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SXSW 2019: catching up with my top 6 acts of the festival – 16th March 2019 (Saturday, part 3)

 
By on Thursday, 4th April 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

One of the great things about SXSW as a whole and that doesn’t really happen at UK or Irish multi-day city festivals is that you usually have an opportunity to catch acts again. If you didn’t get a good look and listen the first time around? No problem! If you enjoyed yourself so much on the first go-around, good news, you can get a second helping! Rather conveniently, the 6 acts I saw again on Saturday turned out to be my favourites from this year. If you haven’t heard of them, you have been alerted. Write their names down, put them in your phone, tattoo them lovingly on your body, I don’t care what you do. Remember them, because they are who I thought shone the brightest this year in Austin.

ROE at Flatstock Stage, Austin Convention Center (see also Thursday the 14th of March at Output Belfast at Latitude 30; read more on her on TGTF through here)
As Music and Film wind down as the week ends, Saturday at the Convention Center during SXSW takes on an entirely different feel. Part of this is the growing influence and attendance of the Gaming portion of SXSW. It’s family-friendly, so it’s not uncommon to see kids at the Flatstock Stage with their parents. Two young girls were dancing around and in front of the ever-approachable ROE, her guitar and her impressive setup of electronics. She gestured around to her setup, quipping, “Me and my band members are having a great time here!” A very funny moment.


ROE Flatstock Stage Saturday SXSW 2019

In all seriousness, though, young Roisin Donald from Derry has a charmingly disarming nature, and the sincerity of her onstage banter continues into her songs, written out of personal hardship and deep emotions. One of the biggest hurdles a singer/songwriter of any genre has to overcome is one of credibility, and ROE has gotten past this easily before she is even allowed to touch a beer in our country. If there is one important message that we all should take to heart from the young people making their way in the music business, it should be that young people have a lot of say and can do it thoughtfully. All we need to do is listen. And if you haven’t seen an artist or band at the Flatstock stage, you simply must. It’s free to all, so what’s stopping you?

Mansionair at Antone’s (see also Thursday the 14th of March at Clive Bar; read more on them on TGTF through here)
Established before I was born, Antone’s is an Austin institution for the blues. When I first starting coming out for SXSW 8 years ago, I knew I would get there one day, but it just never happened over the years. While not an official showcase, American audio innovators Shure hosted 2 days of afternoon ‘Bedroom Sessions’ in the upstairs area at Antone’s on Friday and Saturday, free to anyone in the know. It wasn’t until I got there Saturday afternoon that I realised they weren’t kidding on the theme. Beds were on the floor where punters could sit or stand, and there was also a big bed onstage, I guess in case any of their scheduled acts needed a catnap? Ha. Jack Froggatt of Australian electropop group Mansionair was well aware of the strangeness of it all, commenting from the stage that “it all feels like a dream I once had”, as he felt disorientated because of the bed’s presence and drummer Alex Nicholls was on his right when he’s usually on the left.


Mansionair Shure Bedroom Sessions Saturday SXSW 2019 2

As weird as it must have been for the artists, without a doubt, it was one of the more imaginative performance spaces I witnessed this year. With coloured balloons in the air and plenty of seating if the audience wanted it (it’s Saturday, are you kidding?), I appreciated the super chill atmosphere. Neither stuffy as a traditional seated venue or a free-for-all like Clive Bar Thursday afternoon, it was more like a Sofar Sounds-kind of situation where you’ve been welcomed into an intimate room. Though I felt abnormally tethered to my chair during set closer ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’, I felt that Mansionair ‘beat the odds’ and gave a good performance, weirdness nonwithstanding. Following this unusual appearance, I also saw the Sydney trio perform in DC, which you can read about here.

APRE at Latitude 30 (see also Thursday the 14th of March at the International Day Stage)
Just prior to Boy Azooga at the British Music Embassy, London-based, electronic-driven duo APRE began the BBC Radio 1 showcase in exemplary fashion. Had it been my choice, I would have put them later on in the lineup for the night, as their super-energetic pop show here definitely puts them in my top acts seen at SXSW 2019. Alas, Radio 1 didn’t ask me for my advice. Moving effectively and effortlessly from song to song, from slow vibe to more upbeat, mark my words, these guys are gonna go far.

APRE British Music Embassy BBC Radio 1 SXSW 2019

Though it was so late in the week, Charlie Brown and Jules Konieczny gave it their all, proving to be some of the most energetic performers I’ve seen in a long time. ‘Gap Year 2008’, their rhythmically spellbinding single with an unforgettable chorus and a killer guitar line, was my set highlight. I thought they were so good, you would have heard no complaints from me if they had just repeated their entire set a second time. Read my pre-SXSW 2019 Bands to Watch on them through here. I’m glad they and Boy Azooga were the last bands I’d see here. Sniff sniff, sob sob.

