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SXSW 2014: the second half of Steve Lamacq’s BBC Introducing showcase at Latitude 30 – 13th March 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 25th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

A universal problem faced by all punters attending any festival are the dreaded schedule clashes that tear your insides apart. When I met Steve Lamacq Wednesday night at Parish Underground, he asked if I was going to be at his BBC Introducing night at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 on Thursday night. It was surely going to be a huge night for Lammo,as he had not put on a showcase at SXSW since 2008, when he brought a then unknown Florence and the Machine to Austin. I knew where my night was going to begin – we’d RSVPed to a Sofar Sounds: Austin secret show nearly 10 miles north out of town but knew nothing else – and I felt terrible telling him I could not be there for the start when THUMPERS were due on at 8. But I promised him I’d do my best to get there as quickly as I could once we were done with our previous engagement. And anyone who knows me well knows I will do everything in my power to keep a promise.

After the Sofar show, we drove back into town and I prayed to the parking karma gods that we would find a decent space not too far from all the downtown action. I guess they listened. As soon as we were parked, I left Carrie, who had a leisurely walk to Cheer Up Charlie’s, and practically sprinted all the way down to Latitude 30, going the long way round via Trinity and 5th Street to avoid the busiest section of 6th Street. (Yes, folks, after having done it 3 years running, SXSW does run like a military manoeuvre in my head.) I just missed the eccentric Cousin Marnie, who finished shortly before I arrived. But I was okay with that, because I was looking for someone else. Well, five other someone elses.

I don’t normally go up to people I don’t know and ask for help looking for someone else. But SXSW is a unique animal, am I right? And if you don’t ask, you don’t get. There were a couple of guys sat on the benches outside Latitude 30, and I went straight up to one of them and said, “excuse me, sorry to bother you, but I’m looking for the guys in Longfellow. Do you know where they are?”

He laughed. “I’m in Longfellow!”

Oops! Maybe it was divine intervention, but I found who I was looking for. One of Fierce Panda Records’ most recent acquisitions, Longfellow are a London band who everyone, including compere for the night Steve Lamacq, is expecting huge things from. As a fan of many of the bands on the Fierce Panda roster, when I received their first single ‘Siamese Lover’ in my email, I had to have a listen. I was instantly smitten. As the band were only playing this one BBC Introducing showcase and it was going to be their American premiere appearance, I knew I had to be there. I wished them good luck and we were going to catch up afterward, which we did for this post-gig interview in which they were humble, yet wide-eyed lads eager to start the next phase of their career.

I viewed their actual performance as a bit of a fairy tale, so I can only imagine how they must have felt. They don’t even have a debut album out yet, but Steve Lamacq took a chance on them and the other UK acts playing in the showcase that night. Because the BBC were both recording audio and video of the night, you can imagine the lighting was even more impeccable than on any of the other British Music Embassy nights. Nerves must have run rampant as this was the London band’s first experience with an American audience, but they played as if seasoned veterans as Austin – and later through BBC iPlayer – listened and watched on. In a particularly heartfelt moment, frontman Owen Lloyd – whose speaking voice some compare to Prince William’s – thanked the BBC and everyone who’d been supporting them up to this point, even going so far as to dedicate their next single ‘Hug – Kiss – Makeup’ . Bless. I’ve included the BBC’s professional video of the song below, because you’ll spy the camera of someone else who was videotaping the song as well. (Guess who.)

There’s an anthemic quality to many of their songs, which explains why many people are already making their predictions that Longfellow is on track to become the next Coldplay. As the lights alternated from red to blue to purple from song to song, I couldn’t help thinking about that crazy wristband thing Chris Martin and co. did at stadium shows a couple years ago and wondered if this was a sign of things to come. However, the deepness and heightened emotions of Lloyd’s voice beats out Martin’s easily. ‘Waiting for Elvis’ was a highlight, as was an earlier song of theirs, ‘Gabrielle’, which will remind you of Chapel Club‘s debut album, except brighter when the song breaks open at the chorus. However, it was ‘Siamese Dream’ that swept me into a dancing mood, and I’m sure I amused more than a couple staring Americans.

