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SXSW 2018: Wednesday afternoon with fantastic female artists at the AloftLive and Single Lock showcases – 14th March 2018

 
By on Tuesday, 10th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

After starting my Wednesday at SXSW 2018 with a keynote speech by Lyor Cohen at the Austin Convention Center, I decided it was time for both some fresh air and some music. With that in mind, I headed to the Aloft Austin Downtown hotel, which played host to a full showcase of female artists, sponsored by Aloft Hotels and Universal Music Group. The lineup included several artists on my “must see” list, and the breezy but intimate patio lounge proved an ideal venue for both listening and taking photos.

Liza Anne internal

Nashville alt-rock singer/songwriter Liza Anne came to Austin hot on the heels of her latest LP release ‘Fine But Dying’, which came out on the 9th of March via Arts & Crafts. As you might glean from the title, the songs on ‘Fine But Dying’ aren’t exactly upbeat, their lyrics dealing with such heavy topics as love, patriarchy, and mental illness. But in live performance Liza Anne didn’t shy away from even their most angst-ridden moments, addressing them with dark humour and unflinching candor. She gave a fiercely memorable performance of several of the new tracks on the Aloft stage, including ‘Closest to Me’ and ‘Small Talks’.

Natalie Prass internal

Richmond, VA native and Spacebomb Music associate Natalie Prass came on next to play songs from her upcoming sophomore album ‘The Future and the Past’, due out on the first of June via ATO. I’d seen her live previously, both at SXSW 2015 and in Tucson later that same year. In the three-year interim, Prass has written not one but two album’s worth of songs, one of which she scrapped in favour of what would become ‘The Future and the Past’. Prass gave a charmingly relaxed set here, with the new songs sounding remarkably jazzy and fresh in the cool breeze on the Aloft stage. We’ve already featured the new album’s first single ‘Short Court Style’; you can have a listen to the recently released and singularly appropriate track ‘Sisters’ just below.

Tank and the Bangas internal

New Orleans soul/spoken word group Tank and the Bangas are led by singer and poet Tarriona Ball, whose deliberately unassuming stage presence masks a sharp lyrical precision and an almost hypnotic vocal style. Backed by fellow vocalist Anjelika Joseph and a full band of instrumentalists, Ball had her audience enraptured from the first moments of the set to the very last. I’m not sure the visceral power of this kind of music can ever really be captured on recording, but if you have the chance to see Tank and the Bangas live, don’t miss it. My favourite track in their set was ‘Rollercoasters’, which you can hear in this live video from American public radio station WXPN’s World Cafe.

The remainder of the Aloft Live lineup included British singers Jade Bird and Bishop Briggs, both of whom I was (fine but) dying to see, but I took a rain check for the moment, knowing I’d have chances to catch them later in the week. At the moment, I had a long walk ahead of me, across to the east side of downtown, for the Single Lock Records showcase and Nashville folk rock songwriter Erin Rae. While the stage at Weather Up, which played host to Single Lock that day, was decidedly less glamourous than the one at Aloft, the songwriting on display was nonetheless strong. Rae appeared with a sparse band of two members, whom she admitted to having “borrowed” for the afternoon from fellow Nashville singer Tristen, to play songs from her upcoming album ‘Putting on Airs’. Rae’s wistful singing voice on the title track from that record, and especially on recent single ‘Can’t Cut Loose’, made a poignant and lasting impression as the afternoon sun began to fade into evening.

Erin Rae internal

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: best bets among American artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Wednesday, 28th February 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats by Brantley Gutierrez

As you might expect with an American music festival, SXSW is typically heavy on American showcasing artists, and SXSW 2018 won’t be any different. This year’s music festival lineup features a load of big names that you’ve probably heard before, along with a few new ones that, if they’re not familiar already, likely will become so very soon.

