SXSW 2013: Day 3 afternoon – from Rainey Street to Waterloo Records and back to 6th Street – 14th March 2013

By on Thursday, 28th March 2013 at 2:00 pm

The title of today’s SXSW post isn’t very descriptive, as I didn’t stay in one particular place too long and my plans kept changing. And such is life at SXSW, because even with the best laid plans, there is still a chance that an opportunity comes along that you’ve just got to grab with both hands and savour the moment. If you had read my dog-eared, notation-covered schedule for Thursday, you would have saw that I had planned to St. Albans’ seminal rock band the Zombies at a house party in East Austin at the conclusion of the afternoon. But as it were, things didn’t really work out that way…

I actually didn’t stay out all that late Wednesday after the Communion showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop; Wednesday night was the last night (unfortunately) of a shift by a very nice bellman at the Four Seasons who was smart enough to come up with a clever scheme of organising punters’ rides home by direction. This is how I entirely accidentally sharing a taxi with someone I’d met last year, Nathan Graves of Imperial Music and Media, who recognised me before I recognised him. “I was with Films of Colour last year…I remember you!” I guess word gets around about the ol’ Chang, eh? (That’s an inside joke that will be explained in more detail later.) He was in town helping promote Skinny Lister, and we engaged in a bit of conversation as I’d seen the booker of the Glass House in Pomona, California (a very cool venue, at least by the way my friend Beckie describes it) holding one of their limited edition singles whilst stood outside Latitude 30 when I was futilely queueing for the 1975 Tuesday night. And yes, this is just how crazy SXSW can be, or at least it is this way for me because it’s how my brain works; some PR friends were telling me last week that SXSW for music professionals is like summer camp: you get away from your real life for a week to revel and party with people you may not see for the rest of the year. Anyway, I digress…

I was not thinking that it would be a problem to get up early enough and sort a taxi on my own to meet Story Books from Kent for an interview at Blackheart club on Rainey Street. I’d been taking the bus in every morning with no problem, but as you see, Rainey Street and all its clubs are a good jaunt southeast from the convention centre, and it would have taken my ages to walk even from the bus stop in town. So taxi it was. I got there a little late, but that was okay because Story Books were in the bar, talking to a woman from PRS for Music, and this gave me a window of opportunity to finally catch Duologue live in the beer garden out back.

Duologue SXSW

The five-piece London band were taking full advantage of the small but warmed by the sun outdoor stage. And really, when else would Duologue be able to say, “we performed inside a wooden box at SXSW, and we had to wear our sunglasses!” Right? Come now, even frontman Tim Digby-Bell looked at his ubercoolest, like a younger and way better sounding Ric Ocasek of the Cars. Their performance was living proof that it is very dangerous to lump bands into genre ‘boxes’; I’ll be the first to admit that I had lazily put them in the all too full synth/soul box after the release of their single ‘Underworld’, but their music is actually much more complex and exciting than that.

They’ve just released their debut ‘Song & Dance’ on Killing Moon and while there is an element of dance, it’s more so heavy beats that propel the dark nature of their songs and their songs are really quite spectacular live. After a hello and photo op with Killing Moon head honcho Achal Dhillon that I’d promised to Mike Bradford of the Recommender – yes folks, we are looking at 9 weeks to go until we’re back in Brighton for the Great Escape 2013 – it was back inside the Blackheart to find Story Books.

Story Books SXSW interview top

This was when I came upon an interesting sight: on a shelf usually reserved for revelers’ drinks, spread out in neat stacks were piles and piles of hats in front of a mirror that took up a good portion of one wall of the bar. People were coming and going, trying on hats in the mirror, and it wasn’t until I recognised the bass player from Mikhael Paskalev from the night before, getting his picture professionally taken with a genuine Stetson hat, that I sort of sussed what was going on. I found out from the lovely Mary-Joy of Tanq production company that the iconic country/western hat company has been looking for a way to rebrand themselves and spread themselves further than simply the American hat-wearing public. When I think of the name Stetson, I think of John Wayne and a whole slew of western film actors and their 10-gallon hats, which aren’t really hip these days, and I can’t think of a better place to be spreading the good word about a company internationally than SXSW. In exchange for informational assistance about the many British bands (my forte!) who happened to be passing through Blackheart’s doors, I was able to leave Austin this time with a very nifty souvenir of my own. Score! So if you see me in blighty in May sporting a smart trilby, you’ll know where I got it.

Next it was time to talk to the three awake members of Story Books. We had a very nice chat, including discovering that leader Kris Harris is a cider drinker like myself and that he had actually been to DC 3 years ago as a member of Laura Marling‘s during her first major headline tour of America in 2010. I think they gained a whole load of new fans at the Communion show the night before, and the mere fact that there are now two Communion showcases instead of just the one last year (starring then unknown in America Ben Howard, Daughter and Michael Kiwanuka) goes to show that the label’s influence is growing and goes far beyond the confines of Britain. You can listen to my interview with Story Books here.

