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SXSW 2017: Sounds Australia’s Sound Gallery II and the British Music Embassy Saturday afternoon – 18th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 4th April 2017 at 5:00 pm
 

By the time you reach Saturday at SXSW 2017, you’re not longer the eager, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed person who arrived in Austin just days before. You can’t remember where you put your shoes last night, you’re dragging your feet and your sunglasses are no longer a fashion staple, they’re a necessary evil to hide the exhaustion that your eyes will betray.

Saturday for me at SXSW is all about taking it easy, picking up the final few bands you haven’t seen, seeing again anyone who really wowed you and hopefully getting in brunch and a Bloody Mary (me) or mimosa (Carrie) somewhere. We shalt not speak further of the fact that by the time I made it to the British Music Embassy on this day, they had completely run out of Bloody Mary mix (?!?!?), so let’s focus on the acts, shall we?


As the opening bookend to SXSW on Tuesday in part I of it that preceded it, Sound Gallery II at B.D. Riley’s on Saturday afternoon is a civilised, chill way to ease yourself into Saturday. I arrived in the middle of a set by The Coconut Kids. The one thing that Austin lacks is a tropical atmosphere, something the Adelaide ‘world folk’ group was all too happy to provide through their music. Lest you think they’re one-dimensional, one of their lead singers Julian Ferguson brought forward a tender, slower song about the Brussels terror attacks. Rather than be a buzz kill, it was nice to see there was more to this folk band than their sunny exterior.

All Our Exes Live in Texas, Sound Gallery II, B.D. Riley's, Saturday 18 March 2017

Country and folk girl group All Our Exes Live in Texas came highly recommended by many friends from Oz and beyond. Not since the Staves at my first SXSW in 2012 have I experienced such tight, female, multi-part harmonies in Austin. They also have two new, very young fans: in the audience at B.D. Riley’s were a couple with two young children, both sporting hip-looking ear defenders that you normally don’t see anywhere except outdoor music festivals. Good on them. Speaking of ear defenders, stay tuned for Carrie’s report on the free hearing tests the both of us did in Austin. (Small spoiler: my hearing is better than Carrie’s, no doubt with my longer use of proper earplugs. Smirk.)

Hamish Anderson, Sound Gallery II, B.D. Riley's, Saturday 18 March 2017

Hamish Anderson is no stranger to SXSW, having come out here for the first time in 2015. After pop and folk acts, this Melbourne singer/songwriter’s approach to blues rock provided a welcome contrast to the acts that came before him. Masterful is probably the best word to describe Anderson’s guitar playing ability, something I’m sure will stand him in good stead for years to come. It is sometimes easy to forget that we wouldn’t have rock ‘n’ roll if blues had not come out of the Mississippi Delta before it. He and I talked about the debt we have to the originators in this interview I had with him on 6th Street after his blazing Sound Gallery II set.

More so than any other afternoon, Saturday at the British Music Embassy sees more people who have not frequented the venue for the rest of the week. The weekend warriors have descended on Austin and naturally, the natives are curious to hear what our friends across the water have to show us. This afternoon was devoted to pop from Britain. In salmon-coloured crushed velvet trousers, Welsh popster Casi was ready for her second performance at Latitude 30 after an early evening appearance the night before at the BBC Introducing showcase. I previously saw the Bangor native wow the crowd at Patterns 2 years at the Gorwelion Horizons Welsh showcase at The Great Escape 2015.

Casi, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

It’s a cliché, I know, but the girl is all grown up. Even more so than is usual for entertainers from her region of the UK, Casi is very proud of her Welsh heritage. I’m glad she’s done nothing to change her unique accent, and with the electro and r&b beats backing her, she provides a refreshing combination of new and familiar. The punters of Latitude 30 rewarded her with well-deserved cheers. Check out her performance of ‘The Beast’ at the BBC Introducing show below.

Youngr, British Music Embassy, Saturday 18 March 2017

Youngr, aka Dario Darnell and son of Kid Creole, would be the last act of the afternoon showcases at the British Music Embassy for the week. Either everyone was well sauced or his reputation must have preceded him, as the crowd went absolutely mental for him. I had to get out of there to get some air! Like a lion (have you seen his amazingly mad hair?) surveying his pride, he held court with his highly accessible blend of soul and electronics. Whether he was singing or going spare on his drum kit, he had a whale of a time at Latitude 30, and so did his audience.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Welsh artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Friday, 10th March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Wales may be small in size, but they are a proud country never short of praise and support of their musical artists. BBC Radio 1 presenter Huw Stephens is quick to promote his countrymen and women, and I am sure he’s pleased with all five of the artists to showcase this year at SXSW 2017. The summaries of acts below were written by Rebecca Clayton and Steven Loftin. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Casi – pop / Bangor
A young singer/songwriter originally from Bangor, Wales, Casi Wyn is currently based in London. Casi grew up speaking her mother tongue of Welsh and hearing traditional music, before getting into pop music in her teens, which probably explains the melding of eerie vocals and electropop rhythms in her music. Last year, Casi released her entrancing single ‘Lion’, an ethereal and moving track that showcases Casi’s angelic vocals and her evocative song writing. Since then she’s also shared ‘Golden Age Thinking’ and this year’s ‘The Beast’ via her label Chess Club Records. (Rebecca Clayton)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=873g5wS7ltM[/youtube]