Our ongoing preview coverage of SXSW 2018 has already highlighted a few up-and-coming artists on the showcase schedule, including grunge rock band Bully and alt-country singer Courtney Marie Andrews. Perhaps the most intriguing of these is elusive Los Angeles alt-rock trio Lo Moon, who made mild waves with their SXSW appearance last year. I expect them to make a bigger splash this time around, on the strength of their just released self-titled LP, which includes new track ‘Wonderful Life’.

Among the major players heading to SXSW 2018 are a handful of TGTF alums who have broken through to mainstream success. We first covered songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff way back in 2011, but the course of his career dramatically changed in 2015, when he convened a new band called the Night Sweats and released their hit self-titled album. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have recently announced a brand new LP called ‘Tearing at the Seams’, which is due for release just before SXSW on the 9th of March and features lead track ‘You Worry Me’.

North Carolina alt-pop duo Sylvan Esso previewed songs from their 2017 album ‘What Now’ at a surprise SXSW 2016 show; their appearance this year could once again herald new music on the horizon. Austin native David Ramirez wasn’t in top form when I saw him at SXSW 2017, but he may be in better shape this year, playing songs from his beautiful recent album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, which he has toured extensively since its release. SXSW 2015 showcasing artist Natalie Prass has just announced a brand new album ‘The Future and The Past’ due out on the 1st of June; she will presumably highlight its soul-tinged single ‘Short Court Style’ on her showcases in Austin next month.

Among other past TGTF mentions on the SXSW 2018 list are Nashville singer/songwriter Liza Anne, who will release her new album ‘Fine But Dying’ on the 9th of March and Milwaukee quartet Field Report, whose new album ‘Summertime Songs’ is previewed in the stream of ‘Never Look Back’ just below. Fellow Nashville singer Tristen and Philadelphia duo Vita and the Woolf, both acts we’ve coincidentally covered in conjunction with Irish alt-rockers Bell X1, also made the showcase list for this year’s festival in Austin, along with New York’s Sunflower Bean, who showcased at SXSW 2016, and L.A. rock band Warbly Jets, who made an appearance at SXSW last year.

American artists new to TGTF include Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes fame, and Buck Meek of alt-rock band Big Thief, neither of whom we’ve seen in a solo capacity before. Satellite radio listeners here in the U.S. might already be familiar with Mt. Joy and NoMBe, who have both been featured on SiriusXM Alt-Nation, while public radio devotees will no doubt have heard Portland singer/songwriter Haley Heynderickx and New Orleans funk/soul group Tank and the Bangas on NPR.

For dedicated indie fans, a pair of duo acts, Denver’s Tennis and Baltimore’s Wye Oak have made the SXSW shout list, along with the always eccentric Okkervil River. In the heavily represented Americana category, sure winners include a trio of Nashville acts: singer/songwriter Nikki Lane, country rock trio Liz Cooper and the Stampede and veteran country/bluegrass collective Old Crow Medicine Show.

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2018 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 or official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

 

SXSW 2016: St. Patrick’s Day at Latitude 30 for the Output Belfast showcase Thursday afternoon – 17th March 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 5th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

My Thursday afternoon at SXSW 2016 was reserved from the beginning for the Northern Irish showcase at the British Music Embassy. Hosted this year by Generator NI and the Belfast City Council, working jointly as Output Belfast, the daytime show on this Thursday featured one artist I’d already seen earlier in the week, one that I was already familiar with from before SXSW, and three acts that were completely new to me.

Mark Gordon

Before the festivities officially began, I stepped outside Latitude 30 for a quick interview with the afternoon’s co-emcee, Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Guy Spence, who gave me this quick rundown of Output Belfast’s activities over their nearly 2 weeks spent in Austin. After the interview, Generator NI Head of Programme Development Mark Gordon (pictured above) shifted our attention to the talented musicians on the lineup for the British Music Embassy stage, beginning with a late addition to the SXSW contingent from Ireland and Northern Ireland.

