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SXSW 2016: Friday afternoon with strong women at the International Day Stage and with Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales – 18th March 2016

 
By on Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 5:00 pm
 

Another day dawned after the awful event of Thursday evening at SXSW 2016. Despite my still shaken nerves, I was determined to make the most of my remaining time in Austin and my Friday afternooon would include the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30. First up though was a lovely breakfast and quick catch-up with our friends from Music from Ireland / First Music Contact’s Angela Dorgan and Brendan Millar at B.D. Riley’s ahead of the full Irish breakfast lineup (Carrie’s review of their act are forthcoming). Then I was off to the Austin Convention Centre for a visit to the panel entitled TV Promos: Sync’s New Best Friend, which was a follow-up of sorts to another sync-orientated panel I sat in on at Norwich Sound and Vision 2016 in October. (For a review of my time at convention panels during SXSW, read my roundup post here.)

After being sufficiently buoyed by the hope that song syncing for tv, film and adverts continue to be a good way for artists to make much needed income to support the music-making side of their craft, it was off to start seeing band trying to make a go of it. Staying in the Austin Convention Center, I went up to the 4th floor to the International Day Stage to catch London-based electropop duo Avec Sans. They clearly had made a good impression prior this appearance, as several megafans of theirs appeared to see them again at this afternoon appearance.

Avec Sans at the International Day Stage at Austin Convention Center, Friday at SXSW 2016

Avec Sans are platinum blonde Alice Fox (originally from Manchester) on vocal duties and Jack St. James on electronics. As TGTF’s resident electro fan, I’ve seen my fair share of duos with a similar setup, and I can say without a doubt that this pair are in the top tier of acts I’ve had the pleasure to witness live. Like Claire L. Evans of YACHT at Easy Tiger the previous night, Fox is a charismatic presence live, providing the human side of Avec Sans with beautously yearning vocals and the perfect foil to the deliciously mechanical machinations of St. James. Watch and listen to the duo’s latest single ‘Heartbreak Hi’ below; their debut album will be out on the 3rd of June; you can donate to their recording effort on PledgeMusic. A headline UK tour will be accompanying its release (all the details here on their Facebook).

It was a nice coincidence, according to Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales manager Fionna Allan that their line-up scheduled for Friday afternoon at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 was entirely made up of acts with strong female or female-fronted acts. Allan was all the more prouder about her showcase when I explained to her that there was an important feminist element to this year’s SXSW, as Carrie previewed in this feature prior to our week in Austin. Three of the five acts performing on this bill were Welsh, including first two acts Rozi Plain (a favourite of BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley who I unfortunately missed) and Violet Skies, who I covered as part of the Trackd showcase and chatted with Monday night. True to her word and despite her relative newness to America, Violet was the consummate professional, garnering a massive audience hanging on to every soulful word she sung. As she sung her debut single ‘How the Mighty’, I became even more convinced in her chance at worldwide success. Good luck to her!

Violet Skies at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

As I had been with Jane Weaver on Wednesday, I was more than a little excited to finally see Gwenno perform live as part of the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase. After making the difficult decision to give her appearance Wednesday night at the Heavenly Recordings showcase at Barracuda a pass, I was grateful to have another chance, and to be honest, it was probably best to see her here, as part of and also swaddled by her fellow strong female artists’ presence. Further, Gwenno’s ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ – originally released in Wales on Peski Records, then given another life by Heavenly with its re-release in 2015, as well as winning Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod and the 2014-2015 Welsh Music Prize – is completely fitting for such an afternoon.

The LP’s key themes include fighting against Big Brother and the constraints of a patriarchal society, which Gwenno helpfully and eloquently pointed out in between songs is sadly a reflection of today’s times, stressing the importance of individualism, strength and feminism. This banter between this strong, female and Welsh artist and the audience created an indelible connection between artist and fan, and that’s even before we even consider the music. As an electro head, watching her simultaneously sing like an angel and manage an impressive set of synths and sequencers and effortlessly was a real treat. Adding more fuel to Ms. Saunders’ argument of the Man holding women down, stage management warned her she had to cut her set. Instead of stopping when she was supposed to, in true revolutionary fashion, she kept going. Way to stick it to them, Gwenno! To hear my interview with her that we posted on TGTF last week, go here.

Gwenno at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016 1

Fickle Friends were up next. If you’ve been keeping tabs on indie British music in the last few years (and America’s similar scene, for that matter), you know that synthpop bands are a dime a dozen. If you have been keeping up with our SXSW 2016 preview coverage, you would have read Rebecca’s great Bands to Watch on both this Brighton band and their seemingly similar Liverpudlian counterparts Clean Cut Kid, who I saw on Wednesday night at the Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae’s. Due to Rebecca’s piece featuring both bands, I could not help but compare their performances in Austin.

