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SXSW 2012: Day 5 – Northern Day showcase at Latitude 30 – 17th March 2012

By on Friday, 6th April 2012 at 1:00 pm

Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day, the 17th of March. The last full day of bands at SXSW, and I give myself the reward of a lie-in, however slight. Local friends ferry me to the best photography show in town, as something’s been wrong with my camera lens since Friday afternoon. Diagnosis isn’t good – there’s something wrong with the lens and the manufacturer needs to open it – but I rush back to Latitude 30 to catch the start of the Northern Day showcase. Ghosting Season from Manchester begins the showcase. As with D/R/U/G/S at the PRS brunch yesterday, I started out skeptical. But then Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale broke out the guitars. How many electronica acts do you know who bring out the axes during a show?

Usually, I get bored with the regular run of the mill electronica artistes, lost in their own world, too busy fiddling around with switch and knobs to notice that the audience is there and indeed, they are there to equally entertain the audience as they are to entertain themselves. I didn’t expect to, but I loved these guys. You could tell by the way they moved their bodies – in front of their tables full of magical boxes and consoles – that they “got” the rhythm, that the rhythm moved them, that this wasn’t a phoned-in performance. Manchester, thanks for nurturing this duo of mad beats.

Next up was Polarsets, who I interviewed (well, the two-thirds of them with IDs) yesterday at B.D. Riley’s. What I found very interesting talking to James and Mike the day before was how they described their hometown at Whitley Bay as having a tropical atmosphere. Their song ‘Madrid’ is a great example of this. Below, watch them perform ‘Morning’.


Sadly, Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s visa was not approved in time for SXSW, so I did not get to catch him in Austin. I also had to book it from Latitude 30 to the convention centre to meet Zulu Winter, for what would be their final press engagement of SXSW 2012. (Watch the interview here.) After a drink break at a nearby sports bar and a very delayed hamburger delivery, I hiked it back to Latitude 30 to catch Dutch Uncles finish out the Northern Day showcase. ‘Cadenza’ was billed as “our most Irish sounding song” and the crowd was invited to jig along with the band. Watch their spirited performance of ‘Face-In’ below.


What definitely was the strangest moment of the day (and perhaps my entire SXSW experience) was when Daniel Bedingfield came strolling down the alley behind the venue. He evidently had no idea who Dutch Uncles were and was not buying singer Duncan Wallis’s eloquent explanation of the origin of their band name. After making some lame jokes that cannot be repeated in a family newspaper, he went on his way. Shortly thereafter, flamboyant Semi Precious Weapons lead singer Justin Tranter pranced his way down the alley past us, on high heels. Whatever happens in Austin, stays in Austin…?

More high-res photos of the Northern Day showcase can be viewed on my Flickr.


(SXSW flavoured!) Video(s) of the Moment #756: Keane

By on Thursday, 5th April 2012 at 6:00 pm

If you do not like Keane – and do not have a valid argument behind it – chances are we won’t be friends. I adore them. They’ve got a promo video for ‘Silenced by the Night’, the first taster from their new album, ‘Strangeland’, out on the 7th of May. Their first “mildly racy” video says one commenter. However you feel about the video, you’d got to admit, it’s a corker, full of all the sweeping grandeur we’ve come to know from Keane. Also included below is a live performance of it from SXSW.

Details of their May and June UK tour are here. Watch live videos of their Showdown at Cedar Street headlining set here, and read about the day showcase here.



SXSW 2012: Day 4 – Communion showcase at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary – 16th March 2012

By on Thursday, 5th April 2012 at 2:00 pm

While the catchphrase of most returning SXSWers to newbies is “pace yourself”, mine would be “be sure to factor in some downtime”. And “don’t apologise to yourself if your body says to go home”. Before I went to see the Burning Ear showcase on Wednesday afternoon, I stopped into B.D. Riley’s (not knowing I’d return for an interview on Friday, then later for the Music for Ireland showcase) for a lazy pint of Harp and a plate of fish and chips. Sometimes I regret not rushing over to see Lionel Richie at the Moody Theatre on Wednesday, or not extending my gig-going over to Creekside at the Hilton Garden Inn to catch a 1 AM show in the wee hours of Friday morning to see Ed Sheeran. I was just too wiped. So I looked forward to Friday night immensely: hours of Communion Records artists all under one roof, the main room at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary. I even stopped long enough to have a meal at the Roaring Fork on North Congress – some of the best corn bread I’ve ever had, to boot – before sauntering over to the church.

