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SXSW 2018: Friday afternoon at the Full Irish Breakfast and British Music Embassy – 16th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 4th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

During the week at SXSW, those of us who have day jobs outside of the music industry must check in on occasion on what pays the bills. While I was stuck in our hotel dealing with emails and loose ends, Carrie left early to make our now annual visit to the BMI brunch, so stay tuned for her coverage on the artists who played there at the Four Seasons this year. After getting things in order, I hopped over to B.D. Riley’s for the annual Full Irish Breakfast sponsored by Music From Ireland and First Music Connect, both great friends to TGTF. To my happiness, the place was already full up at noon, requiring quite a bit of jostling and patience to get a bartender’s attention and to find a spot where you could lay out your complimentary breakfast.

Accompanying the free food – with white pudding this year, yes! – were plenty of Irish-born talent raring to go, going nicely with the green décor B.D. Riley’s had already set out ahead of St. Patrick’s Day the next day. Joshua Burnside and his band, who wowed us on the Output Belfast boat ride Tuesday morning, began the day of festivities at the Irish pub. Looking tan in the face (or was that sunburn?), he looked relaxed performing his sixth and final performance in Austin in front of a room of Texan strangers.

Joshua Burnside Friday at SXSW 2018

It’s no wonder why his album ‘Ephrata’ won the Northern Ireland Music Prize in 2017. Burnside’s unique usage of world music influences while maintaining an inherent Irishness through the lilt of his gorgeous voice made the LP released last year unlike anything else. The crowd approved of Burnside and his band’s early yet wonderfully spirited set. A particularly lovely moment was when Burnside went part acoustic for his single from last year, the politically charged and very Northern Irish ‘Red and White Blues’. While its poignant meaning may have been lost on the audience he played it to, the combination of his strong voice accompanied only by acoustic guitar had a quiet beauty, before the rest of his band joined in for added oomph.

The Lost Brothers are Irish, yes. But if you looked at them on the street with their cowboy hats and acoustic guitars, you’d swear they were Americans born and raised in the Wild West. No strangers to SXSW, B.D. Riley’s or Austin for that matter, they took to the stage at the pub with their usual performance aplomb. Whether performing on a boat or in a venue on dry land, the Lost Brothers are the consummate professionals.

The Lost Brothers Friday at SXSW 2018

They arrived in Texas with their latest album effort ‘Halfway Towards a Healing’, recorded in Arizona, and the critical acclaim it has received so far, all deserved. (Read my glowing review of the LP through here.) ‘Echoes in the Wind’, the lead single from the album, came across as effortless, as did more recent single, the sweet, yet humourous ‘More Than I Can Comprehend’ (promo video here).

The third act at the Full Irish breakfast was also ready to put his last SXSW 2018 appearance in the can. Cork’s Talos, who closed out the Music From Ireland showcase at the Velveeta Room the evening previous, was back out with his band and alongside the blinding sunshine streaming in from 6th Street. It was a good thing for musicians from abroad and music fans alike to hide inside B.D. Riley’s for the afternoon: for the first time that week, the mercury reached over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 32 degrees Celsius plus). The sunny afternoon provided contrast to their performance Thursday night, though the sun or heat didn’t dampen their enthusiasm or Eoin French’s falsetto.

Talos Friday at SXSW 2018

Friday was the only afternoon at SXSW 2018 I had some free time to spend at the British Music Embassy. And it was a good day for it, as a slice of sticky toffee cheesecake and a bloody Mary awaited me at Latitude 30. I arrived just as most visitors were finishing up their lunch and ready for the first act, The RPMs. Brighton’s brightest prospect in the pop/rock stakes began the afternoon at the Embassy with gusto, blasting out their upbeat tunes with vigour.

The RPMs Friday 4 at SXSW 2018

Although he must have been boiling in his leopard print jacket, lead singer Jack Valero was a great frontman, flashing a winsome smile and showing a youthful exuberance. Under the better lighting of and with the better sound system of Latitude 30, they shone, and plenty of Americans who hadn’t heard of them until that moment started taking notes. I know, because a bunch of people came up to me and asked me to spell their name and for help finding their Facebook. Ha. I was glad to be of service.