Fickle Friends at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

Fickle Friends put on an admirable performance that received a great response with loads of cheering from the audience, especially when they swapped out the words to their song ‘Brooklyn’, changing them to ‘Austin’. However, I didn’t find anything about their music that distinguished them particularly from all the other synthpop bands Britain has been churning out over the last few years. Will there be a North vs. South divide over these two bands’ corresponding success? We’ll have to wait and see how things go this year.

Concluding the female-strong afternoon of Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales at the British Music Embassy were Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, who I had the great pleasure of seeing play in their hometown, at the cavernous Red Bull Studios at the Garage stage at my first Liverpool Sound City in 2012. Since releasing ‘Not Real’ in April 2015, they’ve adopted a much more colourful stage presence, which in Austin meant neon bright leotards and tights and mirrored sunglasses. Without a doubt, it’s an attention-grabbing look within a dark club; some may call it a gimmick, but it works for them and will keep them firmly in festival-goers’ minds. (In comparison, Fickle Friends looked like they could have been any American band in t-shirts, baseball caps and jeans.)

Stealing Sheep at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

The talent and fun with Stealing Sheep is multifold. Each of the three band members have a strong enough voice to take the lead, yet their harmonies together on album title track ‘Not Real’ are fantastic enough to make you think they’re all sisters (they’re not). The handclap-happy ‘Apparition’ (watch the video below) demanded audience participation, and you can’t help but get drawn into the percussive nature of their music. Despite stage management calling them to stop, they kept on going, to the delight of the punters. Of all the British acts I saw in Austin, I’d rank these Liverpudlian ladies in the top 5 of having made a lasting impression on American audiences that should serve them well in their continuing career.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Clash in association with PPL, and NME in association with UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 18th-19th March 2016

 
By on Friday, 4th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy will return to Latitude 30 at 512 San Jacinto Boulevard, right by the heart of the action off 6th Street during SXSW 2016. On Monday and Wednesday, our editor Mary previewed the talent on show on Tuesday night (Huw Stephens with PRS for Music showcase) and Wednesday, then Thursday (Output Belfast and PIAS in association with AIM), respectively. This year’s showcases on Friday the 18th of March are set to include a host of artists from around the UK, including hotly-tipped acts from Wales and Scotland. The Welsh artists will be highlighted during the daytime show, presented by British Music @ SXSW in association with Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales. A pair of Scottish acts will feature on the evening showcase, presented by UK pop culture magazine Clash in association with music rights and licensing agency PPL.

The Friday afternoon show will feature a delightfully rich lineup of female artists, beginning with alt-folk singer/songwriter Rozi Plain and continuing with two Welsh acts, pop singer/songwriter Violet Skies and electronic musician Gwenno. Both Welsh women will be introduced in more detail in editor Mary’s upcoming preview of Welsh artists at SXSW 2016 later today.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/H4S0ME8Xyc0[/youtube]

Closing out the afternoon are two alliterative acts, our recent Band to Watch #372 Fickle Friends, followed by fellow TGTF alumnae Stealing Sheep. Fickle Friends vaulted to popularity in the UK with their debut single ‘Swim’ back in 2014 and have been on an upward trajectory ever since. Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep are sailing strong on their April 2015 release ‘Not Real’, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a hint of something new from them in Austin as well.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqVYDRM842s[/youtube]

The Friday evening Clash showcase is set to begin with DJ/producer/all-around-Renaissance-woman Throwing Shade, whose soon-to-be released EP ‘House of Silk’ features the above reflection on pop culture and social media called ‘hashtag IRL’. Scottish pop songstress KLOE and avant/experimental trio Hælos will fill in the middle part of the evening lineup, ahead of a rather intriguing To Be Confirmed notation at 11 PM; bets are open as to who might fill that coveted slot.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/vKakNhz2ToA[/youtube]

Playing at midnight will be Glasgow electro musician The Revenge, followed by London-based soul pop duo Honne (read more of our coverage on Honne here). The Revenge will feature in our upcoming preview of Scottish artists at SXSW 2016, along with the aforementioned KLOE.

