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SXSW 2014: Harvest Records showcase at the Haven – 11th March 2014

 
By on Thursday, 20th March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

Photos of Syd Arthur and Glass Animals courtesy of sourced.fm

After a brief stop at the British Music Embassy with Mary early on Tuesday evening, I made my first solo foray into SXSW 2014, heading off to the Harvest Records showcase at the Haven to see a set list that included several bands featured here at TGTF: Syd Arthur, Glass Animals and Arthur Beatrice. The venue was already packed when I arrived just ahead of the first act on the list, US-based music producer Young & Sick. Already a successful graphic artist and album artwork designer, his self-titled first album is due out on Harvest on the 8th of April. Judging from the enthusiasm of the crowd at the Haven, his reputation has preceded the release.

Young & Sick at Harvest Showcase

It was only after Young & Sick finished playing that I was able to take a good look around me and truly realize the atmosphere of the event. I edged a bit closer to the stage between sets only to see that the stage and wings were roped off from the general audience area, and that the seating in the wings was occupied by members of the bands on the docket and (presumably) their label and PR people. My hopes for grabbing any interviews with the bands were dashed, but I have to admit to watching the behind-the-scenes action with interest while I waited for Syd Arthur to begin.

Syd Arthur at Harvest Showcase

Syd Arthur’s brand of old school psychedelic rock was kind of a strange contrast to the slick, ultra modern feel of the Haven. Their violinist had a hairstyle mildly reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, and his technical prowess on the violin only served to strengthen that mental analogy in my mind. Despite the sound problems that were beginning to surface on the stage during their set, Syd Arthur melted the faces off of those of us standing near the front.

Glass Animals at Harvest Showcase

Next due on the bill was Oxford-quartet Glass Animals. My only previous experience with them was our own Martin’s Bands to Watch feature written back in October 2013. Little did I know that I was about to be blown away in my second amazing new band discovery of the day. Glass Animals’ languid bass grooves and smooth vocal melodies quickly heated up the otherwise chilly room. Before I even realized it, my body was grooving right along with the dizzying ‘Psylla’, and when they played their hot new single ‘Black Mambo’, I was irretrievably hooked. (Luckily, I had the opportunity to see Glass Animals again on the Saturday; keep an eye out for our coverage of that day’s events.)

Arthur Beatrice at Harvest Showcase

Of all the bands on the Harvest showcase, I was most anxious to hear Arthur Beatrice. I wasn’t madly in love with their album ‘Working Out’ when I reviewed it, but I was interested to see if the songs would have more personality in the context of a live performance. To that end, I wasn’t disappointed. The group’s slick, groovy sound, and particularly their vocal harmonies, took on a more lively energy than what was captured on their recording. Lead singer Ella Girardot was in good voice on the night, hitting high notes that left us literally gasping (even the unfortunate one when her vocal mic cut out). Sound issues plagued the performance in a few spots, but the overall impression was that Arthur Beatrice had made their mark on the American audience, particularly with their catchy single ‘Midland’. Keep your eyes open for this band in the near future.

I left the Haven after Arthur Beatrice to catch a couple of local Austin bands at another nearby venue. The conclusion of the Harvest Records showcase was slated to include Australian band The Preatures, solo artist BANKS and Los Angeles-based togetherPANGEA.

Thanks goes out to my gig partner for the evening, Jordy Fujiwara.

 

SXSW 2014 Interview: Steve Sparrow and Ben Giddings of Morning Parade

 
By on Thursday, 20th March 2014 at 11:00 am
 

We all had heavy hearts after the tragic drink driving accident at the Mohawk on Wednesday night. However, everyone admirably soldiered on Thursday. I think a lot of us felt like we had renewed purpose to live life to the fullest and not get too down by the freak accident that marred an otherwise joyous week of music for music lovers.

