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SXSW 2016: TuneIn Sessions, plus highlights and lowlights from Thursday evening – 17th March 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 6th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

Thursday evening began promising enough, with a fantastic set by The Big Pink at Easy Tiger Patio, which had been transformed into the TuneIn Sessions venue during SXSW 2016. I hadn’t been back to Easy Tiger since my first year of SX in 2012, and I definitely didn’t recall the kind of extensive queues I witnessed this year.

With the Big Pink, however, I would stay for the entirety of the set I actually could see in front of my face, as was very eager to see what was up Robbie Furze’s sleeve. Or rather his always heavily tattooed arm, and now that founding member Milo Cordell has left. Cordell has been replaced admirably and ably, it turns out, by Mary Charteris on keys and backing vocals. I was impressed with the way recent single ‘Hightimes’ sounded live: it’s a nice and welcome evolution from the Big Pink’s first album, 2009’s ‘A Brief History of Love’. It’s also, in a way, a return to their former glory after the less successful ‘Future This’ in 2012, in which the duo had worked with producer Paul Epworth and their attempt at shinier electropop never really got off the ground.

The Big Pink at TuneIn Sessions at Easy Tiger Patio, Thursday at SXSW 2016

I loved The Big Pink’s first album and while single ‘Dominos’ was a given for the set list, I couldn’t believe my luck when ‘Too Young to Love’ was included in the mix. More synth-heavy goodness with a good dose was delivered via songs off the newly released ‘Empire Underground’ EP, out now on B3SCI Records. Of these, ‘Beautiful Criminal’ came out swinging, sounding fresh.

Despite them being American and myself being such a massive fan of electropop, I’ve never managed to see YACHT live. I’ve always been thwarted somehow in seeing them live in DC, so I made a point to stick around at Easy Tiger to finally witness them live to rectify the situation. Whoa. Frontwoman Claire L. Evans, who like me is a science boffin writer type in her ‘normal’ life, is the kind of person one would say was made for the stage.

YACHT at TuneIn Sessions Thursday at Easy Tiger Patio, SXSW 2016

Her camp demeanour, funny faces and gesturing make it clear she was born to be an entertainer, and she serves as a perfect foil to YACHT founder Jona Bechtolt, who is otherwise confined to his table of synths and keys when he’s not jumping up and down and generally being a badass in a Bernie Sanders baseball cap. While I enjoyed the music, I decided halfway through their set that the dramatic and highly sexualised flair employed by Evans, particularly on ‘Ringtone’ and ‘I Wanna F*ck You ‘Til I’m Dead’ (ya, really) would be better enjoyed by someone outside waiting in the queue. Maybe I’ll see you round at a science expo, Claire?

I had a couple of options on tap for the rest of the evening and oddly only really wanted to see one band on the British Music Embassy lineup for PIAS / AIM, FEWS from Sweden (yes, not a UK band, I don’t get that either). Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy them anywhere as much as I had hoped, after listening to ‘The Zoo’ and thinking I was hooked.

FEWS at the PIAS / AIM UK showcase at the British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Thursday at SXSW 2016

Maybe I was stood in the wrong place, or maybe the mix wasn’t quite right, but that would have been surprising at the British Music Embassy, where the sound is usually peerless. However, everything was simply loud and I couldn’t distinguish a melody. I used to think Temples were bad for this kind of music, but at least there was a guitar hook I could latch on to and appreciate.

Disappointed, I left early to find something else. I realised soon enough that I couldn’t walk across from one side of 6th Street to the other like we always had in the past, getting stuck in a crush of bodies going west. As a pretty small woman with claustrophobia, it’s not the greatest of places to find oneself in. I finally decided to stop inside Friends. Inside, a loud and raucous crowd of Canadians (I’m guessing?) were cheering to The Mariachi Ghost: yes, an actual mariachi-themed band living in the Great White North. I feel bad that after all these years, I’ve never had much time to give to the Canadians, whether it be M for Montreal or BreakOut West, the host for this evening’s lineup of talent from Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. When I’m able to clone myself, I’ll let you know.

