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TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: best bets among American artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

By on Wednesday, 28th February 2018 at 12:00 pm

Header photo: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats by Brantley Gutierrez

As you might expect with an American music festival, SXSW is typically heavy on American showcasing artists, and SXSW 2018 won’t be any different. This year’s music festival lineup features a load of big names that you’ve probably heard before, along with a few new ones that, if they’re not familiar already, likely will become so very soon.

Our ongoing preview coverage of SXSW 2018 has already highlighted a few up-and-coming artists on the showcase schedule, including grunge rock band Bully and alt-country singer Courtney Marie Andrews. Perhaps the most intriguing of these is elusive Los Angeles alt-rock trio Lo Moon, who made mild waves with their SXSW appearance last year. I expect them to make a bigger splash this time around, on the strength of their just released self-titled LP, which includes new track ‘Wonderful Life’.

Among the major players heading to SXSW 2018 are a handful of TGTF alums who have broken through to mainstream success. We first covered songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff way back in 2011, but the course of his career dramatically changed in 2015, when he convened a new band called the Night Sweats and released their hit self-titled album. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have recently announced a brand new LP called ‘Tearing at the Seams’, which is due for release just before SXSW on the 9th of March and features lead track ‘You Worry Me’.

North Carolina alt-pop duo Sylvan Esso previewed songs from their 2017 album ‘What Now’ at a surprise SXSW 2016 show; their appearance this year could once again herald new music on the horizon. Austin native David Ramirez wasn’t in top form when I saw him at SXSW 2017, but he may be in better shape this year, playing songs from his beautiful recent album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, which he has toured extensively since its release. SXSW 2015 showcasing artist Natalie Prass has just announced a brand new album ‘The Future and The Past’ due out on the 1st of June; she will presumably highlight its soul-tinged single ‘Short Court Style’ on her showcases in Austin next month.

Among other past TGTF mentions on the SXSW 2018 list are Nashville singer/songwriter Liza Anne, who will release her new album ‘Fine But Dying’ on the 9th of March and Milwaukee quartet Field Report, whose new album ‘Summertime Songs’ is previewed in the stream of ‘Never Look Back’ just below. Fellow Nashville singer Tristen and Philadelphia duo Vita and the Woolf, both acts we’ve coincidentally covered in conjunction with Irish alt-rockers Bell X1, also made the showcase list for this year’s festival in Austin, along with New York’s Sunflower Bean, who showcased at SXSW 2016, and L.A. rock band Warbly Jets, who made an appearance at SXSW last year.

American artists new to TGTF include Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes fame, and Buck Meek of alt-rock band Big Thief, neither of whom we’ve seen in a solo capacity before. Satellite radio listeners here in the U.S. might already be familiar with Mt. Joy and NoMBe, who have both been featured on SiriusXM Alt-Nation, while public radio devotees will no doubt have heard Portland singer/songwriter Haley Heynderickx and New Orleans funk/soul group Tank and the Bangas on NPR.

For dedicated indie fans, a pair of duo acts, Denver’s Tennis and Baltimore’s Wye Oak have made the SXSW shout list, along with the always eccentric Okkervil River. In the heavily represented Americana category, sure winners include a trio of Nashville acts: singer/songwriter Nikki Lane, country rock trio Liz Cooper and the Stampede and veteran country/bluegrass collective Old Crow Medicine Show.

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2018 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 or official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.


(Charity / Holiday!) Single Review: Tristen – Crying on Christmas Day

By on Thursday, 21st December 2017 at 10:00 am

Nashville singer/songwriter Tristen has followed the July release of her third studio album ‘Sneaker Waves’ with a new Christmas single, to benefit charity organisation Doctors Without Borders. In sharp contrast to the contrived warmth and commercialised cheer of many Christmas singles, ‘Crying on Christmas Day’ is a rather disconsolate affair, delicately introspective and forlornly disillusioned by the disconnect between human actions and our professed desire for peace on earth.

The wistfully repeating verse/chorus refrains of ‘Crying on Christmas Day’ are framed by a pair of austere and distant poetic couplets. Tristen’s vocal delivery is softspoken and sweetly sad as she delivers her ethereal opening lines “from the dawn the angels cried a sacred song / passing on the sounds of love through ancient tears”. From there, the narrative tumbles forth over a gently insistent acoustic guitar figure, even as its central lyrical question, “does it feel all right crying on Christmas day?”, is obscured in a mysteriously evasive harmonic progression. The singer makes no attempt to provide musical resolution to her sobering existential observation, but she does provide her listeners with a practical way to resolve their own holiday angst.

