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SXSW 2017: Friday afternoon’s focus on hearing health, with a bit of live music from Ciaran Lavery and The Sandinistas – 17th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 18th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

During one of our many treks through the Austin Convention Center earlier in the week, Mary and I had noticed that free hearing screenings were being offered to musicians and music professionals attending SXSW 2017. In Real Life, I’m currently back at university studying for my own clinical doctorate in Audiology, so I was naturally intrigued. After spending Friday morning at the BMI / AT&T Fiber Acoustic Brunch), I had a brief interval of down time, so I walked over to the Convention Center to take advantage of the service.

I arrived at Mezzanine Room 2 just as audiologists from Nashville-based charity Songs for Sound and Austin-based Estes Audiology were finishing their set up for the day, and the staff were kind enough to chat with me as they worked. They explained that Songs for Sound’s travelling Hear the Music Project had stopped in Austin for SXSW to provide music professionals attending the festival with free hearing exams and audiology consultations, while Estes Audiology had teamed with MusiCares, another non-profit music charity, to provide musicians with free custom-made ear protection. But their services weren’t only intended for showcasing artists. I’m not a practicing musician myself, but I qualified for an exam and ear moulds as a 5-year music journalist.

To begin the process, I had to fill out a quick form regarding my hearing health and occupational history, to confirm that I was eligible. Once that was finished, I had ear moulds made, which would be used to create my custom-fit earplugs. A thick, blue foam was squirted into each of my ears and allowed to harden. The mould was removed, and I was asked how much hearing protection I needed. I chose the moderate-level 17 dB attenuation, which is recommended for loud music concerts or club environments. My custom ear protectors are due to arrive by mail in just a couple of weeks, and as it turns out, I have extra motivation to use them.

After the ear mould fitting, I was administered a pure tone audiometry screening, using a touch pad and over-the-ear headphones. I was dismayed to learn that my hearing test result suggested a possible mild low frequency hearing loss. Songs for Sound audiologist Paul Shanley told me that this would be consistent with frequent exposure to loud music without hearing protection, and he encouraged me to wear earplugs when attending gigs. If you’ve read TGTF’s coverage of SXSW in the past, you might know that I’ve received this advice before. I’m typically loath to wear earplugs when listening to music, because I feel that they dampen the vibrant tone colors and subtle nuances in the sound, but this was a sobering reminder to protect both my hearing and my ability to enjoy live music.

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After my hearing exam was complete, I met Mary at Latitude 30 for a brief stop at the Output Belfast day show, where she had gone to see electronic musician Ryan Vail. The Northern Irish showcase has become a bit of a tradition for us at TGTF, so I was a little sad that we didn’t have time to stay for the whole thing. But I couldn’t help pausing for a quick listen to the next artist on the bill, Ciaran Lavery, who once again commanded the room with only the raw, powerful sound of his singing voice.

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I made sure to have my earplugs at the ready for our next stopover at Valhalla, where we caught Welsh punk rockers The Sandinistas. Mary had seen them the day before here at SXSW, but she was impressed enough that she thought I should hear them too. And indeed, their punk rock sound was massive inside the small, red-tinged Valhalla, despite their basic guitar, bass and drums set up. Even watching their set for Music Tastes Good felt like a high-impact aerobic workout: just the thing I needed to get re-energised for the remainder of the afternoon. We featured their debut single ‘Ready to Blow’ in our SXSW 2017 preview coverage of the Welsh acts showcasing this year in Austin, and you can check out a live session performance of its b-side ‘Down on the Street Today’ just below, courtesy of Studio Toy.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/eVH8rpPMIPI[/youtube]

Mary and I spent the last part of Friday afternoon back at the Convention Center, where Mary took the time to have her own hearing screened and to get fitted for custom hearing protection. Her hearing exam results were squeaky clean, undoubtedly because she’s fastidious about wearing earplugs to gigs, but she still chose to take advantage of the customised ear moulds to help ensure that her hearing remains intact for many more years of music listening. Fellow live music lovers, take note!

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On the subject of long music careers, our final appointment for Friday afternoon was at a panel session celebrating the 20th anniversary of a leading independent music label. You can read my summary of that panel session, ‘Bella Union at 20’, right back here. Stay tuned to TGTF for my coverage of Friday night at SXSW 2017 events, which will post later this week.

