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Video of the Moment #1160: Cave Painting

 
By on Thursday, 28th March 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

Brighton’s Cave Painting recently released the video for ‘Rio’, one of the most atmospherically beautiful tracks off their debut album ‘Votive Life’ released in 2012. (Read my review of the album here; do yourself a favour and get this album!) The song is the title track to a new EP by the band to be released on the 28th of April. To be honest, I was expecting golden beaches and palm trees in this video, which is not what you get…

In case you missed it, I had a lovely chat with Cave Painting’s frontman Adam Kane, which you can listen to here. I also caught them at their British Music Embassy afternoon performance on day 2 of the festival.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0a7p2L937M[/youtube]

 

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

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

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

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

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

Duologue SXSW

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

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

Story Books SXSW interview top

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

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

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

Gold Fields Waterloo SXSW

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

Joy Formidable Waterloo SXSW 2

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

Joy Formidable Waterloo SXSW

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

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

 

SXSW 2013: Day 2 evening – Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room and Communion showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop – 12th March 2013

 
By on Tuesday, 26th March 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

I’m not sure if this was a problem that only massively plagued UK bands or if it bled into bands from other countries as well, but I must have done and redone my SXSW schedule 10 times in the lead-up to the week of SXSW 2013. And this was all owing to band cancellations: some bands had ‘a family emergency’, others simply didn’t respond to my questions of “are you still coming to SXSW?” With the first version of my schedule, I thought I would have to make some seriously tough choices between the Irish and the Scottish. It was playing out in my head in a terrible civil war, and I didn’t like to have to choose, and why should I have to? Equally great bands have come from both places, surely there was a way to figure this out between afternoon and evening showcases?

Early on, it was revealed that Camera Obscura would be playing a headline set as part of the Showcasing Scotland on the Wednesday night. Upon hearing this, and given how important an album their last, ‘My Maudlin Career’, meant to me (I’ve recorded a cappella versions of songs from there, because I think the album is so brilliant), the original plan was to drop everything for Traceyanne Campbell and the rest of the night would just have to be built around their set. However, once it was announced that a family thing precluded them from coming to SXSW, I had to rethink the whole evening. I had planned to catch Tango in the Attic earlier on the same bill, but with Camera Obscura pulling out, Tango…’s set moved to their time, and suddenly I had a conflict with another showcase. ARGH. But, just like the way I view love, I always say things happen for a reason, and at the times these things happen, they are for a reason too.

So this is how I found myself first at the upstairs bar at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. I’d convinced myself that I would hang around at the start for So Cow, a band that from my research had ‘been around the block’ so to speak in North America, arguing that they must put on a good live performance if they’d been over here so many times, then wait for Gary Barlow favourites and BBC Sound of 2013 longlisters Kodaline to appear. I arrived a little after the band started, but after I caught a glimpse of the night’s schedule, which started with Kid Karate and not So Cow. I made the mistake of not putting my earplugs in before I went upstairs, and really the one word I can describe Kid Karate with is *loud*. Yikes.

Kid Karate SXSW Music from Ireland

I don’t know, but the sound was awfully muddled, and I could not tell if it was the band’s equipment, or the in-house equipment. (I sincerely hope it was not the latter…because if so, Gibson has a lot to answer for!) Loud, punky instrumentation with shouty lyrics. Not my thing. For some of their set, one of their countrymen in Squarehead sat down in front of the bass drum with his hands over his ears. What? Why? I guess that is a mystery that will remain unsolved. {Edit 27/03/13: Angela of Music from Ireland explains: “The reason Ruan from Squarehead sat in front of the Kid Karate drums is the drum kit was slipping off the mat on the stage and Ruan jumped to the rescue, I’m confident that he had his hands over his ears is cause Steven is a very loud drummer.” Mystery solved!]

The idea that there was a problem with the sound in the Gibson Room was only partially supported by Kodaline‘s set next. I know and have heard just about as much as all of you do about the band from Dublin, especially from their ‘High Hopes’ EP released earlier this month that Cheryl reviewed in February. I have been spreading the good word about Kodaline round to my work colleagues, using ‘High Hopes’ as proof that the boys from Dublin will be the next great stadium rock band to dethrone Chris Martin and Coldplay, and do it 1,000x better. Frontman Steve Garrigan already looks the part: I noted that he has the unkempt but adorable haircut favoured by Jon Bon Jovi back in their ’80s heyday.

