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SXSW 2018: Wednesday afternoon with fantastic female artists at the AloftLive and Single Lock showcases – 14th March 2018

 
By on Tuesday, 10th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

After starting my Wednesday at SXSW 2018 with a keynote speech by Lyor Cohen at the Austin Convention Center, I decided it was time for both some fresh air and some music. With that in mind, I headed to the Aloft Austin Downtown hotel, which played host to a full showcase of female artists, sponsored by Aloft Hotels and Universal Music Group. The lineup included several artists on my “must see” list, and the breezy but intimate patio lounge proved an ideal venue for both listening and taking photos.

Liza Anne internal

Nashville alt-rock singer/songwriter Liza Anne came to Austin hot on the heels of her latest LP release ‘Fine But Dying’, which came out on the 9th of March via Arts & Crafts. As you might glean from the title, the songs on ‘Fine But Dying’ aren’t exactly upbeat, their lyrics dealing with such heavy topics as love, patriarchy, and mental illness. But in live performance Liza Anne didn’t shy away from even their most angst-ridden moments, addressing them with dark humour and unflinching candor. She gave a fiercely memorable performance of several of the new tracks on the Aloft stage, including ‘Closest to Me’ and ‘Small Talks’.

Natalie Prass internal

Richmond, VA native and Spacebomb Music associate Natalie Prass came on next to play songs from her upcoming sophomore album ‘The Future and the Past’, due out on the first of June via ATO. I’d seen her live previously, both at SXSW 2015 and in Tucson later that same year. In the three-year interim, Prass has written not one but two album’s worth of songs, one of which she scrapped in favour of what would become ‘The Future and the Past’. Prass gave a charmingly relaxed set here, with the new songs sounding remarkably jazzy and fresh in the cool breeze on the Aloft stage. We’ve already featured the new album’s first single ‘Short Court Style’; you can have a listen to the recently released and singularly appropriate track ‘Sisters’ just below.

Tank and the Bangas internal

New Orleans soul/spoken word group Tank and the Bangas are led by singer and poet Tarriona Ball, whose deliberately unassuming stage presence masks a sharp lyrical precision and an almost hypnotic vocal style. Backed by fellow vocalist Anjelika Joseph and a full band of instrumentalists, Ball had her audience enraptured from the first moments of the set to the very last. I’m not sure the visceral power of this kind of music can ever really be captured on recording, but if you have the chance to see Tank and the Bangas live, don’t miss it. My favourite track in their set was ‘Rollercoasters’, which you can hear in this live video from American public radio station WXPN’s World Cafe.

The remainder of the Aloft Live lineup included British singers Jade Bird and Bishop Briggs, both of whom I was (fine but) dying to see, but I took a rain check for the moment, knowing I’d have chances to catch them later in the week. At the moment, I had a long walk ahead of me, across to the east side of downtown, for the Single Lock Records showcase and Nashville folk rock songwriter Erin Rae. While the stage at Weather Up, which played host to Single Lock that day, was decidedly less glamourous than the one at Aloft, the songwriting on display was nonetheless strong. Rae appeared with a sparse band of two members, whom she admitted to having “borrowed” for the afternoon from fellow Nashville singer Tristen, to play songs from her upcoming album ‘Putting on Airs’. Rae’s wistful singing voice on the title track from that record, and especially on recent single ‘Can’t Cut Loose’, made a poignant and lasting impression as the afternoon sun began to fade into evening.

Erin Rae internal

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Rachel K Collier (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 10th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

By the time I manage to pin down Rachel K Collier at SXSW 2018, she’s already had a busy week. It’s Friday afternoon, we’re sat with drinks in the swanky bar at the Omni Hotel, and the electronic phenom from Swansea is so comfortable being in Austin, slang that’s only used by seasoned veterans of the festival is already rolling off her tongue. Positivity is exuding out of every pore of this up-and-coming Welsh artist. “I’m going to be bringing out my album in September. We wanted to release two singles [ahead of that] and I thought, what perfect timing! There will be loads going on at South By, I might as well release a single today [‘Darkshade’]. My Instagram followers have gone up since I arrived, [up by] about 130?” She flashes a grin, even though her time in Austin has been totally chockablock. “Loads of little things with the press, with radio, BBC Wales did an interview with me last night. It’s all timing together quite nicely.”