Jealous of the Birds at Swan Dive (see also Wednesday the 13th of March at Central Presbyterian Church; read more on her TGTF through here)
Perhaps it already happened long before she and her band arrived in Austin and I just missed it by virtue of my being stuck here in the States. But I feel that the now Belfast-based Naomi Hamilton and her recording name/entity Jealous of the Birds truly came into her own this year at SXSW 2019. Hamilton rocked hard in sharp purple plaid and bright yellow suits and was backed by her band who were also thematically dressed in tartans, so the professional feel of their performance was unmatched by anyone else I had the pleasure of seeing.

Jealous of the Birds Swan Dive Line of Best Fit Saturday SXSW 2019

Their busy week of gigging was capped off by an early evening performance at the Line of Best Fit showcase at Swan Dive, jam-packed with punters. The closest I got was crammed in on the side, white wooden railing in my face, somewhat mesmerised by the bobbing of her bass player’s new armadillo arm tattoo he got on this trip, ha. While the mood at Central Presbyterian Church Wednesday was overwhelmingly one of reverence, this last performance by Jealous of the Birds was one of revelry and pure joy, as bright as the gold of Hamilton’s suit.

The Dunts at 720 (see also Wednesday the 13th of March at Latitude 30)
Okay, so I wimped out and didn’t join The Dunts and the other excited moshers at the Rascalton show Friday night at Valhalla. Still, The Dunts themselves were scheduled to produce a sonic thrashing at my favourite place to see hard rock in Austin, 720, so how could I say no? I was stood safely by the bar (my version of being game, ha) as the Scots began their campaign of making the loudest, chaotic noise possible.

Although they bowed out of an earlier Second Play Stage appearance, arguing they weren’t an electronic kit band, their reputation off the back of their sweaty performance at the British Music Embassy Wednesday afternoon must have spread like wildfire. Though I didn’t see it firsthand – I smartly arrived early to stake my vantage point – a long queue had built up outside 720, no doubt curious to see what the fuss about these lads from Glasgow was all about. Some of the band reportedly celebrated a bit too heartily afterwards, necessitating yours truly acting as a big sister to assist in reuniting them. I remember what it was like at that age and frankly, had I gone down as well as they had in a foreign country on arguably the biggest stage for international emerging bands, I think I would have been celebrating, too! All good.

whenyoung at Swan Dive (see also Thursday the 14th of March at the Velveeta Room and Friday the 15th of March at B.D. Riley’s)
I decided to end my music loving time at SXSW 2019 with a band who had wowed me twice earlier in the week. I just couldn’t stay away. London via Limerick three-piece whenyoung also performed at the Line of Best Fit’s Swan Dive showcase and boy, did they bring it. I don’t think I can reiterate enough just how much fun their music is and how powerfully spirited they are in live performance. Run, run now, and get your tickets to see them live. Do not press snooze on this.

whenyoung Swan Dive Line of Best Fit Saturday SXSW 2019

You can’t help but enjoy the colourful, dynamic spectacle of whenyoung. Then when it’s over, you take a deep breath and walk away with a big, goofy grin on your face. We have enough pain and sorrow in this life, and there’s a time and a place for that kind of music. Saturday night at SXSW, all you want to do is live in the moment and go for it. Of all the bands I had the glorious opportunity to see live in Austin this year, whenyoung best epitomised the feeling of carpe diem.

And with that, my SXSW 2019 was over. To everyone who made SXSW possible, to all the staff, friends, artists and bands who made my experience so wonderful this year, I salute you. Goodnight and goodbye.

 

SXSW 2019: the second half of Music From Ireland’s Full Irish Breakfast and two acts at the British Music Embassy – 15th March 2019 (Friday, part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd April 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

Changes are to coming to the the British Music Embassy in 2020 but as no news about them has been made public, you’ll have to wait until next year (hopefully not that long?) to hear about them. What has been great in the 8 years in a row I’ve attended SXSW is the close proximity of Latitude 30 to B.D. Riley’s Irish pub, which has played host to Music From Ireland’s annual full Irish breakfast day showcase. As long as there’s no queue to get into either place, you theoretically could see 8 or more bands in a span of less than 3 hours. I tested out this theory again Friday afternoon in Austin.

Following on from their energetic performance the night previous at Music From Ireland’s official evening showcase at the Velveeta Room, I was curious to see how whenyoung would fare when subjected to the sun streaming in from the open windows at B.D. Riley’s. Neither I nor the rest of the patrons at the Irish pub would be disappointed. And what better to enjoy emerging new Irish music than with a pint of Guinness?

whenyoung Full Irish Breakfast SXSW 2019 1

‘Pretty Pure’ was emblazoned in red lipstick on the back of guitarist Niall Burns’ white jumpsuit at the Velveeta. The song itself begins with a bright guitar note sequence reminiscent of the Vaselines’ ‘Molly’s Lips’ before continuing on in fine pop fashion. Their debut 7” with Felix White of the Maccabees’ YALA! Records is an energetic wonderful first taster to anyone new to the Limerick band. Bassist Aoife Power’s lead vocals have the duality of sweetness and dynamism, an interesting juxtaposition against an instrumental backdrop of fun and strength. Another fast-paced track, ‘Given Up’, is a workout for the senses, drummer Andrew Flood in his eyeliner hitting his skins like this life depended on it.

