearing the punk strains of Rascalton in this club. Checkmate.

After their fine showing on the sunlit stage of B.D. Riley’s that afternoon as part of the full Irish breakfast, I decided I wanted to see Fangclub in a venue tailor-made for them. If Plush is the place to be to watch the hottest electronic producers, 720 – at 720 Red River, natch – is where you go for hard rock.

Fangclub 720 Friday SXSW 2019

You don’t come here for high production values and an awe-inspiring light show. No further decor beyond clinical white walls and a simple bar that only serves alcohol in cans, it’s the place to see rock at its most primal and visceral on show. As expected, 720 was perfect for Fangclub. Long hair flying and with sustained, menacing chords up to 11 aplenty, they wowed the crowd waiting for a good sonic pummeling. And that we got. I only took a handful of photos because I wanted to step back and take in the spectacle.

After two back-to-back, no-nonsense hard-rocking groups, I decided sitting down and resting my feet at the end of my third day in Austin was just what the doctor ordered. For a second year in a row, Joshua Burnside and his band were set to perform at 11 PM at the Victoria Room at the Driskill. Though I saw part of the band’s performance at the Output Belfast showcase at the British Music Embassy Thursday afternoon, this performance at the Driskill was truly what I was waiting for. Like that show, Burnside threw his hat of the evening in the crowd but implored to the Victorian Room crowd that he wanted it back. Ha. Dressed in decidedly relaxed togs – well, we were in Austin after all, right? – he and his band proceeded through a lovely set of songs that showcased Burnside’s twangy, folky Irish accent against eclectic instrumentation.

Joshua Burnside Victorian Room at the Driskill Friday SXSW 2019

Emotional, beautiful and touching in equal measure, I thought I might float away on a cloud from the gorgeousness. ‘Holllllogram’, which I mentioned of my review of him on Thursday, was introduced with a joke. Burnside explained that the song was intended to be a duet for a man and a woman, and he suggested that we “…imagine I’m a beautiful woman singing the second verse…or you can just imagine I’m beautiful the whole way through!” A disarming comment that led to peals of laughter.

 

SXSW 2019: the second half of Music From Ireland’s Full Irish Breakfast and two acts at the British Music Embassy – 15th March 2019 (Friday, part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd April 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

Changes are to coming to the the British Music Embassy in 2020 but as no news about them has been made public, you’ll have to wait until next year (hopefully not that long?) to hear about them. What has been great in the 8 years in a row I’ve attended SXSW is the close proximity of Latitude 30 to B.D. Riley’s Irish pub, which has played host to Music From Ireland’s annual full Irish breakfast day showcase. As long as there’s no queue to get into either place, you theoretically could see 8 or more bands in a span of less than 3 hours. I tested out this theory again Friday afternoon in Austin.

Following on from their energetic performance the night previous at Music From Ireland’s official evening showcase at the Velveeta Room, I was curious to see how whenyoung would fare when subjected to the sun streaming in from the open windows at B.D. Riley’s. Neither I nor the rest of the patrons at the Irish pub would be disappointed. And what better to enjoy emerging new Irish music than with a pint of Guinness?

whenyoung Full Irish Breakfast SXSW 2019 1

‘Pretty Pure’ was emblazoned in red lipstick on the back of guitarist Niall Burns’ white jumpsuit at the Velveeta. The song itself begins with a bright guitar note sequence reminiscent of the Vaselines’ ‘Molly’s Lips’ before continuing on in fine pop fashion. Their debut 7” with Felix White of the Maccabees’ YALA! Records is an energetic wonderful first taster to anyone new to the Limerick band. Bassist Aoife Power’s lead vocals have the duality of sweetness and dynamism, an interesting juxtaposition against an instrumental backdrop of fun and strength. Another fast-paced track, ‘Given Up’, is a workout for the senses, drummer Andrew Flood in his eyeliner hitting his skins like this life depended on it.

I popped out after their set to check out Westerman at British Music Embassy. Sadly, the thoughtful, soft-singing London singer/songwriter whose first name is Will but goes by his surname was nowhere to be seen. His bandmate apologised that Westerman would be unable to perform. Based on this Facebook post, his SXSW appearances earlier in the week in Austin took it all out of him. Admirably, his bandmates soldiered on without him, one of them assuming lead vocal duties in his absence. Full marks there. I have to admit that I’m a purist and decided to duck back out, deciding I wanted to see him perform as nature intended in the future instead.

Returning to B.D. Riley’s, I finally corrected a mistake made at Canadian Music Week 2016. Because of the large distances between venues in Toronto and suffering from a bad cold while in Canada, I missed Dublin’s Fangclub when they performed at the Music From Ireland show at the Rivoli. In hindsight, I think this was destiny. Phwoar. It wasn’t until after I became a music blogger that I truly realised the blessing in disguise I received as a child. Growing up in the presence of a much older brother who schooled me in the music of Led Zeppelin, the Who, Pink Floyd and Megadeth gave me an education that went beyond the British Invasion basics I’d researched on my age on my own before the age of 10. Later on in life, he gifted me with his 5-string ESP bass. In the context of my hard rock upbringing, Fangclub were a 21st century revelation.