Kodaline SXSW Music from Ireland

As a song, ‘High Hopes’ is a less complex number in the sense that Steve Garrigan’s voice, with minimal instrumentation (nice, easy piano and guitars), showcases their musicianship. As horrible as the lighting was in the Gibson Room, as they played their soon to be global hit, it felt all the more like a brilliant diamond was being revealed to me, as the song just shone in the near darkness. I feel incredibly blessed to have been there for what was probably their first industry show in America.

Well, after that Kodaline-fueled epiphany, there was no question where I’d end up at the end of the night. But first, I had a date with another band in 2 hours, and all I had to do was walk through a single door to get to Maggie Mae’s Rooftop where I was earlier watching the 1975 wrestle with a bum electrical connection. Easy peasy, eh? Well, in all fairness, it wasn’t actually that easy. You learn from your first SXSW that if you’re prone to catching cold, you have to bring a jacket or some kind of jumper, and it was after I’d’ passed through that storied door that I must have dropped my jumper in the Gibson Room. They wouldn’t let me back through the same door, so I had to all the way downstairs at Maggie Mae’s proper, go around the block and queue up to get back into the Gibson Room with its entrance on a different street. I thought I’d figured this out, that I could have gone through that special door again but this time they would not let me! So I was forced to go down and out again, only to queue back around the block at Maggie Mae’s again. It is only with god’s good grace that there wasn’t a huge badge queue there and I got in without missing the next band.

Mikhael Paskalev SXSW Communion

Switching gears from the Music from Ireland showcase and just steps away from where I was previously, I was now at the first of two Communion evening showcases of the week. And that next band was a Nordic band fronted by Norwegian / Bulgarian singer/songwriter Mikhael Paskalev. The first that strikes you about Paskalev is his large beautiful fluff of hair, and then the next is his bushy eyebrows. But don’t let the Pantene lumberjack look fool you. You know how Icelanders Of Monsters of Men just took off like a rocket? Well, if Paskalev plays his cards right, he and his accomplished band might headed for the same trajectory, with a hint more rock in the rockabilly vein in terms of songwriting. It’s just incredibly infectious, happy, get up on your feet and dance kind of music, so it’s no wonder they’ve already been announced for Latitude, among many other European festivals. So if this sounds like music you’d be keen on, best get on this band while the getting is still good.

Remember that date I was telling you about? It was with Kent’s Story Books. (Rather funnily, I had seen their frontman Kris Harris before and did not even known it: he had toured as a band member of Laura Marling‘s during her first major headline tour of America in 2010. Talk about a small world.) During my Christmas holiday when I spent too many hours working on the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013, I stumbled upon this band’s song ‘Peregrine’, which had a folky yet bombastic vibe that recalled one of my favourite quirky artists, Patrick Wolf.

Story Books SXSW Communion

I had a conversation a long time ago about SXSW with We Are Scientists one time when they visited Washington; at the time I’d never been to SXSW once, and they had warned me that it had become less about the discovery of new bands than to provide more mainstream, popular acts a platform for punters to see them on. In that respect, I think SXSW punters are doing themselves a grave disservice not venturing out to see bands beyond the most popular. Last year as well as this year, I made some great discoveries simply by accident or by virtue of arriving somewhere earlier and watching a band I not intended to catch.

This is where I think many people at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop found themselves, as they waited for Noel Gallagher protege and far too much buzzed about wunderkind Jake Bugg, they caught Story Books too. While there was at least one inebriated lady making strange Native American tribal calls throughout the night, Story Books took it in stride, proving that they’re not just folk, they’re also highly capable of rocking out with guitars flying. I was truly glad to have seen them gig before my interview with them the next day, which you can listen to here.

