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SXSW 2017: Brits and Australians, plus Bahranians and Mongolians (seriously!) Wednesday afternoon – 15th March 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 29th March 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

After the Nile Rodgers keynote speech at the convention center that was less than thrilling, I was ready for some live music. Carrie and I went down south to get our bearings ahead of Culture Collide’s taking over of Rainey Street for the rest of the week. If you’ve ever been to Rainey Street, you know that there a bunch of cutesy houses down the road that host day and night parties all week during SXSW. It’s an entirely different vibe than the clubs in the downtown area, but I never seem to get to spend much time down there.

After an aborted attempt in getting free tacos at Feed the Beat’s afternoon showcase at Lustre Pearl, I left Carrie to go next door to Bar 96. Ten Tonnes, aka young Hertford singer/songwriter Ethan Barnett, would be the first to take the stage at the Twix showcase. I was quite curious about him, as he was set to appear midnight that night at the Radio 2, PPL and PRS for Music showcase at the British Music Embassy, emceed by BBC Radio presenter Jo Whiley. We’d never heard of him before our SXSW previewing, so how did such a youngster get such a desired performance slot?

Ten Tonnes, Bar 95, Culture Collide / Twix, Wednesday 15 March 2017

His set at Bar 96 was his first-ever American performance, but he didn’t show any apprehension, launching into a series of bluesy rock and rockabilly numbers, including single ‘Silver Heat’, which just happened to be released the day after this performance. I think I speak for everyone watching this set that it’s a surprise (a pleasant one) to hear a young man sing and play blues rock and so convincingly. This business is full of musicians willing to sell their souls to make it, going towards genres and playing music their hearts aren’t into. However, it became crystal clear in my short interview with Barnett that he’s dedicated to this style of songwriting, and I’m sure he found loads of inspiration while being in America.

It’s unbelievable that I’ve not visited Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden all these years, but I finally made it this year. Somehow I managed to consume one of their fabulous bratwursts with sauerkraut after catching Australian Alex Lahey play Banger’s outdoor garden during the StubHub showcase there. I don’t know how many beer gardens there are in Melbourne, but surely this must have a bucket list ticked off for Lahey and her band.

Alex Lahey, Culture Collide / StubHub, Banger's, Wednesday 15 March 2017

She’s the kind of girl you know you’d have a fun night out boozing with, laughs all around. Like fellow Melbournian Courtney Barnett before her, you can tell Lahey doesn’t take herself or her music too seriously. She’s got a little pop song called ‘You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me’, which is an upbeat, funny ode that see Lahey thumbing her nose at pretentious people. Which is exactly what she’s not: I have on good authority from a blogger friend from Oz that he was not surprised she was only wearing t-shirts in Austin, but that she ran the risk of ruining her stage outfits with barbecue sauce. Ha. Somehow I don’t think that would have fazed her anyway. Check out her video for ‘Wes Anderson’ in this previous Video of the Moment feature.

I walked back up to 6th Street to a little hole in the wall called Big Bang Bar to see another Aussie band. It’s a good measure of a band to see their stage demeanour, no matter if they’re playing to 10 or 10 thousand. Despite only playing to a few boozers at the bar and a handful of interested people like me, Sydney electropop group Castlecomer gave it their all at their slot at the South X Big Bang afternoon showcase, filled mostly with American acts.


Castlecomer, South X Big Bang, Big Bang Bar, Wednesday 15 March 2017

While I’m sure this performance was very different than their appearance the next day at the Aussie BBQ at Brush Square Park, I thought Castlecomer sounded incredible in the small club. Frontman Bede, with a shocking amount of incredible hair that Pantene should get on right away for an advertisement opportunity, bounded around the stage and onto the floor like a madman to their catchy tunes. You can’t help but get drawn into dancing to the infectious beats of their music. Their incredible energy reminds me of Two Door Cinema Club in their early days, which is something even Two Door can’t manage to recapture. Delicious escapist fare.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kYAXD8R47U[/youtube]

Finding myself at a loose end, I returned to the British Music Embassy around the corner to see Mt. Wolf, playing a better attended show than the one they helpfully offered to open the previous night at Scratchouse. I’ll let you in on a trade secret unknown to bands and who have never played SXSW before: the people who come to the afternoon shows are different than the ones at your evening showcases. Being genuine and performing your best, no matter what time of day you’re playing, where or in front of how many people, is the key to your success in Austin.

