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Kendal Calling 2013: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 19th August 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

If one was to hold a competition to find the most picturesque view in festivaldom, what would be on the shortlist? Certainly the legendary vista of the entire site from Glastonbury’s stone circle. Perhaps the imposing aspect from underneath Primavera’s vast concrete solar monolith across the Mediterranean sea. Equally as impressive, in a considerably more natural way, is the view just past the entrance barriers into Kendal Calling. The grassy site stretches out down a gentle slope, pocked with multicoloured canvas. Billowy cumulonimbus hang in a vast sky graduated between royal and baby blue, whilst on the horizon sit the imposing peaks of the Lake District. Just into the distance, tantalisingly obscured by trees, can be seen the tents and stages of the arena itself.

The geographical fortune of Kendal Calling doesn’t stop there. Being located roughly equidistant between the conurbations of Manchester, Glasgow, and Newcastle upon Tyne contributes to a heady melting pot of accents from three cultures that, let’s be honest, aren’t renowned for being shy of a bit of a party. And Kendal seems to specifically for their requirements: there’s guitar music aplenty, sometimes with a distinctly ‘laddish’ slant, and non-stop dance music until 3 AM for those so inclined towards a bit of an uplifting boogie. Which, as it turned out, for one night only, was me.

Concrete Knives Kendal Calling 2013

The rest of my time at Kendal mostly was spent at the Calling Out stage, a modestly-sized tent featuring less well-known and more up-and-coming acts than the household names hosted on the main stage. The very first act of the festival were Concrete Knives (pictured above), given a cruelly short 30 minutes in which to get across their funky Gallic guitar-pop. They rattle through several from debut ‘Be Your Own King’, Morgane Colas apparently floating in a self-induced trance when singing. They’re a rare treat, funky, cerebral and humorous all at the same time, and I can’t wait to see them do a full headline set (5/5). Champs have a lovely, summery take on the songwriter duo; something like ‘My Spirit Is Broken’ is just the sort of keening, sweetly-harmonied ditty that you want to hear emanating from a warm afternoon tent (3/5).

Waylayers Kendal Calling 2013

Waylayers turn up the tempo somewhat. Theirs is the sound of guitar songwriting meeting Balearic beats and synths as on the anthemic ‘S.O.S.’, which is dancefloor-worthy even without needing a remix. Harry Lee has enormous physical presence, dominating both the stage and the little keyboard from which he generates any number of uplifting synth lines. His vocals are often the spit of Diagrams’ Sam Genders, while the music treads a similar path to other practitioners of the dance crossover genre such as Friendly Fires; the fact that ‘Fires’ was produced by Ewan Pearson of TGTF former faves Delphic is surely no coincidence. Are they still unsigned? Surely not for long (4/5).

Misty Miller Kendal Calling 2013

“I washed my hair for you / I shaved my legs for you too” – the first couplet of ‘Next To You’ neatly summarises Misty Miller’s brand of guitar-based feminism, and the enormous blues riff which explodes seconds later indicates how serious she is about it. This is properly dirty garage rock, as simple as it gets: two, maybe three chords, drums bashed as hard as possible, and as generous a dose of swagger from the eponymous young frontwoman as one could reasonably hope for. Nothing particularly complicated here, but a generous dose of attitude and a nice loud electric guitar go a long way, and considering Misty is still only 19 years old, this is a particularly impressive performance (4/5).

Clean Bandit (pictured at top) are an unusual proposition, with their uneasy blend of dance music overlaid with a variety of classical stringed instruments and some MCing – effectively an updated version of the Dads’ car stereo favourite ‘Hooked On Classics’. A couple of minutes into this year’s ‘Mozart’s House’ single, the beats stop completely and the strings play a few bars solo, before the inevitable four-to-the-floor kick drum reappears, and it all goes hands-in-the-air again. The MC mines the depth of cliché in his classical music references – staccato, pizzicato, they’re all there, sticking out like four crotchets in a bar of waltz. One can’t help but think that fans of neither genre are served well – do dance heads really want strings all over their music? And it’s a rare kind of classical music fan that thinks, “what this string quartet recital really needs is a nice 909 bassline!” Nevertheless, there is some virtue here – the twin female vocalists give good show, the whole thing could act as a decent, risk-free primer to the charms of dance music for débutantes, and overall it’s all pretty good fun – if you don’t mind a bit of cheese in your mid-afternoon sandwich (2/5).

The Heartbreaks Kendal Calling 2013

Whether or not it’s the fact that Morecambe’s The Heartbreaks are treating Kendal Calling as something of a homecoming gig, what with them being just a quick trip up the M6 away from home, there’s something in the demeanour of Matthew Whitehouse and co. that demonstrates that they’re not just making up the numbers here. They would end up playing three times in the same day, including an acoustic set, but the Calling Out stage set was as good as any place to catch them. Clearly steeped in the aesthetic of the swinging ’60s, in many ways The Heartbreaks are keeping alive the straight pop of the pre-grunge ’90s, with a sweet, upbeat songs about girls. There’s a clear Smiths influence, which is no surprise given the band’s enthusiasm for them, but they come across as far more joyous than the Mancunian miserabilists. If you’re in the market for slice after slice of optimistic guitar pop, The Heartbreaks are who you should be listening to (5/5).