Chain of Flowers – post-punk / Cardiff
A surprisingly great modern take on post-punk. Choruses thick with reverb and longing lyrics, Chain of Flowers are definitely a band worth a listen. They recently released their self-titled debut LP that should go straight on your list of must listens. I mean, come on, they’re named after a The Cure song, right? (Steven Loftin)

Dan Bettridge – singer/songwriter / Ogmore-by-Sea
With a voice older than his years, Dan Bettridge is the soulful folk singer from the small village of Ogmore-by-Sea in Wales. Bettridge, who has been playing guitar from an early age, first appeared on the scene in 2013 when he released the EP ‘Hunter’s Heart’. He is currently working on his debut album. He rereleased his single ‘Rosie Darling’ last year, a gentle, country sounding number, and ‘Third Eye Blind’ back in 2015, a bluesy, soulful track that transports you out of your own skin and onto the neon-lit streets that Bettridge sings about. (Rebecca Clayton) [We’ve been informed that sadly, Dan Bettridge will not be joining us in Austin. – Ed.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UYER_GK6bc[/youtube]

Meilyr Jones singer/songwriter / Aberystwyth
Exactly what Jarvis Cocker and Morrissey’s love child would sound like, and this isn’t a bad thing believe it or not. The optimism of a young Cocker, with the yearning howl of an in-his-prime Moz. Lyrical structure that puts most novelists to shame, ‘How To Recognise Art’ is, well, a work of art. He also won the Welsh Music Prize in 2016, if that tempts you further. (Steven Loftin)

The Sandinistas – punk / Tredegar
A Welsh band named after a Clash album? Count us in. Having only released their debut single last year, The Sandinistas are gaining some serious momentum already. When you listen to the adrenaline-inducing riot of their single aptly titled ‘Ready To Blow’, you can see why. Get on this band. Now. [They’ve also already been championed by Fred Perry, who have been rarely wrong in spotting potential. – Ed.] (Steven Loftin)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik74yCjG7S4[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #117: Casi

 
By on Thursday, 2nd March 2017 at 1:00 pm
 

As this year’s SXSW Music Festival rapidly approaches and our preview coverage kicks into high gear, we’re once again excited to bring you showcasing artists’ answers to a special SXSW 2017 flavoured set of Quickfire Questions. In today’s feature, we’ll be bringing you the answers from Welsh pop singer/songwriter Casi. I previously saw her perform as part of the Gorwelion Horizons / Music Wales showcase at Patterns (known in another life as Audio) on the Marine Parade in Brighton at The Great Escape 2015. I’m delighted that she’ll get her chance to show off her vocal chops in front of the punters of SXSW. Perhaps not too surprisingly for a young strong woman in music representing her region of the world, other female solo artists have figured prominently in her musical history. Read on…

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Listen, to, it!

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
Meeting the locals and meeting other artists.

Of the bands who have already been announced, do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
I’d like to see Maggie Rogers. She seems cool.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find weird or unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
I’ve just started reading Welsh post-punk band Datblygu frontman D. R. Edwards’ autobiography. It’s not unusual, but I’d be surprised if anyone else had packed it in their suitcase for SXSW. [Their Web site is entirely in Welsh, FYI… – Ed.]

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Anything that has passion fruit in it. [I’m sorry my dear, we don’t have passion fruit Rekordelig ::sob:: – Ed.]

What was your favourite album from 2016 and why?
ANOHNIM – ‘Hopelessness’: goes without saying.

Will this be the first time you’ve played to American audiences? What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
It will indeed. I’m really looking forward to it.

Now, onto our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
I remember hearing ‘Myfanwy’ for the first time and being overwhelmed by its sadness and grandeur.

What was your favourite song as a child?
The Streets‘ ‘Dry Your Eyes (Mate)’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjhHn-n4xro[/youtube]

What song makes you laugh?
Interesting question. U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. My friend and I keep dramatically messaging each other with chunks of the song’s lyrics when we reach existential points within our lives.

