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SXSW 2018: Wednesday afternoon at German Haus and a conference session on Music and the Brain – 14th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Monday, 26th March 2018 at 1:00 pm
 

There are two nice things about afternoon showcases. You get to see acts in less claustrophobic confines, and you can see them without really worrying about running off to your next showcase. Two excellent reasons, if you ask me! Following my time at the JW Marriott for The Original Celebrity Chefs and Restaurants session, I returned to German Haus at Barracuda for two German acts I was excited to see and hear live. When I arrived, a bald Brit with a guitar was on the Barracuda indoor stage, playing to a small, but entirely appreciative crowd. I was confused. Hrm. He definitely didn’t have a German accent. What was he doing there? I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t recognise Midge Ure of Ultravox and Visage fame. Don’t hit me. I feel embarrassed enough!

Midge Ure at German Haus Wednesday at SXSW 2018

You have understand that during SXSW, most of us aren’t checking our emails, and I certainly did not see the German Haus missive that he would be part of the screening of Conny Plank – The Potential of Noise and its related panel that afternoon on which Ure would appear. I can see this was one of those times that it probably would have helped to have the event to all, or at least wristband holders in addition to badgeholders. But maybe Ure appreciated playing to a small crowd for once?

Blackberries at German Haus Wednesday at SXSW 2018

I ran out of time to write up my best bets of groups from the Continent showcasing at SXSW, but I have an Excel spreadsheet with many tabs to prove I did all the research if you want to see it. Blackberries were on my list because they’re exactly what you don’t expect from Germany. I think these days, German artists from outside Berlin are overshadowed by the electronic scene in the capital. Blackberries hail from Solingen, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, and have their unique perspective on what krautrock means in 2018. How often do you see psych rock being performed with maracas? I had an idea in my head even before I got to Austin that British artists would be less important to my experience at SXSW than in past years, and that prediction turned out to be right.

Munich experimental electronic duo Joasihno were set up back inside Barracuda. Synth heads, this was a wet your pants moment. If Cico Beck and Nico Sierig’s extended tabletop setup was filled with the usual keyboards, synths and sequencers, I might not have been as impressed. I might have even yawned. Instead, their unusual collection of equipment, which included a mechanically activated xylophone, rods that spun around and what looked like rocks connected to wires (???), plus loads of other things that looked like something out of a mad scientist’s laboratory. This kind of music couldn’t be further from Taylor Swift and other pop stars who top the charts.

Joasihno at German Haus Wednesday at SXSW 2018

And you know what? That’s okay. Some of us want to be entertained with new sounds and in new ways. Ryan Walsh said in his talk Wednesday afternoon that 1/3 of the world’s population makes music sometime in their lives. There’s plenty of artists out there now and will be in the future to satisfy all of our music listening needs. And that’s good news for everyone.

I returned to the convention center for one of the last conference sessions of the day, Music and the Brain: How Sounds Become Pleasurable. The first two talks were given by Dr. Alain Dagher, a neurologist and professor at McGill University, and Pablo Samuel Castro from Google. Dr. Dagher began with an explanation on how dopamine release mediating the desire for pleasure, whether it be in anticipation of listening to music or eating food we like. I guess this was a good starting point, as I would guess most attendees didn’t know how dopamine and reward-seeking behavior worked. (I took pharmacology in university and the classic example of dopamine activity is the abuse of cocaine and the feedback mechanism in the human body, so this was simply a refresher for me.) I guess, too, that it isn’t surprising that the reason why as children or young adults we remember music from those periods of our formative years. However, it appears that the reason for these memories is not because our brains were still developing at the time, but because the pleasure we associate with listening to those pieces of music when we were younger essentially burns into our memories. One step further, moderator and third speaker Indre Viskontas of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music showed evidence later in the session that our brains can anticipate specific moments in song that are associated with stronger feelings, such as that feeling of a pleasurable chill down one’s back.

