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SXSW 2018: Friday night at Canada House, Communion Presents, a Fluffer Pit party and more – 16th March 2018 (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 4th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Following an interview at the Omni that went swimmingly well, I skipped in dinner in favour of starting my evening strong at Canada House at Swan Dive. The venue’s two stages were taken over by Montreal’s two biggest music events on their calendar, POP Montreal and M is for Montreal. Though I arrived too late to see buzzed about Montreal rock band Corridor on the outdoor M is for Montreal stage, I did get a drink token and could settle in to watch fellow Montrealians Bodywash, friends who met at McGill University. They play a hybrid between shoegaze and synthpop, with dreamy vocals and a rich wall of guitars. Quite lovely.

I popped outside to catch a few songs from another synth-driven act from Montreal, Anemone (real name Chloe Soldevila) and her backing band. She’s the second signee to Luminelle Records, a new venture between the Gorilla vs. Bear blog and Fat Possum Records. Luminelle will be releasing her EP ‘Baby Only You & I’, featuring the sweetly seductive echoes of the title track.

Anemone Friday 2 Friday at SXSW 2018 at SXSW 2018

Back on the indoor stage at Swan Dive were Motel Raphael, three ladies who GQ UK anointed some years back as “the most exciting band to come out of Montreal since Arcade Fire.” A heady compliment indeed, and one entirely deserved. While successful, all-female harmonising groups are nothing new – consider Wilson Phillips, the Dixie Chicks and more recently, The Staves – I really don’t think there are enough of them in the public eye, and Motel Raphael are the kind of band young girls interested in becoming musicians need as role models. I was impressed with their vocal range on their songs that sat more on the folky singer/songwriter side of the spectrum, as well as those in a more straightforward, bright pop vein.

Motel Raphael Canada House Friday 2 at SXSW 2018

Friday was also an opportunity to see some friends in action. On that note, I was headed to what I knew would be a crowded showcase, Communion’s annual tradition of taking over St. David’s main room. Second on the Communion Presents lineup for the evening was rising Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy, with TGTF friend Micheal Quinn of Meltybrains? on drums. Along with SXSW, Kennedy was in the States for a series of shows, many of which sold out even before he set foot on American soil.

Dermot Kennedy Friday at SXSW 2018

Melding the popular genre of hip-hop like that of Drake with the evocative singer/songwriters like Glen Hansard who has become a friend, he offers an olive branch to fans of both types of music with his heart-on-his-sleeve type, accessible writing. As fans thunderously applauded him in the church following his last song of the night, I was reminded that watching a star in the making is a priceless moment. I had every intention of staying for part of Sam Fender’s set that followed Kennedy’s, but the stage was running so behind schedule, I decided I better make a move to my next destination.

I had never witnessed a Fluffer Pit party, but it was high time that I did. They had taken over both stages of Barracuda and I hadn’t been aware that there were two entrances to the place. I was so used to passing from one stage to the other through the internal door separating them. It seemed to take forever but I finally gained admittance through the alley door to the Barracuda backyard in the midst of The Wedding Present’s set.

Instead of having the artists perform on the stage, the ‘stage’ had moved to the gravelly ground, with the audience watching the talent in the round around them. Ironically or not, I had heard them playing ‘Kennedy’ (“too much apple pie”) and bopped my head to it when I was still in the queue outside. I entered just as they were just able to break into my favourite Wedding Present track ‘Brassneck’. What a difference from the Seven Grand show the previous night, under weird blue lighting and the pretension of a whisky bar. This was a much more appropriate venue for them.

LIFE Friday at SXSW 2018

The same could be said about TGTF friends LIFE, who appeared next on the Fluffer Pit bill. Hull’s finest were ready to enthrall the crowd with their politically charged numbers with plenty of welly. They appeared in Austin for the first time last year for SXSW 2017, and now they were back with debut album ‘Popular Music’. It was great to let loose with th’ lads as Mez Sanders-Green led the band through riotous tune after tune. You really haven’t lived if you haven’t shout-sang along to ‘Ba Ba Ba’ or ‘Rare Boots’ and headbanged until you couldn’t headbang any more. So that I would still be able to nod in the morning, I said goodbye to dear friends and re-emerged into the Austin night for something slightly more chill.

