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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: Day 2 – Scottish Music Industry Association showcase at Easy Tiger Patio – 14th March 2012

 
By on Monday, 26th March 2012 at 3:00 pm
 

With my previous music festival experiences, time proved to be my greatest enemy. At SXSW this year, I found a new foe: distance. While I’m a native Washingtonian and our town ranks in the top 10 of most walkable American cities, even I was flagging after day 2 in Austin. When you’re subsisting on less than 4 hours of sleep per night, dehydrated and hungry, all signs point to you not crossing the road to meet Adam (Duritz of Counting Crows, whose name was on a sign I spotted in the airport the afternoon I arrived but sadly did not accidentally run into at baggage claim). After a brief respite sat on Cashier No. 9’s guitar cases, sitting out in a fenced in section outside Tap Room at Six after the Northern Irish showcase there, my next stop was Easy Tiger Patio on the east side of town to catch the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) showcase. Predictably, the place was already near full and rammed with people of varying stages of inebriety. Wending my way through the crowd was about as simple as walking through quicksand; I’m also not a fan of people smoking during gigs and I guess because it really was a patio covered by a tarp, smokers thought it was still outdoors enough to light up. Ugh.

I could hear (and liked what I heard) but could not see Three Blind Wolves playing. By the time I got halfway up towards the front of the stage, their set was over and the sea of punters parted, many of them dashing over to meet the band off the side of the stage. Now’s the chance to get down the front for a band I was dying to see at SXSW and expect to also catch at the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City this year, Django Django. I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know they were Scottish until I saw them listed on this showcase’s line-up, but I should be forgiven, seeing that it’s not like their music is all about tartan flag waving? While they set up, they looked like four average blokes from anywhere. Three days later I saw them wearing football kit, leaning over bar tables and getting drunk during a Slow Club set. They looked like ordinary punters…

But then they changed into outfits that could make you believe they were male nurses from Planet Cheeto. How unusual! I hope I’m not the only person making note of their stage clothes: it reminds you just how unique Django Django are. They have this dance vibe that underlies some great harmonies and guitar riffs harkening back to the great California rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s (think the Byrds and the Eagles); the combination sounds unsettling on paper but somehow resolves into this extremely tight and fun unit live.

The atmosphere was amazing for ‘Skies Over Cairo’; I’m positive there’s never been such an enjoyable dance party in the Egyptian capital. Their set was unfortunately cut short due to a curfew, so shockingly they didn’t play ‘Default’ but they ended instead with ‘Wor’, complete with its warning sirens and surf-y guitar riffs not heard since the Surfaris (watch it below). YES. That’s it. I’m plastering myself on their appearances in Brighton and Liverpool in May.

So after the brill party atmosphere of the Djangos were the actual headliners of the Scottish showcase, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and I felt their set was a bit of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, I thought they sounded great and the fans were certainly up for it, going completely manic for Adam Thompson’s impressive showing with the vocals for ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’. But they couldn’t elicit the same kind of energy Django Django could. Also detracting from the performance was a very pissed woman whose mates kept bumping into the new friends I made, not caring that they were being completely obnoxious. The woman was so drunk, she kept testing the invisible line separating stage and band from the crowd. At one point, she stepped onstage and her boyfriend was taking a photo of her “with” guitarist Michael Palmer, who was trying to do his job and play and really wasn’t having any of it, giving her bunny ears; later, he yelled at her to shut up and “back off”. Not wise to anger a Scotsman!

I’m sure you can tell from this portion of the review that I was really cheesed off by these few bad apples ruining the show; part of me wondered about the ambience at the Lionel Richie show at the Moody Theatre on the west side of town, where the Austin City Limits tv programme is filmed, taking place at that very moment and if I’d made the wrong choice. (Turns out Kenny Rogers showed up as a special guest. Humph…) But I’m glad I caught the Djangos when I did. Further, after the showcase was over, I went over to thank Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway (pictured above introducing the Jetpacks) for having a hand in putting the show together but was quickly steered clear that Stuart Thomas of the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) was really the man to thank.

Then, all of a sudden, Planet Cheeto’s drummer Dave Maclean of Django Django showed up and we were chatting away. In these electronic times, it’s all too common for bands, radio folks and bloggers never to meet in person even if they know of each other over the internet; as a blogger, it’s a rare treat to put names with faces and make new friends in places like SXSW. It’s moments like these when I really treasure and come to full realisation how lucky I am to be able to do what I do in my free timeVic and Stuart hoped I’d come out to their Discovering Scotland show, part of the British Music Embassy programming on Friday afternoon, and I promised I’d try my best. So after receiving Scottish hugs and thank yous all around, I went home to rest my weary head on my pillow, smile on my face. Tomorrow was another big day in Austin.

 

Bands to Watch #207: Three Blind Wolves

 
By on Monday, 28th March 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

Glasgow has seen a number of indie bands form in the past few years including Glasvegas, Dananananaykroyd and Frightened Rabbit. Now it sees host to something new: Three Blind Wolves, a four piece who state their influences as “the great outdoors” and who write beautiful music. They’ve just signed to Communion Records.

It’s hard to pin this band down to sounding like something. If I were one for pigeonholing I would say that they are a lot like, well, any indie band that has come out of the UK in the last 2 years. But I think I would be selling this band short if I did so. There is something quintessentially different about this band: you can hear a hint of bluegrass, a touch of folk, but overall a hell of a lot of balls. When I first listened to ‘Emily Rose’ (which you can listen to and download for your very own below), I thought to myself, have Mumford and Sons completely changed what they are going for, or have I discovered something very different? With the crest of the new folk phase of last year almost over, maybe Three Blind Wolves have arrived a bit late to latch on to the hype.

They go from sounding a lot like an early Bombay Bicycle Club to sounding like fellow Glaswegians Dananananaykroyd, and that’s just in one song. The use of four-part harmonies are fantastic and really give the music a sense of atmosphere. It’s obvious that this band would not look out of place plying their trade around campfires, or on a stage at Glastonbury. That said, there is still a long way for this band to go, they definitely need exposure and to get that they may have to go down the Mumford and Sons route of massive choruses and banjos! What is in store for them next? Well, that’s for us to wait and see.

 
 
 

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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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