Part of my effort to go back to ‘business as usual’ was to seek out a band that I had not yet seen but had heard so much about. Harlow’s Morning Parade, playing their last show at SXSW 2014 before they headed out on a drive to South Carolina for another music festival on the East Coast, went down a treat at the Universal Music Group afternoon showcase at the Palm Door on 6th and I was lucky to grab Steve Sparrow (vocals, guitar; above centre) and Ben Giddings (keys; above right) for a quick chat before they went into post-SXSW celebration mode. Thanks very much guys for chatting with me!

 

SXSW 2014: Amy Cook, Falls and The Carper Family: folkies at Stephen F’s Bar – 11th March 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

The great thing that you don’t realise about SXSW unless you actually witness it firsthand is the wide variety of venues there are in Austin during the festival. So from a rammed, stifling, claustrophobic Latitude 30 for the first half of my Tuesday night, I headed over to far more relaxed digs. It’s amazing to me that after 3 years in a row of covering this festival, I’m still finding new and exciting places to see bands play.

Stephen F’s Bar is on the topmost floor of the very swish InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel on Congress Avenue. It’s not a far walk at all from bustling and mental 6th Street, yet it feels like a world away on any night the festival is running. Having been there now, I would highly recommend it if you need a quiet oasis from all the late night craziness, for getting a drink at their well-appointed bar will surely make you feel human again. (For you historical buffs out there, Austin is known as the ‘father of Texas’ and that is why the capital city of the state is named after him.)

After my interview with Prides at Latitude 30, I arrived in the midst of Amy Cook’s set. As a local Austinite, I guess you can forgive her for all the audience heckling she was doing. To her credit though, she thanked punters throughout the set and asked us to give ourselves a round of applause for hanging in there to watch her. You see, Stephen F’s Bar is a ‘seated’ venue, with benches and various types of poufy, leather cushioned loungers, so you could be easily forgiven if you had one too many G&Ts that night if you fell asleep to the strumming of a guitar. The three acts I caught there were all folk acts, including Cook. An established singer/songwriter in her own right, she and her throaty voice, accompanied by her backing guitarist, felt right in the confines of the hotel bar.

Cook was followed by Australian folk duo Falls, who have now begun their conquest of America, having recently signed a record deal with Verve Music Group of Universal Records and uprooted from their home in Sydney and decamped to Los Angeles to make it here in America. I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing the harmonies of Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown; some things are just meant to be, and I think the two of them were meant to be musical partners for life. ‘Home’ seemed to be the most heartfelt track of the evening, as even though Austin is not Falls’ home, the locals and SXSW punters made them feel like they were there. Also tearjerking was Kirwin’s dedication of their cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ to a friend who had been following them around for moral support all over the East Coast of America who they’d learned had had a particularly trying day trying to get home to Australia.

This was Falls’ triumphant return to SXSW after appearing last year, and the many fans they picked up at last year’s festival also returned in droves to see one of their festival favourites perform. It’s really heart-warming when you see a band interacting with their fans, knowing each and every one of them by name. It may seem impossible to achieve, given the fast pace of life these days, but Falls proved that it is possible to do and they will never forget the people who welcomed them into their hearts when they were unknown Aussies in Austin.

The Carper Family rounded out the evening at Stephen F’s. I was a little disappointed to learn the three women on stage weren’t actually related. The Austin band is named for Melissa Carper, who plays upright bass alongside Beth Chrisman (fiddle) and Jenn Miori (guitar), and despite not sharing the same bloodline, they sound like they could have been separated at birth. With tinges of bluegrass and country in their songs while also maintaining their own originality, they bridge the distance between the traditional and modern. This isn’t my kind of music at all – we joked all week while we were in Austin that I usually palm off the singer/songwriters on Carrie! – but as we don’t have 100 versions of ourselves, the other benefit of SXSW is that we could each go see bands that we could recommend (or not recommend) to the other and our friends.

My night ended surrounded by friends old and new, with the clarity and support they afforded me to hit the rest of SXSW hard.