Next up on the bill was Natalie Findlay, the Manchester songstress who scorched former writer Martin’s eyes and ears at Liverpool Sound City 2013. Since those days, she’s morphed like a chameleon many times, never staying put in one specific genre. In an otherwise all-male lineup, it was nice to introduce some good ol’ fashioned girl power into the mix and remind the Americans in attendance that there’s great female talent coming out of Britain, too.

Findlay Friday at SXSW 2018

Flyte’s closeup has been a long time coming. We’ve been writing about them for quite a long time; they nabbed the #5 spot in a reader’s poll here at TGTF at the end of 2013. Last year, they released their long-awaited debut album ‘The Loved Ones’, the culmination of years of hard graft. Performing songs from it live in Austin must have tasted so sweet.

Flyte Friday 2 at SXSW 2018

The group from London sounded decidedly different from the acts before them, with a Beatles-esque indie rock edge. While I thought it was unnecessary for them to do a cover (Alvvays’ ‘Marry Me, Archie’), Americans next to me swayed their head to Flyte’s version, stoked in their unexpected selection. Unexpectedly, I found myself at the bar and next to an unlikely fan, or so I thought: folk pop singer/songwriter Lucy Rose stood spellbound watching them play, only stopping to occasionally note to her drinking companion how great Flyte were. Couldn’t have had a nice endorsement, eh?

Dance funk purveyors Le Galaxie were the perfect choice to close out the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s. Led by well-bearded frontman Michael Pope and performing with ex-Fight Like Apes MayKay on occasional vocals, they turned the Irish pub in the late afternoon into an enthralling disco, the thumping of their catchiest tunes reverberating in every molecule in the place.

Le Galaxie Friday at SXSW 2018

I last saw them in the basement of Audio in Brighton (now Patterns) at The Great Escape 2015. Times may have changed but some things stay the same, and thankfully, Le Galaxie is in the latter. It may not have been 5 o’clock yet in Austin, but it was 5 o’clock somewhere, and punters had no problem shaking a tail feather to their songs.

 

SXSW 2018: bouncing back Thursday night with the Reeperbahn Festival and different genres – 15th March 2018 (Part 3)

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

After removing my wet clothes and hanging them up in ingenious ways off of various pieces of furniture in our hotel room so to not block Carrie’s entry, I returned into the Austin night, buoyed by the brilliance of one Benji Lewis from Australia. There’s been an incredible buzz about Hamburg rapper Ace Tee (say that slowly, and you’ll get it…) and given my good experiences at Friends, I thought I’d stop in at the Reeperbahn Festival showcase there and have a look-in at her and her rhymes.

Not sure what happened with her appearance, but definitely an Oriental woman and not a German-African one was onstage by the time I arrived at Friends. Apparently all the Koreans in the bar knew CIFIKA would be appearing. The twenty-something is an underground favourite back home in South Korea, and she’s spending quite a bit of time in our country post-SXSW on what Billboard has called the longest headline tour of the U.S. by a Korean act ever. None too shabby. An accomplished producer, her electronic creations are already being compared to those of Bjork. And yes, people. She does all her own music. Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp?

CIFIKA Thursday at SXSW 2018

I popped next door to B.D. Riley’s to get a taste of another band from Asbury Park, New Jersey, Dentist, starring husband and wife team Justin and Emily Bornemann. I wondered what kind of people would name themselves after the most unfairly maligned member of the medical community. Instead of making you feel as uncomfortable as if you’re having a root canal, the music of Dentist is actually pretty surf-y. Their quick-moving songs with right-sounding guitars with echoey vocals from Emily sounded like having an ice cream by the beach on a sunny day. Which is pretty impressive, considering I saw them in the dead of night at 10:30 PM.

Dentist Thursday at SXSW 2018

What’s nice about every SXSW is that almost every band plays more than once, so you can see them again if you wish. As mentioned in my review of them performing Wednesday afternoon at German Haus, psych rockers Blackberries revel in doing something different than you would expect from a German band in the 21st century. As the band format is increasingly endangered, we need to support bands like them so we have them making music. Carrie would probably be fine with everyone being solo singer/songwriters going forward, but I’m not!