On Saturday, the 19th of March, the afternoon show at Latitude 30 will start with Sheffield slacker punk pair Nai Harvest (read more about them on TGTF here) and Leeds goth-punk band Autobahn. Falling square in the middle of the docket, Liverpool indie rockers Sugarmen are sure to win fans with their psychedelic recent single ‘Plastic Ocean’, while grunge rockers Fizzy Blood and Demob Happy finish off the daytime slate.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/qVkdCG_tfvk[/youtube]

Latitude 30 will be taken over by recently retooled and relaunched pop culture magazine NME in association with UK Trade and Investment on Saturday night, the final event at the British Music Embassy for SXSW 2016. Leicester brothers Andy and James Stone, known onstage as synth-rock duo Lusts will open the show (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here), to be followed by rap collective Section Boyz. London five-piece Pumarosa have already announced an autumn 2016 support slot for SXSW 2015 hit act Gengahr and will feature in the middle of this final night lineup.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/XA97m6L2-Dc[/youtube]

Deep-voiced Americana singer/songwriter Barns Courtney could easily follow in the successful SXSW footsteps of Hozier and James Bay before him. He’ll round out his trip to Austin with an appearance at the British Music Embassy, ahead of dance duo Formation (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here) and another tantalising to-be-announced special guest for the evening’s final set.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ckNWtmkA2_g[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2015: Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30 (Part 2) – 17th March 2015

 
By on Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

Part 1 of my review of the Tuesday night Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales at SXSW 2015, starring Paper Aeroplanes, The People the Poet and East India Youth is here.

Kate Tempest at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

Next up, another 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated artist, but in an entirely different vein. Kate Tempest and her observations on life at its grittiest can stand alone as gripping social commentary in spoken word form, but with Speedy Wunderground label head and producer Dan Carey providing beats to add additional oomph to Tempest’s art, the result is nothing short of brilliant in songs such as the infectious ‘Lonely Daze’ and Steve Lamacq favourite and downbeat mesmeriser ‘Bad Place for a Good Time’. As should be expected, the opinionated Tempest punctuated her set with equally powerful spoken word pieces, reminding all of us to “hold our own” (stay the course and keep your chin up) and to be good to one another with “more empathy, less greed!”

Kate Tempest at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

An aside: Saturday night outside Latitude during the NME/PRS showcase, I found myself stood in the wristband queue with Tempest, Carey and crew and I asked Tempest how she’d been enjoying Austin. She said she’d had a good time but thought it’d been going on for weeks! As she shared a fag with Carey, I commented even with something as simple as sharing fags, the English were more polite with such things. She laughed at this, her blonde curls bouncing at my suggestion; she went on to smile at Carey and excessively called him “love” and “darling” for my benefit. In that moment, I was reminded that despite Tempest’s soaring success, she is like all of us. It gives me hope that the words and love she spreads will serve as inspiration to many.

Shura at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

From one woman, we go to another woman, Manchester’s Shura. If you’re into ‘80s music and New Wave, you can help but think you’ve heard this one before. ‘Indecision’, with its refrain of “you’ve got my love, boy” feels like a throwback to early, lace gloved Madonna, you know, before she thought lesbian kisses and naughty books were de rigueur. You know times have changed when a girl from Manchester comes to SXSW wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Hulk and plays this kind of music, am I right? She also pulled out a cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ ‘She Drives Me Crazy’: not earth-shattering, but interesting enough.

In what would be surely one of the rowdiest, most crowded club shows of SXSW 2015, Catfish and the Bottlemen played under a continuous red light (no Police ‘Roxanne’ jokes, please) to a packed house of fans and industry bods. This makes total sense, given that their UK and North American tours in the first half of 2015 are already sold out, making them a super hot commodity in the business at the moment. Rabid Catfish fans who were likely going to stalk the band all week arrived early to stake their places down the front, while those who arrived not so early grumbled behind them that they were being “rude.” Um, as in all gig situations, you wanna be up front, you get there early, ya dig?

Catfish and the Bottlemen at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

All the hits from their debut album ‘The Balcony’ – ‘Pacifier’, ‘Fallout’, ‘Kathleen’, ‘Cocoon’ – were fired out in rapid succession, with the crowd bouncing to the band’s catchy melodies and frontman Van McCann’s charismatic drawl and yelps. McCann, most likely aware that everyone in Austin was watching them, climbed atop the drum kit at the end, hanging the neck of his guitar precariously off a cable in the ceiling before they left the stage. Truly rock ‘n’ roll, innit?

Last up but certainly not least were Until the Ribbon Breaks, Welsh singer, musician and producer Pete Lawrie-Winfield and his live band. When I saw the now LA-based artist perform and chatted with him last year, I don’t think too many people knew of him or his music. What a difference a year makes: in January, he released debut album ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’, and he’s managed to cement his own fanbase while touring as support for the likes of London Grammar and Run the Jewels (who appear on ‘Revolution Indifference’.