I popped out after their set to check out Westerman at British Music Embassy. Sadly, the thoughtful, soft-singing London singer/songwriter whose first name is Will but goes by his surname was nowhere to be seen. His bandmate apologised that Westerman would be unable to perform. Based on this Facebook post, his SXSW appearances earlier in the week in Austin took it all out of him. Admirably, his bandmates soldiered on without him, one of them assuming lead vocal duties in his absence. Full marks there. I have to admit that I’m a purist and decided to duck back out, deciding I wanted to see him perform as nature intended in the future instead.

Returning to B.D. Riley’s, I finally corrected a mistake made at Canadian Music Week 2016. Because of the large distances between venues in Toronto and suffering from a bad cold while in Canada, I missed Dublin’s Fangclub when they performed at the Music From Ireland show at the Rivoli. In hindsight, I think this was destiny. Phwoar. It wasn’t until after I became a music blogger that I truly realised the blessing in disguise I received as a child. Growing up in the presence of a much older brother who schooled me in the music of Led Zeppelin, the Who, Pink Floyd and Megadeth gave me an education that went beyond the British Invasion basics I’d researched on my age on my own before the age of 10. Later on in life, he gifted me with his 5-string ESP bass. In the context of my hard rock upbringing, Fangclub were a 21st century revelation.

Fangclub Full Irish Breakfast SXSW 2019 2

My favourite hard rock bands have always been those who can harness the sheer power of guitars and drums but direct them into a toe-tapping, headbangingly good time. Bonus points if the singer also sounds like he (or she) is shredding vocal chords. The blistering instrumental delivery of ‘Knife’, with Stephen King screaming “twist the knife” in the context of a romantic obsession…you had to have been there. As non sequitur this music was performed on a sunny, warm day in Austin, there is no denying the sheer testosterone-filled brawn of this band. Wipe your brow, son.

I hung around at the pub for a bit longer to catch part of Kojaque’s set. After only a few bars of verse, I knew I was out of my depth when it came to the Dublin rapper whose name is pronounced but not spelled like the famous detective played by Telly Savalas. I have trouble providing a useful review of the Irish hip-hop artist, joined onstage by a smiley musical friend and some lounge-y backing tracks. Having made a new friend with a music lover from Newcastle, we agreed that this kind of music wasn’t made for people our age. Kevin Smith, I know you’ve got loads of adoring fans your age or younger and you must be extremely talented in both music and the visual arts. Sorry, this just isn’t for me.

https://flic.kr/p/2fhZz2C]Kojaque Full Irish Breakfast SXSW 2019 1

I must have been in the 0.1% of the music-loving world who had never seen Fontaines D.C. live up to this point. I’d been poked and prodded by friends for weeks leading up to SXSW, well-meaning friends who implored me to see them live. I’m no dummy. Music editors hear all the hype and unfortunately for hyped bands, unless I’ve heard about you independently of said hype, I am probably going to come to your show with a jaundiced editor’s ear. If you know me at all, you know I prefer to fight for the underdogs, the little guy.

Fontaines DC Full Irish Breakfast SXSW 2019 2

Fontaines D.C, who had been announced as IDLES’ North American support long before receiving their shout for SXSW 2019, fell into this category. Arriving with so much fanfare even before they stepped foot in Austin, I knew they didn’t need my help. Maybe it was where I was sat? They sounded loud, muddled and without anything that set them apart from the crowded current UK punk market. I sat through two songs before I’d had enough. Hey, I am nothing but accommodating! We could see Sam Fender and his band peeking his head through an open window. I’m not going to stay in a venue when people are just chomping at the bit to get inside.

Elder Island British Music Embassy Friday SXSW 2019

It was time to return to the British Music Embassy to rinse out the ol’ music editor ears. I’d seen SXSW 2019 TGTF Band to Watch Elder Island in the decidedly more clinical confines of the International Day stage on Wednesday, were set to close Latitude 30 for the afternoon. The Bristol trio who thrive on turning their music and everyone in the room on their head turned out another excellent performance. The sultry ‘Black Fur’, which is actually about singer Katy Sargent’s dearly departed late cat (tuck that piece of pub trivia away), was a bluesy tour de force. ‘I Fold You’, featuring their super cool electric cello, wowed their new fans, bopped heads and moved bodies. While I regret not having seen them at Bungalow that night at Majestic Casual’s showcase, I feel incredibly lucky to have seen them on Wednesday and at this show. Elder Island do Bristol and his rave-loving history proud.

 

SXSW 2019: Wafia and Mansionair at Next Level Apparel, Seazoo, The Snuts and Sports Team at Good Karma Club, Talos and whenyoung at Music From Ireland, and PAWS – 14th March 2019 (Thursday, part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 27th March 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

After APRE’s performance, I really wanted to see The Joy Formidable at the Dr. Martens showcase at Container Bar. However, many, many other people had the same idea, and you could tell the staff were stressed. My merely asking if there were different priority badge lines led one bouncer to think I was trying to cut the line. Seriously, come on. I’ve been to SX seven times before, and I’m not going to start being a jerk and cutting in front of people now. From what I understand from friends who had actually made it in, it was just as well, as the band were only allowed to play four songs, frustrating them and their fans.