Blackberries Thursday at SXSW 2018

The Happy Happy Birthday to Me showcase at Seven Grand was running behind schedule, which made my waiting for my intended act longer. I tried to get a brief moment of shut-eye before being admonished by bar staff that “it looks bad” if someone is asleep in a bar. Because I look like I’m drunk? Or because it looks like who you’ve got on is boring? The inexplicably named duo Eureka California from Athens, Georgia, blasted through song after punishing song. They’re so punk, I don’t think they ever introduced themselves. Or maybe they did, and I couldn’t hear them doing it?

David Gedge of the Wedding Present at SXSW 2018

Despite a lengthy soundcheck, during which the bartenders behind me made fun of the vocal checks, I wasn’t disappointed when The Wedding Present finally took the stage. David Gedge is an elder statesman and ambassador of British indie rock now, a position he seems to revel in with all of the live performances he’s willing to put himself and his band through. (Check out my interview with The Gedge just prior to SXSW 2018 through here.) Considering their popularity, it felt odd that they were playing such a small club, and to so few people. To be fair, these were 50 or so uber fans who had appeared near midnight to see them at the Seven Grand, and they were rewarded by having the opportunity to be up close and personal with the band. Chalk up another point for SXSW.

Because of the stage delays at the Seven Grand, I had to leave in the middle of their set to make my way down to the Velveeta Room in time to catch Music from Ireland’s last act of the evening. I somehow missed the mysterious Talos (pronounced “TAH-los”) from Cork at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016, so I was trying to make up for lost time. Seems like caught him at a good time, as it appears he’s making traction here in America. Or, at least, he’s made some superfans in Texas who were plying his backing band with beers?

Talos Thursday at SXSW 2018

The beguiling strains of synths with Eoin French’s gentle, emotional falsetto on the sweeping ‘Odyssey’ proved to be a mesmerising combination. Some young ladies down the front at the venue looked like they were about to faint. (If you wondering, yes, French is quite the looker and seems to be poised to sneak into that cute, yet scruffy Irish boy spot once occupied by Kodaline.) With the added backing of a full live band, the Talos sound is one of bombast, of eye-opening ambition. I am always amazed by the music that comes out of Ireland. I’m sure I’ve said it before: the Irish have faced so much hardship, so much oppression, so many tears. And yet they are able to write and sing some of the most beautiful music ever created. For more photos from my Thursday night at SXSW, visit my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2018: Thursday night with artists around the world and dealing with the unexpected – 15th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

This was my seventh SXSW. Having been punched and groped in 2016 and then having been turned away at a venue despite my having a SXxpress pass this year, I thought perhaps I’d experienced all the peculiarity and awfulness that was meant for me in Austin in this lifetime. You may say I’m getting old and I should just shake these things off, but my tolerance for BS is minimal these days at best. Having crossed off Munich’s Joasihno and Solingen’s Blackberries at German Haus’ Wednesday afternoon programming, Thursday night was supposed to be a pretty relaxing evening stroll from venue to venue. Pretty sure I jinxed myself…

Like Wednesday evening, Thursday evening began for me with a stop at a drinks reception, this time the Le Bureau Export New York / France Rocks’ drink and food reception at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop. Call me crazy, but I assumed that after visiting the House of Scandinavia on Monday and snacking on some faux meatballs, we’d be getting some champagne and French-themed food at this reception. I think there was a major miscalculation in attendance predictions, as I got there pretty early to queue and by the time I got upstairs, nearly all the food was gone. The French contingent might consider either ordering more food next year, or do a better job limiting access. It was very strange, too, that except for one sign advertising the event that was stood next to a picnic table full of official staff, there were no other indications that this was a French event. At the Focus Wales night the evening before, there were Welsh flags down the bar and on individual tables; German Haus had awesome-looking banners and their unique blue-green design branding in front of Barracuda’s indoor stage.

The reception was useful in that I was in the right place when the first act of the Bureau Export France showcase began. They even began before 8 PM, pretty tops. I had seen electronic act STAL 3 years ago playing at the Clash Magazine showcase at Coalition at the 2015 edition of The Great Escape. At the time they were based in Paris, but they now call Los Angeles home. At STAL’s core is composer Pierre-Marie Maulini, who cut his teeth on rock bands in the early Noughties before forging a friendship with and going on tour with Anthony Gonzalez’s M83. It’s purported that the 2 years Maulini spent touring ‘Saturday = Youth’ with Gonzalez and crew inspired him to start his own project and thus STAL, the word for steel in various languages, was born.