A few minutes in the company of Willy Moon soon assuages any doubts that his underwhelming Liverpool Sound City performance was anything other than representative of the usual standard of his work. His set consists of vignettes of self-aggrandising cliché; he himself is an obsequious musical magpie that steals the shiniest but most worthless musical baubles. For example, a compilation of lyrics from recent album ‘Here’s Willy Moon’ tell their own story:

“ain’t coming back no more / yeah yeah / how you like me now / one, two, three, four / I got what you need / got a strange affliction deep in my soul / I wanna be your man / when I was young my mama said / I put a spell on you”

Make no mistake, the first time these musical ideas were invented, they worked, because they were new and exciting. But to simply rehash them and sell them on as one’s own work, isn’t just plagiarism, it’s insulting the intelligence of one’s audience. Moon has an obvious talent for performance, but a desperate hole where there should be some decent, meaty bits of song – pretty much all of which are under 3 minutes long, and some are under 2. Usually brevity in music is to be applauded, as long as what is presented is an original idea, concisely expressed. In Moon’s case, his are underdeveloped foeti of songs, birthed at too young an age, dressed up in the glitter of production to disguise their weakness (1/5).

Public Enemy Kendal Calling 2013

Public Enemy, on the other hand, have a lot to say, perhaps quite a lot more than can be easily understood on first listen by a white Yorkshireman. The show is highly theatrical, with Flava Flav making an appearance ages after things have got going; in fact it was three songs in, because the photographers were preparing to leave after the customary three songs, only to be called back by Flav because he hadn’t had enough of the limelight – the first time in my experience that an artist has called for more photographic exposure rather than less. And certainly the first time that terms have been overruled directly from onstage. Flav makes an impassioned tribute to the unfortunate black American teenager Trayvon Martin, to whom he dedicates his continuing to wear the clock around his neck. There’s entourage scattered around the stage, seemingly just standing there most of the time, but overall it’s a pretty highly-charged affair, set amongst what it could be said is a fairly inoffensive, apolitical bill. And there’s nowt wrong with that (4/5).

 

Liverpool Sound City 2013: Martin’s Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 17th May 2013 at 3:00 pm
 

Bands of the day: Goonam, Ilona, Night Engine

Venue of the day: Mello Mello

The previous two days of Liverpool Sound City 2013 had seen the music kick off around 6 PM, but as a special Saturday treat, the Korean delegation arranged a showcase at the Kazimier Gardens from the unearthly hour of 2 PM. As well as showcasing four of the country’s finest bands, there was a delicious and in-no-way-an-incentive-to-turn-up spread of native Korean food and drink. Marinated and barbecued pork, chicken and beef vyed for attention with the superb kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish flavoured with chilli, ginger and garlic. To wash it down was a unique cinnamon beverage with pine nuts floating in it, and for those that drink in the afternoon (me!), Korea’s version of dry sherry. All utterly delicious and free of charge. As if that wasn’t enough, there were goody bags packed with promotional materials and traditional Korean wave-in-one’s-face fans – not that they were much needed in breezy Liverpool. I’d like to think I would’ve turned up anyway, but who doesn’t find free food always seals the deal?

Galaxy Express Liverpool Sound City 2013

The music was just as memorable. First up were Galaxy Express, a hard rock power trio whose song titles come translated into English but they actually sing in Korean. No matter, it’s all about the energy with these guys; they know a thing or two about throwing shapes, slinging their vintage guitars all over the place, thrashing their way through their set at top speed. There’s a great deal of skill on offer – anyone remotely interested in rock music should give these guys a listen. Even though I haven’t a clue what they’re on about (a point which holds true for all four Korean bands, for obvious reasons), theirs is a fine, attention-grabbing set.

Goonam Liverpool Sound City 2013

Goonam are brilliant. First of all, the music is just perfect for the laid-back vibe of the afternoon – the lazy rhythms and mock-Hammond organ recall early ’90s Acid Jazz output, the ideal accompaniment for swaying around in the weak early afternoon sunshine, knocking back Korean fortified wine. But the star of the show is the eccentric, perma-grinning bassist ByungHak Eem. Attired in a woman’s yellow-with-black-polka-dots blouse, heavy black shoes that are literally falling apart at the seams, and sporting a fine example of the classic Chinese emperor beard style, Eem’s presence lends the whole set a quite rare frisson of surreal excitement. His stilted explanation of how he came to play with lead singer Ung Joh is described in a charmingly naive accidental haiku:

We meet in karaoke
He sing well, I love him
We make band

There’s a deep vein of subtle, deadpan humour running through everything Goonam do, making it easy to get right behind them. Eem really is the star of the show, his beams lighting up the stage, his theatrical bass-as-machine-gun genuinely amusing. Memorable stuff.

Apollo 18 (pictured at top) are a bit more conventional – another hard rock trio, mostly instrumental this time, they don’t quite have the same amount of accessible personality as the previous two acts. What they do have is high levels of extremely intense noise, which comes as a bit of a shock to the system after the chilled out Goonam. Not quite my cup of SuJeongGwa, but if shredding is your thing, Apollo 18 are worth checking out.

To wrap up the Korean invasion are Gate Flowers: possibly the most intriguing of all the acts today. They’re another guitar-rock band, but far more mainstream this time: a bit like a heavier Counting Crows, and at times the guitarist’s wah-wah technique adds a touch of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The songs are very competent, and the singer’s bizarre hand movements and “anti-singing” technique are captivating in their own way, but I can’t help but think that if they were British or American they wouldn’t particularly stand out as ones to watch.

After Gate Flowers finish their main set, the crowd are hungry for more, so they kick into a cover of ‘Paint It Black’, at which point the stage is invaded by members of the three previous bands, who proceed to plug in and jam along. As the stage becomes more crowded, things get messier, with singers sharing every available microphone, guitar solos played whilst hoisted on someone else’s shoulders, and our friend Hak standing on a speaker waving an empty sherry bottle and mugging for the multitude of video cameras surrounding him. A drunken outdoor Korean rock supergroup party jam – not something that you see every day.

