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SXSW 2012: Day 4 – around the world in one afternoon on Sixth Street and Latitude 30 – 16th March 2012

By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2012 at 1:00 pm

Only at SXSW can you manage to travel to multiple countries in a span of a couple hours. Well, not literally of course, but it is possible to see bands from many different corners of the globe in one afternoon. I achieved this in just hours on the club-filled Sixth Street, followed swiftly by the Discovering Scotland showcase at Latitude 30. Sixth Street is every bit as legendary as the tourist trap t-shirts that advertise its amazingness. Everywhere you turn, you will either run into a band hanging out, playing a gig in a club with the doors wide open, busking on the corner, etc. etc. etc. It really is like a Disneyland for gig-goers. To get inside the venues, you’ll need a wristband like I had or a music badge. But if you were a local and had neither, you’d probably be just as happy walking up and down the street, stopping wherever you heard some music blaring out of a club you like.

And sometimes you just want to walk around and see what’s on offer. The loud, punky guitars emanating from Spill Bar, which turned out to be M for Montreal’s home for the week. But in the meantime, Spill was playing host to a Planet Quebec showcase, and I’d stumbled in right smack dab in the middle of Machinegun Suzie’s set. I’ll admit, my planned schedule didn’t include me specifically seeking out hard rocking bands, let alone female hard rocking ones. This Canadian Web site describes them as being purveyors of stoner-rock, which I don’t really agree with. The Montreal band basically play as loud and as fast as humanly possible, best typified by the song ‘Bad Stripper’, with all the instruments up to 11. They’re the kind of band my mum would be afraid of me liking…

I got a little tired of them speaking mainly in French – err, I totally get you want to talk to your countrymen, but as a frustrated American shouted in a purposely mocking, fake French accent, “I don’t know zee French, speak English!” – and went a-walking. I heard the heavy dance beats of Ishi, a Dallas dance band. I queried the doorman to ask if it was a band or a DJ in there, and he replied “DJ”, so I kept moving. Sorry to Ishi if you were actually performing in your four-piece lineup, but going on the word of the guy at the door, I didn’t feel like watching some dude scratching records. So I kept moving, mostly people watching and enjoying the sun.

After their Northern Ireland showcase appearance Wednesday night I’d been personally invited by Cashier No. 9 to watch them play the Music from Ireland showcase at Irish pub B.D. Riley’s, and after such a warm welcome from Angela Dorgan – and free Irish breakfast! – I planned to head back to the watering hole for an afternoon of bands. So after I left the PRS brunch, I arrived at the Irish pub in the middle of Squarehead’s set. A trio from Dublin who self-describes themselves on their Facebook as “JUNK POP”, they’ve got a strange name, don’t they? My guess is that ‘squarehead’ is equivalent to the American derogatory name of ‘blockhead’, but hearing their music, I’m not really sure what the connection to what they sound like is to their band name. (Very confused.) They’ve got a classic pop sound and I might have passed them by if I’d seen the names of some of their songs – ‘Midnight Enchilada’? ‘ – but if you like the sunny, surf-y mode of the Beach Boys and/or the reinterpretation via the Drums, this is the band to check out.

Next up were my dream Norn Irish line-up: General Fiasco, followed by Cashier No. 9. They played in this order the other night at the Tap Room at Six. The difference? This time they played in the best possible place for them – an Irish pub! – with the windows opened outwards towards the street. The raw, unbridled energy of both of these bands, framed by the beautiful rays of the sun, was quite a sight to behold. Seeing them play Wednesday was great, but this showcase appearance was even better, packed with people who had no doubt heard about the Wednesday night show and were curious about these groups of Northern Irish guys playing infectious pop and rock. General Fiasco gave their new song ‘Sleep’ (video below) its only second time ever live airing, and it was great – it sounded like classic GF. Well, as much as classic as you can after a great debut album and some amazing singles and EPs.

Cashier No. 9 started with the inspirational ‘Goldstar’ (video below) and their version of ‘The Lighthouse Will Lead You Out’ this afternoon dazzled even more than the other night, with percussionist and harmonica player Philip Wallace going to town with his bongos, curious folk peering into B.D. Riley’s to try and figure out what was going on. In between bands, I introduced myself to Jenny Huston, the famed RTE 2fm (Irish national) radio presenter who I’d recognised from video interviews she’d done in the past couple years at Oxegen. She was surprised and shocked I recognised her but was quite happy to hear that her interviews were getting out outside Ireland. (That they are, Jenny!) I was more than honoured when she emailed me the week following after I’d returned to DC and asked me to give my top 3 bands of SXSW (you can listen to that segment below as well).

