SXSW 2015: Creative Belfast Showcase at Latitude 30 – 16th March 2015

By on Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 10:00 am

I arrived in Austin for SXSW 2015 on Monday the 16th of March, a day that fell at the crossroads between the end of Interactive festival and the official beginning of Music festival. As in the past, this intersectional Monday night was the scheduled date for the Creative Belfast showcase hosted by the British Music Embassy and Generator NI. More than a simple networking opportunity for the Northern Irish contingent at SXSW, the showcase was also set to feature three of the best up-and-coming music acts from Belfast and its environs as well as one of the area’s seminal punk bands, recently reborn to the modern era.

Opening the musical activities for the evening were folk duo The Lost Brothers, comprised of Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland. Their flawless vocal harmonies and poetic lyricism draw more than a passing comparison to the famed American pair Simon and Garfunkel, winning the attention of NPR here in the States and the BBC back across the pond. The Lost Brothers’ most recent LP release ‘New Songs of Dawn and Dust’ (reviewed here by editor Mary) expands slightly on the sparse instrumentation of their traditional Americana style, but on this night the pair depended solely on the blend of their voices and acoustic guitars. Luckily for those of us in the audience, that enchanting combination is all The Lost Brothers really need in order to demonstrate their expressive artistry and finely tuned craftsmanship.

The Lost Brothers at Creative Belfast 16 Mar SXSW 2015

Following The Lost Brothers’ set, the night’s emcee, Mark Gordon of Generator NI, announced a special guest addition to the music lineup. With a plea for silent attention, Gordon introduced the youthful and delicate Derry singer/songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson, known professionally as SOAK. Reserved almost to the point of shyness, SOAK nevertheless possesses a quiet confidence on stage that belies her youthful age. She chooses to let her songs speak (or perhaps sing) for themselves, and from the moment she began, her audience listened raptly. I didn’t immediately engage with SOAK’s singing voice when I listened to her debut single ‘Blud’ early last year, but the fragile grace of her vocal sound in live performance, combined with her deeply introspective lyrical style, left a much stronger impression in my mind on this occasion. Watch for her upcoming debut album ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’ on Rough Trade later this year.

SOAK at Creative Belfast 16 Mar SXSW 2015

Following SOAK’s quietly triumphant SXSW debut, the British Music Embassy stage played host to Belfast indie pop quartet Go Wolf. Having just released a new EP titled ‘Running’, they played an enthusiastic and irresistibly danceable set including the eponymous track featured in our SXSW preview of artists from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Before the evening kicked off at Creative Belfast, I had a chance to chat with Go Wolf’s frontman Scott Jamison about the EP; head this way to hear what he had to say. Go Wolf’s trippy beats and bright synth sounds were a welcome burst of energy at this point in the evening, raising the level of excitement in the room for the acts still to come on the lineup.

Go Wolf at Creative Belfast 16 March SXSW 2015

Raising the decibel level in the room was left to More Than Conquerors, who turned out to be more than up to the task. Their hard-hitting alt-punk set naturally included recent single ‘Red’ as well as tracks from their debut LP ‘Everything I’ve Learnt’. Frontman Kris Pratt’s vocals rose above the raucous volume level of their sound, hinting at a strong melodic foundation that Mary and I would see on display in an acoustic setting later in the week; be sure to watch TGTF for more on More Than Conquerors at SXSW 2015.

More Than Conquerors at Creative Belfast 16 Mar SXSW 2015

Segueing from modern alt-punk to a classic 70’s punk sound, veteran Belfast band Protex are seeing a resurgence of interest after some of their original Polydor recordings were discovered and re-released by New York’s Sing Sing Records in 2010. Originally formed in 1978 after The Clash’s historic visit to Belfast, Protex were quickly signed to Polydor after releasing singles on Rough Trade and Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label. The band officially split up in 1981, but have reformed with a new lineup including original member Aidan Murtagh along with Norman Boyd, John Rossi, and Gordie Walker. Aside from providing their audience with an opportunity to look back on the history of rock music in Belfast, Protex showed above all that they still have the rock ‘n’ roll chops to share a stage with younger up-and-coming talent as they brought the Creative Belfast showcase to a blistering close with hit track ‘Don’t Ring Me Up.’

Protex at Creative Belfast 16 Mar SXSW 2015

At the end of the evening, Mary and I had a quick chat with Mark and were fortunate enough to be invited to a St. Patrick’s Day brunch with their team the following morning. Several of the bands featured above played at that event in a setting quite different to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. Keep it here at TGTF for coverage of the St. Patrick’s Day brunch to be posted soon.

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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.

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