STAL Thursday at SXSW 2018

STAL’s music has morphed in the last few years; recent single ‘The Crime’ (my review here) sees them veering towards a more overtly mainstream pop sound, probably what Maulini meant in a previous Facebook post in which he mentioned them going on “a brand new journey”. Time will tell if this will translate to bigger success for them as I had hoped for when I saw them in 2015. What will help them big-time in this regard is the energy of their live show. You can tell they’re friends and getting into it, and as fun as it is to watch them, the frenetic motions onstage encourages you to join in on the floor and dance. Maulini and live guitar and synths bandmate Jeff Di Rienzo (guitar and synths) were constantly moving their bodies to the beat. Newest single ‘Magic’ that came out last Friday is more in line of what I think of from an electropop band; check it out in its premiere on our friends Glamglare’s Web site.

On my way down the stairs, I stopped to catch a song by girl group TAWINGS who were playing on the indoor stage at the Sounds from Japan showcase. Channelling ‘60s garage rock, the Tokyo group’s sound chugs along like so many bands we’ve heard before. So much that you might think you’re listening to another band. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that’s what they say, right? Any other night, I could be quite happy listening to a band like this. At SXSW, not so much.

TAWINGS Thursday at SXSW 2018

I left STAL’s set before it ended, because I had a long walk to the Kobalt AWAL / blahblahblahscience show at the Palm Door on Sabine Street. I made it just as East Anglians turned Londoners Otzeki, who I’d written about in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, began to play. It was some luck that I had given them a pass Tuesday night, instead choosing to stay for The Academic’s full set at The Main II (see more here). Otzeki’s show that evening was shut down by bouncers two songs in because singer Mike Sharp had commandeered a bottle of Maker’s Mark (the Seven Grand is a whisky bar) and refused to surrender it to staff.

The well-lit venue gave folks plenty of room to drink, dance and observe the band however they wanted to. The bounce of their electronic-driven music was funky and seemed to be intriguing the audience, most of whom I guessed didn’t know who they were before wandering into the building. Then things got weird. Sharp repeatedly bounded into the audience with his microphone, leading to impromptu twirls around and serenading of punters. This in itself is not unusual. Most music fans like this kind of interaction, and the women he confronted seemed to enjoy the joke. Having had close calls with guitars and microphone leads in my face in the past, I prefer such interaction at a distance.

Otzeki Thursday SXSW 2018

He decided to take his shirt off, then gaffa tape his chest across his nipples. Er, okay, performance art. Then he decided to pick up the water dispenser that all Austin bars have. Bar owners know that revelers drink too much during SXSW, and their defense is to keep these people hydrated. What happened next seemed to move in slo mo. Sharp must have jumped in the air with the dispenser, and what seemed like all the water in it fell on me. I’ve had some stupid stuff happen to me in my life, but this took the cake.

Was he acting provocatively during SXSW to create a buzz about their act while in Austin? Good that it happened to me and not some A&R dude, I guess. Their manager was kind enough to try and source me some actual towels, but I soon decided I had to get out of the air-conditioning and out of my clothes ASAP. I walked by a hotel staff member on the way back up to 6th Street and she asked me what happened. After hearing the story, she said, “you’re taking it awfully well, considering.” What else could I do?

I refused to let this incident get the best of me. I headed for St. David’s Sanctuary next, warning the door staff that my clothes were wet, and would that be okay if I sat in a pew to enjoy the next performance? They waved me on and said that if I needed a blanket, they had some in the back that I could help myself to. That was nice of them. Being able to sit is not a perk you get in all venues, and after what happened, it was mighty welcome. When I arrived, soulful electropop singer/songwriter Benji Lewis of Melbourne, Australia, was still setting up with his live bandmate and friend Allen. I hadn’t missed a moment of what would be one of the most magical performances I witnessed in Austin all week.