I felt terrible leaving, but after Cashier No. 9, I needed to rush over to Latitude 30, as I’d been extended another personal invitation – by Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway, no less – to come down for the Discovering Scotland showcase. This was the second of two Scottish-themed showcases, the first being the Wednesday night Easy Tiger Patio showcase with We Were Promised Jetpacks as the headliner that I caught earlier in the week. Three Blind Wolves were just completing their set and left the stage to allow the Xcerts to set themselves up. As on Tuesday night’s Xtra Mile Recordings showcase, the Scottish rockers didn’t disappoint, with Murray Macleod belting the lyrics out as if his life depended on it. Great band live, I hope enough – and the right – people saw them in Austin and will offer them a record deal.

But I was really there to see the Twilight Sad. This band was supposed to play in Washington in DC in February, but then we got the awful news that their visas had not been approved in time and the show had been cancelled without even being rescheduled. Enjoying ‘No One Can Ever Know’ (album review here) immensely, I wanted to see it performed live. Instead of regular mike-checking (“hey hey!” “one two, one two!” “yeah YEAH!”), frontman James Graham instead recited the value of pi up to at least 10 decimal places. I lost count after a couple numbers because I was spellbound as he was saying this in his Scottish brogue. (Hot.) I don’t think I was standing in the right place – the wall of sound and guitar grinding sounded muddled to me. You can watch older song ‘And She Would Darken the Memory of Youth’ below. Sadly, I was disappointed. Also kind of sad: I was looking forward to parking my bum on a church bench that very evening. Definitely getting old.


(SXSW 2012 flavoured!) Live Review: Band of Skulls with We Are Augustines at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 24th March 2012

By on Monday, 2nd April 2012 at 2:05 pm

“We’ve waited a long time for this,” said a grinning, Russell Marsden, the long-haired, don’t take crap from no-one guitarist of Band of Skulls. He was probably referring to them finally headlining a show in Washington (my friends have advised me that they have played in DC before, supporting Metric – you work that one out), but equally as momentous for the Southampton band was selling out the venerable 9:30 Club for what was sure to be a Saturday night to remember.

Even support band We are Augustines realised the gravity of the situtation: frontman Billy McCarthy quipped, “this is a rock ‘n’ roll town…I was listening to Fugazi earlier…” Any mention of the hometown heroes, really the most famous fixture of the original 9:30 Club and not at this updated location, is sure to elicit the right kind of reaction in DC. Being from Brooklyn, their album had already been released last summer here in America, but as you all know, it’s only been recently released in Britain.

I’m positive that a good portion of the audience were eager to see if they were any good live, just coming off their first American late night network appearance on Letterman (previous Live Gig Video here); this explains how the floor was already full before they went on: usually there is plenty of breathing room before the main act plays, because people wait until the headliner is due on before shuffling in. Despite being relatively new, song ‘Pumping Blood’ went down well, with its refrain of “as long as my heart keeps pumping blood” fitting very appropriately to raring to go crowd, fists in the air, as did their namesake song and less aggressive ‘Augustine’.

Despite its subject being our traditional sport enemy in hockey, ‘Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)’, with the Augustines’ trademark heavy beats and guitars, was another highlight. Being a support band, you knew they wouldn’t play an encore, so my heart just about dropped when they neared the end of their set and McCarthy announced, “this will be our last song”, when they hadn’t bust out their British radio hit yet. I had missed them in Austin and was about to start wailing, “shaking like a leaf”. Just about. And then they broke out with ‘Chapel Song’, so I forgave them. But only partially. Maybe it was the sound system at 9:30 that night, but I was kind of disappointed in their hit single; maybe it was because I had built them up so much live in my mind, so much that I was looking forward to them more than the headliners themselves? Not sure.

If you recall, I caught Band of Skulls as the third of five acts at the Showdown on Cedar Street at SXSW being sponsored by Filter Magazine and American Rag. I had been given the opportunity to see both bands at a regular gig on my first night in Austin but I thought I’d be able to give it better attention if it was after I returned home. Picture the Skulls in your mind on stage at Cedar Street Courtyard: clad all in black and hair flying every which way, playing their hearts out, while the Texan suns beats down on them. A little weird, you might say. And you’d be right. So under ‘normal’ club lighting, they seemed back in their element and also genuinely glad to be performing on front of a sold-out crowd.

At first, I had some reservations going to this show: being a single woman and going alone, I was expecting to be surrounded by tough guys who own Harleys. Much to be surprise and delight, this show (unlike so many in DC) was age, color and gender blind, as people of all walks of life shook their bodies, banged their heads and reveled in the hard rock being played before them. Even more surprising to me were how many people knew Band of Skulls’ old material; with our rock stations here not giving play to any indie rock bands until they’ve won a Grammy (Mumford and Sons, Phoenix) or gotten big in the UK first (the Naked and Famous), watching people singing along – loudly and emphatically – was a shocking sight.