 

SXSW 2017: rock in its many wonderful forms at the British Music Embassy Thursday afternoon – 16th March 2017

 
By on Friday, 31st March 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

I go through usually unexplainable cycles of change in my musical tastes. However, the impetus for the latest change, while really only reaffirming my long-held admiration for hard rock, has no doubt been the drastic political upheavals that have befallen Britain and America in the last 9 months. The vote in favour of Brexit and the election of Trump have made me feel we’re getting ever closer to the end of days. But rock, in its headbangingly perfect way, has provided a constructive, much needed outlet in which to vent my frustration and anger. At times, rock has provided temporary respite, a brief means of escape when things feel too soul crushing.

I don’t often get the opportunity to stay for an entire showcase at SXSW, but I made time in my schedule for Thursday afternoon at the British Music Embassy at SXSW 2017. Last year, Northern Powerhouse took over Latitude 30 with all Northern line-up of hard-rocking bands. The first band on this Thursday performed on that very showcase, though I missed them then because I was interviewing Craig Johnson of fellow Leeds group Autobahn outside.


Fizzy Blood, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

Now I was finally getting a chance to hear Fizzy Blood‘s ear-splitting, yet oddly melodic brand of in-your-face rock. Dressed like he was going to a Hawaiian luau, frontman Benji Inkley screamed into his microphone like it was no big deal. He told jokes in between their songs and sounded like a good friend of mine from Wakefield. Together with the unrelentingly booming instrumentation behind him, their set was blistering, yet oddly comforting. Somehow, I don’t think Carrie would have agreed with me, ha.


The Sandinistas, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

If I thought I would get a chance to catch my breath, I had another thing coming. Which was fine by me! Next up were the Sandinistas, from Tredegar, Wales. I had a good feeling from the answers their lead singer / guitarist Dan Hagerty gave to our SXSW 2017-flavoured Quickfire Questions that we were on the same wavelength. I wasn’t wrong; you can listen to my chat with him here. But back to their performance. Like Fizzy Blood before them, they were a good, stark reminder that despite the seeming need for pop bands to throw a synthesiser into the mix, all you really need sometimes are the basic band setup (a lead singer, guitars and drums) and well-written songs. Interestingly, they sound less like the Clash (look again at their band’s name, if you missed it) and more like The Libertines.


The Sandinistas, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

The challenge that some bands never manage to overcome is to truly connect with their fans. The Sandinistas, however, made engaging punters look easy by not only being very funny between their songs, but also explaining with a laugh where the inspiration of their songs came from. Hagerty may be happily married but he’s going to take an ex and the village bicycle down a peg, which works well in a room of guys who have been wronged by a woman or two. And they don’t mind taking down another supposedly happily married man, our President, and his trophy wife. “She’s so shallow!” shouts Hagerty and naturally, the crowd approves. Even Hagerty’s own wife can’t escape the same treatment: if he’s to be believed, their single ‘Ready to Blow’ is about the sexual frustration he had before they got together. And so a future hit song was born.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik74yCjG7S4[/youtube]


Chain of Flowers, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

From the valley to the big city: it was on to another Welsh band, Chain of Flowers. And with their own and different approach to rock: gothy post-punk to be more precise. The Cardiff group had the added benefit of having been in America before, touring our two coasts last summer with their eponymous debut album produced by New York City’s Ben Greenberg. Joshua Smith’s vocals, melancholic in the vein of tortured Ian Curtis and Robert Smith before him, were framed by a buzzy, washy wall of sound. ‘Nail Me to Your Cross’? Admittedly, it’s not for everyone but trust me, you know if you favour this kind of brooding kind of denseness to rock out to.


LIFE, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

From Wales, we were then returned back to the North to face some East Yorkshire ‘tude head on. Quite literally. Hull punks LIFE, eager to preview their debut album ‘Popular Music’ in America, came roaring out the gate with crashing guitars and drums. I’m not fond of punk where it’s loud all the time and there’s no semblance of melody. What’s the point of making loads of noise with no purpose? Mick Sanders has solved that problem with his melodic and memorable guitar lines that skirt pop sensibility.