Ilona Liverpool Sound City 2013

In between sets of Korean music, I headed for a swift break to Mello Mello, the location of Thursday’s triumph from The Oreoh!s, and dispenser of the finest beer of the festival, a heavily-hopped American-style IPA. At 6% ABV this beer is a special treat, and no sooner had I tucked into my half, the realisation dawned that there was another special treat in the room. Ilona is a Bulgarian-born, London-based singer-songwriter, who stands out from the enormous crowd of similar hopefuls by being tremendous fun to watch and listen to. Being sparsely accompanied by mentor and co-writer Tony Moore is an advantage here, as it lets the natural character in Ilona’s voice shine through. And what a voice – sumptuous and sultry at low volume, powerful and beautifully-toned at normal range, with a buzz-saw intensity rasping through when the song demands it. As for the songs… recent release ‘Love is Stupid’ is clearly gunning for the Radio 2 crowd, but it may be a little too hackneyed even for that ultra-mainstream demographic – by the time the third chorus comes around, I’m switching off. And don’t get me started on the cheap video. Elsewhere, the set is jolly enough to hold the interest, but her Alannah Myles-style voice is crying out for something of the quality of Black Velvet (if she wants to stick with the pop-rock genre), or maybe, since she comes across as Marina Diamandis’ feisty younger sister, something quirky and electro. Either way, it has to be acknowledged that this is very early days for Ilona, and her collaborators are doing their best with limited means to promote her talents. A performer dripping with potential.

Willy Moon Liverpool Sound City 2013

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Willy Moon since reviewing his debut single “I Wanna Be Your Man” in our 10 for 2012 feature, and declaring, “If those dance moves translate well to a stage, he’ll be an unmissable prospect live.” However, the sad truth is that he turns out to be the greatest disappointment of the weekend. It doesn’t help that he’s 40 minutes late, in a roasting hot venue, making the crowd restless and perturbed before a note is played. And when Moon arrives, it becomes clear that his set consists of a handful of stunted backing tracks, overlaid with live drums and guitar, and his gyrating karaoke. More worryingly, he appears to have no personality whatsoever, struggling to string enough words together to thank the audience for sticking around in the equatorial heat, let alone provide a compelling reason why we all should have gathered here in the first place. The final straw is the deep streak of misogyny running through the performance – the two other musicians are women, with the drummer particularly scantily clad in a fishnet top, and he regularly gurns leeringly at them, sometimes mopping his sweat-caked brow on the guitarist’s shoulder. They must have the patience of saints. When the best thing about a music performance is the drummer’s jiggling breasts, you know something has gone seriously wrong, as evidenced by the room steadily emptying as the show progresses. Moon needs to completely rethink his stage show, get some proper songs, proper manners, and a proper personality, otherwise people will increasingly come to view him as a hollow charlatan.

Night Engine Liverpool Sound City 2013

Night Engine, despite only having released their début single (‘Seventeen’, on lovely limited edition red vinyl) just a couple of months ago, have already managed to conjure a reputation for being the next big thing. The Shipping Forecast is hot and humid, and technical problems delay the start of the gig; thus the atmosphere builds feverishly before even a note is played. But when the band finally kick off, it becomes apparent that Night Engine are good. Actually, make that very good indeed. This is sharp, elegant, guitar music with an irresistible, pristine groove from the exquisitely tight rhythm section, overlaid with splurges of fuzzy synth. Phil McDonnell is a disturbingly intense presence on vocals and lead guitar – his selection of glares and stares as the music ratchets up the drama simply add to the intensity of the performance. But it’s not all serious – there’s a gleeful joy in the grooves that prevents everything collapsing under the weight of its own portent. The obvious stylistic reference point is Bowie’s early-80s funk-influenced output; there’s elements of Chic in the clean stabs of electric guitar, and perhaps even Kraftwerk in the metronomic accuracy of the rhythms. But most of all, they simply sound like Night Engine, which for such a young act is an astonishing achievement.

And that, give or take a humdrum Delphic performance here, or the ubiquitous ukulele covers band there, is that. Liverpool Sound City is a world-class place to discover new music, new friends, and new beer. There’s talk of it becoming as important as SXSW on the international music scene, and I see no reason why that should not be the case. That said, SXSW is, by virtue of being on another continent, an event with a completely different promotional demographic, meaning Sound City is an event with few real competitors, despite several other regional music festivals happening around the same time. Add to the mix the superb venues and the warm welcome experienced by every visitor to Liverpool, and you have quite a fine event indeed, and one which deserves to go from strength to strength. See you there in 2014.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2013: Mary’s Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 16th May 2013 at 3:00 pm
 

Third day at Sound City 2013, and I was flagging. Martin made the perfect suggestion that we should check out the Korean bands day showcase, where there would also be free food and booze on offer. Besides, I’d not been to the Kazimier Gardens yet, which both him and John had waxed philosophical on their home brew and laid-back atmosphere. Afternoon sorted then. I didn’t photograph any of the bands, as we had Martin with us there, so check out his review of day 3 for those. What I mostly recall was that the atmosphere was loud, fun and just what you needed on a sunny Saturday afternoon. (This is where I should probably point out that while some of the evenings were chilly, not a drop of rain fell the entire weekend. So take that, Brighton!) After being plied with sufficient food and drink – and running into Delphic of all people in the barbecue line! – it was then off to see the next band.