That was when I realized I probably should have arrived early so I could get the correct instructions on how and where to queue. After being directly incorrectly and having stood in the wrong queue for at least a half hour, someone kind finally sorted me out and sent me to the right door…and straight into the main room.

Matt Corby from Sydney, Australia had already begun his set, so I shuffled quietly into an empty spot next to a guy who was studying his iPhone. And then started taking photos with it. With flash. The nerve. I don’t have an DSLR, and unless I’m given specific approval to use flash, I avoid using my flash as much as possible. And here was this guy just snapping away! I guess our pew was too far back for security to notice. I knew nothing about him before seeing him and even know as I’ve been writing this, I had to look up for more information on this bloke: he was a runner-up in an Australian Idol competition, so I guess he’s reasonably well known back home. But boy, when he announced he was going to play ‘Brother’, the crowd let out a big whoop. Guess they know him here too! Below is a free mp3 of his song ‘Winter’ that you can listen to.

The Staves, three sisters from Watford, were second on the bill. They were really disarming, joking about things that had happened to them the last time they had played in Austin, opening for the Civil Wars the previous autumn. Judging from the cheers, many of those people were present, but we could all join in with a giggle as a sister explained that a burly looking man stood up after one song and said (done in an exaggerated Texan accent), “did anyone else cry?” Haha (evidence near the end of the video below). But early in their set, one of them claimed Matt Corby was the devil and warned us, “don’t look into his eyes”. The audience laughed, but I had a “err…” moment, figuring that had to be some inside joke between the sisters and him. ‘Mexico’ had many fans already; new song ‘Tongue Between My Teeth’ was so beautiful in its harmonies, it gave me chills. They ended with the sad yet so beautiful song ‘Winter Trees’. Good work, girls.


Next up is a man who longer needs an introduction in the UK: singer/songwriter Ben Howard. He came with his own cheering section. Seriously. Somehow I ended up in a pew with two Englishwomen and their guys, and the two women made it very clear they were there for Ben Howard, screaming every time he talked in between songs and squealing every time he played the first note of a song on his guitar. Watch ‘Black Flies’ below.


Before Ben Howard took the stage, there was a low yet noticeable murmur going through the crowd. I didn’t know what was going on until a teenage girl across the aisle pointed towards the far wall and shouted at her brother, “it’s Mumford and Sons!” And it was – Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Country Winston and Ted Dwane were just chilling out on the side, as if you cheer on their folky friends’ performances. I was so sure that there was going to be a Mumford collaboration at some point during the night but sadly, there was not. The closest we got was an impromptu John Martyn cover performed at the end of Howard’s set, when he invited the Staves and later performer Michael Kiwanuka. I apologise for the quality of the visuals on the video below; the couple in front of me could not decide if they were going to snog (argh), talk (argh) or break away from each other.


Willy Mason had the unique (dubious?) characteristic that of all the Communion artists performing I this showcase, he was the only American. I’d not heard of him until he had been associated with Communion, so I had mistaken him for an Englishman. He has a Johnny Cash aura about him (“man in black”) but a bit of rough and tumble like the Jim Jones Revue too. The coolest thing about his performance? His drummer’s kit was connected to a strange looking contraption that stood in the middle of the stage, so that whenever the drummer hit something on the kit, something else was set off on the contraption. Sorry to say, I wasn’t moved by his performance at all.

But I was adamant about staying put for the next act. The band I was most excited to see in this showcase was Daughter. As soon as I saw their name on the SXSW bands list, I was ecstatic. And I was not disappointed one bit. Unlike the teasing nature of the Staves earlier, Elena Tonra was so shy and soft-spoken but was adorable in her shyness. “Our name is Daughter. Nice to meet you. This one’s about death.” Laughter from the peanut gallery before they started into ‘Landfill’.