Jake Bugg SXSW Communion

Okay, okay. So after all this buzz that’s been following Jake Bugg around since early 2012, by this SXSW I still had not managed to see him. I hadn’t been bothered up to that point, really. But I thought, ok, it’s Wednesday, let’s not destroy myself on the second day, why not hang around for the Bugg’s set? I knew he was underage, but I didn’t realise just how small he was until he came out on the rooftop stage and started tuning his guitar, which looked almost too big for him. It was like watching a junior high kid at a talent show.

However, the difference is this kid has the technical chops. I can’t fault him Bugg at all for his guitar-playing; even at his young age, he’s brilliant. The more I watched and got sucked into the masterfully played guitar notes (I’ve never cared for his country/western twang), the more things became clearer. As he tried to look like he didn’t care and this was way too easy for him, halfway sneering at the crowd that had assembled to watch the prodigy at work, he looked like a young, petulant Noel Gallagher. They even have the same haircut! Is Noel moulding a little Mini-Me of his own? Quite possibly.

So if you have been paying attention, you will have already sussed who I’d been waiting for at the end of this night. If you guessed Kodaline, you would be right. I didn’t think there was a large enough crowd worthy of their performance in the Gibson Room and I wanted to see if the change in venue would translate to better sound and an even better performance. Steve Garrigan admitted in the middle of this second set that they had left New York City that morning at 5 AM (yikes) and were trying their best to soldier through the night.

Kodaline SXSW Communion 1

Judging though from a rousing hoedown atmosphere created by stomper ‘Love Like This’, with Garrigan on harmonica and mandolin and engaging harmonies offered by his bandmates, Kodaline took the SXSW opportunity they were given and grabbed it with both hands. They absolutely killed it. I learned later that they were only in town for 2 days before they had to return east as good Irish lads to make loads of appearances in Ireland and Britain during St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and as of this writing, they are on tour in the UK. Cheryl will be covering their first DC appearance in May, supporting the Airborne Toxic Event at the 9:30 Club, as I will be in England then. But boy am I glad I got to see Kodaline at this point of their career. Just amazing.

Kodaline SXSW Communion 2

 

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

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

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

 

SXSW 2013: Day 2 afternoon – British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 and Blah Blah Blah Science Party at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop – 12th March 2013

 
By on Monday, 25th March 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Probably the greatest thing about SXSW is that nearly any time of day or night – or maybe any time before 11 AM – there is someone, somewhere gigging. The numerous day parties given by blogs, magazines, labels, PR companies and anyone else with the money and the get up and go to put on a show are often free and provide an entirely different atmosphere than the evening counterparts. I mean, seriously, where else can you see a show with wonderful sunshine framing the stage? And not to make you jealous or anything, but we had 5 straight days of perfect weather: around 30 C or above and not a cloud in the sky. Many day parties are free too, making it possible to see amazing bands for absolutely nothing if you don’t have the means to buy one of those expensive badges.

On Wednesday, the festival was already in full swing, which meant there was a whole host of great parties to drop in on. The British Music Embassy’s first full afternoon line-up beckoned, and I arrived just in time to miss the complimentary fish and chips (darn) but partake in the open bar (yes!). And then I was off to an interview in the afternoon sun with Adam Kane of Cave Painting, which you can listen to here.

Man Without Country SXSW

After the interview and a quick photo op with the whole band (see photo at top), I snuck back into Latitude 30 to learn if strobes work at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I arrived just in time to catch the second half of a set by Southern Welsh electronic outfit Man Without Country. I liked what I was hearing – dense, complex soundscapes with an occasional guitar – but I wondered if it was just too early in the day, if people were still hungover from the night before, or if there had been insufficient alcohol flowing that Wednesday afternoon, but the crowd reaction was less than stellar.

Cave Painting SXSW

Next up was something I’d been waiting for for months. It was Cave Painting’s turn on the British Music Embassy stage. This year I noticed there was much more fog being used at Latitude 30, but of all the acts I saw on that stage, it was the Brighton band’s set that used it most effectively, making for a bewitching atmosphere that fit songs from their debut album ‘Votive Live’ perfectly. Singles ‘Leaf’ and ‘Gator’ were more beautiful live than I ever could have imagined.