Castro’s talk was about machine learning and artificial intelligence. He specifically had studied building requirements for a computer to learn how to write counterpoints, which J.S. Bach essentially cornered the market on. Read more about his mastery of counterpoint through here. I had a lot of trouble in my early piano-learning years trying to get through Bach, so I was amused to see someone had gone through the trouble to ape his music. Castro played a Bach original against what his computer had come up with and he insisted that the computer had done a pretty good job in approximating the intended counterpoint. My ears weren’t having it, though. As Gunter Loibl of REBEAT Digital said the day before at German Haus indicated, I have every confidence that human being-created and produced music will never be surpassed by AI-made music, at least not in my lifetime.

Music and the Brain Wednesday at SXSW 2018

Before the evening showcases, Carrie and I both checked in at the Townsend for the Focus Wales drink reception. The Townsend is a fancy-schmancy cocktail bar on Congress Avenue. I wondered if the reception would be well attended, as it was a bit off the beaten path when it came to the usual 6th Street-type haunts during SXSW. I don’t know why I was worried. We ran into plenty of friends there, friends who were no doubt tempted by the lure of free drinks and good company. Along with the actual musical performances themselves in Austin, having a drink with your friends is up there with the top experiences you’ll have during SXSW.

 

SXSW 2018: Wednesday afternoon at the convention center – 14th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 26th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Carrie left for the Austin Convention Center early to catch Lyor Cohen’s keynote, so stay tuned for her report from that session. Shortly after that wrapped up, I was headed to the Beyond Music: The Secret Economy of Music session led by Ryan Walsh, current partner at Floodgate Fund, a venture capital firm. Walsh has a particularly interesting background, in that he was formerly VP of Product at Beats Music and also worked in product management for media at Apple. I think a lot of us have the impression that people who work in higher-up positions at companies like Apple aren’t as savvy about what’s going on in their business as they should be, or at least they don’t want to talk to people like us. I decided before the sessions that I would bolt if I was bored or felt talked down to. Spoiler: I was overwhelmingly pleasantly surprised.

I found Walsh an incredibly compelling speaker, with a down to earth manner as he spoke on the gaps he saw open in the music industry. This is a man whose passion about our industry is evident from everything he knows and all he is willing to communicate. Loads of people say they want to help artists get paid properly, but very few have communicated this in such a way that I felt they were genuine. It is hard to find people in this business who don’t ultimately turn out to be self-servers. I don’t know Walsh personally, but he doesn’t seem to fit the mold of a venture capitalist as I have imagined them, existing for the sole purpose to chasing after the next big thing that will make them loads of money and that’s it.

Ryan Walsh of Floodgate
Photo of Ryan Walsh from his Twitter

As he talked about the exponentially growing Soundcloud user base and where the holes were in the major label ecosystem, it was like listening to any number of hyper-engaging professors whose biology lectures I sat in on in university, wide-eyed with wonderment. It was the most positive, data-supported, forward-thinking industry talk that I’ve been to IN YEARS. (The music journalism talk I’d attend the next day, which you’ll read about soon here in on TGTF, made me want to punch my fist through a wall after it.) Instead of being yet another talk of doom and gloom, of how our industry is dying and will never recover to its former heights, Walsh painted an optimistic picture of its future. A future that sees artists collaborating, getting along with each other and sharing the spoils of success. A future that sees artists getting smart about how they work on record deals, like SZA and Top Dawg did on ‘Ctrl’, or partnering up with Kobalt’s AWAL, who have reinvented how to interface with and better work with artists so the artists get a bigger piece of the pie. A future that sees people who want to think out of the box not only survive but thrive.

As his talk progressed, I realised that despite how many years I have written about music and thought I was reasonable savvy about how things are done, I actually knew little about the mechanical (if you will) goings-on behind the creation and distribution of music. I clearly have a lot more to learn about all this stuff works. Like all industries, really, success in the music business will become even more being intelligent and agile enough to roll with the punches. Ryan, if I can think up something new and great to contribute to this business, I’ll run it by you!