Common Tongues Liverpool Sound City 2013

Common Tongues are a folk pop band from Brighton. Folk pop may seem such a cliche these days but I can assure you that they are worth seeing for the beautiful harmonies alone. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to see a band who describes themselves on Facebook with the following: “Common Tongues are a Brighton based 5 piece that combine the belly fruit of Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys to tell compelling stories of their lives and loves. The band bring real gravitas to the folk scene with expansive instrumentation, cinematic arrangement and luscious 5-part harmony.” I’m always up for a bit of musical belly fruit. They just released an EP, ‘Tether and Twine’, which I’ve purchased to bring home with me to America, but if you fancy watching the band perform all the songs from the release, you can do so here. They will also be appearing at the Alternative Escape in Brighton on Thursday afternoon, so they are a band not to be missed.

Redolent Liverpool Sound City 2013

There’s just not enough bands named with adjectives, I say. This is where the next band comes in. I returned to the Brink Saturday afternoon, as it was May the 4th Be With You Day and they were offering up a C3 PO Boy sandwich (a joke probably lost on most Brits but I totally got it, having had many a po’ boy in my time and having once visited New Orleans). Redolent, a very young band from Edinburgh, is one I came across in my Sound City preview research, on the strength of their guitar playing in the many acoustic videos they’ve put on their YouTube account. I don’t think their songwriting craft is fully formed yet, but on the basis of how good they are on their instruments, I can see them being the Two Door Cinema Club of Edinburgh soon enough. Just you watch.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMVimqLk63s[/youtube]

Now is the time that I can reveal my shining stardom moment of the weekend. Shining stardom moment not in a “oh my god, I’ve met *insert band name here* and I can die happy now” way. No, as in “wow, I’ve made it!” While I speaking to the band members of Redolent after their set, I was approached soon after by Sid and Esme of the Oreohs, the young Halifax band who Martin had nothing but compliments for from the Thursday. “Are you Mary Chang? Do you run There Goes the Fear?” I was incredulous. And to be honest, pretty nervous and taken aback at having been identified. I am sure I was blushing. Sid explained that they had toured as support for the Crookes previously and she’d read my review of the Crookes’ ‘Bear’s Blood’ single and thought it was “absolutely amazing”. When you put your heart and soul into something, it is always heartwarming to hear that what you do is appreciated by someone else. It is also lovely to be reminded of good friends; even if you are hundreds of miles away from them, they will always be in your heart. I was absolutely beaming from this interaction.

Last Days of 1984 Liverpool Sound City 2013

I whinged initially at the lack of true dance bands at this year’s Sound City, so the salve of Dublin’s Last Days of 1984 at the Garage was more than welcome. Ever since Daft Punk made that pronouncement that they thought dance music was going in the wrong direction while they’d been away, I’ve been analysing and overanalysing what they perceive as going wrong in this genre. Charismatic frontman? Check. Mad beats? Check. Beautiful sonicscapes? Check. It’s a shame that more punters were out here earlier to catch them, but I thought they sounded fantastic, their music easily filling the cavernous Garage.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9SttTceg4k[/youtube]

I won’t speak about Willy Moon in my review, as Martin photographed him. I tried to be a trooper and squeeze my way into the crowded floor where he was playing at the East Village Arts Club but it was just too hot and claustrophobic, so I had to leave to catch my breath. And sit down with a cider. Smile.

The Hummingbirds Liverpool Sound City 2013

It just wouldn’t be Sound City for me if I didn’t see the Hummingbirds. The six man band are known for their incredibly melodic, skiffle-esque, early Beatles sound and it’s easy to see why they are fast favourites with locals young and old. I met them last year, after a considerable amount of time had passed since I had done a Bands to Watch on them. I’m a Liverpool FC supporter, and though my support for the club has been wavering with all this recent Suarez nonsense, it was with much appreciation that lead singer Jay Davies came out with a bright red club scarf around his neck with the word “Justice” emblazoned on it, laying it across an amp on the front of the stage, right in front of the band so everyone could see. Any true footy fan will never forget Hillsborough and especially for Liverpool fans, while that dreadful day will always stir up bad memories, it is also a reminder of the strength and solidarity of the city and its people coming together to demand justice for those whose lives were lost.

Maybe that is why ‘Back in Liverpool’ brings tears to my eyes when I hear it, and why I had that reaction Saturday night watching them play it. The song itself is about a man who’s wanting to have a serious conversation with a woman he was involved with, but he can’t do it until she returns to town because she’s left and gone away (to Cambridge, if you were wondering…I guess she went to uni?). In this overly social media-ed world, the fact that he’s not texting or WhatsApp-ing her is refreshing. “It’s not about me or you, or the things we used to do, like watching movies in the dark. All the places that we’d meet, all the scuffles under sheets that makes it hard to be apart. There’s things I’d like to say to you, when you’re back in Liverpool.” That is just about the most perfect chorus you could ever write, and I never could have predicted I would hear the song again later on that night.

The band will be releasing a new single ‘Emma’ in July, but that didn’t stop them from doing a raucous cover of ‘Day Tripper’ to pay homage to the Fabs. Check ’em out if you haven’t already, you won’t be disappointed.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq3q635TsxQ[/youtube]

Delphic Liverpool Sound City 2013

If you have been keeping up with the TGTF story since 2010, you will recall that Delphic‘s debut ‘Acolyte’ was my favourite album of 2010. Fast forward 3 years and they’ve released the follow-up, a r&b infused one called ‘Collections’, that neither John or I particularly liked. While I entirely understand the need to broaden your horizons and the desire not to stay in the same place musically, it was clearly evident at the Manchester quartet’s appearance Saturday night at the Arts Academy – now augmented live by a touring bass player, with singer James Cook now playing guitar instead – that the set suffered from the lack of cohesion between the two albums, and this was apparent to the punters as well. I’d seen Delphic several times in 2010 and every time I saw them I’d be surrounded by people who were singing along to the songs, and this just didn’t happen in Liverpool. I found myself not enjoying being pressed up against seriously pissed people down the front ended up extricating myself from the barrier to join John further back.