I next had to choose between Polish psych and Seattle synthpop. After the sweat and workout at the Fluffer Pit party with LIFE, I decided I could do with a nice, soft cushioned seat and a drink. To avoid the mayhem ensuing on 6th Street, I chose Sisters at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. Formerly the Wednesday night home of Music From Ireland, it was nice to revisit a place I’d come to regularly. Friday night, it played host to the Public Access Touring and Superior Music Publishing showcase.

Andrew Vait and Emily Westman are a synthpop duo with a difference. Given their academic backgrounds, that’s not surprising: they both were schooled at University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, which probably explains Vait’s onstage flute-playing and his squeals of guitar, sometimes in the same song. While they weren’t playing to a big room of people, Sisters didn’t let that bother them, putting on an energetic set punctuated by Westman’s big, booming drumbeats and her and Vait’s combined vocals.

 

SXSW 2018: bouncing back Thursday night with the Reeperbahn Festival and different genres – 15th March 2018 (Part 3)

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

After removing my wet clothes and hanging them up in ingenious ways off of various pieces of furniture in our hotel room so to not block Carrie’s entry, I returned into the Austin night, buoyed by the brilliance of one Benji Lewis from Australia. There’s been an incredible buzz about Hamburg rapper Ace Tee (say that slowly, and you’ll get it…) and given my good experiences at Friends, I thought I’d stop in at the Reeperbahn Festival showcase there and have a look-in at her and her rhymes.

Not sure what happened with her appearance, but definitely an Oriental woman and not a German-African one was onstage by the time I arrived at Friends. Apparently all the Koreans in the bar knew CIFIKA would be appearing. The twenty-something is an underground favourite back home in South Korea, and she’s spending quite a bit of time in our country post-SXSW on what Billboard has called the longest headline tour of the U.S. by a Korean act ever. None too shabby. An accomplished producer, her electronic creations are already being compared to those of Bjork. And yes, people. She does all her own music. Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp?

CIFIKA Thursday at SXSW 2018

I popped next door to B.D. Riley’s to get a taste of another band from Asbury Park, New Jersey, Dentist, starring husband and wife team Justin and Emily Bornemann. I wondered what kind of people would name themselves after the most unfairly maligned member of the medical community. Instead of making you feel as uncomfortable as if you’re having a root canal, the music of Dentist is actually pretty surf-y. Their quick-moving songs with right-sounding guitars with echoey vocals from Emily sounded like having an ice cream by the beach on a sunny day. Which is pretty impressive, considering I saw them in the dead of night at 10:30 PM.

Dentist Thursday at SXSW 2018

What’s nice about every SXSW is that almost every band plays more than once, so you can see them again if you wish. As mentioned in my review of them performing Wednesday afternoon at German Haus, psych rockers Blackberries revel in doing something different than you would expect from a German band in the 21st century. As the band format is increasingly endangered, we need to support bands like them so we have them making music. Carrie would probably be fine with everyone being solo singer/songwriters going forward, but I’m not!

Blackberries Thursday at SXSW 2018

The Happy Happy Birthday to Me showcase at Seven Grand was running behind schedule, which made my waiting for my intended act longer. I tried to get a brief moment of shut-eye before being admonished by bar staff that “it looks bad” if someone is asleep in a bar. Because I look like I’m drunk? Or because it looks like who you’ve got on is boring? The inexplicably named duo Eureka California from Athens, Georgia, blasted through song after punishing song. They’re so punk, I don’t think they ever introduced themselves. Or maybe they did, and I couldn’t hear them doing it?

David Gedge of the Wedding Present at SXSW 2018

Despite a lengthy soundcheck, during which the bartenders behind me made fun of the vocal checks, I wasn’t disappointed when The Wedding Present finally took the stage. David Gedge is an elder statesman and ambassador of British indie rock now, a position he seems to revel in with all of the live performances he’s willing to put himself and his band through. (Check out my interview with The Gedge just prior to SXSW 2018 through here.) Considering their popularity, it felt odd that they were playing such a small club, and to so few people. To be fair, these were 50 or so uber fans who had appeared near midnight to see them at the Seven Grand, and they were rewarded by having the opportunity to be up close and personal with the band. Chalk up another point for SXSW.