Until the Ribbon Breaks at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

 

SXSW 2015: Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30 (Part 1) – 17th March 2015

 
By on Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

This year, we saw a shift in showcase programming at Latitude 30 on San Jacinto Boulevard, the home of the British Music Embassy during SXSW. The conspicuous absence of a fully coordinated Showcasing Scotland night that had been put on for many years in the past and seemed to always be a given meant that there was a void ready for the taking, and at SXSW 2015, Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales and with the kind auspices of Welsh BBC radio presenters Huw Stephens and Bethan Elfyn stepped in to take over Latitude 30 on Tuesday night, lining up an eclectic bill to usher in this year’s festival with a bang.

Traditionally, there are much fewer showcases on offer on the Tuesday night of SXSW, which basically means that wherever you go Tuesday night, you should expect to queue and expect part of your evening will be spent groaning and swearing, stood outside your preferred venue of choice, unable to get inside. I am quick to point out this phenomenon happens not just to mere mortals such as ourselves, but even the man and friend of mine Steve Lamacq had trouble getting into Latitude 30 to see one of the Welsh acts he himself championed on BBC Radio. So now you know…

Before you ask, “just how many Welsh bands were there at SXSW 2015?”, I also should note that only half of the acts (three out of the six; four out of seven if you include the act who played the invite-only reception party) who played on the Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales bill are actually Welsh, though the choices of Welsh acts for this evening were perfect in my book, either for their potential or having already made it in the States. In my interview with Will Doyle, aka East India Youth, the day after the show, he explained despite his non-Welshness, his addition to the bill had more to do with Huw Stephens’ support of his music, and I suspect the inclusion of Londoner Kate Tempest and her sociopolitical rhetoric and Manchester electropop musician and producer Shura had similar backstories.

Paper Aeroplanes at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

During the drinks reception, Richard Llewellyn and Sarah Howells of Paper Aeroplanes from West Wales provided a gentle easing into the evening with their brand of alt-folk. As many of you know, the singer/songwriter genre isn’t my favourite, so I really couldn’t tell you if they sound unique or not, but they were pleasant enough as background music to the inevitable industry conversations that take place in venues at SXSW.

Things, however, were about to go up to 11 with the next band. The People The Poet, introduced by Huw Stephens as being from the same town as Tom Jones (Pontypridd, in South Wales), were about to give anyone who the previous band might have put into a near stupor (sorry, that would be me) a swift kick up the arse. The prior impression I had that The People The Poet might be and sound like a precious folk band was quickly dismissed as the group barrelled ahead with their set. (Read my Bands to Watch ahead of SXSW 2015 here.)

The People the Poet at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

If frontman Leon Stanford had any anxiety playing to a crowd of strangers in America, he didn’t show it. He was dressed like probably what most people think is typical Texan, with a large, wide-brimmed hat and a cowboy-style shirt that I’m sure he purchased on their travels here. His voice sounds like the youth of a young, yet still satisfyingly husky Caleb Followill (‘Molly Drove Me Away’) crossed with the wisdom of classic Joe Cocker (‘People’), with the band’s loud yet richly detailed instrumentation channeling the anthemic, feel good spunk of Bruce Springsteen (‘Heart of a Lion’) and even the blues / hard rock variant patented by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Considering that all the band are in their early 20s and weren’t actually alive when most of those people were in their heyday, creating such a sound is no mean feat. To play SXSW at such a young age and to make such an impression on people who had never heard of you and who leave and go around Austin telling everyone about you is a pretty big deal indeed. Mark my words, keep an eye on this band, or you’ll be left behind.

East India Youth provided a much needed injection of electronica early on in the proceedings. While Will Doyle’s appearance early in the night may have seemed a strange choice to those who aren’t into electronic music, my interview with him and indeed, the reveal of ‘Carousel’ in early February from upcoming album ‘Culture of Volume’ out the 6th of April on XL Recordings indicates him shifting towards a more pop-orientated sound that agreed with many of the artists on this bill. As an electronic fan myself, I personally didn’t need proof of his musical talent, but Doyle also played bass on stage, which he played with the same perspiration-inducing freneticism as when he attacked the synth, sequencers and drum pads assembled as part of his complicated rig onstage.

East India Youth at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

The compelling ‘Hearts That Never’, which premiered on stateside on American public radio system NPR the week before SXSW, also demonstrates his conscious decision to head in a dance direction, which I reckon will make his new material even more accessible to the masses. ‘Looking for Someone’, a sweeping cut from Doyle’s 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut album on Stolen Recordings, ‘Total Strife Forever’, has a slower tempo but serves a nice reminder how human electronic music can be, in the right person’s hands. I’m really looking forward to hearing his new album.

East India Youth at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

 
 
 

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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.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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