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SXSW 2015: Paradigm Agency showcase at the Parish and Ben Sherman / UKTI showcase at Latitude 30 (Thursday night part 2) – 19th March 2015

By on Tuesday, 31st March 2015 at 4:00 pm

My Thursday evening review was getting too long, so I broke it up into two parts. To read part 1 of my Thursday evening, go here.

Then it was on to underground DJ / musician haven on Red River, Plush. It is the electronic music fan’s dream: an unpretentious room where you can be as close and practically personal near the guy (or gal) on the decks in the back if you want, but it’s small enough that the thudding beats and the smooth grooves ooze into every nook and cranny of the place, there’s no bad spot in the house. You couldn’t have asked for a better place for my first time to see Rival Consoles (Ryan L. West) perform. Dressed appropriately in a Moog t-shirt, West was ready to knock some socks off and blow some minds.

I would be hard pressed to adequately describe West’s set. Through bleeps, blips, thuds and buzzes (bleeps, blips and/or thuds stretched), Rival Consoles an immersive experience and one you have to be there to experience, and it changes every night because West wants it to be a dynamic experience and not one that is limited by what you hear on his records. I also want to point out that his music, at least what I witnessed at his two shows in Austin at Plush and at the British Music Embassy the next night, weren’t solely about building crescendos and big drops.

Rival Consoles at Plush, SXSW 2015

Certainly there were those moments. But the overall feeling I got was like being before a master craftsman making his art for us, fresh. This isn’t in your face electronica ala deadmau5 or Tiesto, nor is it electronica that is so smooth, you can pretty much guess what is coming next, or just be lulled into a sense of tedium. That’s what I liked about seeing Rival Consoles the most: I was excited about the unpredictable. (Listen to my great conversation with Ryan in Austin here.)

So it was with great disappointment I had to leave early to make my way to the Parish ahead of Pennsylvania lo-fi rockers The Districts‘ set at the Paradigm Agency showcase. I wasn’t taking any chances, knowing this place was going to be completely rammed later for them and the Vaccines who followed. Perth, Australia’s San Cisco, already a household name here in America, had no trouble assembling a packed room, with plenty of punters either going wild for the young indie pop band’s music or at least bopping their heads approvingly from side to side. ‘Fred Astaire’, whose video was nominated for a 2013 ARIA (the Aussie equivalent to a BRIT award), ended their set on a schmaltzy note.

Most American bands I know of dress exactly like this – t-shirts, denim jeans, trainers – regardless of the style of their music, but in the case of the Districts, they’re the kind of band where the dress actually makes sense, because with the growly, fuzzy rock they make, you expect they must have just rolled out of a parent’s garage earlier in the day. While ‘Suburban Smell’ is a stripped back, not completely fond ode to the cookie cutter town from where they grew up, it still bears the scuzz of their sound that’s as unkempt as frontman Rob Grote’s hair. This is the appeal of their album released last month on Fat Possum Records, ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’: unpretentious, rough around the edges rock ‘n’ roll.

The Districts at SXSW 2015

The irreverence of ‘Peaches’ “in the Vatican / and oh I don’t want to hear about the bird on the hill” with its droney guitars, the oozy, woozy rhythm of ‘Young Blood’ the “need for a little romance”; the desperation of Grote’s yelps in ‘Chlorine’, with its punishing drums and oddly comforting, homey guitar bridge: it was all better than I ever could have expected. They came to DC a week later but I dared not see them again, since I’ll have this snapshot in my mind of seeing them in Austin, down the front at the Parish, as they bashed away at their kit with reckless abandon. I’ll always remember this night.

From that high, I suppose there was nowhere to go but down. Already excited about having seen the Districts, I was keen to get an equally awesome dose of the Vaccines. The Districts finished roughly at 11:40 PM, which should have given the Vaccines an ample 20 minutes to set up their gear, which included what seemed like overly lengthy guitar and drum kit soundchecks. As I waited, real estate down the front became more precious, as I felt the air being squeezed out of my lungs. For a small girl as myself, it’s not a comfortable situation to be wedged in between two larger, taller people, even if they are girls.