Starting with newer single ‘Baiya’ was a wise choice, as it is the song of theirs that’s gotten most airplay recently, but other tracks like ‘Freedom Found’ and ‘Atlas’ lumbered uncomfortably alongside the sheer pop goodness of ‘Doubt’ and the admirable ravey qualities of ‘Red Lights’. The pacing just wasn’t right; as soon as you thought the momentum was building in the set, a newer song would come into the mix and throw things off again. I don’t know if it was because they honestly had other bands to see or other places to go, but people would come into the venue for a couple songs, and then make a beeline to the door to leave. We stayed through the whole set, hoping for a build-up at the end, which didn’t come. Seeing them live confirmed to me my biggest worry for them, that in reinventing their sound, they managed to lose a good chunk of their fanbase who was into their electropop / rock sound they began with. Unfortunately, their new material is just not for me at all.

When we stumbled into the delegates bar at the Epstein Theatre at the end of the night to have a few celebratory brews that TGTF had come through the other side of Sound City, a local orchestra was playing in the main area and they ended their set with a splendid rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. John and Martin, knowing my team affiliation, both smiled and said, “it’s your song!” Grin. The orchestra was followed by Splintered Ukes, a 12-piece ukulele band. You really haven’t lived until you’ve heard a ukulele version of Radiohead‘s ‘Creep’. Haha. And they paid respect to fellow Liverpudlians the Hummingbirds by covering ‘Back in Liverpool’. What a fitting ending to our Liverpool Sound City. God and funds willing, we’ll see you all next year.

 

SXSW 2013: Day 1 – Huw Stephens / UK Trade and Investment showcase at Latitude 30 – 12th March 2013

 
By on Friday, 22nd March 2013 at 4:35 pm
 

Last year, I spent the majority of my time at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. It was so long ago now, I don’t really remember if it was more because it was a safe place for me because I knew exactly where it was on San Jacinto Boulevard, or if it was the line-ups that drew me there. In any event, at SXSW 2013 I was mildly disappointed by the programme being presented over the week, with a lot of bands that I just didn’t care for. Traditionally, Tuesday is the ‘easiest’ day of the festival, as there aren’t as many showcases put on because that’s the day the festival begins and a lot of the professional folks don’t make it into town until that afternoon. That said, that means every decent showcase will be rammed, which was the case with the Huw Stephens-curated UK Trade and Investment showcase that very night. I got in there early, figuring I wanted to hit the ground running, covering a whole slew of notable UK acts hand-selected by Huw himself.

Y Niwl SXSW 2013 live

The first band up was Y Niwl, an alternative surf pop band from Wales. First impression: their bass player was wearing a red knit hat that made me laugh, because the week prior our John Fernandez was trying to win a similarly epic winter hat in a Facebook contest. They don’t talk between songs and Huw even said in his introduction of them, “they told me to tell you ‘thank you’ now”, because they wouldn’t be stopping to chat. So between this statement and the hat, I went into this set chuckling.

I don’t speak Welsh so I can’t read you the titles of their songs or tell you what they mean, but all you need to know is that they’ve got a blend of the Shadows, the Ventures, the Surfaris and the Beach Boys (sans lyrics), with a penchant for both slower burning numbers and widely contrasting speedy ones that will remind you of the themes to Peter Gunn and the James Bond franchise. Y Niwl could definitely could be considered quirky on the basis of their handwritten set list that consisted solely of numbers (a special band code?) and not any recognisable words. Not even ones that looked like Welsh. Mysterious…

Lucy Rose SXSW 2013 live

Folk pop singer/songwriter Lucy Rose was up next, wearing an Adidas t-shirt, black jeans and some kick-arse–looking trainers. I kept in mind from John’s interview with her at Reading last year that deep down he’s a metal / rock loving girl and that this outfit made more sense in that context. Being so slight, she had brought with her a special stool and all her pedals were placed on top of an equipment case so her feet could reach them. (Bless.)

What became immediately apparent from the first song out of the gate was this was not the same anxious, timid as a mouse girl I saw open for Bombay Bicycle Club in DC just a year ago. If there was a time for her to bring the goods, this was it, her first big American music industry appearance in Austin for her SXSW 2013 close-up. ‘Middle of the Bed’ wowed the folks I was with who had never seen her before. She offered up a brand new song, and in her usual self-deprecating self, she organised her band to play another song that they never play live, saying “this is going to be bad!” But there was no indication of anyone, much less Rose herself, of dropping the ball. Maybe the first time she came to America, she wasn’t confident in her performing abilities, but this night, no one could touch her.

Tall Ships SXSW 2013 live

Tall Ships from Falmouth were a jarring yet welcome band to follow the folk of Lucy Rose. John had nothing but compliments for their debut album ‘Everything Touching’ from last year, and generally speaking, our rock tastes differ quite a bit, so I was expecting something loud and frenetic. In that respect, they did our John proud, guitars and hair flying all the place. A little loud for me but the crowd were loving it. I almost didn’t want to leave, but I had a date with another band elsewhere.

This is where things went pear-shaped. I was supposed to be on the guest list for the big Media Temple-sponsored SXSW Interactive closing party at Stubb’s. For a month prior, the internet had been abuzz about the headline set by deadmau5 vs. Richie Hawtin. As you can imagine, it was one of the biggest draws of the entire week and while I do like deadmau5, I was more interested in seeing the band directly before me, our friends the Joy Formidable. With a press wristband, I knew I hadn’t a hope in the world of getting in, and they had arranged for me to get in through the guest list. I arrived a half-hour early, figuring that would be plenty of time to get into the venue and get a good vantage point. Something went wrong though, as when I went up to the guestlist line and the man with the list – all 12 pages of it – flipped through the list with lightning speed, said I wasn’t on it and could I call the people who put me on the list to get in touch with them?