 

SXSW 2014: the first half of Huw Stephens’ night at Latitude 30 – 11th March 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy at its Latitude 30 home has been hit (2012) and miss (2013) for me in past years of SXSW. Luckily, this year‘s line-up was made all the better by the bevy of BBC Radio presenters who flocked to Austin this year, including Phil Taggart who emceed Creative Belfast (read Carrie’s review and see my photos from Monday night here); Steve Lamacq, who made his triumphant return to SXSW after a 6-year absence, and the two that were players in Tuesday night’s programming at Latitude 30.

The cuddly Welsh teddy bear we all know as Huw Stephens has been curating a night at the British Music Embassy for I don’t know how long, but you can trust that he always chooses a good line-up. I was luckily present for the first three acts on Tuesday night. Sweet Baboo, aka fellow Welshman Stephen Black, was up first in solo form. I’m really quite glad I got to see him play with a full band in Glasgow’s King Tut’s last year, as I had a reference point in which to compare and contrast Tuesday night’s performance with. If you listen to Sweet Baboo records, the feeling you come away with is one of fragility; when Black performs live with a full band, there is fragility but also chaos. Black’s solo set felt somewhere in between those two extremes, with him being his usual self-deprecating self, cracking jokes while bemoaning his lack of band (“if you heard this one with the full band, it’d sound like Prince”). While EP title track ‘Motorhome’ and ‘Cate’s Song’ are gentle numbers that work well in solo confines, my personal favourite from 2013’s ‘Ships’, the brilliantly incisive yet poppy ‘If I Died…’ didn’t really work without a full band.

Next up were London’s next great hope for alt-rock, Wolf Alice. In her Doc Martens and sparkly tights, Ellie Rowsell held court, guitar in hand in front of an all too excited crowd at the British Music Embassy. I don’t know if I was just surrounded by Brits who had come over to cheer on Wolf Alice or these were new converts, but the screams were deafening. This seemed to be the week I would be taking the unpopular opinion, which included my stance on Wolf Alice: it seems to me that Rowsell’s ‘sweet’ voice is at odds with the harder edge of their band’s songs and would be more appropriate for the folk genre in which she started, and on songs like ‘She’, she seems to be stretching the Justine Frischmann and Courtney Love comparisons. But I’m thinking their fortunes have already been made. I mean, just think about it: the only other female-fronted massive rock band is Paramore, and they’re American. Maybe it’s time for a British rocker girl to take away Hayley’s sceptre?

I had no idea my world was about to be rocked by the third band on the line-up, Prides. I had already been impressed by early MGMT-sounding ‘Out of the Blue’ and more recent ‘The Seeds You Sow’. But I was not prepared for the synth / guitar / percussion powerhouse that was in front of my eyes. It should have come as no surprise that this New Wave lover once dubbed years ago as “the sucker for the synth” by Steve Lamacq himself absolutely fell in love with these Glaswegians. Just WOW.

The coloured lighting in Latitude 30 complemented the band’s sound as well, fitting the carnival / party / happy atmosphere their music created. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next. It was great to chat with them after, as they were clearly running on the adrenaline of playing a packed venue and having such a great reception in a town that they’d never played in before. (Listen to my interview with the band here.)

But it was still quite early in the evening. It was time to me to jet off to another venue a few blocks away.

 

SXSW 2014 Interview: Travis is a Tourist

 
By on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Photos by editor Mary Chang

The first official day of the SXSW 2014 Music Festival began somewhat slowly for us at TGTF. Most of the official showcases were slated to begin in the evening, so we spent the day picking up our press wristbands and getting acquainted with downtown Austin. Our fearless editor Mary is a seasoned SXSW veteran, and she knew I would need a quick orientation before the action really got started. She showed me around to all the venues I’d need to know, along with a few other places of interest, and once we were done, we had some free time.  Naturally we found ourselves gravitating to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, where we’d attended the Creative Belfast event the previous night and where we would end up passing through many times in the course of our week in Austin.