That’s when I just about lost it. I think had I not been in such close proximity to strangers, I would have been a bawling mess on the floor. Through her words, it’s obvious she’s been dumped, she’s been hurt, she’s gotten her heart broken. In the song ‘Love’, she asks the lover that jilted her for some easy skirt, “did she make your heart beat faster than I could? / did she give you what you hoped for? / oh, loveless nights / I hope it made you feel good”. It’s like what they say, a woman scorned… All I can say is…wow. In my top 3 performances at SXSW, for sure.

After that emotional reaction to Daughter, BBC Sound of 2012 winner Michael Kiwanuka was a safe, if not super remarkable choice to watch after. Before he came out onstage, Ben Lovett, dressed to the nines in a debonair suit, gave a short and stirring speech on how appreciative he was of everyone coming to this showcase and their warm responses to all the performers. Kiwanuka was confident, broadly smiling through his short set. (Six songs. SIX SONGS? That’s it???) From the opener of ‘I’m Waiting’ to the song everyone knows him for, ‘I’m Getting Ready’; from ‘Tell Me a Tale’ to set closer ‘Home Again’.

I had a wonderful buzz from the magnificence I heard in that acoustically sound room, but my mind was in a state of relaxation that could not be matched anytime else during all of my time at SXSW. Thank you, Ben Lovett, for putting this showcase together and thank you, bands, for bringing me to an incredible moment of zen in Austin.

More high-res photos can be viewed on my Flickr.


(SXSW flavoured!) Live Gig Video: Daughter perform ‘Medicine’ acoustically for Watch, Listen, Tell

By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2012 at 4:00 pm

Communion signing Daughter recently performed their song ‘Medicine’ acoustically for the first time, and Watch, Listen, Tell were there to commit it to video. Watch the beautiful performance below.

Oh my god. Can Elena Tonra be any more adorable? Stay tuned for my review of Communion’s showcase on 16 March at SXSW coming up on the site this week.



SXSW 2012: Day 4 – around the world in one afternoon on Sixth Street and Latitude 30 – 16th March 2012

By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2012 at 1:00 pm

Only at SXSW can you manage to travel to multiple countries in a span of a couple hours. Well, not literally of course, but it is possible to see bands from many different corners of the globe in one afternoon. I achieved this in just hours on the club-filled Sixth Street, followed swiftly by the Discovering Scotland showcase at Latitude 30. Sixth Street is every bit as legendary as the tourist trap t-shirts that advertise its amazingness. Everywhere you turn, you will either run into a band hanging out, playing a gig in a club with the doors wide open, busking on the corner, etc. etc. etc. It really is like a Disneyland for gig-goers. To get inside the venues, you’ll need a wristband like I had or a music badge. But if you were a local and had neither, you’d probably be just as happy walking up and down the street, stopping wherever you heard some music blaring out of a club you like.

And sometimes you just want to walk around and see what’s on offer. The loud, punky guitars emanating from Spill Bar, which turned out to be M for Montreal’s home for the week. But in the meantime, Spill was playing host to a Planet Quebec showcase, and I’d stumbled in right smack dab in the middle of Machinegun Suzie’s set. I’ll admit, my planned schedule didn’t include me specifically seeking out hard rocking bands, let alone female hard rocking ones. This Canadian Web site describes them as being purveyors of stoner-rock, which I don’t really agree with. The Montreal band basically play as loud and as fast as humanly possible, best typified by the song ‘Bad Stripper’, with all the instruments up to 11. They’re the kind of band my mum would be afraid of me liking…

I got a little tired of them speaking mainly in French – err, I totally get you want to talk to your countrymen, but as a frustrated American shouted in a purposely mocking, fake French accent, “I don’t know zee French, speak English!” – and went a-walking. I heard the heavy dance beats of Ishi, a Dallas dance band. I queried the doorman to ask if it was a band or a DJ in there, and he replied “DJ”, so I kept moving. Sorry to Ishi if you were actually performing in your four-piece lineup, but going on the word of the guy at the door, I didn’t feel like watching some dude scratching records. So I kept moving, mostly people watching and enjoying the sun.

