SXSW 2017: Thursday afternoon at Music From Ireland’s Full Irish Breakfast – 16th March 2017

By on Tuesday, 11th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Thursday at SXSW 2017 was another full day, but my tired feet did get a bit of a reprieve after the lengths I walked on Wednesday night. I started the day at the Austin Convention Center for Zane Lowe’s keynote session, then spent the remainder of the afternoon at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, which hosted Music for Ireland’s day show, the Full Irish Breakfast. (Editor Mary caught the opening acts on the Irish Breakfast bill, New Portals and Ciaran Lavery while I was listening to Zane Lowe; you can read about them in her Thursday afternoon review.)

AS Fanning IB

I arrived at B.D. Riley’s with just enough time for a plate of breakfast before “dark folk” singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning began to play. I’d seen Fanning earlier in the week at the Convention Center Next Stage, but as I’ve noted in the past, B.D. Riley’s has a very different ambiance from other SXSW venues, especially the sterile Convention Center stages. Fanning’s sharp lyrics and dramatic rock-tinged musical style skillfully elicited a mood of brooding melancholy in both environments. I caught him later in the afternoon for this quick interview, where we talked about the different venue atmospheres and his upcoming album ‘Second Life’.

"Loah

One of the afternoon’s pleasant surprises was soulful singer/songwriter Loah, whose West African musical influences were delightfully unexpected in the context of the Irish showcase. Her silky vocals and exotic stage presence were nothing short of stunning, bringing the bustling pub to a momentary standstill. Take a listen to my interview with Loah right back here, and watch this video for her full band performance of ‘Cross’, courtesy of Press Record.

Cloud Castle Lake IB

Next on the bill were electronic act Cloud Castle Lake, whose cool detachment and distinct avant-garde tendency took a decidedly different tone. Brendan Jenkinson’s ethereal falsetto was almost lost in the shuffle of background noise at B.D. Riley’s, but the band’s heavily rhythmic musical arrangements made a strong impression nonetheless.

"JOB

Northern Irish alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds (aka Naomi Hamilton) played a full band show at B.D. Riley’s, as opposed to the stripped back set I saw her play on the Output Belfast boat earlier in the week. Her erudite lyrics and eclectic mix of musical styles took on a much more vibrant cast in the fully-arranged versions of her songs, especially the popular ‘Goji Berry Sunset’. Hamilton and her bandmates fully embraced their punk-rock undertones in this pub setting, exponentially raising the energy level on the stage as well as among the punters in the growing crowd.

That newly-generated energy was immediately picked up by fellow Northern Irish band Silences, (pictured in the header photo above) who took the B.D. Riley’s stage with a decided air of confidence, quite different from frontman Conchúr White’s demeanor in his solo appearance last year. White and his bandmates didn’t waste a lot of time on chatter, preferring instead to impress the crowd with their massive, soaring five-piece sound. I was literally stunned to silence (pun intended) by the goose bump-inducing arrangement of their single ‘Breathless’, and I bubbled over with excitement for the up-and-coming Silences in this post-set interview with White and guitarist Chris Harbinson.

Taking full advantage of the momentum built by their Northern Irish compatriots, avant/experimental group Robocobra Quartet brought a surprisingly brash punk attitude to their jazz-tinged classical aesthetic. Based on our Adam’s description of them in his preview of NI artists, I probably should have expected punk, but I didn’t realise the extent of that influence until I heard lead singer/drummer Chris Ryan do his frenetic routine. The jazz side of things came through in the unique combination of saxophone sounds provided by Tom Tabori and Thibault Barilon. It’s an odd but intriguing mélange of sounds, and my immediate post-set commentary probably sums it up best: “I’m not sure what I just listened to, but I think I liked it.”

Birds of Olympus IB

I was equally intrigued by Dublin psych-rock act Birds of Olympus, especially after their frontman Spud Murphy described their sound to me as “Talking Heads mixed with Ennio Morricone”. Their songs were broadly expansive and strangely hypnotic, with smooth vocal melodies and edgy rhythmic grooves evolving in vivid kaleidoscopic fashion. Check it out for yourself in this live video performance of ‘Cinder to the Sun’ on the band’s official Facebook.

The Academic IB

Mary and I had been waiting over a year to see young Dublin rockers The Academic, and they took the Irish showcase by storm at SXSW 2017, with a set that was by turns wildly energetic and broodingly sullen. Frontman Craig Fitzgerald has cultivated a certain bad-boy mystique that feeds into the band’s more introspective songs, like ‘Thought I Told You’ and ‘Small Town Lovers’, while the driving momentum of songs like ‘Different’ is clearly the band’s strongest suit.

Picture This IB

The final act on the Full Irish Breakfast was another up-and-coming mainstream pop band, the swaggering Dublin rock duo Picture This. I’d taken the opportunity to sit down with band members Jimmy Rainsford and Ryan Hennessy earlier in the week, and their unabashedly cocky demeanor in that Tuesday afternoon interview had piqued my interest for seeing them live. As it turned out, they had every reason to be confident. The anthemic rock-leaning pop of tracks like ‘You & I’ was enthusiastically received at B.D. Riley’s, ending the day on an ecstatic high. Also, for the record, Hennessy fulfilled his earlier promise to play topless, which I hadn’t taken seriously until he actually did it.

Picture This 2 IB

All in all, the Full Irish Breakfast once again lived up to its reputation as one of the best shows in town during SXSW, and the bands on the showcase fully exceeded even my high expectations. For more on the fine Irish acts at SXSW 2017, you can read back through Mary’s coverage of the official Music From Ireland showcase at the Velveeta Room on St. Patrick’s Day.

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