Directly across the street at Clive Bar was the Next Level Apparel showcase, Australian electronic artist Wafia was performing to a jammed-in crowd on its patio. She occupies a similar place in the industry to Grace Carter, providing a young female viewpoint through honest lyrics. However, Wafia is also a political lightning rod, being a Muslim and of Iraqi and Syrian ancestry and daring to make politically-charged music. Read some of her thoughts here.


I say all the more power to her to do exactly what others would call her out on and crucify her for. I remember reading a quote once where someone said that it’s when we’re made uncomfortable that we learn the most. A outspoken twenty-something woman with ties to the Middle East who has written ‘Bodies’, a song about the Syrian refugee crisis? The topic isn’t new or unusual, but the woman who is singing it is speaking her truth. Young people like her, not the establishment, will be the key to changing minds and lives. And you know what? The Austin crowd absolutely loved her.

Following Wafia was another Aussie act, one that was celebrating the recent release of their debut album. Mansionair, who have been a SXSW mainstay over the last few years, came to Austin with the long-awaited ‘Shadowboxer’ available now from Glassnote Records under their belt. I have always respected the Sydney band’s confidence whenever I’ve seen them play, and that didn’t stop with their closing set at the Next Level Apparel showcase. If anything, they had added swagger this time now that their biggest group of released songs to date have been released to the wild.


The menacing electronic machinations of ‘Alibi’, paired with Jack Froggatt’s swirling vocals, was a sultry earworm of the highest calibre. Moving things uptempo, ‘We Could Leave’ led to loads of heads bopping in appreciation, while the rhythmically interesting ‘Technicolour’ provided another opportunity to dance. SXSW could have just been another tickbox for the group in the middle of a long North American tour, but they turned in a memorable performance.


During SXSW, you’ll find bands playing in the oddest, most unusual places, some considered Second Play stages. Seazoo’s second performance in Austin turned out to be in the restaurant in my hotel! While it seemed that the primary listeners were all Welsh friends of theirs, their ‘nook’ to play was only a little strip of real estate near the bar and they played sans two band members and in stripped back fashion, the band was in fine spirits.

Another one of my SXSW 2019 Bands to Watch, Scottish band The Snuts, were due to play Abbie McCarthy’s Good Karma Club showcase at Swan Dive. Singer Jack Cochrane very seemed to be extremely nervous, as every other word out of his mouth, except when he was singing, was the f word. There shouldn’t have been so much anxiety: word must have spread about the band, as I was surrounded by very excited new American fans of theirs. Even better for the band, there was a loud, drunk group of non-industry-affiliated Scots down the front who appeared to know all of their songs, shouting for ‘Seasons’ as their favourite of all. That’s a long way to travel for your favourite band, especially if they’re only playing for 30 minutes, isn’t it?


With last year’s Thursday night drenching still a vivid memory, it became a bit of an unfortunate game of mine to avoid them and their spilled drinks. They ended with ‘Sing For Your Supper’, which was explained as their rallying cry of the importance of friends on this journey called life. I stand by my Bands to Watch feature on the Snuts but I felt disappointed in their sound live against some of the other bands I’d already seen in Austin.


The next band on the Good Karma line-up was another band I previewed, the supremely unGoogleable Sports Team. While Swan Dive’s indoor stage isn’t the smallest stage you’ll encounter during SXSW, trying to fit six people and all their equipment on it is no mean feat. The comparison I made between singer Alex Rice and a spastic-dancing David Byrne seems even more apt in person. Like a ball of energy never to lose steam, Rice proved his place within the band isn’t so much staying in one place to deliver the lyrics but while posturing and jumping all over the place.


When I felt like I had enough of Sports Team to have gotten a good idea of their music, I headed to the Velveeta Room and the Music From Ireland showcase. This time last year, there was no issue getting in this venue for Talos. What a difference a year – and the release of a deluxe version of ‘Wild Alee’ and a second album, ‘Far Out Dust’ – makes. Word clearly has gotten around about Eoin French’s electronic-filled, Bon Iver-esque post-rock soundscapes and him and his touring band’s emotional live show. From my vantage point, it looked like most who showed up for him were amorous couples. Groan. Right in front of French was a pair making out and being borderline inappropriate. I think next time I listen to Talos’ music, it’ll be in comfort through a pair of ear buds!

I may have been denied in my attempt to see Limerick, Ireland’s whenyoung at The Great Escape 2018. However, I refused to leave anything to chance at this SXSW, anchoring myself down the front for their Music From Ireland evening showcase slot. Following Talos, their straightforward pop/rock style brought the energy back way up in the venue, even as we edged closer to midnight. whenyoung’s sound is anchored in a powerful and unrelenting style with a pop brightness and catchiness. You can’t help but want to pogo to this kind of music.