After their Northern Ireland showcase appearance Wednesday night I’d been personally invited by Cashier No. 9 to watch them play the Music from Ireland showcase at Irish pub B.D. Riley’s, and after such a warm welcome from Angela Dorgan – and free Irish breakfast! – I planned to head back to the watering hole for an afternoon of bands. So after I left the PRS brunch, I arrived at the Irish pub in the middle of Squarehead’s set. A trio from Dublin who self-describes themselves on their Facebook as “JUNK POP”, they’ve got a strange name, don’t they? My guess is that ‘squarehead’ is equivalent to the American derogatory name of ‘blockhead’, but hearing their music, I’m not really sure what the connection to what they sound like is to their band name. (Very confused.) They’ve got a classic pop sound and I might have passed them by if I’d seen the names of some of their songs – ‘Midnight Enchilada’? ‘ – but if you like the sunny, surf-y mode of the Beach Boys and/or the reinterpretation via the Drums, this is the band to check out.

Next up were my dream Norn Irish line-up: General Fiasco, followed by Cashier No. 9. They played in this order the other night at the Tap Room at Six. The difference? This time they played in the best possible place for them – an Irish pub! – with the windows opened outwards towards the street. The raw, unbridled energy of both of these bands, framed by the beautiful rays of the sun, was quite a sight to behold. Seeing them play Wednesday was great, but this showcase appearance was even better, packed with people who had no doubt heard about the Wednesday night show and were curious about these groups of Northern Irish guys playing infectious pop and rock. General Fiasco gave their new song ‘Sleep’ (video below) its only second time ever live airing, and it was great – it sounded like classic GF. Well, as much as classic as you can after a great debut album and some amazing singles and EPs.


Cashier No. 9 started with the inspirational ‘Goldstar’ (video below) and their version of ‘The Lighthouse Will Lead You Out’ this afternoon dazzled even more than the other night, with percussionist and harmonica player Philip Wallace going to town with his bongos, curious folk peering into B.D. Riley’s to try and figure out what was going on. In between bands, I introduced myself to Jenny Huston, the famed RTE 2fm (Irish national) radio presenter who I’d recognised from video interviews she’d done in the past couple years at Oxegen. She was surprised and shocked I recognised her but was quite happy to hear that her interviews were getting out outside Ireland. (That they are, Jenny!) I was more than honoured when she emailed me the week following after I’d returned to DC and asked me to give my top 3 bands of SXSW (you can listen to that segment below as well).


I felt terrible leaving, but after Cashier No. 9, I needed to rush over to Latitude 30, as I’d been extended another personal invitation – by Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway, no less – to come down for the Discovering Scotland showcase. This was the second of two Scottish-themed showcases, the first being the Wednesday night Easy Tiger Patio showcase with We Were Promised Jetpacks as the headliner that I caught earlier in the week. Three Blind Wolves were just completing their set and left the stage to allow the Xcerts to set themselves up. As on Tuesday night’s Xtra Mile Recordings showcase, the Scottish rockers didn’t disappoint, with Murray Macleod belting the lyrics out as if his life depended on it. Great band live, I hope enough – and the right – people saw them in Austin and will offer them a record deal.

But I was really there to see the Twilight Sad. This band was supposed to play in Washington in DC in February, but then we got the awful news that their visas had not been approved in time and the show had been cancelled without even being rescheduled. Enjoying ‘No One Can Ever Know’ (album review here) immensely, I wanted to see it performed live. Instead of regular mike-checking (“hey hey!” “one two, one two!” “yeah YEAH!”), frontman James Graham instead recited the value of pi up to at least 10 decimal places. I lost count after a couple numbers because I was spellbound as he was saying this in his Scottish brogue. (Hot.) I don’t think I was standing in the right place – the wall of sound and guitar grinding sounded muddled to me. You can watch older song ‘And She Would Darken the Memory of Youth’ below. Sadly, I was disappointed. Also kind of sad: I was looking forward to parking my bum on a church bench that very evening. Definitely getting old.