On an entirely different subject and even outside of Music Wednesday afternoon was The Original Celebrity Chefs and Restaurants, starring moderator, journalist from the Daily Beast and cocktail enthusiast Noah Rothbaum, celebrity chefs and Food Network stars Tyler Florence and Amanda Freitag, and Ti Martin, co-owner of the famed New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace and several other eateries in Houston including Brennan’s. As a major foodie, I was very interested to hear each of them speak at the JW Marriott about their own experiences and what they have drawn from the greats in their profession who came before them and how they have made them who they are today. You can read more about Florence, Freitag and Martin on the internet, so I’m only including here the bits that impressed me the most.

Freitag is one of the several big names on The Food Network, most notably lately as a judge on Chopped. She appeared in Austin to sign copies of her book The Chef Next Door, along with appearing in this session. She spoke about the influence of seeing Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr. Both she and Florence noted that seeing chefs in French toques – those tall, brimless hats favoured by the French – impressed them so much that they knew they wanted to be part of that. Freitag also noted that even though she noticed she was the only woman in the kitchen at her first professional job, she never thought of ever being famous for being a female chef: it was more important to her that she was the best she could be in the kitchen. As one of very few female editors and owners of music Web sites, I relate to this entirely. While I personally understand the problem of missing out opportunities entirely because of being a woman and being a person of color, I think what Freitag said needs to be considered and repeatedly. Prejudice will always exist at some level to all of us. I can be difficult, I know. But work hard and rise above. It will pay off. (I want to be clear that my thought here does not extend to harassment, which should never be tolerated.)

Celebrity Chefs panel Wednesday at SXSW 2018 2
Freitag and Florence at The Original Celebrity Chefs and Restaurants session

Florence’s advice for the audience was “fake it until you make it”, citing his experiences as a young chef in New York, grabbing opportunities as soon as he could and then learning as he went along. It’s clearly paid off, with an empire of stores and restaurants in the San Francisco area and countless tv show concepts at the Food Network under his belt. An audience member asked the panel about the #metoo movement and how it has affected the culinary industry. Without naming or shaming, it was obvious who the audience member was talking about: Italian-American chef Mario Batali, whose career appears to be irreparably damaged by multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Florence volunteered that his staff at the Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco are not allowed to drink while they’re working, circumventing any alcohol-fuelled issues between employees and between employees and customers. Perhaps this seems like a little step, but given the restaurant world being male-dominated, why not take out of a variable that could cause some staff members to be inappropriate?

Martin told stories about how her mother started recruiting little-known chefs for their restaurant, including one Emeril Lagasse. Her mother invited the American culinary world to Commander’s Palace and gave them the kind of hospitality that has since made their restaurant a globally known, world-class destination. Remember that trying to invite a large number of people before the internet was a major undertaking. The whole session was a reminder, too, that before the Food Network and the fame of Lagasse, ‘the celebrity chef’ didn’t exist. Restaurants weren’t the destinations they are today. The hard work of people like Florence, Freitag and Martin and their moving the culinary world forward will make it easy when they are ready to pass the baton to the younger generations. The youngsters are excited to learn and work and innovate in this industry these greats helped to build.

 

SXSW 2018: Monday night with American bands at the Mohawk – 12th March 2018

 
By on Friday, 23rd March 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

My time in Austin for SXSW 2018 was a little bit condensed in comparison to past years. Mary and I have typically both arrived early to catch the beginning of the music festival action (which Mary was able to do this year as well; you can read her Monday reports here and here). But this year, I didn’t arrive in Austin until Monday evening, so as soon as my flight landed at Bergstrom International Airport, I made a mad dash for downtown to catch as much music as I possibly could. After a quick stop at the Convention Center to grab my credentials, I headed to the Mohawk on Red River, which was already almost full in anticipation of the three American bands on the evening’s lineup.