The next part of my afternoon would take a long trip northwest. I’d never been to the hallowed Waterloo Records, and I figured this would be a good time, and the perfect opportunity to see my friends the Joy Formidable and not worry about getting shut out by badge holders. I hailed a pedicab and in the spirit of gaining good karma, let a woman who was dying for a pedicab share my ride. She never gave me her card, so I don’t know what label she runs, and I did not give her mine, so it’s unlikely she will read this. It’s not cool to pay someone who’s biking up and across Austin a paltry $2 to the centre of town from Rainey Street. It’s really not. I ended up paying my sweaty, unsuncreamed driver $20 for a comfy ride (the breeze!), not to mention a very cool way to see the city, for the trip out to the record shop.

Gold Fields Waterloo SXSW

I arrived just in time to catch the second half of Gold Fields‘ set. Cheryl saw them at U Street Music Hall recently, and I seem to have missed them every single time they’ve stopped in DC, but this time? No. There was already a huge crowd assembled for them, and unfortunately, I was stood just outside the protective awning above the stage, so I grabbed my tube of suncream and slathered it on liberally. After the ARIAs red carpet experience, I wasn’t taking any changes at becoming another walking warning advert for sun overexposure…the Joy Formidable. It’s always the best feeling to see your friends go from being virtually unknown in America (back when their premiere appearance in DC was playing Black Cat Backstage, not even the main stage, in 2010) to where they are now, at the top of their game and nowhere else to go but up, up, up. Dave Grohl endorsements aside, Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas have been touring and working nonstop to make this dream of theirs a reality, and to see massive queues following them wherever they were playing during nighttime showcases at SXSW are a testament to their hard-working ethic.

Joy Formidable Waterloo SXSW 2

They banged out old favourites like ‘The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade’ and ‘Cradle’, while also offering up new singles ‘Cholla’ and ‘This Ladder is Ours’ from the new ‘Wolf’s Law’ album that fit seamlessly in the hard-rocking oeuvre they’ve worked so hard to create over the last couple of years. The stage right punters, who had obviously been there since noon to claim their spots, were of the diehard TJF variety, moshing as soon as Ritzy hit her first note. Later on the set, rather hilariously there was a teenage boy (remember, this was an outdoor, free show, so those under 21 were allowed to attend) who faked being drunk and stoned so he could throw his body and get closer to the barrier. Err… I give him points for being so enthusiastic about the Joy Formidable, but the poor girls next to me had never witnessed anything like that (I have, many times, in gig situations) that their burly male friends shoved him and gave him a talking-to. The faux drunk eventually backed off…and got what he wanted later, greeting the band after with a “you’re awesome!” and high-fives. Glad it didn’t end in tears. Or fisticuffs… I just have to laugh at experiences like this. As music fans, I think when in the presence of our favourite bands, we all get overly enthusiastic!

Joy Formidable Waterloo SXSW

I could never promote a band I didn’t truly believe in; at every step of the way, I’ve enjoyed the Joy Formidable career trajectory and never once have I witnessed any sort of rock star / diva posturing by this band. They are truly down to earth, which is not something you can say about everyone in this business. While I am pleased to report that most everyone I knew that I happened to run into in Austin greeted me warmly, I didn’t expect the level of warmth given to me by the Joy Formidable. If you happened to be in the queue to get your TJF purchase signed at Waterloo Records, you probably saw me sitting in the background, trying not to look obvious, because they invited me to hang out with them while they took incredible care of interacting with their very excited fans. Afterwards, I got an unconventional lift back into town…on their tour bus. I think everyone outside the Belmont was wondering, “who the hell is that coming off that tour bus?” I just smiled.

I often think to myself that the music business would be such a better enterprise if there was less of a ‘us vs. them’ mentality between the bands and the industry, and the best example I can think of where this works is the special relationship between the music blogger and a band very beloved to him or her. It’d be entirely daft to say that it’s not money that runs this industry. But there is a huge part of me that wishes that everyone could see and experience what I’ve felt with certain bands and the level of camaraderie that exists between people that truly respect one another. You could melt a heart of stone with those experiences. And certainly, they’d be useful reminders for those record execs on why they got into the music business in the first place.

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6 Responses

5:43 pm
28th March 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: SXSW 2013: Day 3 afternoon – from Rainey Street to Waterloo Records and back to 6th Street – 14/03/13:

5:43 pm
28th March 2013

RT @tgtf: on day 3 of SXSW, Mary sees @Duologue_Music, blags free hats for and chats with @storybooksband… (14 March 2013) : http://t. …

5:43 pm
28th March 2013

RT @tgtf: …takes a pedicab ride to @WaterlooRecords to catch @goldfields and pals around with @joyformidable 14 March 2013) : http://t

[…] Getting a ride back into the centre of town on the Joy Formidable‘s bus after watching them gig at the Fender stage and do an autograph session at Waterloo Records(photo at top). […]

[…] at SXSW 2013, and it brings back so many wonderful memories for me. (See that Blackheart emblem? I saw them there!) Watch it […]

[…] of the Left in his day 2 roundup. While we were waiting between sets, Duologue, who I recognised from seeing them in a beer garden at this year’s SXSW, bounded out from backstage at the Arts Academy and into Screendelica, […]

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