Sadly though, instead of staying put and relaxing with friends old and new I’d been reunited with at Latitude 30, I had to depart – and miss NZCA/Lines – in attempt #2 to catch the 1975 at the Blah Blah Blah Science party at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop. Your worst enemy at SXSW is often the clock; I had hoped I could fit in the 1975 neatly before the reinvented Charlotte Church went on back at Latitude 30. (I’m still kind of gobsmacked that we saw Charlotte sat cross-legged on the sidewalk, doing her makeup in a handheld mirror. Talk about down to earth. )

Wildcat Wildcat SXSW

Unfortunately, this plan was soon dashed. The Blah Blah Blah Science party was running an hour late, and equipment and successful soundchecks were proving difficult for all bands, including the first band I eventually saw on the rooftop, Wildcat! Wildcat! I’m not sure what the great appeal of this band was to the SXSW crowd. I know I am cynical because I hear so much music, but the rock/electro formula made famous by MGMT is starting to get stale now. I’m not a fan of male falsettos, much less falsetto harmonies. And a repeated theme throughout the week was ill-advised covers, of which Wildcat! Wildcat! became involved with trying to do a reimagined ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ that Tears for Fear wouldn’t welcome. Sorry, but there is only one band – Dutch Uncles – that is allowed to cover that song. After they were done, I kept looking at my watch and getting anxious. When would the 1975 start already? There was something wrong with the adapters for their Macbook and synthesiser, so they would just have to go on without either of them. Groan. The synthesiser is a massive part of their sound…

The 1975 SXSW

However, I was buoyed by the number of punters crammed in on the rooftop to see this band, no doubt having heard the word around town that they’d killed it the night before at Huw Stephens’ UK Trade and Investment showcase (if you recall, that was the same appearance your fearless editor was stuck stood outside Latitude 30 with no hope of seeing anything from the window). Despite the technical difficulties, the 1975 looked ubercool, as a gentle breeze wafted through under the tent roof, tousling singer Matthew Healy’s hair and the band rocked out to ‘Chocolate’ and the audience-demanded ‘Sex’. Before I had to rush back to Latitude 30, I had a word with Matthew to “big up Manchester”, telling him we would be sure to catch them with their full equipment set up in DC on the 30th of March. Then I was off again.

After powwowing later in the week with new band, photographer and blogger friends, Charlotte Church was their biggest draw all week. And I missed her. Sigh. Nevertheless, I had headed back to the British Music Embassy to see a band I’d been wanting to see at last year’s Great Escape. In Brighton, I was thwarted on the third day of the Great Escape 2012 by their frontman being poorly, only to find out they’d been replaced at the Dome by Splashh. I am, of course, speaking of Sheffield’s Reverend and the Makers. There seems to be some weird disconnect with nearly every single British friend of mine who does not like this band; I don’t know how you could *not* like them. I love to dance and I love electropop, so the Rev and his crew fit me to a T.

Reverend and the Makers SXSW 1

Remember how I said that strobes didn’t work a couple hours earlier? Well, wipe that image out of your head because the crowd did a 180 when it came time for Reverend and the Makers. This was also my first encounter with a very energetic American bloke super dancer in a Hurts t-shirt who Jon McClure later in this set anointed as the best dancer in the club. (The same man later showed up at several other gigs I attended- it’s nice to know there are Americans who love British music and with such dedication as much as I do. British bands, take note: there are more of us from where I came from.)

Reverend and the Makers SXSW 2

Playing mostly from their third UK album and debut American album released this month, ‘@Reverend_Makers’, the band wowed, turning the British Music Embassy into an unlikely but an entirely enjoyable and hedonistic rave even before tea time. I can say without a doubt as an American that this was one of the most incredible shows I’ve ever been to. Equally chuffed with the American reception was McClure himself, who I nabbed after the set for a lovely chat. Listen to the interview here. It was only the second day of SXSW Music and I was already getting a delightful Northern – specifically Sheffield – vibe and I couldn’t have been happier. And that’s what SXSW is all about, isn’t it? Getting closer to the music that means so much to you in a way that you never imagined. Only the afternoon of day two, and I was already on cloud nine. You’re brilliant, SXSW.

