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SXSW 2016: St. Patrick’s Day at Latitude 30 for the Output Belfast showcase Thursday afternoon – 17th March 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 5th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

My Thursday afternoon at SXSW 2016 was reserved from the beginning for the Northern Irish showcase at the British Music Embassy. Hosted this year by Generator NI and the Belfast City Council, working jointly as Output Belfast, the daytime show on this Thursday featured one artist I’d already seen earlier in the week, one that I was already familiar with from before SXSW, and three acts that were completely new to me.

Mark Gordon

Before the festivities officially began, I stepped outside Latitude 30 for a quick interview with the afternoon’s co-emcee, Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Guy Spence, who gave me this quick rundown of Output Belfast’s activities over their nearly 2 weeks spent in Austin. After the interview, Generator NI Head of Programme Development Mark Gordon (pictured above) shifted our attention to the talented musicians on the lineup for the British Music Embassy stage, beginning with a late addition to the SXSW contingent from Ireland and Northern Ireland.

County Armagh singer/songwriter Conchúr White is the lead singer and main songwriter for the quickly emerging Northern Irish band Silences. The full band had set their sights on possibly coming to Austin in 2017, but another band’s last minute change of plans opened a slot for SXSW this year, and they decided to take advantage, even if they could only afford for White to make the trip alone. While Silences’ songs are clearly written with the intention of playing in full-band arrangement, the paradoxically delicate strength of White’s singing voice made them equally effective in solo performance. For a taste of what we heard on the St. Patrick’s day show in Austin, have a listen to White’s solo version of current single ‘There’s A Wolf’ from last year’s Reeperbahn Festival, just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/7HjRnwD6Q_s[/youtube]

A switch in the originally announced lineup for Thursday afternoon called up post-punk rockers and SXSW veterans Girls Names to play next. Mary had already caught Cathal Cully and company on Tuesday night’s Huw Stephens and PRS for Music showcase, and they somehow managed to carry their “massive wall of sound” into their daytime performance on the Thursday as well. Their initial plans included five songs scribbled onto the back of a nicked British Music Embassy poster, but the slowly-evolving nature of their music necessitated a slightly shorter set. Luckily for those of us in the crowd, truncating the set list did nothing to dilute the power and intensity of Girls Names’ signature sound.

Girls Names

Following Girls Names was another artist whose songs I’ve described as evolutionary in the past, David C Clements (pictured at top). I was nothing short of thrilled to see Clements take the British Music Embassy stage with a full band to play through songs from his recent and long-anticipated debut album ‘The Longest Day in History’. His performance on the day didn’t disappoint, beginning with latest single ‘Hollywood’ and rounding off with the spine-tingling gospel tinge of ‘Hurricane’. After the set, I had a nice chat with Clements, which you can eavesdrop on right back here.

CL tape

CL and LA

I’d already seen and interviewed the ginger-bearded Ciaran Lavery on the Monday night Trackd showcase, but his Thursday set for Output Belfast was markedly different, and particularly memorable, for two reasons. Before he even began, Lavery was apparently cursed by Murphy’s Law rather than blessed by Irish luck; when he attempted to step on stage for his soundcheck, he somehow managed to split his trousers up one leg “from knee to crotch”, as he would describe it. He seemed to take the incident in good stride, joking about the silver gaffa tape holding his trousers together during the banter between songs. But despite the rather obvious tape job, Lavery’s trousers were largely forgotten when he started to sing, especially when he was joined onstage by a surprise special guest, Nashville singer/songwriter Liza Anne. Lavery and Liza Anne performed a handful of songs in harmonious duet before I realized where I’d seen her before, opening for David Ramirez in Phoenix last November.