Bully

The first band on the Mohawk’s outdoor stage was Nashville grunge rock band Bully. We previewed them in our (SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2785, and their performance at the Mohawk was true to that preview. They sounded very much like a female-fronted version of Nirvana, but it must be said that frontwoman Alica Bognanno’s distinctive vocals add an interesting flavour to that swampy, heavily distorted sound. It’s a little hard to believe that music like this is coming out of Nashville, the country music capital of the world, but not at all hard to see why Bully are signed to Sub Pop, Nirvana’s former label.

Wye Oak internal

Both the mood and the lighting at the Mohawk changed for Baltimore’s Wye Oak, who took the stage next. Frontwoman Jenn Wassner immediately announced that things were about to get “vibe-y”, and she delivered on that promise with a set full of new songs from the band’s forthcoming LP ‘The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs’. Wassner confessed that this was the first time the band had played them live, as well as the first time they’d performed as a trio (the typical duo is comprised of Wassner and drummer Andy Stack). Dreamy and atmospheric, but with a distinct rhythmic quality, the new tracks made a positive impression on the fans in Austin. ‘The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs’ is due for release on the 6th of April via Merge Records; listen to the title track just below.

It’s no coincidence that Wye Oak played just ahead of the final act of the night, veteran North Carolina rock band Superchunk (pictured at top), whose members Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan founded Merge Records back in 1989. Superchunk, touring here with bassist Jason Narducy in Ballance’s place, released their 11th studio album ‘What a Time to Be Alive’ earlier this year.

Having never before listened to Superchunk, I wasn’t sure what to expect from them, but they clearly had a good number of enthusiastic fans in the Mohawk crowd. The unapologetically political themes in Superchunk’s new songs were no affront to those long-time listeners, but the energy in the venue ramped up exponentially when the band played their older favourites, especially set closer ‘Slack Motherfucker.’ Despite their longevity in the music business, Superchunk’s career has been anything but slack in recent years, as evidenced by the driving energy of eponymous album track ‘What a Time to Be Alive’ and the delight of their fans in Austin late on the SXSW Monday night.

 

SXSW 2018: artists from all over Tuesday night – 13th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 22nd March 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Like Tuesdays, Monday nights at SXSW aren’t usually that busy. Generally, there’s a dearth of showcases. At SXSW 2018, there was plenty for me to see and plenty of acts for me to tick off my list, which was great news. English singer/songwriter Gemma Ray, who now calls Berlin home, opened the evening at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary. Resplendent in bright yellow and blue, Ray conjured up a blend of country, folk and blues with her backing band of a keyboardist and drummer. It’s too bad that the early start of her set meant she played only to a half-full room.

Gemma Ray Tuesday at SXSW 2018

Holy Motors from Estonia were up next at St. David’s. As one of my tips for SXSW 2018, the five member strong, female-fronted group from Tallinn captured my ears, along with those of domestic SiriusXM Alt Nation station DJs. The sound of Eliann Tulve’s intonings, along with her bandmates’ droning guitars, made for a mesmerising sound. At times, the lack of movement from the guitarists, except of course to strum the strings on their instruments, made it seem they themselves were self-hypnotised to their songs. Holy Motors’ sound is beautiful, indeed, but they’re a less than exciting proposition live.

Holy Motors Tuesday at SXSW 2018 2

To inject a bit more liveliness into my evening, I headed down to 6th Street, specifically to B.D. Riley’s, for some Americans’ antics. Orange County long-haired rockers The Jacks had already begun a hair-raising set, the punters assembled for them down close to the stage and excited to hear them knock out song after song. Although a friend commented to me that they sounded and looked like every other band from Orange County, after Holy Motors’ set, their raucous rock was like a welcome splash of cold water to the face. They were only in town for 2 nights, stopping through Austin during their tour of Texas.