Because of the stage delays at the Seven Grand, I had to leave in the middle of their set to make my way down to the Velveeta Room in time to catch Music from Ireland’s last act of the evening. I somehow missed the mysterious Talos (pronounced “TAH-los”) from Cork at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016, so I was trying to make up for lost time. Seems like caught him at a good time, as it appears he’s making traction here in America. Or, at least, he’s made some superfans in Texas who were plying his backing band with beers?

Talos Thursday at SXSW 2018

The beguiling strains of synths with Eoin French’s gentle, emotional falsetto on the sweeping ‘Odyssey’ proved to be a mesmerising combination. Some young ladies down the front at the venue looked like they were about to faint. (If you wondering, yes, French is quite the looker and seems to be poised to sneak into that cute, yet scruffy Irish boy spot once occupied by Kodaline.) With the added backing of a full live band, the Talos sound is one of bombast, of eye-opening ambition. I am always amazed by the music that comes out of Ireland. I’m sure I’ve said it before: the Irish have faced so much hardship, so much oppression, so many tears. And yet they are able to write and sing some of the most beautiful music ever created. For more photos from my Thursday night at SXSW, visit my Flickr.

 

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

 
By on Wednesday, 7th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

This year, only Carrie and I have been available to write content for the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018. Being short-handed, we decided to consider trends in who was being invited from the UK and let what we found direct our previews on the artists coming over from the UK to Austin.

One thing we found unusual about this year’s shouts is that quite a few bands and artists we’ve previewed and indeed, some who actually saw in Austin at a recent SXSW, have been invited back. DIY punks LIFE (Hull), Shame (London) and IDLES (Bristol) will be laying waste at their appearances at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 on Monday night, Thursday afternoon, and Thursday afternoon and night, respectively. Could it be that SXSW and the BME are banking on a repeat on their breathless, exciting, uncontainable performances last year? Could be.

Also coming round for a victory lap in Texas will be Glasgow glam band Catholic Action, who have been riding high on the critical acclaim of their autumn 2017 debut album ‘In Memory Of’. [NB: I wrote about them and 3 other acts in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, which you can read here.] Female-fronted trio Doe, who also wowed crowds last year at the DIY showcase on the first night of festivities at the BME, will be making a return appearance, this time gracing the stage of Latitude 30 Wednesday afternoon. Longtime indie stalwarts The Wedding Present, helmed by David Gedge, will also be coming back to Austin, having in previous editions of SXSW. Whether they’ll make another surprise appearance in a bike shop, we’ll have to see.

This is not to say that the UK isn’t sending a whole raft of new and great rock talent to entertain us next week. On the DIY punk front, Glasgow’s Breakfast Muff and Tijuana Bibles, along with London’s Goat Girl, will give you something to shout about and raise your fists to. If you prefer your rock more pop-orientated, SXSW also has you covered. Flyte, who we’ve covered for a few years here on TGTF, will be making their first appearance in Austin with their summer 2017 Island Records debut ‘The Loved Ones’ under their belt. Brighton furnishes SXSW with two exciting rock acts, The RPMs (pictured at top), who will open the Friday afternoon festivities at the BME, and the female-fronted Yonaka. You can read my SXSW 2018 preview of The RPMs through here.

Sometimes your name can make you infamous and as someone once said, any publicity is good publicity, right? London hard rockers Steak were named by local Austin culture blog do512 as having one of the best names of artists showcasing at this year’s event. Admittedly, we may have unfairly maligned some of the less Googleable band names in the past: Cabbage, College, Merchandise and Shopping, anyone? But if you’re going to bring a rock band to Texas of all places, you can’t go wrong with naming yourself after a great cut of beef. Another London band named in do512’s piece were Our Girl, the London trio fronted by Soph Nathan who were discovered, shall we say, after supporting SXSW 2015 alums Honeyblood.

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 2018 flavoured!) Interview: David Gedge of The Wedding Present (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 6th March 2018 at 1:00 pm
 

To read the first half of my interview feature with frontman David of The Wedding Present, come through.