The Mariachi Ghost describe themselves as “a unique musical fusion of Mexican folk music, progressive rock, spaghetti-western soundtracks, and jazz”. Which is a lot. The band came out of frontman Jorge Requena’s attempt at writing a graphic novel, with the songs based on stories and ideas that first took flight as part of this writing effort. Beyond the many Latino members you’re expecting as part of a mariachi band, this mariachi band also perform with Day of the Dead-esque skull makeup on their faces and with an interpretative dancer bandmate. This evening, she was festooned with flowers in her hair and used a red scarf to great effect, as a visual representation of the music being played, as well as engaging directly with the audience, including one particularly memorable trance-like moment with tango moves with a punter.

The Mariachi Ghost at BreakOut West showcase, Friends, Thursday at SXSW 2016

The audience rightly ate up this hybrid of gig and ballet theatre, and I bet you there was nothing else quite like it all week in Austin. Requena, clearly buoyed by how positively the audience members were responding, was in near tears at the end of their set, saying how wonderful everyone had been to them all week in Austin and how welcome they’d felt as a band so far from home. His final words before their last song was his pronouncement that he’d been getting a tattoo the next morning to commemorate their great time at SXSW. The whole experience was an excellent reminder of how much SX means to musicians, and we ALL should be reminded that while money may be the means of getting to Austin, it’s the actual experience of playing to an international crowd, among so many other bands getting the opportunity to do the same exact thing, that makes SXSW the experience unequaled anywhere else or by any other event in the world.

It was too bad that I only caught part of their set, as it was over too quick and I then I needed to find someone else to see. After being less than wowed by Polica on Monday afternoon at the Onion / AV Club party at Barracuda, I didn’t fancy queueing to get into the Parish to see them, although I was curious to ex-Smith Westerns member Cullen Omori’s new project directly after. He would be followed by Sydney’s DMA’s, who I’d seen on the Radio Day stage at the convention centre earlier, and I figured I’d see the same set, so I chose by venue instead.

Working my way further west, I ‘treated’ myself to a visit to the all-too-posh Driskill Hotel, with the intention of seeing Dion, of ‘Runaround Sue’ and ‘The Wanderer’ fame. Having grown up with parents who listened to either classical or ‘50s and ‘60s oldies music, Dion was a huge fixture in my childhood, and I remember all the words. Dion (surname DiMucci) was in town to do a q&a earlier in the day and this showcase, both to promote ‘New York is My Home’, a new blues studio album.

Dion at the Victoria Room at the Driskill Hotel, Thursday at SXSW 2016

As you might expect, the average age of the audience members in the Victoria Room for his appearance exceeded my own by a hefty bit. There was even an older gentleman who jostled me out of place so he could place a recorder on the surface of a speaker near the stage. Cheeky bugger! Dion is the kind of celebrated musician who would be able to keep telling stories all day and to be honest, I found the anecdotes he shared with us more genuine and heartfelt that his actual songs. More power to him that he’s still rocking it in his 70s. Let’s hope we’re all as creative and engaging as him when we reach those golden years.

And now we reach the part of my evening that didn’t go so well. Smartly (or so I thought), I asked a staff member at the hotel on another exit to the hotel, so I didn’t have to go back into the melee on 6th Street. I had every intention of seeing Brighton synthpop group Fickle Friends at the Sidewinder, then returning to the British Music Embassy to give Liverpool slackers Hooton Tennis Club, who I’d seen at the Great Escape 2015, another go. This never happened, because a man walked into me and on purpose on the corner of E. 7th Street and Trinity. I feel sure it happened on purpose, as there was no crowd on the corner (so there was no reason for him to walk into me) and I purposefully walked in the opposite direction of him coming towards me, but he changed course and charged. The next thing I knew, I was on the sidewalk, I was in pain, and my elbow was bleeding. The man ran across the street and was gone.

Some 20-something were kind enough to help me up and ask me if I needed to go to hospital, but I have been to too many in my life and I was not going to get stuck in A&E on a Thursday night in Austin. I said no and went off to find first aid, still shaking. This was when I learned that neither the police or EMS on the beat for SXSW have first aid kits (meaning they don’t carry antiseptic, sterile gauze or plasters), which you’d think would be a simple thing for all these protective personnel to have. I was and am still beyond shocked that these things that every parent would carry in his/her car for basic first aid for their children were nowhere to be found when I was sat on a curb with blood coming out of my arm. I’ve seen EMS cart off revelers with broken limbs, so maybe if I had broken my leg and couldn’t walk, maybe they’d done something. I got an ice pack, which is I guess is better than nothing.