Fangclub Full Irish Breakfast SXSW 2019 2

My favourite hard rock bands have always been those who can harness the sheer power of guitars and drums but direct them into a toe-tapping, headbangingly good time. Bonus points if the singer also sounds like he (or she) is shredding vocal chords. The blistering instrumental delivery of ‘Knife’, with Stephen King screaming “twist the knife” in the context of a romantic obsession…you had to have been there. As non sequitur this music was performed on a sunny, warm day in Austin, there is no denying the sheer testosterone-filled brawn of this band. Wipe your brow, son.

I hung around at the pub for a bit longer to catch part of Kojaque’s set. After only a few bars of verse, I knew I was out of my depth when it came to the Dublin rapper whose name is pronounced but not spelled like the famous detective played by Telly Savalas. I have trouble providing a useful review of the Irish hip-hop artist, joined onstage by a smiley musical friend and some lounge-y backing tracks. Having made a new friend with a music lover from Newcastle, we agreed that this kind of music wasn’t made for people our age. Kevin Smith, I know you’ve got loads of adoring fans your age or younger and you must be extremely talented in both music and the visual arts. Sorry, this just isn’t for me.

https://flic.kr/p/2fhZz2C]Kojaque Full Irish Breakfast SXSW 2019 1

I must have been in the 0.1% of the music-loving world who had never seen Fontaines D.C. live up to this point. I’d been poked and prodded by friends for weeks leading up to SXSW, well-meaning friends who implored me to see them live. I’m no dummy. Music editors hear all the hype and unfortunately for hyped bands, unless I’ve heard about you independently of said hype, I am probably going to come to your show with a jaundiced editor’s ear. If you know me at all, you know I prefer to fight for the underdogs, the little guy.

Fontaines DC Full Irish Breakfast SXSW 2019 2

Fontaines D.C, who had been announced as IDLES’ North American support long before receiving their shout for SXSW 2019, fell into this category. Arriving with so much fanfare even before they stepped foot in Austin, I knew they didn’t need my help. Maybe it was where I was sat? They sounded loud, muddled and without anything that set them apart from the crowded current UK punk market. I sat through two songs before I’d had enough. Hey, I am nothing but accommodating! We could see Sam Fender and his band peeking his head through an open window. I’m not going to stay in a venue when people are just chomping at the bit to get inside.

Elder Island British Music Embassy Friday SXSW 2019

It was time to return to the British Music Embassy to rinse out the ol’ music editor ears. I’d seen SXSW 2019 TGTF Band to Watch Elder Island in the decidedly more clinical confines of the International Day stage on Wednesday, were set to close Latitude 30 for the afternoon. The Bristol trio who thrive on turning their music and everyone in the room on their head turned out another excellent performance. The sultry ‘Black Fur’, which is actually about singer Katy Sargent’s dearly departed late cat (tuck that piece of pub trivia away), was a bluesy tour de force. ‘I Fold You’, featuring their super cool electric cello, wowed their new fans, bopped heads and moved bodies. While I regret not having seen them at Bungalow that night at Majestic Casual’s showcase, I feel incredibly lucky to have seen them on Wednesday and at this show. Elder Island do Bristol and his rave-loving history proud.

 

SXSW 2019: #youtoo? with DJ Target, Shirley Manson and Richard James Burgess and Song Math with Ross Golan – 15th March 2019 (Friday, part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd April 2019 at 11:00 am
 

This year at SXSW 2019, I struggled to find convention sessions and talks whose summaries I would write that I felt would speak not just to our regular readers of TGTF but to a wider audience. Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond had a scheduled keynote Friday morning, but in my head I wondered, what exactly could they tell me, a person who appreciated their band but was not an uber fan, that I hadn’t heard before? I had the same feeling about Shirley Manson of Garbage and Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES’ keynote on Thursday, thinking that what the two of them would discuss would be a retread of past conversations about the difficulty of being a woman in the music business. Instead of attending either, I decided instead to attend the #youtoo? Creating a More Inclusive Music Industry session, which included Manson as well as BBC Radio 1Extra presenter and artist DJ Target and Richard James Burgess, CEO of the American Association of Independent Music. The session was moderated by Vanessa Reed, CEO of PRS for Music Foundation and who spearheaded the ground-breaking EU initiative Keychange, self-described as “a collaborative European programme led by PRS Foundation which empowers women to transform the music industry.”