Uhhh, that would be a little difficult to achieve because it was 30 minutes from the Joy Formidable’s set list and us bloggers are all too aware that bands get psyched up for their performances right before and we cannot expect them to be near their phones. A kind request for the man to look over the list one more time, more slowly, was met with a curt shout of “you’re not getting in!” Okay, then. I was also bristling as some women behind me, barking at security that they should be let in immediately because they were from the BBC. Sorry, but no-one was getting in unless you were on the guest list, whether you’re from the Beeb or not. The experience soured me on Stubb’s for the rest of the week and I refused to return. This was really disappointing to me as last year I had a very good night there seeing Kaiser Chiefs and the Temper Trap. While I realise that especially on that night when they were being shouted at by drunk festival-goers desperate to get in to deadmau5 that tempers all around were frayed, but being professional is part of running a venue, SXSW or no SXSW, and I don’t think any punter acting reasonably and civilly to staff deserves to be screamed at. Respect people, whoever they are. I walked back down Red River Street, defeated, hearing the faraway strains of ‘Cholla’ and wishing I was inside Stubb’s instead of kicking dirt down the sidewalk.

Well, what to do now but to return to Latitude 30? Remember that I said earlier in this piece that Tuesday night was light with showcases. I’ve never seen so many people outside Latitude 30, trying to get in. Then again, nearly every band I wanted to see there at SXSW 2012, I had arrived well ahead and managed to get inside with no problem. It became eminently clear that with my press wristband, I wasn’t getting back in for the 1975. Considering how much we’ve written about them on TGTF and the fact that I was probably one of few people who knew several of their songs, let alone heard of them, I was fuming. Those of you who have met me know exactly how short I am. Despite standing on my tippy toes, I couldn’t see a thing. They sounded amazing though, and judging from the screaming after each song, they got in and did what they needed to do: wow the Austin crowd.

Willy Moon SXSW 2013 live

The crowd significantly thinned out after the 1975’s set, allowing me to squeeze in to the side for Willy Moon. One of his songs was recently featured on an Apple advert here in America, so I imagined there would be a decent buzz around him. However, it appeared everyone I was in close proximity to was there to wait for Bastille, who I’d read in a press release the day before had hit #1 in the UK albums chart with their debut. In that respect, I thought Moon had an uphill battle ahead of him.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like him live, as I had always thought on record he was a bit gimmicky and too reliant on ‘50s style. But surprisingly I liked him a lot. As I had imagined in my head, he has a Little Richard / Jerry Lee Lewis frenzied throwback vocal style about him. But what I was not expecting was how animated he’d be on stage, hips swinging like a 21st century Elvis, crooning and preening. With a huge quiff and dressed to the nines in a smart suit, he just oozed cool. He had played a show in DC when I was poorly in February and boy, was I glad to have finally seen live.

Bastille SXSW 2013 live

I still don’t get the appeal of Bastille. Being Tuesday night, it was the last hurrah for the SXSW Interactive conventioneers, and I met several of them who were ending their last night in Austin with this rousing night with Huw Stephens. A new friend from London said that the Bastille sound is the sound of London right now, and maybe that is why I’m not getting it. Having heard the new Dan Croll single ‘Compliment Your Soul’ on BBC 6music earlier today, I am not so sure it is limited to London.

Since it had been such an arduous task to get back into Latitude 30 after the 1975’s set and after a ridiculously early night the night before not getting into Peace at Viceland, I couldn’t be bothered to leave the venue where I’d managed a cosy spot down the front for the evening’s headliner. Initially when I saw Dan Smith, he reminded me of one of my friends Matt, and I immediately starting missing him. There are synths and lots of percussion that make up the Bastille set-up, and make no mistake, Smith’s music is a lot of fun and it incites wild dancing wherever he goes. Surrounded by folks who were obviously into this kind of music, their arms in the air to the beats, I felt like a wet blanket. I just don’t fully understand why their debut album hit #1 on the UK albums chart. While I am not saying it is entirely soulless, there seems to be something missing there, at least for me, and it’s that block that keeps me from enjoying the music fully.

Overall impression of the evening: most bands very good, but Stubb’s security loses them at least a thousand points.

 

(SXSW 2013 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #1148: Willy Moon

 
By on Wednesday, 6th March 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

Willy Moon‘s current single ‘My Girl’ now has a new video, just in time for his first showcasing at SXSW 2013 next week. Moon looks edgier in this video, which is being released ahead of his debut album ‘Here’s Willy Moon’ out on the 8th of April on Island Records. Watch it below.

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

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013: Singer/songwriter and folk UK artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Tuesday, 29th January 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2013 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change.

So here we are, the last week of January. Each Tuesday we’ve been bringing you genre ‘chapters’ of the UK bands that have been given the all important shout for this year’s SXSW 2013 taking place in venues across Austin the 12th to the 17th of March 2013. On the 8th of January, we brought you the pop and pop hybrid acts list, with a follow-up addendum on the 14th of January after the SXSW people updated their books on the 10th. The 15th of January saw the posting of the sound heavyweights, on the list of rock, metal and punk acts. Last week, on the 22nd, we wanted to showcase the wizards of the music world with the list of electronic and electronic-based bands and DJs.