Jealous of the Birds

The final act onstage as afternoon made its way into evening was Portadown songstress Naomi Hamilton, perhaps better known by her stage moniker Jealous of the Birds. Hamilton’s flair for the dramatic was made evident right away in her striking and beautiful appearance, but her songs were the real star of the performance, enchanting the late day crowd at the British Music Embassy and putting her squarely on our radar here at TGTF. We’ll be on the lookout for Jealous of the Birds’ debut LP ‘Parma Violets’ on the 6th of May, but in the meantime, you can feast your eyes on her new video for ‘Goji Berry Sunset’, just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/8rED0XiO93c[/youtube]

Keep your eyes here for our reviews of Thursday night’s happenings at SXSW, along with interviews and coverage from the Friday and Saturday of that week, all upcoming in the days ahead.

 

SXSW 2016: part of Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae’s, plus the second half of BBC Introducing (Wednesday night, part 2) – 16th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 4th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

After a sombre, less than thrilling start to my Wednesday evening thinking about Viola Beach and seeing two acts at Music from Ireland, it was time to move on. Thanks to my upgraded press status at SXSW 2016 this year (thank you, Elizabeth and SXSW Music!), I could jump the massive queue that went down 6th Street to get into Maggie Mae’s. I managed to catch most of Drowners’ set on the downstairs indoor stage.

Drowners were not a band I was familiar with until I happened to see their name on the SXSW shout list for this year. Their name rung a bell; I seemed to remember getting an email about them a long while back, but I couldn’t remember why I hadn’t listened to their music before. Upon further investigation, it all made sense: their eponymous debut album for Frenchkiss Records was released in January 2014, right around the time I suffered the loss of an important friendship, so it’s unlikely I would have enjoyed the album at the time anyway. During pre-SXSW preparations in late January, it tickled me pink to find a band whose own name came from a Suede song (‘The Drowners’), as Suede had just released ‘Night Thoughts’ and I was experiencing the resurgence of my love for Brett Anderson and co

While Drowners are based in New York City and is therefore considered an American band, much has been made about their Welsh frontman Matthew Hitt having made his way to the Big Apple in the first place to pursue a career in modelling. Their music is good time rock ‘n’roll and Strokes-y. But it’s also got a feeling of more pop with pomp. especially on their recently revealed single ‘Cruel Ways’, which will appear on their second album ‘On Desire’, due out in June. Their appearances this week in Austin gave them the opportunity to test out the new material, including LP tracks ‘Human Remains’, ‘Someone Else is Getting In’ and ‘Conversations with Myself’. Of the new material, the bass-heavy thuds of set closer ‘Pick Up the Pace’ won me over.

Drowners at Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae's, Wednesday night at SXSW 2016

Another great thing that I reiterate time and time again about SXSW is the fact that 99% of the acts who aren’t Drake or CHVRCHES will play multiple shows. So if you happen to miss a band at their first appearance, you’ll have a second (and quite possibly a third or fourth) chance to see them again. As I had to leave the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 early on Tuesday night to make it in time for Gold Class at the felte / Part Time Punks showcase at Barracuda at midnight, I missed seeing Liverpool’s Clean Cut Kid who were on after Oscar. Though it pained me to miss Gwenno at the Heavenly Recordings showcase at Barracuda, I was able to finally see both her and Stealing Sheep on Friday at the Cerdd Cymru afternoon showcase at Latitude 30 (stay tuned for that post).

Frontman Mike Halls of Clean Cut Kid has a beard that rivals Guy Connelly’s of Clock Opera. One wonders if the two bands will ever tour together, given this kinship of over the top, yet well maintained extended facial hair. Halls, with the very tattooed Saul Godman on bass guitar, look like they could be in a metal band. This makes the kind of music that Clean Cut Kid play – driving and fun indie pop – all the more incongruous. (I will say, however, that both of them have fantastic chops on their axes, especially Halls on his guitar solos, making me think that perhaps they were in a hard rocking band in the not too distant past.) Mike’s wife Evelyn on keyboards and her voice in harmony with him add another level of flair and uniqueness to the band’s music; I appreciated the perfection in their male plus female harmonies, something I didn’t otherwise hear all week at SXSW.