This is best exemplified by the beat-heavy, fast tempoed ‘The Others’, which was inspired by the Grenfell Tower fire and highlights the divide between the haves and the have nots. Wearing outfits prominently displaying the EU circle of stars was another sign of their solidarity with being part of a bigger whole, even though they’ve chosen to live in London. Their most recent single, ‘Never Let Go’, is their contribution to the mental health discussion, frontwoman Aoife Power’s soaring vocals providing a measure of hope and understanding.

The Ernest Jenning Record Company showcase at the Mohawk was my next port of call. Running behind schedule, I arrived at the end of a set by New York City punks Flower. Next up was Glasgow’s long-soldiering PAWS, who have become a bit of a name on this side of the Atlantic thanks to past tours with fellow jokey rockers We Are Scientists. I figured PAWS’ appearances at SXSW would be to road test material from upcoming album ‘Your Church on My Bonfire’ and of course, to crack a few jokes, with frontman Phillip Taylor as ringmaster. New songs sat well with old favourites; the only thing perturbing was the presence of a fourth live band member, which confused some of us, as well as those keeping tabs of activities at SXSW at home.


A surreal moment in the set occurred when drummer Josh Swinney appeared to be doing a magic trick with his snare drum. One moment you’d see his drumstick, the next, you wouldn’t. It could have been because it was well past my bedtime but I was not comprehending what had happened: Swinney was demonstrating that the top of the drum had been completely broken through. Mohawk stage crew were able to rectify this quickly, locating a replacement and receiving Taylor’s appreciation for “Mystery Snare Drum Man”. Upon leaving the Mohawk, I noticed the stuffed bear in the bar had been dressed in denim. Laughing at this, I decided it was definitely time for bed.

 

Deer Shed Festival 2018: Friday Roundup

 
By on Monday, 30th July 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

No sooner had we arrived on site at Deer Shed 9, son one, having attended a Deer Shed every one of his 7 years, declared he had his first wobbly tooth. And so we add another ‘first’ to the many that Deer Shed has provided over the years. Every parent will share the excitement tinged with a pang of sadness that this momentous moment brings. It represents the end of the first stage of childhood. With the arrival of the new denticulus, they will never again look the same. Yet no parent would wish their offspring to remain permanently young. To fulfill their potential, they must grow up. One’s only wish is that they retain what makes them truly themselves as they do so.

As it turned out, exactly the same sentiments could be held about Deer Shed’s growth in 2018. Instead of a new tooth, they have a new field: what luck that a second natural amphitheatre exists to the north of the site, and many an experienced Deer Shedder was to be found wandering around confusedly in the vicinity of where the main stage, big top and helter-skelter used to be, it slowly dawning that that silver edifice in the distance near the car park was, in fact, the newly-relocated main stage.

Sadly, that meant a number of dearly-held Deer Shed locales simply ceased to be. The Obelisk tent and its associated gate is no more, perhaps due to its rather exuberant dampness in the rain last year. Those of us who tend to camp on that side of the festival had a lot further to walk to get to the main stage. And there was no point in strolling alongside the lake, because there was no access to the festival that way, either. There was a lot more fencing directing people hither and yon, whereas previously the arena was just one big circle and you could pretty much go where you pleased. The reward for such palaver was a 25% increase in space for the same number of people.

So. We mourn the loss of Deer Shed’s baby teeth…. Done. Let’s see what their new gnashers are made of.

Hyde Park Brass are first up, and also almost the last. They’re intertwined around this year’s festival like ivy around a tree. Here they were in the tiny pallet stage, and slightly more subdued than they would be on latter days. Pop brass is becoming more of a thing these days, and HPB remind me a fair bit of the incredible Riot Jazz Brass Band of Kendal Calling fame. Every good brass ensemble needs a festival residency, and these guys are no exception.

If you close your eyes – and forget they’re from Leeds – Mush are Lou Reed fronting Pavement. Their 10-minute epic ‘Alternative Facts’ has a slacker undertow with punky icing, and when lead singer Dan’s not speaking in tongues, he’s all wry humour and casual delivery. Single ‘Comment Section Creeps’, of which a limited edition 7” is sadly sold out, is a cutting social commentary on the dehumanising liberty of posting on the internet anonymously. Probably.

Mush Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-1597

whenyoung are a trio from Dublin whose uptempo 3-minute pop nuggets hint at the time just before Britpop became a dirty word, yet shot through with a slew of Edge-isms in the guitar work. ‘Heaven on Earth’ has a boxy, chorused tone evoking U2’s earliest, New-Wave influenced work, and ‘Pretty Pure’ has the classic tropes of dotted delay and infinitely sustaining guitar notes. There’s an innocence in Aoife Power’s sweet vocals, not to mention a generous helping of fellow countrywomen Sinead O’Connor and Dolores O’Riordan, so it’s only half a surprise when they launch into a note-perfect rendition of The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’. Touching, appropriate, bittersweet.

whenyoung at Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-1700

It doesn’t take long to realise that if this weekend’s bands are anything like the quality of HMLTD, we’re in for a veritable treat indeed. Clad in all manner of leather, fishnet, tartan and makeup, their stage presence is off the scale, and the music not far behind. 2017 single ‘To The Door’ is like The Stooges covering one of Ennio Morricone’s more outré spaghetti western themes, but with a dubstep coda. Eh? ‘Satan, Luella, & I’ evokes a she-devil, a proposition, and gore but is lyrically optimistic and life-affirming. What?! For all their aesthetic outrageousness, which cribs heavily from theatrical Eighties’ glam like Adam Ant, there’s an underlying understanding of songwriting which gives the entire package credibility. Properly breathtaking.