 

SXSW 2013: Day 1 – Huw Stephens / UK Trade and Investment showcase at Latitude 30 – 12th March 2013

 
By on Friday, 22nd March 2013 at 4:35 pm
 

Last year, I spent the majority of my time at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. It was so long ago now, I don’t really remember if it was more because it was a safe place for me because I knew exactly where it was on San Jacinto Boulevard, or if it was the line-ups that drew me there. In any event, at SXSW 2013 I was mildly disappointed by the programme being presented over the week, with a lot of bands that I just didn’t care for. Traditionally, Tuesday is the ‘easiest’ day of the festival, as there aren’t as many showcases put on because that’s the day the festival begins and a lot of the professional folks don’t make it into town until that afternoon. That said, that means every decent showcase will be rammed, which was the case with the Huw Stephens-curated UK Trade and Investment showcase that very night. I got in there early, figuring I wanted to hit the ground running, covering a whole slew of notable UK acts hand-selected by Huw himself.

Y Niwl SXSW 2013 live

The first band up was Y Niwl, an alternative surf pop band from Wales. First impression: their bass player was wearing a red knit hat that made me laugh, because the week prior our John Fernandez was trying to win a similarly epic winter hat in a Facebook contest. They don’t talk between songs and Huw even said in his introduction of them, “they told me to tell you ‘thank you’ now”, because they wouldn’t be stopping to chat. So between this statement and the hat, I went into this set chuckling.

I don’t speak Welsh so I can’t read you the titles of their songs or tell you what they mean, but all you need to know is that they’ve got a blend of the Shadows, the Ventures, the Surfaris and the Beach Boys (sans lyrics), with a penchant for both slower burning numbers and widely contrasting speedy ones that will remind you of the themes to Peter Gunn and the James Bond franchise. Y Niwl could definitely could be considered quirky on the basis of their handwritten set list that consisted solely of numbers (a special band code?) and not any recognisable words. Not even ones that looked like Welsh. Mysterious…

Lucy Rose SXSW 2013 live

Folk pop singer/songwriter Lucy Rose was up next, wearing an Adidas t-shirt, black jeans and some kick-arse–looking trainers. I kept in mind from John’s interview with her at Reading last year that deep down he’s a metal / rock loving girl and that this outfit made more sense in that context. Being so slight, she had brought with her a special stool and all her pedals were placed on top of an equipment case so her feet could reach them. (Bless.)

What became immediately apparent from the first song out of the gate was this was not the same anxious, timid as a mouse girl I saw open for Bombay Bicycle Club in DC just a year ago. If there was a time for her to bring the goods, this was it, her first big American music industry appearance in Austin for her SXSW 2013 close-up. ‘Middle of the Bed’ wowed the folks I was with who had never seen her before. She offered up a brand new song, and in her usual self-deprecating self, she organised her band to play another song that they never play live, saying “this is going to be bad!” But there was no indication of anyone, much less Rose herself, of dropping the ball. Maybe the first time she came to America, she wasn’t confident in her performing abilities, but this night, no one could touch her.

Tall Ships SXSW 2013 live

Tall Ships from Falmouth were a jarring yet welcome band to follow the folk of Lucy Rose. John had nothing but compliments for their debut album ‘Everything Touching’ from last year, and generally speaking, our rock tastes differ quite a bit, so I was expecting something loud and frenetic. In that respect, they did our John proud, guitars and hair flying all the place. A little loud for me but the crowd were loving it. I almost didn’t want to leave, but I had a date with another band elsewhere.

This is where things went pear-shaped. I was supposed to be on the guest list for the big Media Temple-sponsored SXSW Interactive closing party at Stubb’s. For a month prior, the internet had been abuzz about the headline set by deadmau5 vs. Richie Hawtin. As you can imagine, it was one of the biggest draws of the entire week and while I do like deadmau5, I was more interested in seeing the band directly before me, our friends the Joy Formidable. With a press wristband, I knew I hadn’t a hope in the world of getting in, and they had arranged for me to get in through the guest list. I arrived a half-hour early, figuring that would be plenty of time to get into the venue and get a good vantage point. Something went wrong though, as when I went up to the guestlist line and the man with the list – all 12 pages of it – flipped through the list with lightning speed, said I wasn’t on it and could I call the people who put me on the list to get in touch with them?