The Jacks Tuesday at SXSW 2018

Having been brought back to life by The Jacks, I bounded over to nearby Latitude 30 for a visit to the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation-sponsored showcase at the British Music Embassy. I had some good fortune to catch one of only two evening appearances by Jerry Williams (pictured at top), whose name sounds like a country and western artist. In actuality, she’s an up-and-coming young singer/songwriter from Portsmouth. Unsigned as of the time she embarked to her trip to Austin, her (dare I say it) young girl adorable, bouncy voice and poppy tunes probably hit the spot to more than a few A&Rs in the audience.

Following Williams was another talented up-and-coming female artist, Swansea’s Rachel K Collier. Like Williams, she has been self-releasing and -producing her own music, part of the growing cabal of strong young women showing the boys, not to mention the industry, that they know what they’re doing, can do it all by themselves and with incredible results.

Rachel K Collier Tuesday at SXSW 2018 2

Electronic has notoriously been a difficult genre for women to break through in. Collier’s smarts in creating seriously catchy beats and melodies, while also inserting her personal touch with lyrics about her own life and experiences, has translated to dance music that connects to both dance and electronic fans, along with those who want more. Stepping occasionally from behind her electronics and into centre stage at the venue to sing and pogo along with the audience, the Welsh talent proved she can put on an exciting stage show. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Collier conducted in Austin soon here on TGTF.

I stayed put at the British Music Embassy for a brief taste of highly hyped, 2018 NME Under the Radar Award winners Manchester band Pale Waves, who Carrie previewed back in January. While I knew they were tour and label mates with the massively popular, and SXSW 2013 alumni The 1975, I didn’t realise how closely their pop/rock songs mimicked those of their Manchester friends. Whereas Rachel K Collier and her percussionist Rhii brought bright colours to Latitude 30, Pale Waves turned things decidedly monochrome, frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie favouring checkerboard trousers, making me think of another SXSW showcasing band, The Specials. Her thick eyeliner was reminiscent of one her biggest band influence, Robert Smith and The Cure.

Carrie and I crossed paths at the Victorian Room at the Driskill Hotel, her catching Manchester’s Chloe Foy and Scot Colin Macleod before I arrived. I hung around during what seemed a particularly long soundcheck for Oxfordshire’s Rhys Lewis (see my preview feature on him here). He and his band were having trouble with multiple devices, including the pedal to his piano. Maybe he would have been better off with an acoustic set like this one filmed by the BBC on 6th Street? I haven’t spent much time in the performance space in the historic hotel over the years I’ve done SXSW and this year, I felt this niggling discomfort in the room while I waited. While his vocals on recent single ‘Bloodstains’ and ode to London ‘Living in the City’ sounded great, the venue just didn’t seem quite right for the singer/songwriter, as punters sat cross-legged in front of him, giving the performance a primary school feel and not one of being at SXSW.

Rhys Lewis Tuesday at SXSW 2018

My final band of Tuesday night were Mullingar’s The Academic, who both Carrie and I covered at SXSW 2017. Having just finished their first major North American tour, the Irish pop/rock group were able to fit in this special performance at The Main II, a return to Austin to cap off their time in our country. At the start of this year, they released their debut album ‘Tales from the Backseat’, a collection of fun, toe-tapping tunes. Read my review of the LP through here. They played an unusually long set by SXSW standards; I was half-expecting the light to be switched on and for them to get the hook at some point, but venue staff let them keep going.

The Academic Tuesday at SXSW 2018

The crowd was a mix of fans who had the album and people who had never heard of them. It’s unclear where the locally-based Irish students fit in this spectrum, but as several of my Irish musician friends have repeated to me, “if an Irish band is playing, we all come out and show our support”. Hooting and hollering ensued during and between songs, including singles ‘Bear Claws’ and ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ They ended their set with an amazing cover of ‘Linger’ by the Cranberries. I got chills as all of us in the venue sang along with the and with gusto. While they didn’t explicitly say so, I’m sure the decision to include it was a loving tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan who died unexpectedly in January. Theirs was a wonderful, well-formed set that showed maturity, the result of plain ol’ hard work in this often fickle business. It was hard to believe this was the same band I saw at the Music from Ireland showcase last year. Upwards and onwards! For more photos from my Tuesday night at SXSW 2018, go here.