I gave the Vaccines another 11 minutes to sort themselves out before I was over them, extricating myself from the Parish crowd before sprinting down 6th and rounding the corner back to Latitude 30. If I wasn’t going to get my fill of ‘Handsome’ tonight, I was going to get the next best thing, seeing one of my guitar gods Carl Barat with his band The Jackals, who I assumed I’d miss entirely in Austin and this year, as it had been announced the previous week that their American tour had been cancelled. That was probably one of the best split-second decisions I made all week.

I got down the front of Latitude 30 right in the midst of the band playing a song whose words floated down my tongue with ease (“monkey asked the mouse before / if she could love anybody more than he…”); it wasn’t until I came to the next morning talking to Carrie, who had seen them Wednesday afternoon at the Floodfest showcase at Cedar Street Courtyard, that I realised it was the Libertines’ classic ‘Death on the Stairs’. It was such a long time ago…yet it’s still so great.

Carl Barat and the Jackals at British Music Embassy, Ben Sherman UKTI showcase at SXSW 2015

Though I must have arrived after they played most recent single ‘A Storm is Coming’, Carl and co. treated us to several songs from their debut album on Cooking Vinyl, ‘Let It Reign’, such as ‘War of the Roses’, the jaunty ‘Glory Days’ (to which the whole crowd seemed to be snarling the words back at Barat) and more melancholy LP closer ‘Let It Rain’. Ben Sherman and UKTI, you did good booking this band and the next.

So then it was left to the next band to end my night on a high note. Although I’ve caught them live in Newcastle (May 2013), DC (March 2014), and the night previous in Austin, this would be the first time for me to see Public Service Broadcasting at the British Music Embassy and in their wide screen, multimedia splendour. For anyone who hasn’t been to SXSW before, I really must explain that seeing a band at Latitude 30 is a treat: the sound system is usually (99%) on point and the lighting is usually fantastic too(read: you can see everyone on stage!), which means you have pretty much the optimal environment to see your favourite British band.

Public Service Broadcasting at British Music Embassy, Ben Sherman UKTI showcase at SXSW 2015

And you can’t get anymore British than Public Service Broadcasting, can you? After witnessing cuts from the new ‘The Race for Space’ album the night before, tonight I could take a couple of snaps, then just get into their music for the fun of it. With its doom and gloom sounds of air raid sirens and Churchill samples, ‘London Can Take It’ shouldn’t be such a joyous occasion, should it? It probably sounds strange coming from a Yank, but I think given the emotional context, understanding that Britain is still standing how many decades after the Blitz, we (meaning the human race, not just Britons) can look back on those times with respect and admiration because we’re still here generations later.

It’s not that PSB is necessarily glorifying war; they’re giving praise where praise is due, to the people who came before who allow us to be who we are today or, in the case of ‘Everest’ for one, showed us that we as humans could go beyond what we had thought were our mortal limitations. In that regard, ‘The Race for Space’ is similar. This is music for the thinking person. And if we can funk out to ‘Gagarin’ while celebrating the first man in space too, why not? Oh SXSW 2015, you were wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.


(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Review: The Districts with Pine Barons at Club Congress, Tucson, AZ – 11th March 2015

By on Monday, 16th March 2015 at 2:00 pm

Late winter and early spring are a busy time for music in the Tucson and Phoenix area. The weather is perfect this time of year for visiting from out of town and escaping the chill (or in some cases, the deep freeze) of winter. And because we are located just eight hours down the road along Interstate 10 from big venues in Los Angeles and San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson are excellent stopping points for bands heading from West Coast tour dates to showcases at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX. Case in point, several Austin-bound bands are on the lineup for the VivaPHX festival in Phoenix this Saturday night, including Best Coast, Geographer, 2:54, The Twilight Sad, and Honeyblood.