That night, I also caught BBC Sound of 2014 nominees Royal Blood. But maybe ‘caught’ is the wrong word, as I could only stand four songs (I hung tight for behemoth ‘Little Monster’; see video below) before I had to give my ears a rest. I probably should have stood in the back instead of trying to be down the front in a desperate attempt to photograph Mike Kerr (vocals / bass) and Ben Thatcher (drums) but it was kind of pointless, because unlike Longfellow’s gorgeous multi-coloured light display, Royal Blood basically played in near darkness. Sorry John, I am sure you are disappointed, but I figured if I had stood there any longer, my ears would start bleeding.

I met with Carrie later on, who was waiting for CYMBALS to bring the dance funk to the indoor stage at Cheer Up Charlie’s. But in a hilarious twist of fate, I accidentally got swept up in the wrong crowd, having been directed into the wrong queue and ended up knee deep with the photographers on a raised platform waiting for Future Islands on the outdoor stage instead. Seeing that the buzz surrounding Future Islands at this year’s SXSW was so massive, yet I didn’t bother to wait for them to start as I was concerned I’d be swallowed up by the crowd once they began playing, I beat a hasty retreat to be reunited with Carrie inside.

And if you were wondering about my keeping my promise to Lammo, I found him inside Latitude 30 before Longfellow took to the stage. I proudly showed him the photos I’d taken on my camera to show him why I wasn’t able to arrive to his showcase any earlier and who I’d gone to see. Upon seeing a band important to both of us, he smiled. When I told him that I was interviewing Longfellow after they played, he replied, “that’s great. They’ll be dead chuffed!” “Dead chuffed” is actually how I would describe myself upon meeting this band who I think has what it takes to be massive stars.

 

SXSW 2014: the second half of Modern Outsider’s showcase at Parish Underground – 12th March 2014

 
By on Friday, 21st March 2014 at 3:30 pm
 

Rather conveniently, my next port of call at SXSW 2014 after the Astralwerks showcase at the upstairs Parish main performance space was mere steps away. Having seen Austin art rockers the Black and White Years earlier that afternoon at Empire Control Room, I arrived just in time after their performance to catch the remaining three bands on their label Modern Outsider’s showcase directly downstairs at the aptly named Parish Underground.

The first band I caught was Austin trio Mirror Travel, who I’d been looking forward to seeing for some time. Fusing elements of the grungiest garage with vocal stylings usually associated with a genre as far from garage as possible, dream pop, their sound is best described as creatively eclectic. Physically, they’re a powerhouse to be reckoned with, with the drumming of Tiffanie Lanmon driving the songs forward as frontwoman/guitarist Lauren Green and bassist Paul Brinkley providing those dreamy vocals.

There’s also not too distant whiff of psychedelia to the overall sound. I mean, come now, think about it. Doesn’t ‘Mirror Travel’ sound like a band to drop acid to? Their October 2013 EP even has a song on it called ‘Stoner’. The UK in particular I’d think would be particularly open to their sonic whims, and surprise! They’re bucking the trend of this two-woman singer/songwriter tide that seems to be washing over us now by having a male bassist in their band. I loved watching them.

I’ll preface my review of the next band by saying I’m probably going to be nailed to a cross for what amounts to a highly unpopular opinion of them. Black Pistol Fire are a Canadian rock duo who have since decamped to Austin; I’m not sure if they made the move to Texas on their own, or they just decided to be closer to their label, as Modern Outsider is based in Austin. Upon listening to tracks of theirs online when preparing for SXSW, I heard growly reminders of both Kings of Leon and the Black Keys, the latter also a potent rock / garage duo. I’m not the only one who heard this comparison to Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney: three years ago, Popmatters even called them “the greatest Black Keys tribute band ever”. I was actually quite keen on seeing what they would be like live to see if this was actually true.

On Wednesday night, the hype surrounding Black Pistol Fire must have been enormous, as the venue quickly became rammed and stayed that way for the entirety of the band’s set. It was so badly rammed for them that Carrie was texting me furiously from outside on 6th Street, saying she was stuck in a nonmoving queue and she couldn’t get in. The good: singer and guitar Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen (who was wearing nothing but a pair of track shorts from the start of their set, I might add) are quite the exciting act to watch live, as their performance is loud and animated. At one point, I must have missed how he got up there, but the next thing I knew, McKeown was dangling from the upstairs balcony railing, legs flailing as he wailed on his guitar. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