 

SXSW 2018: Tuesday afternoon at German Haus – 13th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 22nd March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

We woke up at an ungodly hour – for SXSW, anyway! – to move into a downtown hotel and to catch the Output Belfast boat showcase, which you’ll hear about from Carrie soon. Following our good time watching Irish talent while going down the Colorado River and back, Carrie was off to the convention center, while my destination was Barracuda, home of German Haus for the week. In past years, I’ve given this place a pass. In the first few years I came out to Austin, I wasn’t even allowed in, as German Haus is badges only. Okay, so I was pretty bummed out when I didn’t have access. Now as badge-carrying press who can go in, I totally get their badges-only policy.

German Haus is unlike pretty much any other houses and venues across Austin during SXSW. Your favourite alcoholic drinks were available at the bar if you wanted to buy them but the people who brought us Oktoberfest weren’t in Austin to throw free booze at us. Therefore, there is no reason for them to welcome those in Austin who are only there to party. There was a complimentary Viennese Coffee House pop-up bar on Tuesday to keep the rest of us caffeinated and present for their interesting conference panels. I don’t drink coffee, so the fact that they also offered the most delicious hot chocolate during one of the coldest SXSWs I’ve experienced was priceless. It might sound strange and entirely un-rock ‘n’ roll that I am extolling the virtues of a hot beverage on an afternoon at a music festival. But believe me, when you are running around for days on little energy, think you’re going mad and often feel you might end up bawling because you’re exhausted, it’s the little moments of unexpected kindness and beauty that remind you why you’re here.

Tuesday was the takeover of German Haus by Advantage Austria, so strewn over the networking tables were scratch and sniff brochures of the natural fragrances of Austria (no, really), samples of the legendary Sachertorte (sadly, I got there too late to have one) and an invitation to visit one of their famous cafés. Maybe the chocolate was going to my head, but I fell in love with Austria that afternoon. I’ll get there one day soon.

German Haus - Advantage Austria - Tuesday at SXSW 2018

The session on Technology and Its Impact on Music, Marketing, and Culture was a positive one, starring panelists from Red Bull Media House, Linkfire and Columbia Records, as well as a successful musician. Martin Brem of Red Bull spoke of there being more money over the table than under the table, a sentiment that was echoed in other sessions I attended during the week. Gerald Hoffmann, aka Austrian rapper Gerard, offered up his unique perspective as an artist and how thinking outside of the box in terms of connecting with his fans. Specifically, he explained how letting them call his secondary mobile phone number and leave messages translated to them feeling like they have better connections with him, which in turn led them to buy his music in droves and give him more support.

German Haus - Advantage Austria - Tuesday at SXSW 2018 2

The session that followed, entitled Music and Artificial Intelligence, was one of many panels on AI offered across Austin during the week. While the fear of robots taking over our lives seems very real to many, the panelists were quick to dispel any worry that robots and computers were here to replace real live musicians. Gunter Loibl of worldwide music distribution company REBEAT Digital made the best statement of the panel: “It won’t be fun to sign an algorithm as an artist.” As handy as computers might be to create what could sound like a hit single, computers won’t be able to duplicate the personality, the charisma and certainly the spontaneity of a human being. So our musician friends will be in good shape for years to come, I reckon. If anything, as technologies progress, it will make music making easier and dare I say it, more fun, too, as evidenced by this female drummer who wore this amazing lace dress with tactile beat buttons on it. Want to wear a sequencer to your next party? It looks like you can do just that!