Benji Lewis Thursday 2 at SXSW 2018

Like many Aussies wanting to be noticed beyond antipodean borders, he’s moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of global stardom. In this interview with our friends at The AU Review, Lewis explained that he stripped back his set at St. David’s to respect his environment, choosing to go with lighter sounds. The decision paid off in spades: the Aussie singer’s falsetto floated lighter than air, making songs like his standout single ‘Drift’ sound absolutely beautiful within the incredible acoustics of St. David’s. While I may have been down when I arrived, Lewis’ velvet tones were just what I needed to regroup and remind myself why I was in Austin. Check out his newest single ‘Deep Blue’ below. For more of my photos from Thursday night at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2018: Tuesday night with a mix of American, English and Scottish artists – 13th March 2018

 
By on Monday, 2nd April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Tuesday evening at SXSW 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag, but as often happens with mixed bags, there were treasures waiting to be discovered within. I started my night session at the Seven Grand, which played host to the Killing Moon x ReverbNation showcase. The UK indie record label and the American artist development company had joined forces to create a strong lineup representing both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. I arrived early for an interview with London singer/songwriter Allman Brown (watch for that article to post in the coming days), but the action on stage started with Massachusetts rock band Lux Deluxe.

Lux Deluxe internal

I had never heard of Lux Deluxe before that Tuesday night, but they had a handful of devoted fans in the small crowd at the Seven Grand, as evidenced by the cheering and dancing that broke out as soon as the band hit the stage. To my ear, there was nothing particularly remarkable about their generic rock ‘n’ roll, but it was unquestionably energetic and there was nothing really offensive about it either. Unfortunately, my main impression was that lead singer Ned King, for all his enthusiasm, looked like Rick Moranis doing a bad Mick Jagger impersonation, and that mental image, once formed, was one that I couldn’t unsee.

Lux Deluxe 2

Unlike the exuberant band before him, Allman Brown came on stage alone and with a distinctly unassuming air about him. His banter with the gathering crowd was engaging, even to the point of distraction, until he mildly admonished an enthusiastic woman dressed in a panda suit [Amanda Panda – Ed.], “We’ll talk later, I’m kind of in the middle of something now.” Luckily, his impassioned singing soon had the crowd’s full attention. TGTF featured Brown’s track ‘Sons and Daughters’ in collaboration with Liz Lawrence in our (SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #397, but his solo acoustic performance at the Seven Grand was more powerful, and his latest ballad ‘Moonlight’ took on an even more delicate beauty.

Allman Brown internal

The remainder of the  Killing Moon x ReverbNation docket included UK bands Francobollo, Flyte, and Otzeki, but after Allman Brown’s lovely interlude, I excused myself and headed for the Driskill Hotel, whose Victorian Room is a sure bet if you want to hear singer/songwriters at SXSW. I was excited to see Chloe Foy, whom we also previewed ahead of her appearance in Austin, but I arrived early enough to catch the act on before her, Brooklyn folk duo The Brother Brothers.

Brother Brothers internal

As with Lux Deluxe, I hadn’t acquainted myself with The Brother Brothers, who are actually twins Adam and David Moss. My ears were greeted with their graceful Americana sound as soon as I walked into the otherwise quiet Victorian Room, and I was immediately fascinated when I noticed that one of the brothers was plucking and strumming his violin in the style of a guitar. He would switch to the more traditional method as their set went on, and the instrumental harmonies between the violin and guitar were as simple and sweet as their vocal counterparts. Click here to watch The Brother Brothers perform their song ‘Tugboats’, and on an actual tugboat!

Chloe Foy internal

In the interim after The Brother Brothers’ set, I took a seat on the carpeted floor, as is customary in the Victorian Room, to get a better vantage point for Chloe Foy. When I next looked up, I found myself sitting cross-legged next to NPR’s Bob Boilen. He and I have crossed paths before at SXSW, most memorably in 2016 when we both covered Brighton singer/songwriter Holly Macve. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see him, as Foy and Macve have similarly enchanting alt-folk overtones, though Foy’s influences lean more toward the delicate beauty of the English art song tradition. Foy played a mesmerising set at the Driskill, including the darkly dramatic ‘Fire and Flood’.

Coln Macleod internal

Scottish songwriter Colin Macleod might be considered an exception to the Driskill’s standard singer/songwriter fare, as his brand of folk rock is more alt-rock than folk-influenced. However, the emphasis on lyrical composition is clearly part of Macleod’s repertoire, and in that way, he fits quite nicely into the singer/songwriter category. Unfortunately, the reserved and decorous vibe of the venue didn’t entirely suit the style of his music, and his performance ultimately felt a bit constrained. The highlight of the set was his current single ‘Kicks In’, which did in fact lift the energy level in the room for at least a brief moment.