Tucson’s own Club Congress recently played host to SXSW 2015 showcasing bands The Dodos and Springtime Carnivore, and last Wednesday night featured two more acts on their way to Austin, Pine Barons and The Districts. These two bands are geographic neighbors, Pine Barons hailing from southern New Jersey (their name is a play on the Pine Barrens area) and The Districts now living in nearby Philadelphia. They played hole-in-the-wall Phoenix venue Last Exit Live the night before this show, and presumably found a similar dive bar vibe at Club Congress. Both bands played the kind of gritty, garage-flavoured show that will be perfect for small venue showcases at SXSW, taking the opportunity to show off their technical chops to the small but enthusiastic crowd, which included the proud grandparents of The Districts’ frontman Rob Grote.

Pine Barons at Club Congress 11 Mar 2015

The Districts’ tour mates Pine Barons are an independent band who originally distributed their self-titled debut album on their Bandcamp. Pine Barons bill themselves as a “psych-folk-harmonious-rock-and-roll band” whose influences include classic rock, folk, jazz and punk. Those influences were demonstrated most clearly in the extended instrumental sections of their songs, which featured scorching guitar riffs and wildly flailing drums. Unfortunately, their set seemed to lack focus, and on this night Pine Barons didn’t manage to display any of the charm or inventive instrumentation found in the video for their song ‘Chamber Choir’.


The Districts gave a more polished and experienced performance than their opening act, their relaxed stage presence belying their youthful age. Signed while still in high school to record label Fat Possum, The Districts made their presence known at SXSW 2014 on the strength of their self-titled debut EP. For this show, The Districts mingled songs from that EP with tracks from their recently released album ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, reviewed by editor Mary here.

New album tracks ‘Chlorine’ and ‘Hounds’ opened the headline set on a lively note, but the momentum lagged a little bit through some of the older songs. With long, drawn out instrumental intros and very little banter between songs, I found it difficult to stay engaged, and the band members’ frenetic energy translated into a regrettable tendency to turn their backs to the audience while playing.

The Districts at Club Congress 11 March 2015

For his part, Grote used the small stage at Club Congress to his advantage, at one point perching on the drum ledge and jumping back down into the spotlight. But the lazy, growling drawl of his vocal delivery didn’t translate well through the sound system at Club Congress, which instead favoured the heavily distorted guitars. The vocals were more centered in quieter track ‘Funeral Beds’, where Grote’s harmonica added a welcome touch of warmth to the sound. Foregoing an encore on this Wednesday night, the band still ended the show on a high note with the new album’s lead single ‘4th and Roebling’ and fan favourite ‘Young Blood’.

The Districts at Club Congress 11 March 2015

Pine Barons are scheduled to play Rachael Ray’s Feedback House showcase at SXSW on Thursday the 19th of March at Stubb’s BBQ. The Districts’ new album ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’ is out now on Fat Possum Records. After their scheduled appearances at this year’s SXSW including Thursday night the 19th of March at the Parish, the band will tour the UK and Ireland in April and May. Previous TGTF coverage of The Districts is right this way.


(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Album Review: The Districts – A Flourish and a Spoil

By on Tuesday, 3rd February 2015 at 1:00 pm

At merely ages 19 and 20, young Pennsylvania band The Districts could be said they’re living the dream. Having formed in 2009 while all their band members were in high school, I doubt any of them would have imagined 5 years later they would be signed to famed Mississippi indie label Fat Possum Records. Now they’re starting 2015 strong with the release of their newest album to the world. It’s with much relief that ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, which was recorded in Minnesota and produced, engineered and mixed by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans), manages to retain all the rough edges of the band that made ‘The Districts’ EP such an untamed joy in early 2014.

The album starts with a fine buildup in the form of earlier revealed track and lead single ‘4th and Roebling’, named for the Brooklyn intersection where the band happened to park their van the first time they ever played in the city. The song itself is a mournful yearning for a lover who has changed, or perhaps even a life that no longer exists. Yet despite its sadder, more pensive moments as ably emote emoted by frontman Rob Grote, it’s an engaging listen and a clear standout, with its driving rhythm, masterful guitar and its stompathon style conclusion. Though ‘lo-fi slacker’ could be used to some extent to describe the Districts’ chosen style of instrumentation, their ability to put both melancholy and rage on show in the same song – and convincingly – sets them apart from many of their singer/songwriter and band contemporaries. Grote charms his way through rhythmically upbeat number ‘Peaches’, which has already caught the eyes and ears of American late night tv presenter Jimmy Fallon, no doubt for its indie rock catchiness. Later on in the line-up, ‘Bold’ shows off the band’s psychedelic leanings, as the drum beats vibrate and the guitars wail, their lines bending with effects.