German Haus - Advantage Austria - Tuesday at SXSW 2018 3

 

SXSW 2018: Hamburg x Berlin Music and Interactive Night and DIY Presents at the British Music Embassy – 12th March 2018

 
By on Wednesday, 21st March 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It’s important to note that now that SXSW Conference badgeholders for the Film and Interactive conferences have secondary access to all Music showcases for a second year, they’re staying longer in Austin to make their time in town more worthwhile by checking out events from the other two festivals. This phenomenon, of course, impacts capacity at the music festival venues, making things more difficult for the wristband holders and anyone wishing to pay a cover to get into a venue. Carrie can speak to her opinion on this in her posts but for me, in general, the secondary access hasn’t affected me that badly, because the acts I tend to see are indie artists who aren’t on Americans’ radars yet. There is nothing better than seeing an act playing an entirely relaxed show to a handful of people, knowing they’re heading for greatness and you saw them first.

I’m noting it in this piece because as in past years, Monday night at SXSW 2018 was another relatively slow night showcase-wise. As a result, long lines seemed to be everywhere. I had great plans to stop into a few different showcases. Instead, I had to pare by my expectations, but I had some unexpected finds that made my evening pretty special. DIY Presents returned for a second year, this time bringing two bands who had appeared at Latitude 30 and four making their first visit to the venue, two of those that I saw.

Breakfast Muff Monday at SXSW 2018 2

The evening there began with Scottish punks Breakfast Muff. Taking a quick look at the set list, I noted they had an awfully long list of songs. Then I considered for a band like theirs, their tunes were likely to be 2 minutes or less. I wasn’t wrong. They made quick work of the first 1/3 of their set, blasting out song after song with impressive ferocity. While virtually unknown prior to their coming out for SXSW, I’d expect the young band’s star to rise significantly upon the release of their next EP ‘Crocodile’ on the 6th of April.

World Brain Monday at SXSW 2018 2

Once I’d had enough of Breakfast Muff, I headed to Barracuda, which has hosted the always reliable Monday night showcase starring German artists. On the indoor stage, World Brain opened the Hamburg X Berlin Music and Interactive Night on a wigged out, humorous note. World Brain is the solo project of long-haired, bespectacled Berlin-based Frenchman Lucas Ufo, who is also a member of Berlin group Fenster. The solo artist performed his brand of off-kilter, oddly catchy, bluesy alt-rock with a photograph of puppies sat in front of his laptop. To get a flavour of his music, watch this performance from Cologne last November. It doesn’t entirely do his music justice, though: he broke out a clarinet for one of the songs this night, an unexpected surprise.

Just steps away, playing at the Barracuda backyard patio was Emma Elisabeth, a Berlin-based Swedish singer/songwriter, and her band. Her style is jangly guitar pop, drawing obvious comparisons to ‘80s band The Bangles and acts similar. While her sound isn’t earth-shattering, she has an enjoyable enough voice that I could see her music being picked up for use in syncs.

Emma Elisabeth Monday at SXSW 2018

Back over to the indoor stage, it was Fenster’s turn. Named after the German word for “window”, they are an experimental pop band who’ve been going for a good decade now and have appeared at SXSW before. With their unusual song structures and instruments beyond the usual suspects in rock bands, they provided the ears with something wonderfully different.

Catholic Action Monday at SXSW 2018

I returned to Latitude 30, encountering my first major queue at SXSW 2018. It’s with some irony that I couldn’t get in for Catholic Action, one of the four acts I wrote about in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018. Even in a queue outside, once security decided to crack open the windows facing San Jacinto Boulevard, I could groove to their glam rock tunes. I finally made it in for the Glaswegians’ last few tunes. They ended their set with their clap-happy single ‘L.U.V’, which met with big cheers from the crowd.

Francobollo Monday at SXSW 2018 2

London-based Swedes Francobollo were up next. They sound more like an American band than a European one, their music focusses on big guitar chords and harmonies. The booming nature of their grunge-y sound made them a good act to follow Catholic Action. We had an early morning on Tuesday, so I bid my first adieu to Latitude 30 for 2018. To see more photos from my Monday night at SXSW 2018, come through.

 
 
 

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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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