The bad: I have a real hard time taking seriously a band who has to pilfer songs from rock’s storied history for their live set. Maybe they have a good reason for doing this, like they didn’t have time to rehearse a full set of original songs for SXSW? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But as a Led Zeppelin fan, I don’t need to hear a cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ at SXSW, I can queue that up on my record player anytime I want. I had similar feelings when covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Fortunate Son’ and Wreckless Eric’s ‘Whole Wide World’ were played, albeit with extended riffage as I watched the crowd go completely mental, fists raised as if a revolution had just begun. Maybe their album ‘Hush or Howl’, getting an exclusive Spotify preview next week will change my mind, but for some reason, their set just left me cold.

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of TGTF that the act I was most thrilled to see at this label showcase was the Crookes. We’ve been supporting their New Pop efforts since their single ‘Backstreet Lovers’ several years ago now, and it’s like I’ve grown up with them in a way. Arguably, the Crookes are the biggest UK success story from SXSW 2013, having signed to their first American record deal off the back of last year’s festival. Having always recorded and toured under their own terms, the fact that they got a record deal via SXSW without compromising their own principles is no small feat indeed.

When I found out weeks ago that Modern Outsider was giving them – an English band – the esteemed position of headlining their label’s showcase, it represented to me them coming quite a long way from their early beginning as a band thrown together in uni in Sheffield. Further validating was the crowd who had assembled to see them, many of whom were American like myself and who had been longtime supporters of the band. Similar to the feeling I got from watching Munich’s Claire earlier in the evening at the Parish main room, I’m sure the Crookes felt energised by the realisation that even thought they were far from home, hey, they really like us!

The set list was surprising to me. I expected ‘Outsiders’, with its ever melodic lyrics and the true voice of the album’s theme of ‘The Outsider’ as offered up by lyricist Daniel Hopewell, and ‘Marcy’, my guess for biggest hit from the new album, to both get airings. Nope. The evening’s set began like the one at Empire Control Room that afternoon with ‘Don’t Put Your Faith in Me’, probably the Crookes’ effort to emphasise straight out the gate to everyone listening that they had fully become a rock band and left the pop moniker behind. ‘Echolalia’, my favourite from their forthcoming third album ‘Soapbox’, was the bass epiphany I was waiting for, sounding fantastic.

However, they just couldn’t get away with not playing a couple of older numbers, such as the oft trotted out ‘Chorus of Fools’ with the ever melancholic words, “you and me were meant to be so damn blue”, and the rallying cry of ‘We don’t dance alone!” from ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’, both of which turned the place into a frantic disco. The energy felt the same, just like the odd nine times I’d previously see them play, but at the same time, something about them has changed. They’re no longer New Pop. Gone are the days of watching them in t-shirts and jeans. Enter the smart buttoned down shirts and dress trousers: ladies and gentlemen, the Crookes are all grown up.

And yes, if you were wondering, I lost another bet to Carrie. I still owe the woman some four beers for betting her they’d play ‘Maybe in the Dark’ instead of ‘Afterglow’. Damn it! (I can hear her laughing as she reads this.)

Don’t Put Your Faith in Me
Before the Night Falls
Chorus of Fools
Echolalia
Bear’s Blood
Backstreet Lovers
Howl
Sofie
Where Did Our Love Go?
Play Dumb
Afterglow

However, for me, the best moment of the night was yet to come. I had been celebrating my 5 years in music writing that day and after we’d packed up and said our goodbyes to the band, we were ready to leave. As I zipped up the England jacket I’d bought in Covent Garden on my first trip to England in 2006, I heard a deep English voice calling my full name from within the venue. I knew it wasn’t one of the Crookes; I would have recognized their voices anywhere. I turned around. It was Steve Lamacq. We’ve known each other for years thanks to the internet, but it wasn’t until this night that we finally met in person. Lammo was the reason I’d heard about the Crookes the first place, having played their early records on his BBC radio shows, which I subsequently fell in love with. It’s like everything had come full circle for me that night.

 

BBC 6music Under Threat of Closure

 
By on Monday, 15th March 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Editor’s note: For the sake of disclosure, I want to state for the record that I have very strong feelings on this topic, and I will do my utmost to present the facts and keep my emotions to a minimum.