The garden-variety band, after they’ve achieved any kind of fame, are very happy to keep on with just their music. But as should already be evident as you’ve been reading this piece, David Gedge and The Wedding Present have never been like any other band. This year, Gedge and co. will be celebrating the 10th year running of At the Edge of the Sea festival, an annual event in August curated by the band. I inquire about its origin. “We were on tour, years ago, having breakfast in a café in Yorkshire, actually, and musing about how you meet so many nice people doing what we do. Like support bands who you see day-in, day-out for a couple of weeks, but then you might never see them again. So At the Edge of the Sea was a way to invite people to Brighton, where the band’s based, so that we get to hang out with them again.”

In describing the festival, like much of this interview with him, what comes across from Gedge is a genuine warmth and excitement, and a desire to contribute to the business in a positive way, his way. So it’s no surprise he’d want to take on the hard work of having their own label, Scorpitones, which has released nearly all of The Wedding Present’s records since 2005. “Having the final say over matters concerning our releases – artistic and commercial decisions, etc. – has always been paramount within The Wedding Present and, when you have your own label, you have total control over absolutely everything. That’s the most rewarding thing. I’m not answerable to anyone.” And ultimately, that’s what all artists wish for, isn’t it?

Next week, Gedge and his band will be appearing at SXSW 2018, an event where they’ve appeared a multitude of times in past years. He revels in participating. “I like the fact that it’s just this ridiculous hotbed of activity. It’s like a crazy beehive. Bands playing in every building, people from all over the world. And Austin’s such a cool place, too.” I venture that he probably gets recognised more often than not. But he’s the kind of cool bloke who takes it all in stride. And he’s not hiding out in a VIP hotel room somewhere. “Being ‘bothered’ is something I’ve never really had a problem with. I think Wedding Present fans are generally very respectful. So yes, I’m always wandering around at SXSW.”

Who’s wowed him in Austin in the past? He even has a recommendation for us this year. “Ringo Deathstarr, who are actually from Austin, are always worth catching. We’re playing with them again this year. And I loved seeing British Sea Power, who, coincidentally, are also from Brighton. That was only a few years ago, but I was a latecomer to their music. There was also a band called Razika from Sweden, I think… [they’re actually from Bergen, Norway – Ed.] and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart were great.”


David Gedge with a comic book circa December 2015
David Gedge enjoying one of the riveting issues of Tales From The Wedding Present
(photo from the band’s Facebook)

I have a final question for Gedge. After having accomplished so much in the over 3 decades, what does he wants to be remembered for? Without hesitation, it’s “My comic book! Tales From The Wedding Present.” It may sound like an unusual response, to not have named an album or a song. But on second thought, it makes total sense. While the songs and albums are Gedge’s bread and butter, putting himself and the band’s life on the road into a serialised comic series and indulging in his personal passion for the art form is David Gedge being David Gedge. And we wouldn’t want him to be anybody else.

Many thanks to David for being such a cool dude and answering so many of my burning questions!

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Interview: David Gedge of The Wedding Present (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 5th March 2018 at 1:00 pm
 

David Gedge is, of course, known these days as the mastermind behind the The Wedding Present, an English indie rock group who have the kind of longevity most acts only dream of. But what some of you reading this might not know is that he’s a bit of a maths boffin. Or at least was back in his school days. “It *was* something that came easily to me at school, yes. I remember my friends dreading maths lessons while it all seemed pretty straight forward to me. I guess it’s the kind of subject where people either have a natural talent for it or they don’t. I was lucky! So, because having some kind of a career in music was always my primary objective, I thought I’d do mathematics at university and breeze through the course, which would then leave me plenty of time to pursue my musical ambitions. Unfortunately, it don’t work quite work out that way… the degree course was very difficult compared to the maths we did at school!”

I ask Gedge if this maths training came in handy when it came to taking a band from an idea and putting it in practice. Turns out it did. “Being in an academic establishment definitely facilitated starting a band. There were a lot of like-minded students around, so all you had to do was put up an advert in the students’ union. Whether it affected my song writing is less clear but, on balance, I think it probably did.” He’s contemplated on others’ experiences with respect to his own. “I recently read something by a member of Apples In Stereo where he was comparing writing music to a difficult mathematical problem. He said that both seem impenetrable initially but that, once you start working logically and systematically, it all becomes simpler. I can see what he means. I think the main thing that you have to remember is that the best music doesn’t always follow a logical course, though… sometimes, illogical turns and unexpected directions can enhance or improve a song. But there’s probably a mathematical model for that, too…”