Collier began her time in Austin at Hotel Vegas, a venue with big names all week but a bit out of the way, east of the city centre. By her account, her maiden voyage to Austin clearly began on a high note. “It was like the crowd was on fire. They were so energetic! I did one filter and they were [all] like, ‘whooooo!’” She raises her arms up for added effect. “And at the end, I had an encore. You know, at South By, you have 40 minutes, that’s it, isn’t it? But because I was last, it was crazy.” She’d already been through all her songs and asked the audience what to do. “Play ‘Paper Tiger’ again!”, they shouted. “I got all the audience singing, and I looped them [in]. It was an amazing show.”

She appears both surprised and chuffed by the local reception. “Monday night, it seemed to be all Austin and American guys [in the audience]. It was totally rammed…that’s actual exposure, then, isn’t it? You really are showcasing to new people. Monday was cool because there were fans there who follow me on YouTube. Monday night, they were dancing like mad, they were loving it. Tuesday night [the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation-supported showcase at Latitude 30], they were more of an industry crowd.” Collier already has her sights set on returning to SXSW. “Next year, I want to play to people who have never heard of me. I met this guy who said to me, ‘oh, best South By find this year!’, so it’s like yay! He’s discovered me! The response has been amazing.”

When you’re far from home, it can be astonishingly validating to get approval from crowds you’ve never encountered before. “It’s funny, Mary, I feel like I’m in the right place. I feel like I should be here, it’s important for my career. Also, because I’m Welsh, it is great, because the press back in Wales is like, pow pow pow! Rachel K Collier! They’re pushing it constantly in Wales. There’s only six Welsh artists here, which really helps, to be in the minority. Being female, doing electronic music, again, it’s different. But I’ve been really lucky, Ableton is supporting me, and PRS Foundation, BBC Introducing, yeah, it’s been really cool!”

2017 proved to be a pivotal year for Collier, the live artist. “Last year was a really awesome year because I did my first UK tour. Last year was my transition from making the YouTube videos to the stage. It happened [all] very fast. I was doing my YouTube video, and then I was doing my first college performance and I was opening different Projects, different songs. Then I had another show and thought, okay, I need to do three songs, and they need to be in the same project.” Soon enough, she found herself needing to take her music up a major notch. “By July, I was playing in the Czech Republic at Beats for Love Festival. I had to do an hour set. So it was like, right, okay, now I need to have songs. It took a year to take the live show and refine it, refine it, refine it, refine it.

“In December, we played a sold-out show at London Koko. It was an amazing way to finish the year, to go from that little college show, to all these little workshops, to bigger shows, to the UK tour. I thought, oh god. I hope it’s going to continue into next year, and then you get the email from South By. Ben [her manager] called me and said, “You’re not going to believe this. We’re going to South by Southwest!”

With a fresh perspective of how her music has been received on this side of the pond, she says almost with a tear, “I felt quite emotional this week. The response from the crowd on Monday! There were some guys from Monday night, they were saying, [changes to American Texan accent] ‘we follow you on YouTube and saw you were coming to Austin, like no frickin’ way!’ One of them, Alex, he was so cool. He posted a pic [from the show] with the caption, ‘Rachel, you crushed your first American show!’ …they could come to the first show because it was an unofficial showcase. When we were planning for SXSW, of course we were interested in all the official showcases, but I was like no, man. The unofficial ones are cool because they don’t require the industry / wristband thing. It’s been really cool, I hope it all continues.”

Unexpectedly, Collier has become an ambassador for music software giant Ableton. But perhaps maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise? She’s a self-described “hardcore fan” and “diehard enthusiast” of their products, so I ask her just what she loves about it so much. It sounds like she could talk for days on how much it makes her work easier, though she went through a period of not using it at all. “I studied Music Tech at uni, it was all about making music with technology, that was the whole kind of vibe. We’d have to do these recitals that were innovative and new and no one had seen before. I thought, I want to do something on stage. I don’t want a looping pedal, I want to loop stuff, I want to make up some weird stuff. My teacher introduced me to Ableton and said, ‘try this’. I was working in session view for performance. I thought, this is cool.” Turns out, unbeknownst to me, Collier had been in a different part of the songwriting world for a while. “Fast forward a few years, moved to London, I was doing a lot of top-lining kind of work, recording in Logic and ProTools. I thought, you know what, I hate this, I want to produce again. I met Ben and he asked, ‘do you produce in Ableton?’ ‘I haven’t used that in ages, I love Ableton! But I thought that was only for live stuff.’ ‘No, you can produce in it.’