I note my experience as a safety message that you really need to look out for your friends during SXSW, because I’m not sure what I would have done if Carrie could not come to collect me. I certainly shouldn’t have been driving with a bleeding elbow. It’s an unfortunate, scary and not entirely random event that sadly clouded the rest of my SXSW experience and makes me fear for my safety in future years.

For more of my photos from my Thursday at SXSW 2016 when I wasn’t dealing with a stupid emergency, visit my Flickr.

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #1999: The Big Pink

 
By on Wednesday, 27th January 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

London band The Big Pink – now comprised of original member Robbie Furze (lead vocals/guitar), plus newer members Mary Charteris (vocals/keyboards, pictured at top with Furze), Free Hallas (drums) and Jesse Russell (bass) – are gearing up to release their newest EP, ‘Empire Underground’, on the 4th of March.

The new EP will feature previously unveiled track ‘Hightimes’, which now has its own promo video. Despite its black, white and red coloured animation and goth-y looking visuals, the Big Pink’s sound is still rooted in anthemic guitars and synths (thankfully). Watch the new video for ‘Hightimes’ below.

The timing of the group’s EP’s release is perfect, as the band will be appearing at SXSW 2016 in Austin in March. Before and after their visit to Austin, they will be supporting The Heirs and The Kills on their respective tours this spring. Want to read more on The Big Pink on TGTF? You can do so through this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOFbhdXhMBY[/youtube]

 

Camden Crawl 2012: Day 1 – Ben’s Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 17th May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Music is so deeply hewn in to the tapestry of Camden’s past that even if a rogue bulldozer were to somehow escape the Olympic park and flatten the lot, the Camden faithful would still gather on the detritus (like Kevin Costner in the film Field of Dreams) to watch the ghostly echo of gigs passed. Camden Crawl has managed to do away with wrestling the country/city festival debate that plagues the likes of Hard Rock Calling and SW4 – those who assume the hardware set up should remain universal – by setting up in the across the attics, backrooms and great halls of this cultural nucleus. Since 1995 this festival has showcased the best of the new alternative scene, and this year is set to kick off the festival season with more than 100 artists across 27 venues.

If there’s a better way to kick off a festival than staring down the barrel of two trombones and a trumpet, then I don’t want to know about it. North London eight piece ska punks Imperial Leisure bring a touch of Madness to the opening bout of Camden Crawl 2012 shoehorned, like jostling commuters, on to the wooden floorboards of the archetypal Wheelbarrow pub. As afro sporting singer Denis Smith leers over the baying home crowd, they blast through the likes of ‘Bitter and Twisted’, ‘Landlord’s Daughter’ and ‘Man on the Street’ at a frenetic pace and set an almost unsurpassable benchmark for interaction and tempo.

On the way through the assault course that is tourist dodging up Camden Road to the hallowed turf of the Roundhouse, Hip-Hop Shakespeare have taken to the stage in the cool blue oasis of the Jazz Cafe. With razor sharp wit and tongue, MCs and poets alike take to the stage with the house band to recite their works and challenge the stigma surrounding hip hop as an inferior art form.

At the Roundhouse, the enigmatic Sam Lee has taken charge of the mezzanine and roof space to claim in it in the name of folk for the day. He regales the cross legged crowd with old folk tales before introducing the quintessentially English but bright and almost painfully innocent melodies of Magic Lantern. He then returns with his own modest troupe of eclectic musicians to tell stories and sing, choral and otherwise, to the appreciative gathering. It is an achievement that all festivals should strive for, where for a moment or more people experience the universality of musical and social understanding.

