SXSW 2012: Day 4 – PRS Foundation brunch at Latitude 30 (Spectrals, Dutch Uncles, D/R/U/G/S) – 16th March 2012

By on Friday, 30th March 2012 at 2:00 pm

Long before I arrived in Austin, I had worked out a schedule for each day that I expected to pretty much adhere to. Scheduling ahead, I’d already earmarked most of Friday and Saturday so I could be stationed at Latitude 30, starting with the Performing Right Society of the UK (PRS) Foundation brunch early Friday. (Early by this point of SXSW is getting out of bed and on your feet before 11 AM, which I somehow managed to do for all 5 days…) After the Polarsets interview at B.D. Riley’s Irish pub on Sixth Street, I went round the corner to Latitude 30. I was expecting to be packed in like sardines and my ID to be scrutinised, just like most of the other showcases I’d been to.

But no. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone seemed to be very chill – maybe they were all nursing hangovers from boozing the night before with large Bloody Marys? – and since I’d been given a complimentary Irish brekky at B.D. Riley’s by the lovely Angela Dorgan, CEO of Music from Ireland, I saw no reason to queue up for the free buffet. I’d been personally advised by Manchester radio personality Shell Zenner that what was on offer, such as a lentil salad, was not as “traditional British” as advertised anyway. Too bad.

By this time I’d seen enough bands to suit my fancy and felt less snubbed about not getting an invite to the official British Music Embassy party on Wednesday; besides, I’d already seen the headliner of that show, Frank Turner, on Tuesday night, and Ben Howard and the Staves were on my schedule as part of the Communion showcase Friday evening. Now, I was too excited to eat or even drink before Dutch Uncles were set to play. Having seen them playing a triumphant show in front of an appreciative hometown crowd last December, I hoped that this would be one of several gigs that would turn American music industry heads. Oddly though, I think nearly all the voices I heard at the brunch were distinctly British and further, the other British Music Embassy events I attended over the next 36 hours seemed to be full up with Brits, so I’m not really sure how effective these were in spreading the word about exciting British acts to Americans or anyone else outside Britain.

The first band on was Spectrals from Leeds. I recognised their name as being on the Field Day bill last year but knew little about them. I think whoever curated the brunch had the right idea about the order; Spectrals have a dreamy, old-time charm that worked well as the starting band to ease people from those aforementioned hangovers into a showcase. On the other hand, for someone who did not have their morning cuppa like me, I could only think that they sounded like something that might help your cat to fall asleep. Not my thing, I guess. I tried. Maybe I would have a different opinion if I wasn’t sleep deprived? I do wish to point out that Martin called their set at End of the Road last year as having a langourous tone….

Then we went from sleepytime to a manic and frantic, arms and legs flailing performance from Dutch Uncles. They hit the ground running with a blazing rendition of ‘Cadenza’, which singer Duncan Wallis later admitted to me as taking a hell lot of energy out of him to perform. This was quickly followed by ‘Dressage’, ‘X-O’, and new song ‘Nometo’ (video below). Their parting blow was emotional for me. I’d had a series of “golly gee whiz” moments in Austin, and they included this one. I can scarcely believe I had first written about Dutch Uncles in the summer of 2010, and it was a live performance of this song, ‘The Ink’, on a Huw Stephens Radio1 BBC Introducing show that pushed me to write my first piece on them. Some 18 months on, they’ve released a great album ‘Cadenza’ in 2011 and look to be releasing the next one later this year. I’m chuffed for all their successes and the fans they’ve gained in such a short time. Great set, even though their set (and all the acts performing at this brunch, actually) was way too short.

The brunch performances were rounded out by a beats heavy and delish set by D/R/U/G/S. Like Dutch Uncles, D/R/U/G/S is (are?) from Manchester. What I was confused about: I thought there were two of them, but there was clearly one man on stage. I generally don’t go for guys who are stood onstage, twiddling dials and flicking switches and THAT’S ALL they do. However, I found myself warming to this fellow, feeling my body involuntarily swaying to the marvel of beats he was producing from the various boxes and synths positioned in front of him. While it’s obviously not the traditional way to make music, I think it’s certainly a viable touring option these days. I mean, think about it. If you don’t need to carry guitars, why carry anything else if you’ve got a box that plays those guitar lines?

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[…] the start of the Northern Day showcase. Ghosting Season from Manchester begins the showcase. As with D/R/U/G/S at the PRS brunch yesterday, I started out skeptical. But then Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale broke out the guitars. How many […]

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