“For the first time ever, I saw Arrangement [View], I have no idea how I missed it. So then I started producing in Ableton. It sounds cheesy, but I felt like I connected with it. This is how I can express myself. I’m just a super fan! I absolutely love it. I started producing again, I was really happy. I released the first EP I made myself, I produced it myself. But then I was like, ooh, I want to perform it, though! That’s what I love about Ableton. You can take this production that you’ve done – I’ve obviously started everything in Session View – go to Arrange View, and then you can simply go back into Session View and construct this whole Project.”

Collier’s next step was to share her music with the public, and in a way so many bedroom producers do these days. “I started my YouTube channel, still loving Ableton. Then I decided I wanted to meet them. I need to meet someone there, tell them how much I love it and thank them, show them my work. I went to ADE [Amsterdam Dance Event] 2016 – I played this year – and I went to ADE purely to meet someone from Ableton. I went to the Ableton stand and I met this amazing guy named Jan from Dutch Ableton. By then I’d had 400,000 views of ‘Nothing is Forever’ on my YouTube channel [There are now over 1.4 million views of this video of Collier’s – Ed.]. He said, ‘cool, email me.’ He replied straight away, that really doesn’t happen in our industry. He introduced me to the UK team, Mike, Simon, and Danny, and they replied, “hi Rachel, come in for a chat.” They said, will you do a convention with us, can you do a performance? And that was my first-ever outside of YouTube performance with my APC [Akai Professional Ableton Performance Controller] and my [Ableton] Push.”

Since taking that chance to find Ableton staff at ADE 2016, she’s “really bonded” with not only with the London Ableton team but with the team at Ableton HQ in Berlin, who asked her to front their Ableton Live 10 global campaign. “It was so cool, because it was the first time ever [for an Ableton release], as a female producer, ‘would you come over and produce, and make a track for our Live 10 release?’ It’s not, ‘go and do the top-line because you’re a girl and you sing’, it’s ‘go and produce the music’. I was like, hell yeah! I flew out to Berlin a couple of times and got to go to Ableton HQ, use Ableton 10, use the new plugins, Pedal, the Echo, the Groups Within Groups. I was meant to be second on the video because my BPM was around 130, and the structure of the video was such that they were going to showcase this tempo, and then this tempo, and then this tempo.

“Because of the way I write and I sing, and they have this new Metronome feature, they said, oh wait, we’re going to put you on first. It was such an amazing experience. They are just so cool and so supportive.” It’s evident from the smile on her face to see that Ableton is really a part of Rachel K Collier, the artist, and she’s wholly appreciative of their efforts. “When you on stage and you’ve got a slammin’ sound system, everything is running from the laptop into the sound card, everything goes into Ableton, through my sound card, and back out again. Vocals, all the synths, all the clips, all the samples, all the looping. So it’s mega that I can actually perform like that. And it’s all because they made that.” Ableton also introduced her to Indian online music magazine and community forum Wild City, who just began an initiative last November to be more inclusive in the music industry towards women. Part of the initiative is bringing Collier out to Bangalore, India, with support from the British Council, for a 2-day workshop where she will teach her most favourite subject. “Basically I’m going to hang out with young Indian girls and teach them Ableton. Dream! I spend most of my life looking at Ableton. It’s pretty bad. Someone once said to me, you talk about Ableton all the time. Well, it’s kind of my life, to be honest!”

Enjoyed this? Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Rachel K Collier, which will post here tomorrow.

 

SXSW 2018: Keynote speech by YouTube Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen – 14th March 2018

 
By on Monday, 9th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo by Sean Mathis/Getty Images for SXSW

My SXSW 2018 Wednesday afternoon technically began late in the morning at the Austin Convention Center, with an 11 AM keynote speech by YouTube Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen. I was a bit tardy in arriving to the Convention Center to queue for the popular talk, and I ended up sitting in the overflow room, where the speech was being simulcast on a big screen TV. This arrangement in no way detracted from Cohen’s message or the enthusiasm of the attendees, who nodded and occasionally even applauded as if Cohen himself were actually at the front of the room.