HMLTD Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (portrait)-1877

Drenge have matured nicely since I last saw them at Live at Leeds in 2014. Then just a brotherly two-piece, now they have both a bassist and a chap on ‘things’. They pull off a headline set with skill and good grace, and even have a laugh at wearing comedy air tanks consistent with Deer Shed’s ‘Making Waves’ theme. Material like ‘Bloodsports’ has lost none of its power through familiarity, and new single “Before the War Begins” reveals a simple, honest clarity of purpose reminiscent of the Manics at their best. Completely devoid of histrionics, clad plainly in comparison with the extravagance of an HMLTD, they nevertheless still pack a devastating punch.

Drenge Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-2076

And that’s it for Friday. There were DJs until half 2 next to the excellent bar, TGTF needed all possible energy to prepare for Saturday. More tomorrow.

 

Great Escape 2018: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Monday, 4th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Before I headed out to blighty, I joked to my blogger friends that I didn’t think I would be eating dinner any night at The Great Escape 2018. Why? Each night, I had bands on my schedule starting as early as 6 PM. I thought, hm, maybe everyone will be too busy drinking in a pub with their mates or on the beach that the 6 PM shows won’t be busy. WRONG! London via Limerick pop trio whenyoung were playing to a massive crowd at the Haunt, one of the lesser-known venues of The Great Escape. The closest I could get to the stage for this London in Stereo showcase was standing next to the soundboard in the back. Their female-fronted guitar pop was just the thing for many punters in Brighton to start their Thursday night with, many moving and grooving in the Haunt to the band’s infectious melodies. Check out whenyoung’s newest single ‘Heaven on Earth’, released 2 Fridays ago.


There wasn’t far for me to go for my next stop. I’d advise against visiting the gender neutral bathroom stalls at the Arch (like walking into a pitch-black room, seriously) but the venue was serviceable enough for the Clash magazine showcase. Don’t be confused that there are no actual females in the all-male Sea Girls. The Londoners are a band favourite of NME and Huw Stephens of Radio 1 and judging from their merch, they refuse to take themselves seriously (‘Indie Landfill’ is not a phrase from the end of the Noughties I’ve not heard bandied around these days). Like whenyoung before them, they’re firmly in the pop camp, but Sea Girls swing back and forth between anthemic pop and muscular pop/rock. I have to admit that because my musical taste has been going towards the more weird and unusual lately, I wasn’t wowed by their performance, but I can see that with a little luck and the great songs they’ve written so far, they have the potential to gain a massive following very quickly. Watch this space.

Sea Girls Thursday The Great Escape 2018

As I’ve probably mentioned in past Great Escape reports, Brighton is a hilly place. I don’t care how well you think you’ve organised your schedule. At some point, you’re going to have to walk from the lowest point of the seaside back up to the Brighton train station at the top of the hill. (Incidentally, I did this back and forth several times Friday night because, well, sometimes, needs must.) To make things easier on myself, I took it easy up the hill to arrive at the Green Door Store for the last few songs of New York’s Bodega at the Upset magazine showcase. As one might rightly expect, American bands are big draws at a festival like The Great Escape, and there were plenty of folks in the main room at the Green Door, plus those who spilled out into the bar area before it. Knowing that Austin Brown of Parquet Courts produced their upcoming debut album to be released this summer should give you some idea of Bodega’s punky, devil-may-care kind of music. Not my thing, but they might be yours.

Black Futures Thursday The Great Escape 2018
apologies for the quality of this photo; clearly, it’s not my best work, and it didn’t help that it was nearly pitch black during Black Futures’ performance

London duo Black Futures describe themselves on their Facebook as “A no-holds-barred aural assault of Anarchic Electro Psych Punk Noise that is something like Death From Above and the Chemical Brothers’ bastard offspring”. Their recorded sound was intriguing enough for this hard rock and electronic fan to tip them in a preview of Live at Leeds 2018 and The Great Escape. Synths and guitars aplenty arrived on stage, while their mask and hazmat suit-dressed non-musical companions stood guard down front. Naturally, the spectacle caused the audience’s anticipation for the band to build. Programmed beats came in first, then the wailing guitars. Then, a ferocious scream from one of the guys on stage. You didn’t know if you should shake a tail feather or headbang. Me? I opted for the latter.