LIFE, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

But if there was any question of this band’s intentions, his brother Mez Green comes through with his biting lyrics. This is a man you wouldn’t want to cross, the sneer on his face unmistakable as he calls out Tories he’d probably chase down with a baseball bat. Try as you might, but you can’t look away. There is something improbably charismatic about him, a Brett Anderson-like presence preening and twirling onstage, deadpanning about looking for ‘Rare Boots’ in the shopping stalls of Hull but with an acid tongue reminiscent of Mark E. Smith. Something tells me Green enjoys this juxtaposition, all while the rest of the band thunders behind him. LIFE hit out at Brexit in ‘Euromillions’ and win the crowd over, drawn in by their devil may care attitude and equally unruly nature. Good thing too, as they would return to the British Music Embassy Saturday to bid this year’s SXSW adieu. Listen to my interview with Mez and Mick after this set through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbqxNJ2W6G0[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2017 Interview: Dan Hagerty of The Sandinistas

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd March 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

The Sandinistas from Wales were one of my favourite acts at this year’s SXSW. Their combination of taut, catchy rock tunes, hilarious stage patter between tunes and plenty of charisma made for an entertaining and engaging performance. This was true both times I got a chance to see them in Austin, first at Thursday afternoon at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, followed by a set at Valhalla on Red River at Long Beach’s Music Tastes Good showcase.

Following quite a show they put on at Latitude 30, I sat down on a table – literally – outside Latitude 30 with their guitar-toting frontman Dan Hagerty (in the foreground of the photo at the top of this post). He’s a man who favours an almost split whilst performing that Prince would probably squeal with approval at, and as stated in his answers to our SXSW 2017-flavoured Quickfire Questions, the Beatles changed his life. Given my agreement with many of his answers, I figured he and I would have a nice conversation under the Texas sun, and you can have a listen in to this interview below. Oh, and am I allowed as a woman to say he’ll be the next pin-up on your bedroom wall, girls? (Step back and stop foaming at the mouth, ladies. I’m sorry to tell you he’s already married.) To read more of our coverage on The Sandinistas on TGTF, follow this link.

DSC01378-The Sandinistas Thursday at British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, SXSW 2017

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Welsh artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Friday, 10th March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Wales may be small in size, but they are a proud country never short of praise and support of their musical artists. BBC Radio 1 presenter Huw Stephens is quick to promote his countrymen and women, and I am sure he’s pleased with all five of the artists to showcase this year at SXSW 2017. The summaries of acts below were written by Rebecca Clayton and Steven Loftin. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Casi – pop / Bangor
A young singer/songwriter originally from Bangor, Wales, Casi Wyn is currently based in London. Casi grew up speaking her mother tongue of Welsh and hearing traditional music, before getting into pop music in her teens, which probably explains the melding of eerie vocals and electropop rhythms in her music. Last year, Casi released her entrancing single ‘Lion’, an ethereal and moving track that showcases Casi’s angelic vocals and her evocative song writing. Since then she’s also shared ‘Golden Age Thinking’ and this year’s ‘The Beast’ via her label Chess Club Records. (Rebecca Clayton)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=873g5wS7ltM[/youtube]

Chain of Flowers – post-punk / Cardiff
A surprisingly great modern take on post-punk. Choruses thick with reverb and longing lyrics, Chain of Flowers are definitely a band worth a listen. They recently released their self-titled debut LP that should go straight on your list of must listens. I mean, come on, they’re named after a The Cure song, right? (Steven Loftin)

Dan Bettridge – singer/songwriter / Ogmore-by-Sea
With a voice older than his years, Dan Bettridge is the soulful folk singer from the small village of Ogmore-by-Sea in Wales. Bettridge, who has been playing guitar from an early age, first appeared on the scene in 2013 when he released the EP ‘Hunter’s Heart’. He is currently working on his debut album. He rereleased his single ‘Rosie Darling’ last year, a gentle, country sounding number, and ‘Third Eye Blind’ back in 2015, a bluesy, soulful track that transports you out of your own skin and onto the neon-lit streets that Bettridge sings about. (Rebecca Clayton) [We’ve been informed that sadly, Dan Bettridge will not be joining us in Austin. – Ed.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UYER_GK6bc[/youtube]

Meilyr Jones singer/songwriter / Aberystwyth
Exactly what Jarvis Cocker and Morrissey’s love child would sound like, and this isn’t a bad thing believe it or not. The optimism of a young Cocker, with the yearning howl of an in-his-prime Moz. Lyrical structure that puts most novelists to shame, ‘How To Recognise Art’ is, well, a work of art. He also won the Welsh Music Prize in 2016, if that tempts you further. (Steven Loftin)