When we walked into the venue on Tuesday, we caught the end of a set by a band that neither of us knew, but whose singer looked vaguely familiar. Intrigued by their soulful sound, I asked around after them and was told that the singer was Belfast-based Travis is a Tourist. I chased the band outside after they finished and asked for an impromptu interview, during which I found out where I’d seen them before and received some surprisingly thoughtful answers to my off-the-cuff questions.

As I discovered in the interview, Travis is a Tourist is currently finishing his second as-yet-untitled EP. His self-titled debut EP can be found on his Bandcamp page, and he has several videos available for viewing on YouTube. The following video, for a track called ‘Paperweight’, was shot by Brian O’Kane, who is also working on the Travis is a Tourist documentary referenced in the interview.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/BmTLsm3mIaA[/youtube]

My after-the-fact peek at Travis is a Tourist’s Breaking Tunes page revealed that he has recently toured with Lucy Rose and Nick Mulvey, both of whom have been featured here on TGTF. Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to interview Mulvey before his Communion Music Showcase performance on Friday night; Austin during SXSW truly is a small and weird world!

I wasn’t prepared enough to take photos of Travis is a Tourist during his performance on Tuesday (Mary captured the images seen here), but I did get some shots of him in another context on the Friday. If you’re an astute reader, you might have caught Travis in this photo of Mary’s from Monday night as well.

Travis Is A Tourist (far left) with Rams' Pocket Radio.

Travis Is A Tourist (far left) with Rams’ Pocket Radio.

 

SXSW 2014: Creative Belfast night at Latitude 30 – 10th March 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 18th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

Photos by editor Mary Chang

When I arrived in Austin on the Sunday prior to the start of the SXSW 2014, I was already gleefully anticipating the Creative Belfast showcase at the British Music Embassy on the Monday night. Though the Music portion of SXSW didn’t officially begin until Tuesday, the Northern Irish event was a sort of transition show that included music as well as Film and Interactive components from the week before.  The names and faces of the non-musicians were mostly unfamiliar to me, but the lovely sound of Northern Irish accents filling the room kept a smile on my face throughout the evening.

If you’ve read my past writing, you’ll know that some of my favorite musicians are from Northern Ireland, and a few of them were on hand for the event at Latitude 30, the downtown Austin club that was overtaken by the British Music Embassy for the week.  The master of ceremonies for the evening was none other than BBC Radio 1 presenter Phil Taggart, and on the docket were Belfast-based acts UNKNWN, Wonder Villains, and Rams’ Pocket Radio. Unfortunately, Mary and I missed UNKNWN’s set, but don’t fret, because he became known to us later in the week.  We were lucky enough to see and interview both of the other acts; click here for Wonder Villains and here for Rams’ Pocket Radio.

The exuberant Wonder Villains played a bright and lively set to match their attire for the evening, despite the rain coming down outside. Their newest single, ‘Marshall’, was an instant hit; in fact it was featured on the PA system at the British Music Embassy throughout the week.  But it was an older tune, ‘Zola,’ that really got the crowd moving, especially after lead singer Eimear Coyle’s explanation that it was inspired by Italian footballer Gianfranco Zola.  The band’s upbeat tunes can probably be best described as pure fun, and their colorful outfits were equally fun to photograph.

Decidedly more difficult to photograph was Rams’ Pocket Radio, whose emphatic stage movements were tricky to catch on camera.  His darker and more dramatic sound was enhanced by the full complement of talented Northern Irish musicians he brought with him to Austin:  Sabrina Rodgers on violin, Thomas Camblin on drums, Adam Booth on bass, and Travis Gilbert on guitar. (Stay tuned for a feature on Gilbert’s band, Travis is a Tourist, in the Tuesday recap.)  Rams’ Pocket Radio’s set list was comprised of several tracks from his album, ‘Béton’, most notably the eponymous and inevitable ‘Dieter Rams Has Got The Pocket Radios’ and new single ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’.

After some quick chat in the rain outside Latitude 30, Mary and I headed off to the Clive Bar to see Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable.  You can read Mary’s recap of Monday’s events, including that gig, by clicking here.

 
 
 

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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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