Belle Adair internal

Macleod’s set actually ran a bit short, so I had plenty of time to make my next appointment at B.D. Riley’s for Alabama indie rock band Belle Adair. I’ve typically visited B.D. Riley’s during the annual Full Irish Breakfast, so it initially felt a little strange for me to hear American accents coming from the small stage. However, Belle Adair’s mellow pop-rock was an easy adjustment to make, and their engaging warmth on stage clearly resonated with the crowd in the Irish pub. Listening to their current single ‘Get Away’ was indeed like taking a brief mental vacation from the hustle and bustle of SXSW; watch the official video just below

My final stop for the evening was at The Main II for an Irish rock band I’d first seen last year at B.D. Riley’s, The Academic. Mary was already at the venue when I arrived, and though we don’t typically double up on coverage, this was to be The Academic’s only SXSW 2018 show, and neither of us wanted to miss it. You might already have read Mary’s report on the show back here, so I’ll only add that this was a very different band to the four shy lads who stared at their shoes on the B.D. Riley’s stage a year ago. This time they had a hit album under their belts, and the room was full of young female fans, as well as a rowdy group of Irish punters who’d come specifically to see them play their 1 AM show. The Academic took full advantage of the triumphant mood, playing an exuberantly sweaty and altogether brilliant set to cap off their North American tour.

The Academic internal

 

SXSW 2018: Thursday afternoon at the convention center – 15th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 2nd April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Thursday afternoon at SXSW 2018 had some intriguing, music-themed SXSW Conference sessions. Thursday’s keynote starred a musical great the ‘90s version of me would have been squeezing over. To us who were kids then, Linda Perry was famous for her big hat and goggles in the video for 4 Non Blondes’ hit ‘What’s Going On’. Since then, she’s been a heavy hitter in the songwriting department: yes, she wrote Pink’s ‘Get This Party Started’ and Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’, just to name two massive pop hits. She appeared in Austin with Kerry Brown, her co-founder in We Are Hear, a hybrid of a record label (they call themselves an “artist empowerment record label”) and publishing company.

Linda Perry Thursday at SXSW 2018

We Are Hear was just launched last year, but they’re already making huge strides in showing that the traditional record label model isn’t the best way forward. They might just prove someday soon it’s broken entirely. Willa Amai is a 13-year old working with their company, and her cover of Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ blew up when it was used in a Quickbooks advert. As organic as is possible in the internet age, Amai got plenty of attention through the online Quickbooks spot, and loads of people were clamouring to purchase the song in digital format. And the song wasn’t even available for sale yet!

Both Brown and Perry were emphatic about how important it is to nurture artists as people as well as the artists they want to become. Perry was explaining that in the case of Amai, the artist is so young, she wants to be protective of her and respectful of her schooling. It seems like a no-brainer that record labels will get better returns on their financial investment if they listen to those artists signed to them and take care of them. But as we all know, that doesn’t always happen. Hopefully with the success of companies like We Are Hear, the music industry’s evolution will be a fruitful one as we go forward.

In How Tech Can Save the Music Industry, four trailblazers in the tech space spoke about what they’ve done to help a specific niche of our industry. PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers has now cofounded another company, the dotBlockchain Music Project. The technology of blockchain is on everyone’s lips these days, and Rogers’ latest project is another entry into making sure everyone who needs to share information in the business so that music creators are paid. We all can get behind that! Eron Bucciarelli­-Tieger is the CEO of Soundstr, which is focused on getting the royalties due to artists performing their own music that should, in an ideal world, be tracked by the performing rights organizations so many artists already belong to and pay dues to.

How Tech Can Save the Music Industry session Thursday at SXSW 2018

Dae Bogan is the founder and CEO of TuneRegistry, software to help artists who aren’t represented by a bigger entity navigate the complicated, confusing world of music publishing. Given that so many artists over the years have been conned out of profits that should have been theirs, a product like this couldn’t have appeared soon enough. Jason Robert is co-founder and CEO of HelloSugoi, an alternative ticketing platform built on blockchain that, in theory, should revolutionize how event tickets are sold. Robert made a compelling argument that his company could resell tickets but instead of using a reseller model like StubHub’s, the artists would be able to get more of the money from ticket sales than to be held by the reseller. After I got my fill from this session, I caught the last song by Philadelphia’s Mt. Joy at the Radio Day Stage. They were wowing an admirable crowd of spectators, people probably just barely awake at half past 1 in the afternoon.

