SXSW 2017: Sound Gallery I, presented by Sounds Australia at B.D. Riley’s – 14th March 2017

By on Monday, 27th March 2017 at 5:00 pm

In my sixth SXSW, I had little trouble managing my expectations while also pacing myself during the week. However, Tuesday morning, I found my intentions to find milk for tea for the week difficult (I’m assuming the English in town bought it all in the closest grocery store? Thanks, everyone), which delayed my morning. Sadly, I arrived at part I of Sounds Australia’s annual Sound Gallery at 6th Street Irish pub B.D. Riley’s too late to catch first band The Heart Collectors. (More on the folk band later.) As mentioned in the introduction yesterday, it was chilly at the start of the week in Austin. This necessitated a homey (and probably excessively large for yours truly) plate of bangers and mash, accompanied by what else by Guinness at B.D. Riley’s, hunkering down for four more of the acts on the docket.

I’m sure for every person it’s different, but something I hear all the time is the Aussie’s desire to leave Oz for America and weirdly and specifically, for Los Angeles. Singer/songwriter Tim Wheatley did exactly this, telling us during this set this afternoon that he got out of Australia as soon as he could and never looked back. When I did research on Wheatley prior to SXSW, I was confused by his supposed image as a folk / country performer and his video ’78 Benz’, in which he sported long bleached blonde hair. Think ‘80s hair bands.

Tim Wheatley,
Sound Gallery I, Sounds Australia, B.D. Riley's, Tuesday 14 March 2017

So imagine my surprise when I finally see Wheatley in the flesh with short hair and boots. If he was wearing a 10-gallon hat, he’d have completed the perfect cowboy image. The Mercedes he sings of is about a vintage car he procured shortly after arriving in L.A. Without the long hair, I think it’s much easier to take Tim Wheatley seriously as a musician. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine him setting up shop one day soon in Nashville.


Juanita Stein, Sound Gallery I, Sounds Australia, B.D. Riley's, Tuesday 14 March 2017

Next up was Juanita Stein, probably more famous to the SXSW hordes as the sexy lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Sydney’s Howling Bells. She’s decamped to Brighton to work on her solo album, which is expected later this year. Now as a solo artist, or at least while she was in Austin, she’s chosen the sole focus to be on her music, as she was dressed understatedly in black. I wondered if she felt weird performing at the small stage at B.D. Riley’s, as she’s used to much larger (and louder) crowds and venues. Her track ‘Stargazer’ showcases her talent at balladry, though I questioned her inclusion of a cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘Blue Bayou’, which has been covered by so many people in the past and suggested Stein wasn’t entirely comfortable performing her own material yet.


The Elliotts,
Sound Gallery I, Sounds Australia, B.D. Riley's, Tuesday 14 March 2017

After two folky acts, pop/rock act The Elliotts from Melbourne were a nice breath of fresh air. If you have a song called ‘Instagram’ that was previously titled ‘Pink Toilet Seat’, the chances are pretty high you don’t take yourself too seriously. Whether this will positively or negatively affect their career remains to be seen. (After their set, two of their three band members were out of there, choosing to run, skip and jump down to the convention center instead of staying at B.D. Riley’s for an interview with me; you can listen to my chat with James “Wally” Howlett through here, which includes a discussion on their social media-themed tune.) Their actual performance was upbeat and fun, bringing injecting life into the previously mellow vibe in the pub. They’ve got an EP out now, ‘Aeroplane’, which includes ‘Instagram’ and set standout ‘Seeing Stars’.


As you might imagine, I get a lot of emails from PRs and management before SXSW begging me to come see their bands in Austin. I’d have to clone myself tens of times over in order to see everyone, and I do my own research ahead of time to figure who to see and when. Joel Sarakula was a weird case in that we previewed him in the London portion of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017 because artists appear in the SXSW schedule based on the location they use on their applications. Sarakula has lived in London for over 10 years, admitting to the punters at B.D. Riley’s that his accent is a weird mélange of Aussie and Londoner sounds.

Joel Sarakula,
Sound Gallery I, Sounds Australia, B.D. Riley's, Tuesday 14 March 2017

If anything, Sarakula’s mutt accent added to the spectacle of his performance, which felt like it was taken out of a ‘70s lounge of leisure and possibly out an adult film of that era. Seriously, I wondered why he wasn’t swearing a crushed velvet suit and sporting a giant medallion around his neck. Behind rose-tinted sunglasses and a keyboard that he insisted was TSA-approved, he struck a good balance between odd yet appealing. Taking elements of psych, soul and putting them through a throwback filter might not sound like it works on paper, but toes were tapping at B.D. Riley’s to tunes like the driving ‘They Can’t Catch Me’.

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