Mt. Wolf, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Wednesday 15 March 2017

As I had predicted, Mt. Wolf’s brand of atmospheric pop worked well at Latitude 30. If you’re looking for something chill and with anthemic swells, this kind of music is for you. While their future may have initially uncertain after the departure of original lead singer Kate Sproule, Sebastian Fox’s falsetto is proving to hit the spot and indeed, in a different, better way. This was the second in a long string of appearances the band made in Austin.


Flamingods, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Wednesday 15 March 2017

Flamingods are originally from the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain but they call the melting pot capital of London home these days. The self-described “exotic psychedelia” group brought a truly tropical air to Latitude 30 with their colourful outfits and their instruments unusual to Western minds, theirs being a unique rhythmic experience like no other that came to Latitude 30 that week. They’re proof it doesn’t matter where your music comes from or by whom, as long as it comes from the hearts of the people who make it. What is going on back home must pain the members of Flamingods, but by playing on the world’s stage that is SXSW, they make the statement that music shouldn’t have any borders.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyxG2sIxDA0[/youtube]

Around the corner I went to the Second Play Stage at the Westin Downtown to see Magnolian. As the first-ever musical representative from Mongolia to showcase at SXSW, he had a lot riding on his shoulders. However, he needn’t have worried, as he and his backing band played to a crowd of interested listeners, including the Aussies who were slated to perform there next. As an American who outwardly looks Oriental, there’s certain prejudices that come into people’s heads automatically when they see me even before I open my mouth, so I was concerned there might be similar prejudices by the Austin crowds that came across Dulguun Bayasgalan and his band.

Magnolian, Second Play Stage, Westin Downtown, Wednesday 15 March 2017

However, and as supported by my chat with him and his band after this performance, Bayasgalan’s primary musical influences are Matt Berninger and The National, which comes across in his thoughtful baritone and songwriting. Rather than simply being a curiosity, I hope Magnolian’s visit to SXSW has led to Western connections that will further career and who knows, maybe one day he’ll get to open for the band who inspired him from thousands of miles away.


The Heart Collectors, Second Play Stage, Westin Downtown, Wednesday 15 March 2017

Following Magnolian at the Westin were Aussie acoustic folk purveyors The Heart Collectors, who I’d sadly missed at Sounds Australia’s Sound Gallery I on Tuesday morning. Dressed in comfy cotton and wearing hats that made them fit into the Austin scene perfectly, they pleasantly rattled through their set of mostly foot-stomping folk numbers utilising banjo, cello, mandolin and guitar. The band members took turns with lead vocal duties but their tight harmonies whenever their voices came together again were always beautiful. For those unfamiliar with the band’s music, a cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ came across not only as familiar but winsome. I included them on my list of best bets of the many Aussie acts coming out to Austin, and they didn’t disappoint.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jay7f53vmoE[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2017 Interview: Ten Tonnes

 
By on Tuesday, 21st March 2017 at 1:00 pm
 

Ten Tonnes is Hertford singer/songwriter Ethan Barnett. I met him at the Twix showcase at Bar 96 on Wednesday afternoon and asked him for an interview after his set to open the showcase. He asked me to not talk about his brother and if you’re tenacious and a Google ninja, you can certainly figure out who he’s related to. But it’s not useful in this context b/c the two brothers have very different styles. I find it encouraging that someone so young is interested in blues and rockabilly, two genres that don’t get a whole lot of attention when it comes to popular music.

Evidenced from his newest single ‘Silver Heat’ that literally dropped the day after I spoke with the young talent, this lad’s ready to rock, with his prime accompaniment to his guitar-playing a surprisingly deep, rich voice for a young man, a voice I would imagine most men would envy and would make women swoon. I can’t imagine an album will be far off, so keep your eyes peeled and ears open for more from Ten Tonnes. In the meantime, have a listen to my brief chat with him below, followed by a stream of the new single ‘Silver Heat’ directly below it.