The session offered three different perspectives on how to achieve better equality in the music business, from the unique viewpoints of an artist (Manson) and a radio promoter and independent music champion, both with a background of being an artist (Target and Burgess, respectively). As a woman of colour who runs a music Web site, a rarity, I myself have wrestled with how women go forward from where we are today to reach equality in the business. I have been uncomfortable with the push for equality by physical number of female acts on festival bills, a push that seems to be getting louder every minute. To be clear, I am not against the ultimate goal of equality. The problem, as I see it, is how to implement it.

Vanessa Reed and DJ Target Friday SXSW 2019

One moment in time that sticks in my head is this article by The Guardian’s Michael Hann applauding the bill for 2015’s End of the Road. Part of the argument that rang hollow to me was in regards to Laura Marling’s position as headliner and how the festival should be applauded for choosing her. Marling is an established artist with a very large fanbase and therefore her presence would sell tickets but not on the basis of her gender. While she is a fine example of a woman who broke the mould, succeeded against insurmountable odds and deserves full credit for all she’s done, I would argue that artists regardless of who or what they are have all faced their own difficulties. Who gets to judge who has suffered more and deserves the bigger breaks?

This may sound funny coming from a woman who is also a person of colour, but the way I see it, hard work is hard work, just like some in this business will argue talent is talent, no matter the source. I fully admit that my experience is coloured by the fact that as part of what is called the model minority in America, I’ve received the short end of multiple sticks. I recall with much clarity that even though I asked specifically for help, I received much less assistance from my high school counselor because as an Asian-American, I was perceived as not needing it as much as my peers. I was also excluded from my university’s minority student support office because I was of Asian descent.

Shirley Manson and Richard James Burgess Friday SXSW 2019

One of the things that I have appreciated more than anything else as a Chinese-American music editor is being judged and respected by industry folk for what I bring to the table and not because I’m a woman or the color of my skin. I also don’t even get the sense that my being American is considered a benefit or a hindrance. Maybe it’s masochism, but I would rather be remembered for how I was able to promote acts I loved, not because I was a nonwhite woman doing it. Burgess’ comments describing how his office is staffed echoed my thinking: he explained that while he has more women working for him than most have in the industry, his hiring decisions were based on merit and experience, not gender. While this model obviously can’t be applied to every situation, I think this is what we should aspire towards.

I appreciated each speaker’s views on the topic and what they suggested for going forward. In particular, Manson’s outspoken opinions on how the white women of America failed all women in voting for Donald Trump for President is something I have thought a lot about since that dreadful day in November 2016. While all of us women have shared experiences in feeling marginalised by elders due to existing patriarchal social structures, by voting in that manner, white women, whether knowingly or not, discounted the additional hurdles faced by women of colour in our country.

Manson’s searing commentary on how the pink hat was seized as a symbol of white women feminism felt spot on to me and brought me to tears. It has become very much the “protect your own patch” mentality, which has a mirror in the racism I discovered a few years ago within the white LGBT community, which was a surprise to me after having grown up with the inherent racism among Asians. My intention in including Manson’s comment here is less about taking sides but to take the first step, in raising awareness of the existence of a problem. After awareness, we can move towards better understanding and empathy. Without these three pieces, we cannot truly address or tackle the issues. Inclusivity in conversations seems to me as key for us to come to permanent, lasting, agreeable solutions.

with Shirley Manson crop
photo by Maryum Rasool of SBEV (thank you kindly!),
I’m pretty sure I was reliving ‘Special’ and disbelieving I was talking to Shirley Manson

Manson brought the conversation back to the music industry when she described the difficulty in finding a female band to support Garbage on a recent tour. I thought it was interesting that Manson felt it was a thinking process that caused industry people to freeze, rendering them unable to call to mind any act that would fit Garbage’s request. I think this is an important distinction: minds can be changed. The more we can keep the dialogue open, the more we challenge the status quo, the more we turn the conversations into the norm and less the exception, the more consistent changes we’ll see.

Both DJ Target and Manson emphasised the role (no pun intended) of strong female role models in the artist realm. Manson, along with the aforementioned Mayberry and others like Grimes, Jane Weaver and Gwenno, have taken their positions with candour and energy. More of this, ladies. But we need to step up and raise up those and offer our help to anyone who needs a hand.

Instead of rehashing the part of Ross Golan’s Song Math that I was present for, I will simply summarise for you the most thought-provoking bits. Ross, I hope one day you offer your review of popular music as a recording. I’d buy it! I’m sure plenty of music teachers would use it for their classes, too.
1. A lot of classical composers died of syphilis: that’s a fact, which Golan utilised repeatedly as a comic device. Thankfully, we here in modern day have penicillin available to us. No more mercury poisoning! But if you’ve been watching Victoria, you already know this.
2. Gregorian chants should be considered the earliest pop recordings.
3. Phoenix were right: Franz Liszt was the first true rock star.
4. Today’s musicians are indebted to the songwriters of years gone by, and much beyond sampling. For one, the structure of songs as simple as ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘Frere Jacques’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ have been repeated over and over, inspiring artists far and wide, and subliminally or not.

 
 
 

About Us

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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