Visit Tristen’s Bandcamp page to download ‘Crying on Christmas Day’, either for yourself or as a gift to someone else. All proceeds from sales of the single will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. Her latest LP ‘Sneaker Waves’ is out now on American indie label Modern Outsider. We at TGTF have covered Tristen in live performance, supporting Irish band Bell X1.


Live Review: Bell X1 with Tristen at Sixth and I Synagogue, Washington DC – 8th October 2013

By on Friday, 11th October 2013 at 2:00 pm

Photos by Cheryl Demas

The Historic Synagogue at 6th & I in Washington DC is a small, intimate space, known for its beautiful interior and acoustics. So when Bell X1 announced that they were playing the synagogue, it was a good indication that the gig wouldn’t be a full-on electric tour-de-force. But the music on Bell X1’s recent album, ‘Chop Chop’ (review here) is quite well suited for such an introspective place. Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan and opening act Tristen both acknowledged the synagogue as a sacred space in their remarks, and while they didn’t appear to be restrained by that, the tone of the evening was somewhat subdued from start to finish.

After a few issues with the audio equipment (which unfortunately appeared to continue throughout the show), Tristen Gaspadarek, known on stage as simply Tristen, played a generous six-song set drawn mostly from her debut album, ‘Caves’, which is due for release on 15 October. Her first song, ‘Red Lava Flows’, was typical girl-with-guitar fare, the slight country twang belying her Nashville roots. As her set went on, she added keyboards, a drum machine, and guitarist Buddy Hughen to her repertoire of sounds.

Tristen live

While her stripped back numbers were good, they weren’t particularly remarkable; with the added layers of sound came greater emotion and audience connection. She seemed more confident and in control of these larger arrangements, especially ‘No One’s Gonna Know’, which is available as a free download on her official Web site. She ended the set with a forceful performance of a fiercely emotional song called ‘Bourgeois Bouquet’. I was impressed enough to peek outside to the merch table after her set to grab a copy of ‘Caves’. Sadly, ‘Bourgeois Bouquet’ isn’t included on the album, but when I mentioned my disappointment to Tristen, who was peddling her own merch, she assured me that it would be on her next record.

Along with Hughen’s guitar chops, Tristen’s singing voice was the standout feature of the opening set. Delicately graceful at the top of her range, raw and raspy in the middle, it would have been a perfect addition to Bell X1’s set if they had employed her to do backing vocals on a couple of their new songs. Perhaps a missed opportunity, but it turned out that the Bell X1 lads had enough to juggle on their own.

In this earlier interview with me, Noonan had indicated that Bell X1’s live set for ‘Chop Chop’ would involve some experimentation with walking the instrumental parts among the players. This mostly involved Noonan and David Geraghty, though trumpet player Bill Blackmore did venture to the piano on ‘Flame’. Only bass player Dominic Phillips (described by Noonan as “the rock”) remained constant on bass and backing vocals. The band opened their set with the first track from ‘Chop Chop’, ‘Starlings Over Brighton Pier’, with Noonan on piano, Geraghty on drums, Phillips on bass, and Blackmore on trumpet. They bookended the set proper with ‘Chop Chop’ closer ‘The End is Nigh’, and while that choice was somewhat predictable, it was nevertheless effective, inspiring me to draw out my hanky (which I have learned is a must-have accessory for any Bell X1 gig).

Bell X1 Washington 2013 live 1

Naturally the set was heavy on tunes from ‘Chop Chop’, but Noonan mentioned trying to touch on all of their albums; only the seminal ‘Neither Am I’ was left unrepresented. Among the old favorites were thrown into the mix were ‘Next to You’, which took glorious advantage of Blackmore’s brass, and ‘Alphabet Soup’ from the decade-old ‘Music in Mouth’. Though this was a seated gig (in pews, no less!), hit tunes ‘Velcro’ and ‘Flame’ had us dancing in our seats.

Despite seeming a little tight at the outset, the band quickly settled into a groove and played a cozy set, very appropriate for the small, attentive crowd. This being the first show on the American tour, a few minor snafus were to be expected, but the lyric flubs and missed timings were gracefully handled, with Noonan at one point covering a false start on drums by calling it a demonstration of “Motown Fill #5”. This allusion was particularly apt, given the inclusion of soulful tunes ‘I Will Follow You’ and ‘Feint Praise’. The whole set had a laid-back, very loosely scripted feel, especially in the moments where Noonan and Geraghty switched instruments mid-song. The switching was handled deftly and will likely become smoother onstage as the tour progresses. Those of you lucky enough to catch a later gig in America or the UK (tour dates are listed on their official Web site here) will no doubt see more efficiently flowing transitions, but I was most pleased to see Bell X1’s spontaneous craftsmanship at work here.

Bell X1 Washington 2013 live 2


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

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