County Armagh singer/songwriter Conchúr White is the lead singer and main songwriter for the quickly emerging Northern Irish band Silences. The full band had set their sights on possibly coming to Austin in 2017, but another band’s last minute change of plans opened a slot for SXSW this year, and they decided to take advantage, even if they could only afford for White to make the trip alone. While Silences’ songs are clearly written with the intention of playing in full-band arrangement, the paradoxically delicate strength of White’s singing voice made them equally effective in solo performance. For a taste of what we heard on the St. Patrick’s day show in Austin, have a listen to White’s solo version of current single ‘There’s A Wolf’ from last year’s Reeperbahn Festival, just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/7HjRnwD6Q_s[/youtube]

A switch in the originally announced lineup for Thursday afternoon called up post-punk rockers and SXSW veterans Girls Names to play next. Mary had already caught Cathal Cully and company on Tuesday night’s Huw Stephens and PRS for Music showcase, and they somehow managed to carry their “massive wall of sound” into their daytime performance on the Thursday as well. Their initial plans included five songs scribbled onto the back of a nicked British Music Embassy poster, but the slowly-evolving nature of their music necessitated a slightly shorter set. Luckily for those of us in the crowd, truncating the set list did nothing to dilute the power and intensity of Girls Names’ signature sound.

Girls Names

Following Girls Names was another artist whose songs I’ve described as evolutionary in the past, David C Clements (pictured at top). I was nothing short of thrilled to see Clements take the British Music Embassy stage with a full band to play through songs from his recent and long-anticipated debut album ‘The Longest Day in History’. His performance on the day didn’t disappoint, beginning with latest single ‘Hollywood’ and rounding off with the spine-tingling gospel tinge of ‘Hurricane’. After the set, I had a nice chat with Clements, which you can eavesdrop on right back here.

CL tape

CL and LA

I’d already seen and interviewed the ginger-bearded Ciaran Lavery on the Monday night Trackd showcase, but his Thursday set for Output Belfast was markedly different, and particularly memorable, for two reasons. Before he even began, Lavery was apparently cursed by Murphy’s Law rather than blessed by Irish luck; when he attempted to step on stage for his soundcheck, he somehow managed to split his trousers up one leg “from knee to crotch”, as he would describe it. He seemed to take the incident in good stride, joking about the silver gaffa tape holding his trousers together during the banter between songs. But despite the rather obvious tape job, Lavery’s trousers were largely forgotten when he started to sing, especially when he was joined onstage by a surprise special guest, Nashville singer/songwriter Liza Anne. Lavery and Liza Anne performed a handful of songs in harmonious duet before I realized where I’d seen her before, opening for David Ramirez in Phoenix last November.

Jealous of the Birds

The final act onstage as afternoon made its way into evening was Portadown songstress Naomi Hamilton, perhaps better known by her stage moniker Jealous of the Birds. Hamilton’s flair for the dramatic was made evident right away in her striking and beautiful appearance, but her songs were the real star of the performance, enchanting the late day crowd at the British Music Embassy and putting her squarely on our radar here at TGTF. We’ll be on the lookout for Jealous of the Birds’ debut LP ‘Parma Violets’ on the 6th of May, but in the meantime, you can feast your eyes on her new video for ‘Goji Berry Sunset’, just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/8rED0XiO93c[/youtube]

Keep your eyes here for our reviews of Thursday night’s happenings at SXSW, along with interviews and coverage from the Friday and Saturday of that week, all upcoming in the days ahead.

 

Live Review: David Ramirez with Liza Anne at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 4th November 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 11th November 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Last Wednesday night, I trekked once again to downtown Phoenix for a gig at the intimate and all-but-hidden Valley Bar, which is quite literally nestled in a back alley between a couple of sandwich shops. The rainy weather didn’t stop a steady crowd from trickling into the venue, and before the gig started, I heard several punters chatting about the headliner, Texas alt-country songwriter David Ramirez, having obviously heard him or seen him live before. I, myself, was less familiar, having been turned on to Ramirez’s music after seeing a Tweeted recommendation of his latest single from none other than Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody. I spent the two-hour drive to Phoenix from Tucson listening to Ramirez’s latest album ‘Fables’ via Apple Music, and it was just the thing to whet my appetite for the evening’s headliner at the Valley Bar.