What song makes you cry?
Des’ree – ‘Kissing You’.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Lianne La Havas – ‘Lost & Found’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou5uZjDNEko[/youtube]

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Tecwyn Ifan – ‘Y Dref Wen’.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Bat For Lashes – ‘Laura’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UznHTBZIa8E[/youtube]

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Lana Del Rey is a great writer.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I feel I’d be a good teacher. Or an author.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
Endaf Emlyn – ‘Salem’.

We thank the lovely Casi for indulging us with these answers and Max for sorting this out for us! Casi will be performing as part of the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music Foundation showcase at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 on Friday the 17th of March at 9 PM.

 

Great Escape 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 20th May 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Ah yes, Brighton. London by the sea, rainbow flags a-flyin’, the smell of skunk hanging in the air if you walk down the wrong alley (or most places if it’s sunny), a place populated by way too many aggressive seagulls. It has been 2 years since TGTF last stepped foot in the seaside town to cover the annual emerging music festival here, which of course is The Great Escape 2015. Some things have happened since John and me were last in Brighton and due to some things in 2014 transpiring to keep us away (and I think for good reason too, if you want to get all moody and astrological about it), it was time for my return.

Model Aeroplanes @ Brighthelm Centre (Showcasing Scotland)

Within 30 minutes of leaving the flat I’d booked for the duration, the Great Escape 2015 wasted no time to remind me of my first rain-drenched event here in 2012. Like a scene out of Mary Poppins, my brolly turned inside out, pieces fell off and yes, it became entirely inoperable. Somehow after getting my photo pass from the press centre in the Dome, then getting lost (a recurring theme when I’m running behind schedule) I made it to the Brighthelm Community Centre without looking like a wet cat; the place is connected to a church and it was where the Creative Scotland afternoon showcase would be kicking things off. First up were the rough and tumble Model Aeroplanes, who you readers are aware I’m a big fan of. You might think that at 12 noon on as dreary of a day as it was, they were unlikely to draw a sizable crowd.

Model Aeroplanes at Great Escape 2015

Wrong. The lively four-piece all the way from Dundee were raring to go, and a pretty packed out room awaited them. ‘Deep in the Pool’ is their latest single, and as their past releases, it’s a fun little guitar number that I expect will go down well in front of festival crowds this summer, as will recent tropical-tinged single ‘Club Low’. However, I still have a soft spot for earlier songs such as ‘Whatever Dress Suits You Better’ and the lovely honeyed way ‘Innocent Love’ has about it, and their guitar-swinging energy was just what Brighton needed on the rainy start to the festival. The band also brought me a gift: bottle of very special Dundee marmalade down with them, which was a very sweet and nice touch – thank you lads!

The Merrylees @ Brighthelm Centre (Showcasing Scotland)

From the footloose and fancy free and sunny indie pop / rock of the opening band, The Merrylees couldn’t be more different. Having already supported the likes of legends Paul Weller (in town to play a not so secret show on Saturday) and Richard Hawley, the Merrylees are clearly on to something, but what that is might be marmite for at least part of the British population, the six-member strong band finding themselves galloping away on a country/western-themed bent for most of the set.

Confusingly, lead singer Ryan Sandison of the group has a haircut and dresses all in black like Alex Turner, yet when he opens his mouth, he sounds nothing like the Sheffielder, instead alternating between a croonery vocal style (ah, so now the Hawley connection makes sense!) and the theatrical, as if he’s playing to a cabaret in the West End, not a community centre rec room this afternoon. The cautionary tale in ‘It’s Catching Up With You Now’ is dark Hawley-esque territory, as is the haunting beautiful ‘Turn for the Strange’, and their debut single produced by Bill Ryder-Jones, ‘For You’, barely skirts the psychedelic line until heralding horns kick up the dust. Definitely unique, but I wonder if they can really make a go of it. I bid my adieus to new Scottish friends made and master of ceremonies, BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway, and emerge to head down in the direction of the seafront to immerse myself with music from another part of the UK. (Hint, not England…)

What used to be known as Audio on Marine Parade was just recently refurbished, turning into another nightclub called Patterns. I’m actually disappointed that I can’t tell you the place has changed dramatically and for the better – all that really obvious to me was that the stage in the upstairs performance space was rotated 90 degrees and the actual stage was made lengthwise longer. I’m never in a club long enough nor do am I there to check out the cocktails or the clientele. The upstairs area Thursday afternoon was host to the Gorwelion Horizons showcase being put on by Music Wales. No stranger to the funding project after meeting funding recipients The People the Poet at SXSW 2015 in March, I was eager to see who else was on the Welsh music radar and also to meet BBC Radio Wales presenter Bethan Elfyn, who appreciated the work I’d done in reporting on their show in Austin.