Clean Cut Kid at Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae's, Wednesday night at SXSW 2016

Though they came to Austin as virtual unknowns – and I’m almost positive no-one in Maggie Mae’s besides me had any idea who they were – the foursome quickly got the crowd, which steadily increased in size as their set went on, on their side. Despite the appearance of being unapproachable, Mike Halls is a likeable frontman, making jokes about how the word vitamin is pronounced in England vs. America (note: it’s different) and prefacing songs with deadpan comments such as “this is a hate song by a man who used to be in love” (not sure what song he was referring to!). ‘Pick Me Up’ is the Liverpool group at its finest and surely will continue Halls’ assertion that chicks dig beards”.

It was time to return to Latitude 30 and relieve Carrie of her place at the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music Foundation night. She had been there for the Viola Beach tribute, Isaac Gracie and Billie Marten, and it was my turn to cover the second half of the night. Following Marten were Steve Lamacq’s tip as Britain’s next great guitar band, The Sherlocks. If you’ve spent any time in Sheffield or indeed, you’ve had a listen to any number of their indie bands in the last 10 years, you have an idea of the Sheffield sound.

The Sherlocks at BBC Introducing PRS Foundation showcase, Latitude 30 Wednesday night at SXSW 2016

Of the biggest bands out of the Steel City, Arctic Monkeys are the most obvious of touchstones to the Sherlocks’ music. Given that Alex Turner and his mates have decided to follow the path of Josh Homme before them, it does seem that there’s an inescapable void where the Monkeys once trod, and the Sherlocks are a good fit for that void. Young, hard working and hungry for success, and as one of their songs are named and possessing a ‘Heart of Gold’, they certainly earned their moment under the lights at Latitude 30 this night.

After talking to Carrie about her experiences earlier at the BBC Introducing night, it sounds like Berkshire singer/songwriter Frances was much more confident and ready for her turn in the spotlight than earlier young female performer Billie Marten. The redhead was smiley and chatty, her stage patter between songs telling us more about herself and how her songs came to be, overall making a very engaging performance. Unlike Rosie Carney at the Music from Ireland showcase earlier in the evening, she was having a great time at SXSW.

Frances at BBC Introducing PRS Foundation showcase, Latitude 30 Wednesday night at SXSW 2016

Frances’ voice is beautiful, as was demonstrated on her newest single ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ performed live. But her versatility shines through on the soulful ‘Borrowed Time’, written with Howard Lawrence of Disclosure, who Frances insisted, and with a wide grin, was “wicked” and “he’s cooler than me!” While it makes my heart sink slightly that a talented lady like her feels the need to have songwriting collaborators (or more likely, her major label has that need), Frances’ vocal talent will take her far.

ESTRONS at BBC Introducing PRS Foundation showcase, Latitude 30 Wednesday night SXSW at 2016

The final act of the night was Welsh band ESTRONS, who realistically should have been on earlier in the lineup. Their sound is the result of frenetic playing and even at 1 AM in the morning, they showed no sign of slowing down. Bolstered by their uncompromising frontwoman Taliesyn Kallström, their brashness would have waken up the dead. Time to say goodnight to Radio 1’s Huw Stephens skulking round the back, to get a few hours of sleep and be back in town in good time the next morning to do it all over again.

 

SXSW 2016: thoughts on Viola Beach and part of Music from Ireland (Wednesday night, part 1) – 16th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 4th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

I’ve always loved Wednesday night at SXSW. The initial worries of Tuesday – getting your credentials and seeing your first batch of shows – are over, and the true heart of Austin’s massive music festival is revealed. You’re spolit for choice on what genres and bands to see, and as Carrie described in the start of her post last week on her Wednesday night, it is often a difficult decision of who you should and could be seeing.