This week? Possibly the genre that is most prolific – and the most crowded: the singer/songwriters and folk artists. Last week it was interesting to read that in an interview with SPIN, singer Scott Hutchinson of Scottish band Frightened Rabbit complained of being compared to current folk rock behemoths Mumford and Sons. Love ’em or hate ’em, they brought folk rock to the forefront of popular music and proved that that brand of ‘popularised’ bluegrass could be popular around the world. There is no doubt a whole new generation of folk rock artists that are being given a second glance, instead of being ignored, thanks to the hard work of Mumford and other acts soldiering on in this genre. And then there are the singer/songwriters: we may romanticise the image of a solitary, guitar-wielding man in front of a crowd, the reality is that there are both men and women who are pouring their hearts out into song, sitting in their bedrooms wondering what might be. In that respect, SXSW does its best in giving these folks the proper credit – and surely the proper platform – that might propel them into the big time.

What I had envisioned this weekly guide to be was simply a handy resource if you were wondering which acts to catch at this year’s marathon week of showcases, parties and secret shows. But even if you’re not attending the big event, I hope it’ll also introduce you to the solo artists and bands you haven’t heard of, because that’s the most exciting thing about SXSW: at any one moment, you could walk into a bar, a club, a hotel, a warehouse, wherever…and you might just discover the next big thing in music. And that isn’t limited to one place or one event. You can find new music anywhere. And without further adieu…

‘Allo Darlin – Australia collides with Britain in this folk pop band fronted by Elizabeth Morris. Their songs are so cute, you wish you could just pinch their cheeks! Martin caught them at the End of the Road Festival in 2011.

Sounds like: the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, with a female lead

Read our previous coverage of the band here.

Lauren Aquilina – This 17-year old is from Windsor, but knock off the Royal Family jokes, please. She independently released her debut EP ‘Fools’ in October, so what a coup to get the SXSW nod when you’re still unsigned!

Sounds like: Lucy Rose, Ellie Goulding (but minus the synths)

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

Jake Bugg (added 10/01/13) –Noel Gallagher’s young protégé who has already found fame in the last year at the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City, the Nottingham native has made folk and country guitar rock popular again with his debut album

Read our previous coverage of Bugg here.

Bo Saris – blue-eyed soul delivered in a falsetto. It’s difficult for me to listen to, but if a Dutchman described as ” the new, male equivalent of the late Amy Winehouse” doesn’t make you shrink in horror…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-cUVZThQVs[/youtube]

Bwani Junction – Edinburgh band invoking the Afrobeat spirit of Vampire Weekend with their jaunty guitars. They even describe themselves as “Big Country were from the Soweto”. They made their Great Escape debut in 2012 with the Scottish contingent, so it seems only fitting that they make their SXSW debut this year.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbYjSamxS30[/youtube]

Matt Cardle (added 10/01/13) – the winner of the 7th season of the UK’s X Factor, it’ll be interesting if his popularity in Britain will translate into fame in America.

Jamie N Commons – Has singing the blues, just like plaid shirts, become trendy again? If yes, then Jamie N Commons is its poster boy. And if for some reason you miss him and you live in America, don’t fret: he’ll be supporting Lianne La Havas (his fellow BBC Sound of 2012 longlist alum also at SXSW) on her North American tour directly following the festival.

The Dunwells – it is unfortunate that in the post-Mumford and Sons world, other folk bands that came out in 2009 were left behind. Hopefully, Leeds’ Dunwells will use this opportunity in Austin (and New York in January and Colorado in March post-SXSW) to show everyone just how talented they are and they’re not Mumford wannabes.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDuv-cG5rtM[/youtube]

Paloma Faith – imagine my surprise to hear that Paloma Faith is now on my mum’s approved list, after watching her perform on Graham Norton. I’m kind of interested to see what kind of people would show up to see her in Austin: Amy Winehouse fans?

Read our previous coverage on Paloma here.

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

Fossil Collective – If you transported the Byrds to Leeds, what would they sound like? Probably something similar to Fossil Collective. I might have compared them to Fleet Foxes, except that in the press shots I’ve seen of Dave Fendick and Jonny Hooker, only one of them has a beard so…

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

For some mp3s and John’s review of their EP ‘On and On’, head here.

Goldheart Assembly – Having loved their 2010 debut album ‘Wolves and Thieves’, I felt like it’d been nearly forever since I last heard anything about Goldheart Assembly. When I checked on TGTF, the last thing I’d written on them, a post about their single ‘Harvest in the Snow’, was posted in March 2011. It’ll be 2 years, then, when they make their way to Austin, and not a moment too soon. Were they waiting for the Fleet Foxes love – and expected backlash – to die down? We’ll never know for sure, but I for one will be eager to see them live for the first time.

Catch all our previous Goldheart coverage here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeRse7-lXM4[/youtube]

Ed Harcourt – Compared to the other singer/songwriters on the SXSW list, Ed Harcourt is a relative granddaddy – at 35, he’s released five studio albums to date, with an sixth, ‘Back into the Woods’, to follow in late February 2013. ‘The Man That Time Forgot’, the first song to be offered up from the new album, can be downloaded for free here.

Robyn Hitchcock – When your own Web site is called ‘a museum’, you know you’ve paid your dues to the music industry. This is where cult singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock finds himself, revered in the UK for his English eccentricity, though I am very curious at the kind of turnout for his shows at SXSW and indeed, where they will have him play.

Jesca Hoop (added 10/01/13) – to some of us, she’s better known associated with Elbow. Not actually British (she’s a Californian transplant to Manchester after Guy Garvey discovered), she started with a very eclectic sound which turned decidedly poppier with ‘Hospital (Win Your Love)’, the last time we checked in with her.

Read our previous coverage of Hoop here.

James Hunter – from the same town as Lammo (Colchester) comes this r&b and soul singer, previously nominated for a Grammy for his 2006 album ‘People Gonna Talk’. This is exactly the kind of music I don’t usually seek out, so I’m rather keen to see him play. I’m imagining the scene to be as hopping as JD MacPherson’s at last year’s Great Escape.