A few songs on this album tell of just how hard growing up can be. The atmospheric drums and guitars on standout ‘Chlorine’ boom a nostalgic feeling throughout as Grote’s voice oozes in the chorus, “it’s such a shame / nobody’s feeling it now / it’s not that way anymore”; in the background, a tambourine shakes almost solemnly. Shortest track ‘Suburban Smell’ sees Grote coming to terms with leaving behind their suburban childhood in the sleepy town of Lititz, Pennsylvania they used to call home. Although Grote sings, “he’s sick of that suburban smell” and “16 houses on every street”, the song is performed in such an tender acoustic style, as if an acknowledgement that we all come from a beginning that was humbler than what we become and even if our childhood moments weren’t always the best, we will always have those memories. Considering their relative youth compared to other bands in the business, such observations for a time period that was not so far in the past seem incredibly astute and are refreshing.

Listeners who hold tight to the end of the album are rewarded with two great tracks. At nearly 9 minutes, ‘Young Blood’ is like a multi-act play, with a fun part one, a jammy instrumental bridge, and an even more fun, raucous conclusion with excellent guitar licks. Lo-fi ‘6 AM’, which closes out ‘A Flourish…’, includes the refrain of “all we are is all we are / and still I will become / all I am and what I thought I can’t become.” As the words are repeated and repeated, seeming more desperate as the song goes on, there is a sad poignancy in the resignation of Grote’s loneliness, of life being ‘it is what it is’. For kids of all ages who feel lost and abandoned, either by boy/girlfriends and/or society, this song will resonate with them. There is an rawness and honesty with ‘6 AM’ and the Districts. They have heart. Nothing is contrived here. If I were a betting woman, I’d say based on the strength of this album, The Districts are on the verge of becoming massive.


‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, the second album from The Districts, will be out on the 9th of February on Fat Possum Records. After their scheduled appearance at this year’s SXSW, the band will be touring the UK and Ireland in April and May.


(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Gig Video: The Districts perform ‘Suburban Smell’ and ‘4th and Roebling’ for La Blogotheque

By on Thursday, 29th January 2015 at 4:00 pm

In this lovely Take Away show from those French masters La Blogotheque, Pennsylvania growly indies the Districts perform two cuts from their upcoming album for Fat Possum Records, ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, which sees the light of day on the 9th of February. You’ll recognise ‘4th and Roebling’, the lead single from the upcoming LP, performed as the sun sets by a canal. ‘Suburban Smell’, performed acoustically alone by frontman Rob Grote, gets its first airing in this video as well. Watch the performances below.

Stay tuned for my review of ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, which will post soon here on TGTF. For our past coverage on the Lititz band, go here. The Districts are scheduled to perform at this year’s SXSW.


The Districts / April and May 2015 UK/Irish Tour

By on Thursday, 4th December 2014 at 8:00 am

The Districts from Pennsylvania will be in the UK and Ireland for a few dates in the spring. They will be touring in support of new album ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, out on the 9th of February 2015 on Fat Possum Records. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Friday the 5th of December.

Stream new LP single ‘4th and Roebling’ under the tour dates. Previous Districts coverage on TGTF is here.

Monday 27th April 2015 – Brighton Green Door Store
Wednesday 29th April 2015 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Thursday 30th April 2015 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Saturday 2nd May 2015 – Dublin Academy 2


Video of the Moment #1528: The Districts

By on Wednesday, 28th May 2014 at 6:00 pm

Pennsylvania band The Districts have released a new promo video for ‘Rocking Chair’, off their kicking self-titled album released on Fat Possum I reviewed for TGTF back in January. (Read all about the EP here.) Fantasy? Blair Witch Project? A little bit of both? Or not? Watch the video below.



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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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