]Mansionair Thursday The Great Escape 2018

The main problem with the Green Door Store, which has been true every time I’ve visited, is that the place is like being inside a pressure cooker: hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. The upstairs venue space of the nearby Prince Albert is probably the only place worse for someone with claustrophobia, while the Hope and Ruin (formerly the Hope) offers the same level of discomfort. In order to take a breath, I dove for the exit, able to take in the precious fresh air all the way on my walk to Komedia. I couldn’t help myself: I just had to pop in to see Mansionair at one of their many appearances in Britain over the last 6 months. Even though I only saw them play two songs during their set at the ATC Live showcase, it was crystal clear from their closing with single ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’ that they were a huge hit with the Great Escape crowd, their arms to-ing and fro-ing in time to frontman Jack Froggatt’s directions from the stage. The sexiness and baby-making potential of Mansionair’s sound wasn’t lost on punters, as I uncomfortably stood amongst lip-locking couples.

Back down closer to the seaside, I stopped in to the basement venue of the Walrus for another act I tipped ahead of Live at Leeds 2018. Who Zapatilla is remains a mystery, his identity cloaked both literally and figuratively. While listening to his music on Spotify made his music seem dancier, the few songs I witnessed live Thursday evening were more subdued and less engaging than I’d hoped.

Zapatilla Thursday The Great Escape 2018

Feeling less than energised from Zapatilla’s set, I thought I might change gears completely and end my night with a bit of singer/songwriter Blanco White. As Carrie wrote previously, Englishman Josh Edwards’ project is infused with Latin-American influences. By the time I figured out where the Unitarian Church was behind all the construction work, I sadly learned the intimate, all-seated venue where I’d previously seen a magical set by Marika Hackman was one in, one out. So much for planning. Feeling slightly defeated, I decided to call it a night.

 

The Great Escape 2018 Preview: editor Mary’s best band bets

 
By on Tuesday, 8th May 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: as we always recommend in all of TGTF’s festival previews, the information we post here on The Great Escape 2018 taking place next week is current at the time of posting. We strongly encourage you to check in at the festival’s official Web site closer to the start of the event to confirm venues and set times. Three-day wristbands for the event in Brighton 17-19 May are still available at the price of £70 plus handling if purchased online; delegate passes that include both access to the daytime industry convention and all music showcases are available at the price of £275 plus handling. More information on where you can purchase your tickets in person or online is available from The Great Escape official Web site. If you’d like to read my previous, more general preview of The Great Escape, it’s through here.

As mentioned in part 1 of my Live at Leeds best bets preview, and alluded to in part 2 as well, there are quite a few acts that appeared this past weekend at Live at Leeds and/or Liverpool Sound City that will also be appearing next week at the Great Escape in Brighton.

Bad Sounds (Friday 11:15 PM, Horatio’s)
Black Futures (Thursday, 9:15 PM, Green Door Store)
Boy Azooga (Thursday, 12:00 PM, Latest Music Bar; 2:00 PM, Dr. Martens stage; 9:15 PM, Patterns upstairs)
Cassia (Friday, 12:45 AM, The Hope and Ruin)
Hollow Coves (Thursday, 12:45 PM, Komedia Studio Bar and 10:15 PM, The Old Courtroom)
Knightstown (Saturday, 12:15 PM, One Church)
Lady Bird (Friday, 2:15 PM, Dr. Martens stage and 10:15 PM, The Walrus)
Rascalton (Thursday, 1:00 PM, Horatio’s [Showcasing Scotland stage]; Friday, 10:15 PM, Green Door Store)
SHEAFS (Saturday, 8:45 PM, The Hope and Ruin)
The Ninth Wave (Thursday, 3:30 PM, Horatio’s [Showcasing Scotland stage]; Friday, 9:30 PM, The Haunt; Saturday, 10:15 PM, Marine Room [Harbour Hotel])
The Orielles (Thursday, 2:30 PM, Beach House and 9:00 PM, Horatio’s)
Tors (Friday, 6:45 PM, St. Mary’s Church)
Vistas (Saturday, 2:30 PM, The Hope and Ruin)
whenyoung (Thursday, 6:30 PM, The Haunt)
Zapatilla (Thursday, 10:15 PM, The Walrus)

SXSW 2018 (or earlier) alums: Here’s a list of artists we either saw in March in Austin (or even in previous years) who we enjoyed AND/OR we previewed ahead of the festival -AND- will also be appearing at the Great Escape. They’re sorted by alphabetical order, as some of the acts who are bigger draws are appearing more than once, so organising the list by first appearance may not necessarily be useful to you.