Lyor Cohen internal

Cohen began his keynote address by giving some background on the earlier days of his career in the music industry, as a way of explaining his lifelong passion for music and for promoting musicians. His career started in artist management for up-and-coming rap artists at Rush Productions in the 1980s, and his success eventually led him to high level executive roles at Def Jam and Warner Music Group. Cohen’s brief autobiographical sketch was accompanied by DJ/producer D-Nice, who supplied audio clips from a number of artists on Cohen’s historical rosters, including RUN-DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Warren G, Sum 41, The Killers, and Fetty Wap. (Want to hear it for yourself? D-Nice’s playlist is available, of course, on YouTube. Click here to listen.)

D-Nice

In the context of his career highlights, Cohen made note of some of the biggest changes he’s seen in the industry, emphasising his own willingness to accept new ideas and his ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape as the keys to his success. From that point, he moved on to discuss his current position at YouTube, including plans for some major changes that are already in the works. Cohen described his vision for music on YouTube in terms of three basic goals: (1) creating diversity of distribution through ads and subscriptions, (2) collaborating with label partners to promote and break artists and (3) giving artists, labels and managers the best direct consumer access across any other platform.

You read that right. YouTube will, in the near future, institute a paid-subscription service which will be layered on to YouTube’s current ad-based service. The new monthly-fee subscription model was supposed to launch in March, around SXSW, but has apparently been delayed until later this year. Nevertheless, Cohen was undeterred by the delay, saying, “There are plenty of leaned-in listeners willing to pay, so we will convert them to paid subscribers. We know we’re late to the music subscription party, so we are making an enormous investment to launch a music product that combines the best of Google Play Music’s context listening and YouTube’s breadth and depth of catalogue.”

As for breaking new artists, Cohen outlined his plans to continue in that arena as well. “Breaking artists is my drug and now, here at YouTube, I can do so on a massive, global scale. This past year we’ve partnered with Sony, Warner and independents to support artists like Camila Cabello, Dua Lipa, and Ozuna. We got to flex our platform to help promote their music, tell their stories and grow their global fanbases.”

artist candid

While I’m not entirely convinced about the wisdom of Cohen’s first two ideas, his third, regarding direct consumer access via YouTube, was at least partially on point. “The most powerful aspect of YouTube is our ability to allow artists, managers, publishers, songwriters and labels to engage with their fans with no hoops to jump through,” he said. “Whether it’s promoting a new video, an album, a tour or a live stream, the only place the music industry can play in both commerce and direct to consumer is YouTube.” Let’s hope Cohen keeps it that way.

If you’re interested in hearing Cohen’s hour-long keynote speech in its entirety, SXSW has made the full video available online. You can watch and listen just below.

 

SXSW 2018: an editor’s final surprises and wows in Austin – 17th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

For the first time all week, I didn’t have a plan at the start to my evening. I had some tentative ideas but then decided I should probably queue for Latitude 30, as I had been locked out of the press allocation of the SXxpress passes for Saturday night. Both Carrie and I have seen daunting queues outside the venue in past years but this year, the British Music Embassy didn’t seem as big of a draw. Friday night’s rap-focussed night headlined by SXSW 2016 showcasing artist AJ Tracey had trouble getting foot traffic in, they ended up opening it up to the public. I was surprised that I was able to get in and in plenty of time ahead of the start of Superorganism’s set. There’s been huge buzz around these supposed ‘aliens’ and so they were more of a curiosity to me than anything else. This evening was sponsored by BBC Radio 1 and the UK’s Department of International Trade (formerly UK Trade and Investment).

Superorganism Saturday at SXSW 2018

In reality, the band hail from varied locations as New Zealand, South Korea, and Lancashire, while being led by the teenaged American via Japan Orono Noguchi. As a friend of mine with me that night quipped, “they’re like a mad version of The Go! Team!” Hard to argue with that logic. Their schtick is to act like they’re not from this planet, from the funny raincoats they start their set with, to pretending they don’t know what Teddy Grahams are. I didn’t find them as funny and avant-garde as advertised. I have trouble stomaching young kids swearing and witnessing Noguchi do this as part of her stage patter just came across as uncomfortable. I can see the pop appeal of their weird songs: they’re easy to sing along to, and who doesn’t think dancing shrimp are cute? But is this a project that has legs? Clearly, Domino Records think so, they put out their debut album last year. They’re appearing at the Great Escape in May, and I’m just happy I can say I’ve already seen them and leave that show in Brighton to their crazy fans.

I hung in there so I could watch girl duo IDER, recent signees to Glassnote Records. IDER were invited to showcase at SXSW last year; we previewed them then and I was so disappointed they didn’t come out to Austin. A year of tightening their sound and live performance led to this week in Austin where they performed at show after show and did so with smiles on their faces. Their last chance to impress was at this BBC Radio 1 and Department of International Trade showcase at the British Music Embassy.