Uhhh, that would be a little difficult to achieve because it was 30 minutes from the Joy Formidable’s set list and us bloggers are all too aware that bands get psyched up for their performances right before and we cannot expect them to be near their phones. A kind request for the man to look over the list one more time, more slowly, was met with a curt shout of “you’re not getting in!” Okay, then. I was also bristling as some women behind me, barking at security that they should be let in immediately because they were from the BBC. Sorry, but no-one was getting in unless you were on the guest list, whether you’re from the Beeb or not. The experience soured me on Stubb’s for the rest of the week and I refused to return. This was really disappointing to me as last year I had a very good night there seeing Kaiser Chiefs and the Temper Trap. While I realise that especially on that night when they were being shouted at by drunk festival-goers desperate to get in to deadmau5 that tempers all around were frayed, but being professional is part of running a venue, SXSW or no SXSW, and I don’t think any punter acting reasonably and civilly to staff deserves to be screamed at. Respect people, whoever they are. I walked back down Red River Street, defeated, hearing the faraway strains of ‘Cholla’ and wishing I was inside Stubb’s instead of kicking dirt down the sidewalk.

Well, what to do now but to return to Latitude 30? Remember that I said earlier in this piece that Tuesday night was light with showcases. I’ve never seen so many people outside Latitude 30, trying to get in. Then again, nearly every band I wanted to see there at SXSW 2012, I had arrived well ahead and managed to get inside with no problem. It became eminently clear that with my press wristband, I wasn’t getting back in for the 1975. Considering how much we’ve written about them on TGTF and the fact that I was probably one of few people who knew several of their songs, let alone heard of them, I was fuming. Those of you who have met me know exactly how short I am. Despite standing on my tippy toes, I couldn’t see a thing. They sounded amazing though, and judging from the screaming after each song, they got in and did what they needed to do: wow the Austin crowd.

Willy Moon SXSW 2013 live

The crowd significantly thinned out after the 1975’s set, allowing me to squeeze in to the side for Willy Moon. One of his songs was recently featured on an Apple advert here in America, so I imagined there would be a decent buzz around him. However, it appeared everyone I was in close proximity to was there to wait for Bastille, who I’d read in a press release the day before had hit #1 in the UK albums chart with their debut. In that respect, I thought Moon had an uphill battle ahead of him.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like him live, as I had always thought on record he was a bit gimmicky and too reliant on ‘50s style. But surprisingly I liked him a lot. As I had imagined in my head, he has a Little Richard / Jerry Lee Lewis frenzied throwback vocal style about him. But what I was not expecting was how animated he’d be on stage, hips swinging like a 21st century Elvis, crooning and preening. With a huge quiff and dressed to the nines in a smart suit, he just oozed cool. He had played a show in DC when I was poorly in February and boy, was I glad to have finally seen live.

Bastille SXSW 2013 live

I still don’t get the appeal of Bastille. Being Tuesday night, it was the last hurrah for the SXSW Interactive conventioneers, and I met several of them who were ending their last night in Austin with this rousing night with Huw Stephens. A new friend from London said that the Bastille sound is the sound of London right now, and maybe that is why I’m not getting it. Having heard the new Dan Croll single ‘Compliment Your Soul’ on BBC 6music earlier today, I am not so sure it is limited to London.

Since it had been such an arduous task to get back into Latitude 30 after the 1975’s set and after a ridiculously early night the night before not getting into Peace at Viceland, I couldn’t be bothered to leave the venue where I’d managed a cosy spot down the front for the evening’s headliner. Initially when I saw Dan Smith, he reminded me of one of my friends Matt, and I immediately starting missing him. There are synths and lots of percussion that make up the Bastille set-up, and make no mistake, Smith’s music is a lot of fun and it incites wild dancing wherever he goes. Surrounded by folks who were obviously into this kind of music, their arms in the air to the beats, I felt like a wet blanket. I just don’t fully understand why their debut album hit #1 on the UK albums chart. While I am not saying it is entirely soulless, there seems to be something missing there, at least for me, and it’s that block that keeps me from enjoying the music fully.

Overall impression of the evening: most bands very good, but Stubb’s security loses them at least a thousand points.

 
 
 

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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