In mid-February when we learned of the tragic passing of Warrington indie band Viola Beach in Sweden, I settled on rather quickly that the best ways I knew how to honour their lives were to facilitate our and all our friends to have a good time while in Austin, as well as continue on in the tradition of TGTF in supporting up-and-coming bands much like Viola Beach had been themselves. I asked Carrie to situate herself at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 for Steve Lamacq’s opening presentation to pay tribute to the late Viola Beach, so that one of us would be physically on hand to provide support to our fallen comrades and our friends at the BBC and beyond who championed them. It may make me sound like a total wimp but in all honesty, despite all the tragedy I have seen in my life, I feared being in the room during Lammo’s eulogy. In that very room that had hosted so many great bands, I have witnessed so much magic and so many great moments over the last 5 years, I didn’t think I’d be able to handle myself without blubbering.

Instead, I decided in my quiet and steely determination that Wednesday night would be devoted to seeing indie acts hungry for success like Viola Beach. My first stop was the wonderful Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, which has seen the Music from Ireland showcase Wednesday night for many, many years. As regular readers of our Web site already know, while I enjoy a great many Irish bands, Carrie is truly the de facto Irish expert of TGTF currently, having churned out the Irish and Northern Irish SXSW showcasing artist list the last 2 years, as well as covering the full Irish breakfast. Knowing that I had other things to attend to Friday afternoon and would not be present for the plethora of Irish acts on show at B.D. Riley’s then, it was just my good luck that they were at the start of the bill at the Gibson Room this night.

Somadrone at the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae's Gibson Room, Wednesday at SXSW 2016

Producer Neil O’Connor is a man who never stays put too long in one place, and with a hand in many different projects. While he’s part of The Redneck Manifesto, having nothing to do with the negative American stereotype and everything to do with the making of instrumental music as a collection of musicians assembled far back in 1998, the project I came to see this night was his solo project Somadrone, joined live by drummer Gareth Averill and not to be confused by a “modern hard rock” band of the same name from Massachusetts.

I was very excited to see what this one-man band had to offer, given that my introduction to him was via the haunting ‘Invitation’ from his latest album ‘Oracle’ (watch it below). This is the kind of music I love: so many layers and textures, yet holding it all together is an underlying dance beat. I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe more beats, more atmosphere? As I stood in front of him, I wondered if Carrie would have been more appropriate to cover his set here, as I was surprised at the more singer/songwriter-y vibe I was getting as he stood onstage playing his guitar, only occasionally messing with his pre-programmed setup. Or maybe it was just too early in the evening and I hadn’t gotten into my groove yet. As O’Connor’s set went on, the energy level increased, but I felt an opportunity to truly inspire the audience had been lost.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/136193953[/vimeo]

Young Hampshire lass Rosie Carney, now calling County Donegal home, shimmered in an unearthly way under the Gibson Room stage lights, looking like a rosy (no pun intended) apparition. Onstage with nothing else but her acoustic guitar, she looked vulnerable, all alone. She has a pretty enough voice and her songs are good, having a gentle fragility, but something I thought that was validated and echoed by other friends who had seen her that week was that she had a pretty dour attitude through her appearances during the week. I don’t know if she herself felt sullen or just shy, but it gave her performance an unsettling, stifling air that may have been appropriate to match the sombre mood of honouring Viola Beach’s memory, but it left me cold.

Rosie Carney at the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae's Gibson Room, Wednesday at SXSW 2016

 

SXSW 2016 Interview: Craig Johnson of Autobahn

 
By on Friday, 1st April 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

Autobahn are a post-punk band from Leeds who are, to me, a good representation of what it means to be a band from not just Yorkshire but also the North. They are one in a long line of artists from the region gifted with what called a “dark intensity” in her Bands to Watch ahead of their appearance at this year’s SXSW 2016. The intensity is part of their sound – loud and uncompromising – and their dark and desolate yet beautiful lyrical, both of which were impressive when the band performed their final show Saturday afternoon at the British Music Embassy’s special Northern Powerhouse showcase that highlighted the heft of bands from the Northern half of England.