Mt. Joy Thursday at SXSW 2018 2

By this point Thursday, I felt a lot of positivity and good will from the speakers I had the opportunity to hear from. Then I entered the Why Music Journalism Matters in the Streaming Era, starring editors from major print and online media outlets you’ve all heard of. I stopped taking notes after a while because I felt frustrated. Andy Cohn of FADER reveled in the fact that his outlet was still available in print, whereas SPIN is not. Sure, some friendly ribbing. Cohn also said that outlets like theirs are no longer chasing after being the first to break a new artist. Um, when did that go out of fashion? I’m pretty sure people still want to be the first. Maybe what he meant was that outlets like theirs cherry-pick who looks most promising from the coverage of smaller sites? Or perhaps click bait is more important? The up-and-coming artist is no longer up-and-coming by the time they reach outlets like theirs. Cohn also insisted, “there’s less of a purpose for music criticism than for music curation.” Okay, so not everyone is interested in reading reviews, but unless your gaze is fixed on the playlists on Spotify or Apple Music, what are the chances you are actively thinking about curation?

Music journalism session Thursday at SXSW 2018

The most troublesome statement during the session to me was Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber saying that nobody blogs anymore. He may not know anyone who still blogs, but we blog, and I know plenty of other people who do, too. TGTF will never be as big as a Pitchfork or a magazine with a national run. I made my peace with that a long time ago. But just because we’re not on his radar doesn’t mean we’re not valid or useful. For a lot of up-and-coming artists who don’t have a chance getting coverage in a major magazine or online outlet, blogs like ours are their first opportunity to get noticed. I just sat there in my chair, gritting my teeth, imagining my fist going through a wall.

A local, disabled African-American journalist asked for the microphone and said she wanted “brown and black” journalists to be better represented in the media, hitting out that three of five of the panelists in this session were white men. I understand and am sympathetic to her point, but I think her swearing detracted from her message. Also, technically, I’m yellow, so I wondered, where exactly do I fit in this journalist spectrum? I’m neither white, brown or black. Hrm… I’m glad SPIN Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel was there; she said that when the SPIN position opened up and was offered to her, she took it with both hands because “when else will a woman of color get this opportunity?” Sad but true.

Thankfully, there were some positive notes from the session. I’ve always respected Bandcamp for providing a platform that can level the playing field for any artist who wants to release and stream music with them. Senior Editor of Bandcamp Marcus Moore quipped, “We’re for the people who read the liner notes.” That seems to ring true to me: the only people I know in my circle of friends who know of artists’ Bandcamps are true music geeks who are eager to collect and discover new music. If you haven’t checked out Bandcamp Daily yet, I recommend you do: I discovered their blog when I was researching SXSW 2018 acts, and they support those that choose to use their site.

Aryeh Bourkoff and Daniel Glass Thursday at SXSW 2018

My final session at the convention center was a conversation between Glassnote Entertainment Group’s Daniel Glass and Aryeh Bourkoff of Liontree. Everyone’s heard of the acts Glass and his label have made famous: he launched the American, and then global careers of Mumford and Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix and CHVRCHES. Like Linda Perry and Kerry Brown said in the morning, Glass said that the secret to Glassnote’s success was their staff’s passion in nurturing their artists and supporting them every step of the way. Bourkoff asked Glass what made the difference in his artists succeeding and other artists with other management teams not having the same kind of success. He gave an example of his family having shown up in London at a CHVRCHES show during Thanksgiving weekend to give their personal support and to have dinner with the band. Glass also said that his staff have incredible attention to detail on what their artists are doing and where they are playing, so much that they know exactly where their artists are pretty much every day. In attendance at the session were English girl duo IDER, recent signees to Glassnote who are likely to skyrocket to fame just like labelmates before them.