The Sandinistas – punk / Tredegar
A Welsh band named after a Clash album? Count us in. Having only released their debut single last year, The Sandinistas are gaining some serious momentum already. When you listen to the adrenaline-inducing riot of their single aptly titled ‘Ready To Blow’, you can see why. Get on this band. Now. [They’ve also already been championed by Fred Perry, who have been rarely wrong in spotting potential. – Ed.] (Steven Loftin)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik74yCjG7S4[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #123: Dan Hagerty of The Sandinistas

 
By on Thursday, 9th March 2017 at 1:00 pm
 

We’re just days away from this year’s SXSW Music Festival, and we’re once again excited to bring you showcasing artists’ answers to a special SXSW 2017 flavoured set of Quickfire Questions. In today’s feature, we’ll be bringing you the answers from Dan Hagerty, singer and guitarist from Welsh punk group The Sandinistas. His selection for the album he’d bring in past the pearly gates isn’t a surprise at all from the name of their band, but many of his selections mirror my own favourite musical things. It’s proof that music has no barriers and binds us all, regardless of where we come from. Read on…

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
British, Punk, new wave.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
Playing in the sun. It’s literally raining all the time in Wales. Meeting new people from different backgrounds – I’m hoping to be inspired.

Of the bands who have already been announced, do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
Meilyr Jones (fellow Welsh artist). We played with him the end of last year and was great. Nice chap.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find weird or unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
All black socks. No other colours or designs. I have OCD (like millions of others) and that’s something I need to abide by so not to lose my mind.

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
A simple pint of lager. I’ll make sure we ‘run into you’ every time we’re running dry 😉 [If you can find me, I will honour this! I think I have only bought a handful of drinks for bands over the last 5 years in Austin. – Ed.]

What was your favourite album from 2016 and why?
I haven’t got one really. There isn’t much modern day music I’m keen on.

Will this be the first time you’ve played to American audiences? What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
Absolutely buzzing about playing in the US of A. The American people are very friendly and accepting of new music, which is something Britain tends to struggle with these days. I’ve known about the festival for years and never thought I’d have the opportunity to be involved. This really is one off the bucket list. Excited, although apprehensive: I like to think our songs are relatable as are written from the perspective of an average human being (like me) – I hope people ‘get it’.

Now, onto our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
‘She Loves You’ – The Beatles. Changed my outlook on life.

What was your favourite song as a child?
As above. Still my favourite song of all time.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOuu88OwdK8[/youtube]

What song makes you laugh?
‘Paradise by Dashboard Light’ – Meat Loaf. The story and depth of the song is insane: brilliant songwriting and captures real life lust.

What song makes you cry?
‘A Change is Gonna Come’ – Sam Cooke. Sensationally captured a moment in time and is still relatable now, but in very different ways. [One of the best songs of all time. It may be decades since the Civil Rights Movement raged on, but it seems like not much has changed, has it? – Ed.]

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

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
‘Without You’, a song I wrote about that very moment. I wrote it on a ukulele in minutes and always sends me back. Don’t be expecting Sandinistas to be playing it though. Haha.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
That new Train song that’s a rip off of ‘chopsticks’. I hate what they’ve done there. It’s awful and lazy and crap like this is clogging up the airwaves where great fresh new music could be being played. [I can’t stand Train myself, so this had me laughing. This is pretty horrible. – Ed.]

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
I’ve asked myself this hundreds of times. There are so many. Slade – ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ maybe.
‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ by the Jam is songwriting at its very best, though.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf4EFDGP4yg[/youtube]

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Lennon / McCartney – There’ll never be anyone better. Children will be learning their work in school for years to come the same way I learnt about Mozart, Beethoven, etc.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’m still working, so that’s an easy one. I’m a Performance Analyst for a water company. It’s a good job and enables me to be creative. No complaints there.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
‘London Calling’ – The Clash. Start to finish, a sublime album I couldn’t live without.

Thank you to Dan of The Sandinistas for answering these SXSW flavoured Quickfire Questions, and also to Max for sorting this out for us. The Sandinistas will be performing on the afternoon of Thursday 16 March at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30; their evening showcase in Austin will be at Javelina on Friday 17 March at 9 PM.

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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