(SXSW 2012 flavoured!) Live Review: Band of Skulls with We Are Augustines at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 24th March 2012

By on Monday, 2nd April 2012 at 2:05 pm

“We’ve waited a long time for this,” said a grinning, Russell Marsden, the long-haired, don’t take crap from no-one guitarist of Band of Skulls. He was probably referring to them finally headlining a show in Washington (my friends have advised me that they have played in DC before, supporting Metric – you work that one out), but equally as momentous for the Southampton band was selling out the venerable 9:30 Club for what was sure to be a Saturday night to remember.

Even support band We are Augustines realised the gravity of the situtation: frontman Billy McCarthy quipped, “this is a rock ‘n’ roll town…I was listening to Fugazi earlier…” Any mention of the hometown heroes, really the most famous fixture of the original 9:30 Club and not at this updated location, is sure to elicit the right kind of reaction in DC. Being from Brooklyn, their album had already been released last summer here in America, but as you all know, it’s only been recently released in Britain.

I’m positive that a good portion of the audience were eager to see if they were any good live, just coming off their first American late night network appearance on Letterman (previous Live Gig Video here); this explains how the floor was already full before they went on: usually there is plenty of breathing room before the main act plays, because people wait until the headliner is due on before shuffling in. Despite being relatively new, song ‘Pumping Blood’ went down well, with its refrain of “as long as my heart keeps pumping blood” fitting very appropriately to raring to go crowd, fists in the air, as did their namesake song and less aggressive ‘Augustine’.

Despite its subject being our traditional sport enemy in hockey, ‘Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)’, with the Augustines’ trademark heavy beats and guitars, was another highlight. Being a support band, you knew they wouldn’t play an encore, so my heart just about dropped when they neared the end of their set and McCarthy announced, “this will be our last song”, when they hadn’t bust out their British radio hit yet. I had missed them in Austin and was about to start wailing, “shaking like a leaf”. Just about. And then they broke out with ‘Chapel Song’, so I forgave them. But only partially. Maybe it was the sound system at 9:30 that night, but I was kind of disappointed in their hit single; maybe it was because I had built them up so much live in my mind, so much that I was looking forward to them more than the headliners themselves? Not sure.

If you recall, I caught Band of Skulls as the third of five acts at the Showdown on Cedar Street at SXSW being sponsored by Filter Magazine and American Rag. I had been given the opportunity to see both bands at a regular gig on my first night in Austin but I thought I’d be able to give it better attention if it was after I returned home. Picture the Skulls in your mind on stage at Cedar Street Courtyard: clad all in black and hair flying every which way, playing their hearts out, while the Texan suns beats down on them. A little weird, you might say. And you’d be right. So under ‘normal’ club lighting, they seemed back in their element and also genuinely glad to be performing on front of a sold-out crowd.

At first, I had some reservations going to this show: being a single woman and going alone, I was expecting to be surrounded by tough guys who own Harleys. Much to be surprise and delight, this show (unlike so many in DC) was age, color and gender blind, as people of all walks of life shook their bodies, banged their heads and reveled in the hard rock being played before them. Even more surprising to me were how many people knew Band of Skulls’ old material; with our rock stations here not giving play to any indie rock bands until they’ve won a Grammy (Mumford and Sons, Phoenix) or gotten big in the UK first (the Naked and Famous), watching people singing along – loudly and emphatically – was a shocking sight.

‘Sweet Sour’ started the night off right, allowing both Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson to sing in harmony. Or maybe the operative word should be ‘yell’? ‘Bruises’, another track from the new album, was another crowd pleaser, telling me that for sure most everyone present already had the latest album. (Here’s to hoping they all paid for it…) I come from the school of Led Zeppelin, so I will scrutinise and compare any band who dares to be as ‘hard rock’ as them. I have to say, I’m converted. ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’, which was great even in daylight at SXSW, charmed me as a down and dirty number, with a sexy as heck chorus. Holy moly.


Drummer Patrick Carney of the Black Keys were famously quoted saying, “rock ‘n’ roll is dying because people became okay with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world”. One look – or perhaps one listen – of Band of Skulls and it’s clear that even though there is never going to be another Led Zeppelin, this band from Southampton will be the Led Zeppelin for the iPod generation.

After the cut: set list.
Continue reading (SXSW 2012 flavoured!) Live Review: Band of Skulls with We Are Augustines at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 24th March 2012


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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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