Ten Tonnes, Bar 96, Twix showcase, Wednesday 15 March 2017

 

SXSW 2015: initial thoughts and The Lonely Wild and The Delta Riggs at StubHub / Culture Collide showcase at Clive Bar – 17th March 2015

 
By on Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Part of mentally preparing for SXSW is looking over the weather forecast for the week in Austin so you can pack appropriately. And this year, the forecast was not good, with rain predicted for most of the time while we were in town. It turned out not to be as grim as weathermen had predicted – Wednesday morning rain soon gave way to a blistering bright sun beating down that even the Spaniards complained about being too hot, as you will read about soon – but the front end of the week definitely boasted the better weather, which was a good thing because everyone started off with optimism and plenty of patience, both which sadly waned with some people as we marched towards Saturday.

Tuesday is just the beginning, when you can still breathe, your eyes are fully open and not red and you’re on the sidelines, just stretching your legs and gearing up for everything. As the popular saying goes, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and that is indubitably true with any SXSW. As we awoke Tuesday morning to an overcast sky and light drizzle on our way to the St. Patrick’s Day brunch boat ride being sponsored by our friends at Generator NI and Invest Northern Ireland (Carrie’s write-up on that forthcoming), my day got exceedingly better after a nice, relaxing lunch – a short rib burrito bowl at the Chi’lantro food truck at SX Bites south of the Austin Convention Center – that was then followed by an equally relaxing stroll in the half-sun to Clive Bar.

Here, in this humble bar with reasonably large patio was the hub (no pun intended) where the StubHub and Culture Collide Web sites had joined forces for 3 days of afternoon and evening showcases. I knew full well I had no chance in hell in getting into their Thursday night showcase headlined by The War on Drugs, which, based on talking to a lot of music fans, bands and industry folks alike all over town leading up to it, was one of the biggest tickets in town that week. But I was perfectly okay with that. As you regular TGTF readers know, it’s a rarity, not the norm, that we head for the more popular, mainstream and, dare I say, hipster-buzzed about bands at a music festival.

No, I had arrived Tuesday afternoon to catch two great bands I discovered through my best attempt to listen to and rate each and every single band on the first three big band announcement lists for SXSW 2015 Music. To my great delight, both were entirely up for it! First on my roll call was The Lonely Wild, of the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. As I was surprised and wowed many times this week in Austin, I think I wasn’t prepared for the bombast of The Lonely Wild’s live performance. Neither or even both genres of indie folk or indie rock are sufficient to describe their sound.

‘Buried in the Murder’, whose video I featured in the SXSW 2015-flavoured Bands to Watch I wrote on them in January, ended the set on a sweeping note, as the melody just begs you to sing along with the band as they emote the notes of the chorus. On it, the lead vocals of Andrew Carroll are raspy, as if he’s desperately trying to cling on to life, while the guitar line sounds like something Slash would admire. As mentioned in my interview with the whole band just outside Clive Bar after their set (don’t forget to have a listen to it here), they also premiered new song ‘Free From Harm’, which will appear on their forthcoming album ‘Chasing White Light’, due out later this year.

The Lonely Wild at SXSW 2015

Next up was Melbourne, Australia’s The Delta Riggs, who were about to rip Austin a new one. Having just arrived in Austin, three of their band members admitted to me in an interview post-gig they were suffering from jetlag but had hoped one night’s good sleep would sort them right. There was, however, no indication whatsoever of exhaustion or vertigo when they took to the stage at Clive Bar. Frontman Elliott Hammond, resplendent in a New York Yankees shirt he said his girlfriend got off eBay (sorry New Yorkers, he’s not actually a Yankees fan, or a baseball fan for that matter), oozes with charisma and owns his microphone and its stand, not unlike a young Mick Jagger or a more recent, non-beardy Chris Robinson, so much it felt like we were experiencing the second coming of the Black Crowes.

This is rock that is uncompromising and balls to the wall, probably best represented by the incredibly catchy ‘The Record’s Flawed’ and the sleaze of ‘Bobby’s Flowers’. I unfortunately couldn’t make their other showcases that week in Austin, but I certainly hope they make it back for a headline tour of America one day, as I’d love to see them play again and maybe this time I can just go mental and not have to take photos!

The Delta Riggs at SXSW 2015

 
 
 

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