IDER Saturday at SXSW 2018

Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville certainly didn’t look like they’d been put through the SXSW wringer. Beginning their set with an arresting a capella duet, it seemed they were eager to prove that their voices could stand on their own and without electronic augmentation. Like their many shows in Austin before it, this one was full up and proof that word had gotten around about their talent. There’s nowhere for them to go but up from here.

Uncomfortable by the sardine situation at Latitude 30, I said goodbye to my friend, extricated myself from the crowd and walked on to my next destination on 6th Street, fully expecting to be to have arrived during a changeover. Returning to the Velveeta Room for a second timethat week, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to catch the latter half of Margate singer/songwriter Dan Lyons’ set. As regular readers of TGTF know, the singer/songwriter genre is Carrie’s forte, not mine. I find that after a while, these artists start to blur in sound and in my mind. Don’t sing to me from atop a stool. Others may think you’re cool, but I’ll just be bored. I’d rather rock out.

Dan Lyons Saturday at SXSW 2018 4

There is a dark edge to Lyons’ songwriting, a world of blown smoke rings, psych and blues and Laurel Canyon harmonies with his bandmate and partner Freya. The songs are Something tells me he’d get along with Stephen Duffy and they’d have a laugh, like I had described New Pope at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 should go drinking with Dylan and Tom Waits. Lyons was previously the drummer for Fat White Family in a previous life, so it’s nice to see an artist coming from behind the skins to do his own thing.

The label ‘synthpop’ LYLO have been given hasn’t done them any favours. I know what I think synthpop sounds like, and there are legends of the genre like my beloved Duran Duran and OMD that tend to used as examples. The Glaswegian band go far beyond the basic synthpop mould by having a saxophone player – seriously, what synthpop band do YOU know has a saxophonist? – and their cool attitude oozing from every pore.

LYLO Saturday at SXSW 2018

You remember Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, right? Recall that Rafferty was Scottish and this hipness is buried there in their DNA. On ‘Turn My Jacket’, there’s a lot going on, but it’s a happy kind of organised chaos. I found my head bopping to the beat and cheering on these lads. I cracked up as I watched the legs of their keyboardist move around as if they had a mind of their own. Mind you, this was all happening while his hands were at attention on the keys. I guess even he can’t control himself when he gets swept up in the rhythm?

What better way to finish out my SXSW 2018 than with a band that I’d discovered while listening through all the bands from the Continent, poised to find the next big band out of Europe. Moonlight Breakfast, who I’d previewed in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, were appearing at Friends. They were prepared: they had brought their own lighting and projection screens on which they could run their own visuals. These may not sound like much and possibly unnecessary at a dive like Friends. But taken together, they made their show stand out as a professional presentation from nearly all the others I’d seen all week. World class. I would like to think that the place was packed because people had heard about them through my write-up and word has spread fast.

Moonlight Breakfast Saturday at SXSW 2018

Make no mistake, ‘professional’ doesn’t mean stuffy. Like LYLO before them, they had a secret weapon in the form of the clarinet that their drummer ‘Bazooka’ played on ‘I Feel Like Dancing’, and to huge audience cheers. The bounce of singles ‘Time’ and ‘Shout’ made them irrepressible and so catchy, you could feel the energy building in the room. Singer Christie sang with a megaphone and with a huge grin on her face. She knew they’d done good. On the final night of SXSW, you couldn’t ask for a better high note. Fans were fighting over who would buy them drinks after their performance. I smiled to myself as I skipped out the front door of the bar. My job here is done.

I went back to the hotel to start packing for the trip back home and to mentally prepare for the difficult return to my normal life. Seeing Moonlight Breakfast wow a crowd like that was another reminder, like many reminders that week, that TGTF and my writing and opinion here makes a difference. I know for myself that although I can’t be that singer I wanted to be when I was a little girl, the next best thing I can do is to help that girl (or guy) with the same dream. Dream big, laugh, love. Goodnight, SXSW 2018.

For more of my photos from Saturday at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2018: a slower Saturday afternoon at the convention center and hotels – 17th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

I’m always amazed how I feel when I reach the Saturday of the SXSW Music Festival. Everyone who is going at it as hard as we do is exhausted. But we’re also sad. Months of preparation have culminated in our coming out to Austin for this event highlight of the festival calendar, and a part of you dies inside as you accept that it’s almost over.