‘Sweet Sour’ started the night off right, allowing both Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson to sing in harmony. Or maybe the operative word should be ‘yell’? ‘Bruises’, another track from the new album, was another crowd pleaser, telling me that for sure most everyone present already had the latest album. (Here’s to hoping they all paid for it…) I come from the school of Led Zeppelin, so I will scrutinise and compare any band who dares to be as ‘hard rock’ as them. I have to say, I’m converted. ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’, which was great even in daylight at SXSW, charmed me as a down and dirty number, with a sexy as heck chorus. Holy moly.

Drummer Patrick Carney of the Black Keys were famously quoted saying, “rock ‘n’ roll is dying because people became okay with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world”. One look – or perhaps one listen – of Band of Skulls and it’s clear that even though there is never going to be another Led Zeppelin, this band from Southampton will be the Led Zeppelin for the iPod generation.

After the cut: set list.
Continue reading (SXSW 2012 flavoured!) Live Review: Band of Skulls with We Are Augustines at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 24th March 2012


(SXSW flavoured!) MP3 of the Day (and more!) #515: Slow Club

By on Monday, 2nd April 2012 at 10:00 am

Fresh off appearances at this year’s SXSW, Slow Club released their new single ‘The Dog’ (from last year’s album ‘Paradise’) last week. The b-side to the single is ‘Nothing Can Stop Us Now’, which you can listen to below, along with ‘The Dog’ on stream and video. But imagine you probably want a freebie, don’t you? We’ve got you covered. Also below is the band’s Kick Kick Snare Acoustic version, that you can listen to and download.

The Sheffield duo starts a UK tour tomorrow night at York Duchess; all the tour date details are here.

‘The Dog’:

‘Nothing Will Stop Us Now’:


SXSW 2012: Day 4 – PRS Foundation brunch at Latitude 30 (Spectrals, Dutch Uncles, D/R/U/G/S) – 16th March 2012

By on Friday, 30th March 2012 at 2:00 pm

Long before I arrived in Austin, I had worked out a schedule for each day that I expected to pretty much adhere to. Scheduling ahead, I’d already earmarked most of Friday and Saturday so I could be stationed at Latitude 30, starting with the Performing Right Society of the UK (PRS) Foundation brunch early Friday. (Early by this point of SXSW is getting out of bed and on your feet before 11 AM, which I somehow managed to do for all 5 days…) After the Polarsets interview at B.D. Riley’s Irish pub on Sixth Street, I went round the corner to Latitude 30. I was expecting to be packed in like sardines and my ID to be scrutinised, just like most of the other showcases I’d been to.

But no. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone seemed to be very chill – maybe they were all nursing hangovers from boozing the night before with large Bloody Marys? – and since I’d been given a complimentary Irish brekky at B.D. Riley’s by the lovely Angela Dorgan, CEO of Music from Ireland, I saw no reason to queue up for the free buffet. I’d been personally advised by Manchester radio personality Shell Zenner that what was on offer, such as a lentil salad, was not as “traditional British” as advertised anyway. Too bad.

By this time I’d seen enough bands to suit my fancy and felt less snubbed about not getting an invite to the official British Music Embassy party on Wednesday; besides, I’d already seen the headliner of that show, Frank Turner, on Tuesday night, and Ben Howard and the Staves were on my schedule as part of the Communion showcase Friday evening. Now, I was too excited to eat or even drink before Dutch Uncles were set to play. Having seen them playing a triumphant show in front of an appreciative hometown crowd last December, I hoped that this would be one of several gigs that would turn American music industry heads. Oddly though, I think nearly all the voices I heard at the brunch were distinctly British and further, the other British Music Embassy events I attended over the next 36 hours seemed to be full up with Brits, so I’m not really sure how effective these were in spreading the word about exciting British acts to Americans or anyone else outside Britain.

The first band on was Spectrals from Leeds. I recognised their name as being on the Field Day bill last year but knew little about them. I think whoever curated the brunch had the right idea about the order; Spectrals have a dreamy, old-time charm that worked well as the starting band to ease people from those aforementioned hangovers into a showcase. On the other hand, for someone who did not have their morning cuppa like me, I could only think that they sounded like something that might help your cat to fall asleep. Not my thing, I guess. I tried. Maybe I would have a different opinion if I wasn’t sleep deprived? I do wish to point out that Martin called their set at End of the Road last year as having a langourous tone….