Liza Anne

Lest I get too far ahead of myself, let’s start not with Ramirez, but with his guest on the night, Atlanta native singer/songwriter Liza Anne. Her tunes are the kind of starkly melancholic neo-folk I might have predicted, but with the added twist of prominent vocal harmonies provided by backing vocalists Sam Pinkerton and Molly Parden. Liza Anne’s opening set, which included haunting echoes of melody from her recent LP ‘Two’, had a cool, aloof edge despite its emotional lyrics that would prove to be in sharp contrast to Ramirez’s viscerally organic Americana style.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/LExYeHF-ypk[/youtube]

Because I was fairly unfamiliar with Ramirez, I decided to stick to the standard policy of shooting photos only during the first three songs of the set, leaving myself free to enjoy the latter part of the show uninterrupted. And though I missed a few classic photo opportunities later on when Ramirez’s band was in full swing, I’m convinced that I made the right decision. Ramirez’s intensity on stage was hypnotic, and his band played with the kind of paradoxically effortless energy that can only happen when you’re playing with your “best friend(s) in the world”, as Ramirez would preface his introduction of each band member.

David Ramirez 3

To my surprise (and mild dismay), Ramirez started his lengthy headline set with two of the songs I knew best from ‘Fables’, namely ‘New Way of Living’ and ‘Harder to Lie’, the latter of which has been firmly planted in my head ever since the night of the show. He scattered songs from ‘Fables’ throughout the set, interspersing them with several older tracks that caught my attention, especially ‘The Bad Days’ from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’. Not knowing the songs well enough to sing along, I was nonetheless delighted to be in the front row, alternately tapping my toes and swaying my hips to the band’s infectious rhythmic momentum. Ramirez’s alt-country style has perhaps a bit more country twang than I usually like, but the rough honesty of his singing voice and the integrity of his stylistic devotion to foundational country rock were quite simply captivating.

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

The crowd were quiet at the beginning of the set, but slowly warmed up as Ramirez and his band went to work under the hot stage lights. Interaction was stilted at first, but the punters gradually got brave enough to respond to Ramirez’s banter. At one point, a cheeky request was made for a song called ‘Wandering Man’, and while Ramirez didn’t commit to it in the moment, he did play the song at the very end of his set, and it was clearly a longtime live favourite, featuring not only a rousing verse-chorus-verse, but also an extended bridge section where each of the instrumentalists on stage had a chance to show off his chops. Ramirez himself actually took this opportunity to exit the stage and head to the bar for a shot, with which he toasted the crowd before tossing it back and finishing the song with a blinding flourish.

Breathless from the frenzy of the final tune, I headed out to the lobby where the merch table was located. There I picked up a proper physical copy of ‘Fables’ and had the opportunity for quick hellos and handshakes with the band members before I headed out in the rain to drive back east to Tucson, while they headed west for the next stops on their current U.S. tour. Before I drove away, I took a moment to Tweet my own ringing recommendation to a friend in California, who would see Ramirez play a solo show on the following Sunday night.

The previous Gary Lightbody endorsement had been graciously received and reciprocated by Ramirez on Twitter, where he surely found a small legion of Snow Patrol fans (including myself!) among his new listeners, though Ramirez’s musical style is clearly more on the Americana-leaning Tired Pony end of the Lightbody spectrum. Ramirez might gain even more traction from Lightbody’s recommendation after the start of the new year, when he is scheduled to play a single live date on the 28th of January at Hoxton Square in London. A full listing of Ramirez’s upcoming live dates, including more U.S. shows with Liza Anne, can be found on his official Web site.

David Ramirez set list

 
 
 

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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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