Every year the BBC Trust conducts an audit of all BBC Radio stations to analyse their listenership and whether they’re getting the best value for their money, as all BBC radio stations are funded by the state and paid for by UK residents. On 02 March the Trust confirmed a proposal to close of two of its digital stations: 6music, the Beeb’s alternative music station, and the Asian Network, broadcasting Asian music, news, entertainment, culture, debate and drama. According to an article published in the Guardian the same day, Director General Mark Thompson stated, “even to propose the closure of BBC services is a very big and in some ways painful step. There’s lots of great content on BBC 6 Music and some real talent …[but the station was] expensive … given its relatively small audience.”

BBC Radio 6 describes itself as a station that “brings together the cutting edge of today and the iconic and groundbreaking music of the past 40 years.” Indie music stalwart Steve Lamacq (pictured above), who currently hosts a 3-hour evening drivetime programme Monday through Friday on the station, posted a quite eloquent entry on his personal Web site’s blog with his thoughts on 6music’s closure, including these that I believe are two very important bits to contemplate:

On a personal level, I believe that shutting 6music would be disastrous for the British music scene – and alternative music from further a field too. There is so much music being played every week on Six that simply doesn’t get played anywhere else, that losing it would be unthinkable … The cultural hole it would leave if scrapped, would have terrible repercussions for everyone from small promoters to indie labels to bands and to music fans of all ages. We’d be denying people the chance to hear music which could – even in just a few cases – alter their life, as listening to John Peel changed mine.

Ex-Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, who recently joined the 6music team as a Sunday afternoon presenter at the start of 2010, had this to say about the closure:

As far as I can see, a station like Radio 6 is perfectly in the spirit of what the BBC was supposedly set up to do – public service broadcasting. It’s airing music that wouldn’t get heard otherwise.

Many other artists, including Emmy the Great, David Bowie, Frankie and the Heartstrings, La Roux and Mark Ronson, just to name a few, have voiced their opposition to the closing of 6music, which just celebrated its 8th birthday on Thursday the 11th of March. Loyal listeners have also become involved in the fight to save the station, starting Facebook and Twibbon campaigns and organising petitions and demonstrations, all in an effort to make their voices heard.

No matter which side you’re on, you can see this is a very charged, passionate battle being fought. If you wish to weigh in on this issue, you have until 25 May to complete an online survey, part of the Strategy Review Consultation, here.

As you can imagine, there is much in the media on this proposal. And below are just some links that we think you may find interesting on this topic.

BBCIn Quotes: Reactions to BBC Cuts

The IndependentBBC radio stars hit out over 6 Music closure plans

Music Week Viewpoint: Beggars Group chairman Martin Mills

The Times OnlineBBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons admits licence fee cut possible

 

Steve Lamacq’s In New Music We Trust Programme to End

 
By on Tuesday, 11th August 2009 at 6:52 pm
 

The end of an era. Steve Lamacq‘s “In New Music We Trust” Radio1 programme will be broadcasting its last-ever show at its usual Monday night 21.00-22.00 later this month. You have two chances left to hear the programme – on 17 August, there will be a session by Sheffield band Crookes (presumably named after the suburb), and on 24 August, Lammo will be hosting the Strange Boys from Austin, Texas.

Being on what I consider the wrong side of the pond, in a town where radio stations on the whole are terrible, I get most of my new music news and heads-ups on new bands from British radio. And specifically, I owe Lammo a lot – he turned me on to a lot of new bands that I never would have heard or learned about otherwise. Skint and Demoralised, borne of Wakefield pubs and new Northern soul, would have never hit my ears if Steve had not chosen their “The Thrill of Thirty Seconds” as one of his “Top 60 of 2008”. There’s a reason he’s often called “the indie rock oracle”. (Bloc Party took a chance and gave him a demo in the toilet during a Franz Ferdinand gig at the ICA. Smart move.) Not to mention he’s an all-around nice chap. He never hesitates to provide a nod on air to his global legion of fans, from Leicester to London, Stockholm to Seattle, from Warsaw to my own Washington D.C. Lammo, your Monday night programme will be missed.

But all is not lost. The Colchester United stalwart who still wears Doc Martens to this day will still be spinning records on his 6music programme Mondays through Fridays at 16.00 to 19.00 and on Radio2 on Wednesday nights at 23.00 to 0.00.

 
 
 

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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.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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