 

SXSW 2018: Brits and Americans late Wednesday night – 14th March 2018 (Part 4)

 
By on Thursday, 29th March 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

BBC Sound of 2018 nominee Sam Fender hails from Newcastle, and it must be a boon to the young man to have been invited to play at the inaugural This is Tomorrow festival astride the Tyne in May. It just so happens I will be at that event, so I viewed seeing Fender in Austin, out of his normal environment, an exciting preview of his appearance back home in 2 months’ time. Although the North East singer/songwriter’s music on record sounds like the polished pop on the charts, a closer listen to each song reveals he’s got more on his mind than girls and relationships. There were definitely more young girls than guys of any age down the front waiting for him at Latitude 30.

Sam Fender Wednesday at SXSW 2018 3

“This is a song about going out on a Friday night and getting beat up” was how he introduced ‘Friday Fighting’ in a deadpan manner. I was struck by the cynicism of ‘Millennial’, it made me think of the kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and how some adults have attacked them for being “young and dumb”. You have to give Fender props for the conviction to stick to his guns thematically and lyrically. Carrie didn’t invoke Bruce Springsteen’s name in her preview of his appearance at SXSW 2018, but I’m going to go there now. His exuberant, powerful performance – playing a Fender guitar, of course – suggests he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Sam Fender Wednesday at SXSW 2018 2

Bowing out of Latitude 30 after Fender left the stage, I popped over to Friends bar on 6th Street, which for me is one of the most underrated SXSW venues. There’s no cover, even during SXSW, and the bar goes on for quite a distance. Very rarely is it chockablock, which is a relief for those of us who suffer from claustrophobia and need room to breathe. Funny I just mentioned The Boss, as the artist who was finishing up at Friends was an artist from Asbury Park, New Jersey, which, at least to Americans, is associated in our minds with Springsteen. I think any artist coming from the town must know they will be compared to him and probably don’t want to go down the rock route.

Farrow (not to be confused with Leeds electronic artist Matt Farrow, who also goes by the same mononym) are an ambient duo from Jersey. The problem here was a mismatch of artist and venue. The level of sound from their electronics were no match for the size of the bar, and I couldn’t tell if this was a problem with amplification, or the act actually intended such a gentle performance. I’m intrigued by the tunes on their Soundcloud, so I’d guess they’d sound better in the right environment.

Annie Hart Wednesday at SXSW 2018

Carrie and I have surmised the past few years that artists are spending less time the week of SXSW in order to save on accommodation in Austin; shows with paltry attendance like this one and earlier in the week seem to support the idea that visitors to Austin, whether they be industry or not, are also cutting back on their time in town. Following Farrows was synthpop solo artist Annie Hart, of New York City’s Au Revoir Simone, a band I first heard of through their collaboration with Friendly Fires on their early hit ‘Paris’. She was dressed in an all, black, body-hugging outfit, making it easy for her to dance, even while she was playing her Nord keyboard. Despite her sprightliness and giving it her all on songs like the melancholic ‘I Don’t Want Your Love’, Hart’s performance fell flat in the absence of an audience to listen to her, which was a real shame.

I returned to the Townsend for the final two acts of the Focus Wales showcase. At least that was the plan. Feted up-and-coming house artist Doc Daneeka was supposed to be onstage by the time I arrived. Instead, I found him scratching his head and working with who I later found out was an ill-prepared SXSW staff member who was pinch-hitting for the actual sound man and ended up frying some of his equipment by trying to plug in UK plugs into an American socket. The labels on this power strip at Latitude 30 may be the way to go for UK artists at SXSW in the future, eh? The Focus Wales staff kept offering me drinks but as it was so late, I decided to sit down and wait until they got it together. More than half an hour behind schedule, Doc Daneeka admirably rolled with the punches, spinning on his two turntables a smooth, mesmerising set that was welcome after a long day of work and play in Austin. Two house fans excitedly approached him after he finished, wanting to shake his hand and get photographs with him; I’m sure this meant so much after playing to a small crowd.

Doc Daneeka Wednesday at SXSW 2018 2

Rachel K Collier was given the last slot at the Townsend. Like Doc Daneeka, she had trouble getting her equipment hooked up and working. I hung on for as long as I could, until nearly 2 AM, before I finally cried uncle and had to drag my feet back to the hotel. I was glad to have seen Collier the night before at the British Music Embassy and despite my missing third appearance of the week, I’m confident I’ll get another chance to see her play sometime soon. For more photos of my Wednesday night at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.

 
 
 

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