Casi @ Patterns Upstairs (Gorwelion Horizons)

Casi at Great Escape 2015

The venue was running at least an hour late, as when I arrived after getting a bite and a drink in a pub, I assumed I would enter in the midst of Cut Ribbons’ set. No, the tall, leggy blonde Casi, with her soulful vocal stylings, had yet to perform. The Bangor-born beauty and her band crafted a very pop, radio-friendly sound that I can see having massive mainstream appeal. I prefer the icy crunchiness of a track like ‘Grace’, while Radio 1’s Huw Stephens favours for his Radio 1 programme ‘Roads’, with its syncopated r&b beats.

Cut Ribbons @ Patterns Upstairs (Gorwelion Horizons)

Cut Ribbons were to close out the Gorwelion Horizons showcase, and they’re definitely more my bag. Fusing the best elements of electronic, rock and even a little pop, the London via Llanelli group also employ alternating and harmonising male/female fronting vocals, which I can always get behind. ‘Walking on Wires’ has a relentless rhythm and anthemic quality, almost as if Kodaline had gone much more electronic and added a female frontwoman to join Steve Garrigan. If you are a fan of Prides, you will want to take note of Cut Ribbons too; the Glaswegians remixed the Welsh band’s ‘Bound in Love’. I reckon they will be future touring buddies once Prides’ debut album on Island Records is out in July.

Cut Ribbons at Great Escape 2015

This is also the kind of music you want playing while you fall in love with someone under a mirrorball in a club. Well, I do anyway, in my dreams. (I assume John has a completely different kind of fantasy, probably involving Josh Homme and Dave Grohl beating some guitars in.) Pardon the cliché, but ‘Clouds’ lets you float satisfyingly, the synth notes and guitar notes springy, while the main vocal lines are gentle until the chorus pulls you in with “…and that’s what lovers should do.” Vigorous nod. Yes.

STAL @ Digital (Clash)

After a brief break for food and drink, it was down to the Arch to check out two bands at what was formerly known as Digital. Along with the new to me dance club Shooshh and our old friend Coalition where we hosted the TGTF stage in 2011 (starring a then-unknown Foster the People, I might add), The Arch is one of several true seafront clubs in Brighton. Clash Magazine’s night there began with STAL, an electronic trio from Paris. Well, at least I thought they would be straight electronic and that would be the end of it. That would have been perfectly fine with me, because I love electronic and if they kept laying down big beats and synths, I would have been a very happy panda.

STAL at Great Escape 2015

STAL, however, had other plans for us. I’m still not sure exactly how to explain what I witnessed. I’ve never heard of the band and neither had another music editor friend of mine who was also at the Arch, and I was just gobsmacked by the amount of singing along – and screaming and squealing – there was by the girls down the front, who then went over the barrier and crawled onstage to get their set lists after the band finished. How on earth did we ever miss these guys? Upon further examination of STAL’s Soundcloud, you learn that STAL is actually the stage name of Pierre-Marie Maulini, who acts as lead vocalist, guitarist and synth player live.

Because they are both French, I think STAL will be inevitably compared to M83; nevertheless, I find the celebratory, positive feel good vibes of STAL’s ‘Gone’ to be a real winner eclipsing anything I’ve heard from Anthony Gonzalez (I know, them’s fighting words), while the interesting juxtaposition of otherworldy synths and banging guitars on ‘Burning Desire’ live reminds me oddly enough of the bombast you might feel at, say, a Muse concert. I have heard the complaint on occasion that electronic music is too fey, too feminine, not manly enough. Well, listen up. If a bunch of Frenchmen like this can make electronic sound muscular, have a listen and you might change your mind.

Neon Waltz @ Digital (Clash)

Neon Waltz at Great Escape 2015

Neon Waltz were next up on the Clash showcase. Another six-member band, it seemed trying to fit them and all their gear onstage at the Arch would be a difficult feat, but they got it to work. The band from Caithness in Scotland just released their debut EP on Atlantic Records in April, ‘First Light’, so it’s still early days for them. I really liked what I heard on the EP, so I was disappointed when I heard them play ‘Sombre Fayre’ Thursday night, the gentle beauty of the lead vocal on the records lost against the harder instrumentation. I’m guessing the mix in the club wasn’t right, since an electronic band performed before them. Or maybe having so many instruments on stage was muddying up the overall sound? I’d be really curious if they are ever in for a Sofar Sounds session or something similarly acoustically just how different it would be.

Part 2 of Thursday’s coverage at the Great Escape 2015 follows this afternoon.

 
 
 

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