The greyish afternoon sun begins to dip towards the rooftops behind the indoor stage as people are ushered out on to the terrace for Melodica, Melody and Me. Close your eyes and this could be the Champs-Élysées, with people milling and reclining on the steps as the melodica strikes up. Tracks like ‘Hold On’, ‘Ode to Victor Jara’ and ‘Plunge’ are lyrically modern but classic in style, given a Hawaiian twist with the omnipresent (so much so that I’ve already missed a few) ukulele, and despite the dropping temperatures the wax jacket parade has turned out in force.

Pint-size French synthpop three piece We Were Evergreen will surely be one to watch this summer and, having come on in place of Atlantics at the Wheelbarrow earlier in the day, anticipation was growing to see how they would manage a full set at the Roundhouse. Band members Fabienne, Michael and William work independently as masters of their instrument sets – be it guitar and vocal loops, ukulele and banjo, or synth and glockenspiel – to produce a sound with the same good time vibe as the Ting Tings on tracks such as ‘Baby Blue’ or the infectious ‘Eggs’.

Back in the centre of Camden at the Black Head, and Antlered Man are laying down their own crunching brand of hypnotic metal through a loudspeaker to a packed upstairs, whilst round the corner at Underworld post rock instrumentalists Brontide are nailing a precision piece of musical hardware to the largest and loudest crowd yet gathered. In this dingy basement layers build on loop pedals in time with a surge in energy levels, driven by the relentless crash of ex-La Roux drummer Will Bowerman’s sticks.

Hindsight is a wondrous thing, a precious commodity that is lacking as band of the moment Big Pink took to the stage as only second headliners under the shimmering beams of Koko’s mammoth mirror ball. The atmosphere has gained a synaesthetic sheen to match the soundscape of this peculiarly appropriate line up; now the sound has the power to reverberate through chest cavities, and there’s enough dry ice to Beadle’s About a house fire. It is their first time in London, and with material from their acclaimed debut ‘A Brief History of Love’, as well as tracks from 2012 release ‘Future This’ such as ‘Hit the Ground’ and ‘Rubbernecking’, had the audience blown away. And, while lead singer Robbie Furze intermittently sounds like Richard Ashcroft in space, floor filler ‘Dominos’ has every pair of hands up.

Rounding off Saturday of Camden Crawl 2012 are a band who stand out on the bill as somewhat mainstream, even slightly ‘one hit wonder’ for a headline slot. It is an absolute joy to find that the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’ saying rings true and that ‘Hounds of Love’ was merely a marketable peak the PR team let puncture the surface of the Futureheads’ (pictured at top) early career. Below is a hulking mass of traditional folk music done as nature intended, through multi-layered harmonies and classic acoustic instrumentation. There is the oldest song in the English language, ‘Sumer Is I’cumen In’ (the one Edward Woodward is chargrilled to in ‘The Wickerman’) and ‘The Machem’ before the crowd start to lose their nerve and begin an unfortunate smattering of boos and (ironically) a capella versions of ‘Hounds of Love’. But, with an a capella album of their very own to flog in the coming months, the Futureheads continue unperturbed and round off the Saturday admirably with a more inventive, acoustic version of their biggest hit. This appeases the now swaying crowd, who leave with both cheers, and murmurs of anticipation for what Sunday could hold.

 

Video of the Moment #785: The Big Pink

 
By on Friday, 4th May 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Did you have a trying week? The Big Pink‘s new single is ‘Lose Your Mind’, and in their promo video, I think that’s what they’re trying to make you do with a visual assault of flickering images. The song is on the band’s sophomore album, ‘Future This’, which was released in January of this year. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y4PH9cMrdY[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #731: The Big Pink

 
By on Friday, 9th March 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

The Big Pink‘s new video is black and white arty and smoke-filled. The song is from ‘Future This’, the duo’s new album released in January on 4AD. Enjoy your weekend, folks!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCrn2QnJ7UY[/youtube]

 

MP3 of the Day #485: Ladyhawke

 
By on Tuesday, 31st January 2012 at 10:00 am
 

Ladyhawke‘s first new material since her debut album in 2008, ‘Black, White and Blue’, has probably reached your ears by now. (If not, no worries. You can listen to and read my impression of the original in this single review.) The Big Pink have remixed the track, and now it’s got a completely different vibe. Listen to and download the Big Pink’s treatment of the song below.

 
 
 

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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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