School photo from The Wedding Present's Facebook
David Gedge in a school blazer, probably during the part of his childhood
when maths occupied most of this time (photo from the band’s Facebook)

The call to become a rock star can be strong for some, drawing students out of more sensible career paths. But it can also lead to kids butting heads with their parents who have very particular plans for their children. “After I left university with my maths degree, I was unemployed for a couple of years. I saw that time as me honing my songwriting skills and improving as a musician, but my parents just thought I was wasting my degree after all those years of studying. I can totally see why they’d think that but I don’t think they could understand the sheer amount of drive and ambition I had.”

This drive and ambition that Gedge describes is something we here at TGTF see in the many bright-eyed and bushy-tailed up-and-coming acts that grace our pages, but there’s no escaping that the music industry has changed a lot since The Wedding Present’s start in 1985. It’s something he’s entirely sympathetic to. “I really feel for young musicians who have the same drive that I had because there really aren’t the same financial rewards anymore. It must be incredibly frustrating to have had some success and still be struggling to make ends meet and I know that’s quite common nowadays. But I think people inevitably find a way to make it work.“ His musings return to his academic training. “The mathematician in me would say that logic dictates that people should probably use their skills in areas where they’ll reap the greatest rewards from them. But, if people are determined to follow their dream, they’re usually prepared to make huge sacrifices so they wouldn’t listen to me anyway… in the same way that I didn’t listen to my parents!

The artists of today are part of a dynamic, internet-led ecosystem very different to the one that Gedge’s band first found themselves in. I cannot resist posing a question to him about, arguably, his band’s most famous fan, of whom Gedge speaks fondly of. “For a band like The Wedding Present, by which I mean of the ‘alternative’ or ‘indie’ variety, John Peel was of absolutely paramount importance during the ‘pre-Internet’ era. He played ‘our type of music’ on national radio – the BBC, no less – and he was known throughout the world. So we all sent him our records and demo tapes and then waited anxiously to see what he did with them. And, if he played some of your music on the radio, you’d have a much better chance of making more, as well as getting concerts and articles in the music press and so forth.”

He admits, though, that as the saying goes, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. “So he was almost too important, in a way. It was kind of unfortunate that all those bands’ hopes and dreams lay in the hands of just one man. Having said that, he had great taste and didn’t abuse the privileged position in which he’d found himself.” But Gedge thinks the pulling back of this kind of power in today’s music business is only a good thing. “I think that’s probably for the best. I think the Internet has probably made it all a bit more democratic and fairer.”

The Wedding Present album cover

Speaking of cyberspace and technological advances, the songwriter on the whole has positive words on how things have evolved since the release of The Wedding Present’s debut album ‘George Best’ 30 years ago. “It’s completely changed they way I write, arrange, record, promote and sell music and I feel fortunate to be in an industry that’s gone through so many often perplexing and yet continually inspiring phases. As I said earlier, it’s a lot harder, nowadays, to make any money from recorded music but, at the same time, I just watched Mike Oldfield performing ‘Tubular Bells’ on a BBC programme from the mid 1970s on YouTube and the teenage me would have killed to have had access to something like that!”

The Wedding Present has an awe-inspiring catalogue, some of which can be found on the aforementioned YouTube. Gedge enjoys the variety he’s able to tap into night after night. “I enjoy playing different songs for different reasons. Something like ‘End Credits’ or ‘Flying Saucer’ is exciting to play live because it’s basically thrashy rock and roll, but then I also like the dynamics of some of the ‘Seamonsters’ tracks. And I love playing Cinerama songs with a string section and brass. Actually, we played Going, Going… live with strings and a choir in London recently and that was perhaps my favourite concert ever.” What’s far more difficult, he confesses, is guessing which of their songs will be a hit. “It always kind of surprises me which songs listeners prefer. When we were arranging ‘Kennedy’, I was thinking, ‘This is has got B-side all over it!’ But it has proved to be one of the most popular tracks with fans and critics, whereas something like ‘Boo Boo’ – of which I’m *really* proud – goes unnoticed! So what do I know?!”

Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview feature, which will post tomorrow on TGTF.

 
 
 

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