Then we went from sleepytime to a manic and frantic, arms and legs flailing performance from Dutch Uncles. They hit the ground running with a blazing rendition of ‘Cadenza’, which singer Duncan Wallis later admitted to me as taking a hell lot of energy out of him to perform. This was quickly followed by ‘Dressage’, ‘X-O’, and new song ‘Nometo’ (video below). Their parting blow was emotional for me. I’d had a series of “golly gee whiz” moments in Austin, and they included this one. I can scarcely believe I had first written about Dutch Uncles in the summer of 2010, and it was a live performance of this song, ‘The Ink’, on a Huw Stephens Radio1 BBC Introducing show that pushed me to write my first piece on them. Some 18 months on, they’ve released a great album ‘Cadenza’ in 2011 and look to be releasing the next one later this year. I’m chuffed for all their successes and the fans they’ve gained in such a short time. Great set, even though their set (and all the acts performing at this brunch, actually) was way too short.

The brunch performances were rounded out by a beats heavy and delish set by D/R/U/G/S. Like Dutch Uncles, D/R/U/G/S is (are?) from Manchester. What I was confused about: I thought there were two of them, but there was clearly one man on stage. I generally don’t go for guys who are stood onstage, twiddling dials and flicking switches and THAT’S ALL they do. However, I found myself warming to this fellow, feeling my body involuntarily swaying to the marvel of beats he was producing from the various boxes and synths positioned in front of him. While it’s obviously not the traditional way to make music, I think it’s certainly a viable touring option these days. I mean, think about it. If you don’t need to carry guitars, why carry anything else if you’ve got a box that plays those guitar lines?


SXSW 2012 Video Interview: James Rudd and Mike Smith of Polarsets

By on Friday, 30th March 2012 at 1:00 pm

Polarsets are another great band from the North East that’s making waves in the indie blogosphere. They were one of my 10 new bands to watch at SXSW and I did catch them play the British Music Embassy’s Northern Day at Latitude 30 on Saturday 17 March. But the day before, I was able to corner drummer James Rudd and keyboardist / synthesist Mike Smith for a chat in Irish pub B.D. Riley’s on Sixth Street. (Singer Rob Howe was unable to participate, as he had misplaced his ID and well, we met in a pub!)

I wanted to ask them some questions, like how they manage to sound tropical even though they’re from the ‘cold’ North, about their relationship with Neon Gold Records, and how they were enjoying themselves in Austin. Watch it below. [Editor’s note: our original shooting location of Buffalo Billiards across the street was thwarted because the place doesn’t open until 12 noon. I thought with the Irish breakfast promotion, people would be eating and chatting and that would be it, but suddenly a band started up at half past 11. The best laid plans…]


(SXSW 2012 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #28: Gemma Ray

By on Friday, 30th March 2012 at 11:00 am

I unfortunately missed singer/songwriter Gemma Ray at SXSW. But the Sparks-loving songstress kindly answered our Quickfire Questions, revealing how a Santana song makes her turn on the waterworks and how a Van Morrison song was a revelation. Keep reading…

1. What song is your earliest musical memory?
The theme tune to Button Moon. [This song was written and performed by former Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and his then wife Sandra Dickinson. – Ed.]

2. What was your favourite song as a child?
Bangles – ‘Walking Like An Egyptian’

3. What song makes you laugh?
Sounds of Wonder – ‘Tafo’

4. What song makes you cry?
Santana – ‘Samba Pa Ti’. The key change in the bridge seems to directly stimulate my tear ducts without fail.

5. 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.)
Van Morrison – ‘Sweet Thing’. I simultaneously fell for both a man and the musicians playing on this recording when I first heard this album. It captured a magical, hopelessly romantic and fantastical moment of time for me when my surroundings weren’t.

6. 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.)
Any song by one of those generic indie/rock boybands with guitar hoisted up to their chins, digital synths, silly haircuts – churning out songs with no melody, chorus or class before they inevitably resign themselves to being estate agents or bankers once their gap year is up and trust funds run out.

7. Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
I don’t wish to have written anyone else’s song, though many leave me inspired to try and write one half as good. Leonard Cohen has certainly knocked many of those out in his time.

8. Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)

I don’t have one particular favourite but I am currently enjoying Kurt Vonnegut and I love the melodic and lyrically timeless brilliance of the Gershwin brothers.

9. If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I would like to have been a nurse or an archaeologist.

10. 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!)
(Who? Where????!) – Maybe some Sister Rosetta Tharpe. It may be considered just about Godly enough to sneak me through the gates, and may also get me into Rosetta’s good books so I can have occasional blast on her SG. [I’ve been told this is in reference to Tharpe’s guitar – Ed.]

Special thanks to Ellie for sorting this QQ out for us.


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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.

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