There is something very special from being from this part of the world and while Autobahn’s commanding frontman Craig Johnson acknowledges that you might not ‘get’ their music, it’s not all about darkness and depression and there are many more facets to their art that those who do get them can hear and appreciate. We also discuss the making of their debut album ‘Dissemble’ with fellow local producer Matt Peel at the studio he and Nick ‘Peanut’ Baines of Kaiser Chiefs built within in a church in town as well as what inspires him and his writing.

 

SXSW 2016 Interview: Angela Dorgan of First Music Contact / Music From Ireland

 
By on Friday, 1st April 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo: Angela Dorgan (third from left) and her jovial crew at the Full Irish Breakfast, 18th March 2016

Ireland’s First Music Contact is “a free information and advice resource for musicians and the independent music sector in Ireland”, headed by CEO Angela Dorgan. One of First Music Contact’s many projects is Music From Ireland, which in collaboration with Culture Ireland “funds and presents the Irish showcases at large international music conferences” such as Eurosonic, Canadian Music Week, The Great Escape, and of course SXSW.

At SXSW 2016 as in years past, the Irish showcases once again included the official Music From Ireland showcase on Wednesday night at Maggie Mae’s and the Full Irish Breakfast on Friday at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub. It was during the Friday afternoon event that I had a chance to catch up with Angela Dorgan, who was kind enough to step outside for a chat with me even in the midst of her own very busy day. In the interview clip below, Dorgan talked about Music From Ireland’s 12-year history with SXSW, particularly the process of creating rapport and fostering the relationships formed along the way, all in the interest of facilitating Irish artists’ travels to Austin each year.

The high quality musicianship on the Full Irish Breakfast has consistently amazed me for the past 3 years running, and this year’s showcase was no different, featuring eight acts across an array of genres, including folk, electronic, and alt-rock. But Dorgan emphasised that even with this level of talent, the showcase wouldn’t be successful without the hard work and cooperation of the staff at B.D. Riley’s, who most graciously host the Irish Breakfast each year, along with, perhaps, a bit of good old-fashioned Irish luck.

Keep an eye on TGTF for our complete coverage of the Full Irish Breakfast in the coming days. We at TGTF look forward to continuing our own cordial relationship with Music From Ireland at SXSW on our own future trips to Austin!

 

SXSW 2016: Wednesday night at the first half of BBC Introducing and second half of Ground Control Touring showcases – 16th March 2016

 
By on Thursday, 31st March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The Wednesday night of SXSW 2016 turned out to be quite a busy one, with no shortage of interesting showcases to choose from, including stages hosted by Music from Ireland, Austin record label Modern Outsider, Paradigm Talent Agency, Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union Records, Dine Alone Records, and Communion Music, just to name a few. Mary and I had conferred at length about how to use our time most wisely, and it transpired that I spent my Wednesday evening at two venues, our beloved British Music Embassy for the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music Foundation showcase, and the Sidewinder (formerly Red Eyed Fly), a new-to-me location playing host to the Ground Control Touring stage.

BBC 6 Music presenter and indie artist champion Steve Lamacq was left with the rather daunting task of leading into the BBC Introducing showcase with a tribute to Warrington indie pop band Viola Beach, who were tragically killed in an automobile accident while touring in Sweden in February. Viola Beach had been scheduled to play the BBC Introducing stage on this Wednesday night; instead, Lamacq opened with a very brief eulogy emphasising the band’s promise and potential.

Lamacq closed his remarks with possibly the most appropriate commentary he could have made, reminding us that it’s not too late to listen to the brilliant music Viola Beach made before their untimely passing, and that our finest tribute to the band would be in doing so. Following Lamacq’s short speech, we were treated to a skillfully crafted video montage featuring live clips of Viola Beach, including their November 2015 studio session at Maida Vale, which you can view in part just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/LrhRlCf_NJM[/youtube]

The night’s first live set was then left to up-and-coming singer/songwriter Isaac Gracie, who was introduced to the British Music Embassy stage by BBC Radio 1 presenter Huw Stephens. Gracie took advantage of his audience’s somewhat sombre mood, opening his set with an as-yet-unreleased song called ‘Down and Out’ before proceeding into the heartfelt ‘Terrified’. He saved his more upbeat tracks for the end of his brief set list, in particular ’Running on Empty’ and ‘Last Words’, which I had the chance to discuss with him in this brief interview before he hurried off to his next engagement.