The Irish rugby-crazy throngs were already up and at ‘em at B.D. Riley’s, so we slept in and decided to get brunch instead. The fancy schmancy Stella San Jac in the Westin was just down the road from the Omni where we stayed this time. At first, I was surprised to see that the place wasn’t crowded. But then I considered that maybe everyone else was still in bed at 1 PM, in the fetal position and nursing hangovers. I hadn’t eaten in nearly 24 hours, and Carrie noted I was hoovering a fried avocado and roasted corn salad in front of her. Ha. After Carrie had a few cups of needed coffee and I downed a bacon bloody Mary, we went down to the convention center for one last time.

avocado salad on Saturday
Wasn’t actually that healthy of a salad…

Carrie headed to a session, while I went into the Trade Expo for some music at the Flatstock stage. Unintentionally but altogether happily, I got a bit of a second helping (side dish?) of Montreal’s Bodywash. I said hello to the band afterwards and we had a nice chat about Pop Montreal vs. M is for Montreal. Pro tip: if you ever need information about an event, ask the people who live in the town where it’s taking place for advice. I came away wanting to visit Montreal ASAP.

The coolest thing for artists about the stages at the convention center – Flatstock, International Day and Radio Day – is that the people who attend these are probably going to be different than those who show up to your afternoon appearances and your evening showcases. It offers another opportunity to wow a different crowd. As the SXSW Gaming Expo was in full swing Saturday, some gaming-inclined kids had wandered into the Flatstock stage area and were spellbound by the next act, Ascot’s Febueder, who I previewed ahead of SXSW back in February.

Febueder Saturday at SXSW 2018

I want to describe their music is soulful, jazzy and catchy – it is all these things – but that would be simplifying it too much. If alt-J hadn’t happened, I don’t think an act like Febueder could dream big. Post ‘An Awesome Wave’, the possibilities are now much wider. I think I always worry how an act is going to be received in the bright lights of the convention center, especially on a Saturday afternoon. But in Febueder’s case, the concern wasn’t needed at all. Their trumpet and electronic drum-infused music was out there at times, yes, but it hit the spot for those keen on finding a new band to follow. Afterwards, people came up to the stage excitedly, wanting a handshake and to know how to spell the band’s name so they could find their act on Spotify. Mission accomplished, guys!

Following two drink interludes – hey, it was St. Patrick’s Day, I’m not turning down a green-coloured ginger beer – Carrie and I split up to catch two acts at Second Play Stages. In case you aren’t familiar with these, they are shows that are mostly before the 7 PM hour at hotels and other unconventional venues that are free and open to the public. Carrie used the opportunity to pick up a performance by Harry Pane at the Hilton that I happened to see on the Second Play schedule. I headed down to Davis Street to check out the Hotel Van Zandt for the first time and to see a band for a second time that week. I seriously wonder what kind of parents think it’s a good idea to bring their families with young kids out to Austin during SXSW. Well, at least if they’re hanging around a hotel lobby in the afternoon, they’ll see some good music, right?

STAL Saturday at SXSW 2018 3

Some of these kids sat in front of the stage were lucky, as STAL were ready to roll for their last performance in Austin. Weirdly, the stage was next to the front door with a steady stream of new hotel guests coming through, so for onlookers, it was distracting to say the least. Taking that into account, STAL admirably ignored the weird situation they found themselves in and performed their style of synthpop as if they were in any other venue in Austin. They sounded great, even if the people watching them weren’t dancing as I had hoped they would. Maybe the adults were as tuckered out as I was? For more of my photos from Saturday at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

man milking an armadillo
You think your week at SXSW was bad? I think this man is trying to milk his armadillo…

 

SXSW 2018: Friday night at Canada House, Communion Presents, a Fluffer Pit party and more – 16th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 4th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Following an interview at the Omni that went swimmingly well, I skipped in dinner in favour of starting my evening strong at Canada House at Swan Dive. The venue’s two stages were taken over by Montreal’s two biggest music events on their calendar, POP Montreal and M is for Montreal. Though I arrived too late to see buzzed about Montreal rock band Corridor on the outdoor M is for Montreal stage, I did get a drink token and could settle in to watch fellow Montrealians Bodywash, friends who met at McGill University. They play a hybrid between shoegaze and synthpop, with dreamy vocals and a rich wall of guitars. Quite lovely.

