SXSW 2016: felte and Part Time Punks’ showcase at Barracuda (Tuesday night, part 2) – 15th March 2016

By on Tuesday, 29th March 2016 at 4:00 pm

As a music journalist covering SXSW, you pretty much have to be a ninja, moving quickly through the city, from venue to venue, often under the cover of darkness. There’s really no way around it if you want to cover and bring attention to as many bands as possible in a span of 5 days, which is how I see my role in the SXSW experience. This year, knowing that my covering SXSW 2016 conference panels at the Austin Convention Center would restrict my afternoon showcase options, I had to be crafty if I was going to fit in as many bands on my watch list as possible. Luckily, to my utter pleasure, Los Angeles via Brooklyn label felte Records were putting on a fantastic showcase in association with LA Sunday night fixture at the Echo Part Time Punks Tuesday night at Barracuda (formerly Red 7) and it slotted in nicely after my activities earlier in the evening at Latitude 30.

felte signees Gold Class has been billed by more than a few media outlets as the Aussie answer to The Smiths and Joy Division, and Jennifer’s review of the band’s 2015 debut album ‘It’s You’ supports this. It is important to note that the Melbourne band are not a carbon copy of either legendary group from Manchester but take the best bits from both and bring the feelings of alienation and revolution from a diffident attitude in ’80s Britain firmly into the 21st century with their personal brand of politically charged post-punk.

There are two levels on which the comparison between them and The Smiths works best. Dressed all in white for the occasion as if his clothes were a form of protest all their own, lead singer Adam Curley commands all of the attention in the indoor space with his booming, bellowing style of vocal delivery. While singing lyrics like “the way you hold yourself / it’s like you’re ready for an execution” in ‘Life As a Gun’, he’s not afraid to be who he is, to sing what he wants to, to explore his identity and confront headfirst the idea of shame onstage. (He’s already getting mauled by hugs by fans after shows in their native Australia, so I imagine becoming beloved to the rest of the world’s misfits is not too far behind.) The other inescapable similarity of their sound to that of the Smiths is the jangly guitar of Evan James Purdey, providing an oddly jaunty lead that counterintuitively soothes against the backdrop of Curley’s otherwise dark vocals, much like what Johnny Marr’s playing did against Morrissey’s tales of gruesome murders and mishaps in love.

Nite Fields are another Aussie band, hailing from Brisbane, way up the coast from Melbourne in the Australian state of Queensland. Though this quartet also dabble in dark themes, their preferred mode is not post-punk but in more of a dream pop direction, synths buzzing away. (This explains their post-SXSW support slot with Scandinavian synthpop band Lust for Youth.) I’m not sure why this was, maybe they were jetlagged, but after seeing Gold Class put themselves out there confidently and as if naked as the day they were born, Nite Fields seemed comparatively pretentious and holding back. One of my friends once said to me that The Jesus and Mary Chain, while a good band on record, proved to be absolutely boring live at the 9:30 Club. I couldn’t escape that image in my mind as I stood less than enthralled as Nite Fields closed out the indoor stage’s bill for the night.

Watford band Sad Lovers & Giants were a surprise addition to my Tuesday night, playing to a decent crowd on the outdoor stage of Barracuda at midnight. The band’s sound is an intriguing mix of post-punk and psychedelia, with an occasional saxophone solo thrown in for good measure (check out their 7″ single ‘Colourless Dream‘). While I fully admit I’d never heard of them before this, it was great to see so many longtime (read: older) fans in the audience, falling into a trance and giving themselves over to the group’s music.

Sad Lovers & Giants at the felte Part Time Punks showcase Tuesday at Barracuda, at SXSW 2016

Following on the outdoor stage to finish out the night were even more (!) post-punks, Autobahn from Leeds. I was intrigued to learn that in fact the band’s name had nothing really to do with the famed German motorway with no speed restrictions, though their driving, muscular industrial sound seems tailor made for putting down the sun roof of your car, putting your foot to the gas (er, petrol?) and speeding away from everything, maybe not on a motorway but down a desolate country road you have all to yourself. There’s a sinister edge to their sound as well, similar to that of their Tough Love Records labelmates Girls Names from Belfast, who I saw earlier in the evening. Frontman Craig Johnson is a commanding bloke who leans on his mike stand defensively and in such a way that suggests he could crush it with the palm of his hand. When he sings, he looks pretty menacing and not someone you’d want to tangle with, which I get, because that’s what this kind of music needs.

Autobahn at felte Part Time Punks showcase Tuesday at Barracuda, at SXSW 2016

But curly-headed Johnson insisted to me in our chat Saturday that Autobahn’s music is less about being aggro or depressed than it is about “a celebration of the beauty of sadness and the daring to be emotional in these irony laced times”, as Louder Than War’s John Robb puts it more eloquently than I ever could. As a popular saying goes, “you can take the boy out of the North, but you can’t take the North out of the boy”. As a Yankee outsider, I’ve always viewed music from the North as being the domain of people in touch emotionally with themselves and their surroundings, and being intelligent enough to write it in such a way that someone either ‘gets’ you or they don’t. And if you’re smart enough to tap into their wavelength, you too can find solace in the beauty of the desolate.

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