Isaac Gracie at British Music Embassy Latitude 30 SXSW 2016

Next on the docket, BBC Radio 2 host Jo Whiley shepherded the youthful and somewhat shy singer/songwriter Billie Marten, who played a lovely handful of songs and impressed me with the sweetness of her singing voice and her delicate touch on the guitar, despite having to work through a bit of a battle with her own nerves. Marten played tracks from her 2014 EP ‘Ribbon’ before switching to last November’s EP release ‘As Long As’, which includes the female-centric track ‘Bird’ and the eponymous title track. Steeling her nerve, she also played a remarkably effective cover of Royal Blood‘s ‘Out of the Black’ before diving into two new tracks, ‘Milk & Honey’ and ‘La Lune’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/iJx8dGYbGBc[/youtube]

After Billie Marten’s set, Mary and I swapped places, as she came over to the British Music Embassy for the end of the BBC Introducing show, which would feature Sheffield indie pop quartet The Sherlocks, Oxford songstress Frances and Welsh punks ESTRONS. Meanwhile, I headed down East 7th Street to the Sidewinder to catch three American bands on the Ground Control Touring showcase.

Your Friend at Sidewinder SXSW 2016

I arrived just in time to catch the end of avant-experimental act Your Friend, who I wrote about in my preview of the Savannah Stopover Festival back in December of last year. Your Friend, aka Taryn Miller, hails from Lawrence, Kansas and released her debut LP ‘Gumption’ in January on Domino Records. Miller was accompanied on the small and dimly lit Sidewinder stage by a full band, notably including a flautist, who helped her to realise the drones, loops and thick textures of the songs on the album.

Big Thief at Sidewinder SXSW 2016

Following Your Friend was a band I’d seen before in Phoenix, Brooklyn-based quartet Big Thief. Led by frontwoman Adrianne Lenker and guitarist Buck Meek, the band played almost exactly the same set I’d heard from them on that previous occasion, when they had opened for fellow Brooklynites Here We Go Magic. Lenker hadn’t been particularly chatty with her audience on that evening at Phoenix’s Valley Bar, concentrating her energy instead on the songs, but on this night at the Sidewinder, she was even more subdued, playing through the set in a pair of large headphones. As I found out later, Lenker had burst an eardrum just before playing the aforementioned Savannah Stopover festival prior to SXSW. Despite the obvious difficulty, Lenker and company made it through their set without any major problems, and their latest singles ‘Masterpiece’ and ‘Real Love’ were among the highlights of the night.

The final act of the evening on the Sidewinder stage was the much-hyped, Chicago-based indie pop band Whitney, who had come up in conversation earlier in the day during my interview with singer/songwriter Roo Panes. Despite their billing as a duo comprising Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek (both formerly of the Smith Westerns), Whitney somehow managed to cram no less than six band members onto the Sidewinder stage, with Ehrlich’s drum kit shoved to the front so he could double as drummer and lead singer.

Whitney at Sidewinder SXSW 2016

This might normally have been an engaging setup, but on this particular occasion it opened Ehrlich up to a bevy of proffered beverages from the female audience members at the front of the stage, and he appeared to have had plenty to drink already. Not that the band weren’t tight on stage – guitarist Kakacek seemed especially sharp – but they trudged through their 1 AM set in a rather uninspired manner, and I have to admit that to my own ear the songs were largely indistinguishable from one another. Nevertheless, the crowd inside the Sidewinder were eager to hear them, grooving along from the first notes of the set through to the final strains of Wednesday night.

 
 
 

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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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