Josephine – if Morrissey was a young black woman, he might just sound like Josephine. (And yes. I didn’t believe Paul Lester either until I heard ‘What a Day’.) I haven’t heard her debut album but I’ve been told the rest of it doesn’t sound Smiths-esque, so you can’t blame Manchester for it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hngRpjPafI[/youtube]

Kodaline – Gary Barlow’s favourite new band from Dublin doesn’t show any signs of slowing down after getting a BBC Sound of 2013 longlist nod, We’ve written quite a bit about this band, so you can read all of that here. They have new EP out in March, and the promo video for its title track ‘High Hopes’ is below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4povfmX144[/youtube]

Cate Le Bon – Cate Le Bon is a breath of fresh air compared to most of the other Welsh acts tipped for 2013’s SXSW, which appear to all be thrashy, hard rock bands made up of men.

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

Sounds like: Beth Jeans Houghton with a fixation on death

Let’s Buy Happiness – happy guitar rock/pop band from Newcastle.

Sounds like: ‘Allo Darlin, without the harmonies.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-1nLr6Gl4I[/youtube]

Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun – Jim Lockey sans band was the first band of the Xtra Mile Recordings showcase on my first night at SXSW 2012, so let’s see if he can manage to bring his entire band out for 2013. I think of his as ‘Frank Turner lite’, if that helps you imagine what he sounds like.

Read our previous live coverage of Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun here.

My Darling Clementine – ‘country/soul’ duo from Birmingham by husband/wife coupling Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish. Long Facebook profiles seem overdone to me, so…

Willy Moon (added 10/01/13) – placing #6 in the TGTF 10 for 2012 readers’ poll, signing to Jack White’s Third Man Records, having one of his songs play on a new iPod advert in America? Willy Moon’s life just gets better and better. A little bit pop, a little bit soul, a little bit ‘50s styling for one hip sound.

Read our previous coverage on Willy here.

Tom Odell (added 10/01/13) – Having already won the BRITs 2013 Critics’ Choice award, the sky’s the limit for this Chichester-born singer/songwriter.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwpMEbgC7DA[/youtube]

Christopher Rees – Cardiff singer/songwriter that NME describes like this: “It’s not easy to achieve noise metal god status accompanied by a cello but Christopher Rees makes an awesome, bloody fist of it. Pumped up and snarling but managing to wrench beautiful tunes out of the wreckage… This is seriously amazing stuff”. This description has us intrigued!

Roo Panes – ‘classical folk pop’ is not a genre normally explored here, but I’m always up for a challenge. This is Andrew ‘Roo’ Panes’ project with a strong backing and voal harmonising band. He has already been singled out for his handsomeness, as Burberry chose him to model their autumn/winter 2012 collection. Given Mumford and Laura Marling‘s recent meteoric rise to fame in America, Roo Panes is the odds-on favourite to follow in their footsteps.

Sounds like: he should be signed to Communion, if Ben Lovett hasn’t come sniffing round yet

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGP-TnIoejk[/youtube]

Lucy Rose – We, of course, already knew how talented she was. But 2013 could just be the year that Lucy Rose breaks out of Bombay Bicycle’s shadow and becomes a huge worldwide success in her own right. Though I worry what would happen to Lucy if she suddenly became massive; would she stop doing the things like Tweet at her mother on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable that make me go, “oh, bless!”? A scary prospect…

Read our previous coverage on Lucy Rose here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adBPg8Zdp2g[/youtube]

Paul Thomas Saunders – it must be hard to be Paul Thomas Saunders, a Leeds singer/songwriter in his late twenties and allergic to alcohol. But I guess he must use all that extra free time not boozing at the pub to write. Evidently I missed a “triumphant” appearance at last year’s Great Escape. Need to rectify that.

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

Jack Savoretti – part Italian, but that’s where any comparison to Paolo Nutini ends. Savoretti has already been on the road with Corinne Bailey Rae and shored up Radio2 support, but why isn’t he massive? Just wait until one of his songs gets synced on a major film soundtrack.

Sounds like: a harder, more pop Bob Dylan, a gentler Bruce Springsteen

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umBAmzf0SXs[/youtube]

Skinny Lister – this London folk band have already made quite an impact on America, through a previous appearance at SXSW and then an even more surprising appearance last year on the Vans Warped tour of North America. Could they be riding the Mumford wave? Possibly. Their debut album ‘Forge and Flagon’ gets an American release this month, so we’ll see if the momentum lasts.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsqaLfWMcp8[/youtube]

The Staves – three harmonising sisters with guitars from Watford who are no stranger to America, having toured here a couple times now with the (now defunct?) Civil Wars, I was surprised to see them get another turn at SXSW. If they do get an opportunity to sing in St. David’s again like in 2012, go, go, GO. You won’t be disappointed.

Story Books – Kent band sounding at times haunting and at times bombastic. Not really sure why they’re not more popular or, frankly, why we haven’t heard of them yet.

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

Richard Thompson – like Robyn Hitchcock, I’m not entirely sure what Richard Thompson is doing on a list of acts scheduled to perform at SXSW. Having already made a name for himself as a member of Fairport Convention and then with his wife Linda and now as a solo artist, I suspect he’ll be using the guest spot to advertise his latest album ‘Electric’, out in February.

Washington Irving – jaunty folk rock wrapped around a Scottish accent.

File next to: Arcade Fire

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

That’s it for the genre chapters in the TGTF Guide to SXSW in January. To not miss any of our SXSW 2013 coverage, bookmark this tag and of course, keep it here on TGTF for even more great content in the weeks leading up to the big event in March!

 
 
 

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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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