All Our Exes Live in Texas (Thursday, 12:10 PM, Komedia [Aussie BBQ stage]; Thursday, 10:15 PM, Latest Music Bar)
Dermot Kennedy (Thursday, 9:00 PM, Wagner Hall; Friday, 4:00 PM, Beach Club; Friday, 10:00 PM, Sallis Benney Theatre)
Dream Wife (Thursday, 8:45 PM, Beach Club)
Her’s (Friday, 1:00 PM, Beach House; Friday, 10:15 PM, Horatio’s)
IDLES (Thursday 10:00 PM, Beach Club)
Jealous of the Birds (Thursday, 9:15 PM, Bau Wow; Friday, 2:00 PM, Jubilee Square)
Jerry Williams (Thursday, 7:45 PM, Hope and Ruin; Saturday, 12:30 PM, Komedia Studio Bar)
Joshua Burnside (Friday, 1:30 PM, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar [Output Belfast stage]; Saturday, 12:15 PM, Latest Music Bar)
Let’s Eat Grandma (Friday, 9:15 PM, The Old Market)
Lo Moon (Friday, 8:30 PM, Coalition)
Mansionair (Thursday, 9:15 PM, Komedia)
ONR (Friday, 8:30 PM, Paganini Ballroom at the Old Ship Hotel [BBC Introducing stage])
Pale Waves (Thursday, 7:00 PM, Wagner Hall; Thursday, 11:00 PM, Horatio’s)
Rachel K Collier (Friday, 12:20 PM, Latest Music Bar [Horizons / Gorwelion showcase)
Sam Fender (Friday, 2:30 PM, Patterns upstairs; Friday, 8:00 PM, Sallis Benney Theatre; Saturday, 1:30 PM, Komedia Studio Bar)
Stella Donnelly (Thursday, 8:15 PM, Komedia; Friday, 7:45 PM, Unitarian Church; Saturday, 1:20 PM, Dr. Martens stage)
Superorganism (Friday, 10:15 PM, The Old Market)
Ten Tonnes (Friday, 6:30 PM, Coalition; Friday, 10:45 PM, Paginini Ballroom at the Old Ship Hotel [BBC Introducing stage])
The Homesick (Friday, 2:30 PM, Komedia Studio Bar; Saturday, 10:15 PM, Green Door Store)
The Spook School (Thursday, 12:15 PM, Horatio’s [Showcasing Scotland stage]; Saturday, 8:30 PM Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar)
TOUTS (Thursday, 8:15 PM, Patterns upstairs; Friday, 3:30 PM, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar)

::gasps:: Okay, so now that we’ve gotten all those shining stars with loads of potential out of the way, I’m going to focus on five additional acts in this post. I’ve chosen those from the pool of acts appearing at The Great Escape but who did not appear at Live at Leeds last Saturday.

Basement Revolver (indie rock / lo-fi; Hamilton, Canada; 2:15 PM, Green Door Store; 6:15 PM, Patterns upstairs)
One of the upshots of attending The Great Escape is that it has arguably the most international line-up of any emerging music festival in the UK. Female-fronted Basement Revolver is one of a handful of acts having travelled thousands of miles to Brighton, besides the Aussies, of course. Bringing their reverb-heavy guitar chords and the sweet voice of Chrisy Hurn, they’ll have two chances on Thursday to wow Brighton crowds.

CRIMER (synthpop / dance; Switzerland; Thursday, 10:15 PM, Bau Wow; Friday, 1:30 PM, Bau Wow)
You a fan of Depeche Mode’s beats and Dave Gahan’s sultry drawl? I’m gonna put it out there and say you’re gonna love CRIMER from the Continent. The Great Escape blurb presumably supplied by him describes his look as pure boyband, but don’t let his hair parting put you off. Seems a bit strange that they have him on early Friday afternoon (I’d suggest you see him on the Thursday night instead) but hey, maybe he can turn Bau Wow into a sweaty disco before the 2 o’clock hour. Wait and see!

Declan Welsh and the Decadent West (punk; Glasgow; Friday, 12:30 PM, One Church and 7:15 PM, Green Door Store; 9:15 PM, Marine Room [Harbour Hotel])
I think it’s come time in this list to bring in something more subversive. I guess I don’t think of Glasgow as being very punk: perhaps it’s because both times I’ve visited, everyone’s been super nice to me, including the very large man with a very large ginger beard who shared a table with me at Nice and Sleazys. But I digress. Quoting their TGE bio directly, “Donald Trump and Theresa May watch out! The Revolution will be well dressed and speaking in Glaswegian.” RAWR.

Franc Moody (funk / dance; London; Friday, 2:40 PM, Beach House)
Not a guy from France, phew! No, Franc Moody is a London collective bringing da funk and da dance to Brighton’s seaside. Apparently they have been doing this for a while, in so-called ‘infamous’ (::giggles thinking of Three Amigos:: ) warehouse parties in Tottenham. Friday afternoon at TGE is oddly full of dance acts, so I can only hope that no matter what the weather, Franc Moody (and everyone else for that matter) can manage to get bodies bumpin’ before official wine o’clock.

Saint Raymond (pop; Nottingham; Thursday, 3:30 PM, Marine Room [Harbour Hotel])
This singer/songwriter has already been out on the road with the likes of Gabrielle Aplin, Ed Sheeran and HAIM, so it shouldn’t come as much surprise that Callum Burrows’ style of music is firmly in the pop genre. Burrows blends a synth-driven ‘80s sound with feel good pop lyrics. Apparently in the early days back home in Notts, lazy journos compared him to local acts Jake Bugg and Dog is Dead. No more.

 
 
 

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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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