I popped outside to catch a few songs from another synth-driven act from Montreal, Anemone (real name Chloe Soldevila) and her backing band. She’s the second signee to Luminelle Records, a new venture between the Gorilla vs. Bear blog and Fat Possum Records. Luminelle will be releasing her EP ‘Baby Only You & I’, featuring the sweetly seductive echoes of the title track.

Anemone Friday 2 Friday at SXSW 2018 at SXSW 2018

Back on the indoor stage at Swan Dive were Motel Raphael, three ladies who GQ UK anointed some years back as “the most exciting band to come out of Montreal since Arcade Fire.” A heady compliment indeed, and one entirely deserved. While successful, all-female harmonising groups are nothing new – consider Wilson Phillips, the Dixie Chicks and more recently, The Staves – I really don’t think there are enough of them in the public eye, and Motel Raphael are the kind of band young girls interested in becoming musicians need as role models. I was impressed with their vocal range on their songs that sat more on the folky singer/songwriter side of the spectrum, as well as those in a more straightforward, bright pop vein.

Motel Raphael Canada House Friday 2 at SXSW 2018

Friday was also an opportunity to see some friends in action. On that note, I was headed to what I knew would be a crowded showcase, Communion’s annual tradition of taking over St. David’s main room. Second on the Communion Presents lineup for the evening was rising Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy, with TGTF friend Micheal Quinn of Meltybrains? on drums. Along with SXSW, Kennedy was in the States for a series of shows, many of which sold out even before he set foot on American soil.

Dermot Kennedy Friday at SXSW 2018

Melding the popular genre of hip-hop like that of Drake with the evocative singer/songwriters like Glen Hansard who has become a friend, he offers an olive branch to fans of both types of music with his heart-on-his-sleeve type, accessible writing. As fans thunderously applauded him in the church following his last song of the night, I was reminded that watching a star in the making is a priceless moment. I had every intention of staying for part of Sam Fender’s set that followed Kennedy’s, but the stage was running so behind schedule, I decided I better make a move to my next destination.

I had never witnessed a Fluffer Pit party, but it was high time that I did. They had taken over both stages of Barracuda and I hadn’t been aware that there were two entrances to the place. I was so used to passing from one stage to the other through the internal door separating them. It seemed to take forever but I finally gained admittance through the alley door to the Barracuda backyard in the midst of The Wedding Present’s set.

Instead of having the artists perform on the stage, the ‘stage’ had moved to the gravelly ground, with the audience watching the talent in the round around them. Ironically or not, I had heard them playing ‘Kennedy’ (“too much apple pie”) and bopped my head to it when I was still in the queue outside. I entered just as they were just able to break into my favourite Wedding Present track ‘Brassneck’. What a difference from the Seven Grand show the previous night, under weird blue lighting and the pretension of a whisky bar. This was a much more appropriate venue for them.

LIFE Friday at SXSW 2018

The same could be said about TGTF friends LIFE, who appeared next on the Fluffer Pit bill. Hull’s finest were ready to enthrall the crowd with their politically charged numbers with plenty of welly. They appeared in Austin for the first time last year for SXSW 2017, and now they were back with debut album ‘Popular Music’. It was great to let loose with th’ lads as Mez Sanders-Green led the band through riotous tune after tune. You really haven’t lived if you haven’t shout-sang along to ‘Ba Ba Ba’ or ‘Rare Boots’ and headbanged until you couldn’t headbang any more. So that I would still be able to nod in the morning, I said goodbye to dear friends and re-emerged into the Austin night for something slightly more chill.

I next had to choose between Polish psych and Seattle synthpop. After the sweat and workout at the Fluffer Pit party with LIFE, I decided I could do with a nice, soft cushioned seat and a drink. To avoid the mayhem ensuing on 6th Street, I chose Sisters at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. Formerly the Wednesday night home of Music From Ireland, it was nice to revisit a place I’d come to regularly. Friday night, it played host to the Public Access Touring and Superior Music Publishing showcase.

Andrew Vait and Emily Westman are a synthpop duo with a difference. Given their academic backgrounds, that’s not surprising: they both were schooled at University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, which probably explains Vait’s onstage flute-playing and his squeals of guitar, sometimes in the same song. While they weren’t playing to a big room of people, Sisters didn’t let that bother them, putting on an energetic set punctuated by Westman’s big, booming drumbeats and her and Vait’s combined vocals.

 
 
 

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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