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CMW 2016: Music is Great Britain UK Trade and Investment showcase Saturday night – 7th May 2016

 
By on Thursday, 26th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

You know that phrase, “loud enough to wake the dead”? Saturday night at Canadian Music Week 2016 may not have been all that loud, but it was definitely the most crowded night out in town, with plenty of locals out and about to lend a party atmosphere. It sure was very cold and windy, making me wonder whilst wearing my hat and gloves if the dearly departed residents of St. James’ church cemetery near my accommodation for the week were rattling around in their graves.

When it comes to the elements, I consider myself reasonably hearty stock if dressed appropriately, having faced wind and driving rain in my face on many occasions in the UK. However, following along in a theme that has repeated in most everywhere in North America this spring, it was just too damn cold Saturday night. In stark contrast, I saw The Spook School play an early set at the Garrison that afternoon when it was sunny and bright, and I had wished we could have bottled that poppy sunniness and used an atomizer over the entire chilly week of CMW 2016.

The Spook School CMW 2016 Garrison Saturday

My plans for the last night of CMW 2016 would take place solely and in one of the nicer clubs in all of Toronto. Velvet Underground on Queen Street would be seeing out the festival in style, thanks to a ‘Music is Great Britain’-branded showcase put on by UK Trade and Investment. The first two bands on the bill are friends of TGTF; the other two, well, you’ll have to read on.

As a rule, TGTF does not condone skipping school for the sake of music. However, we’re going to give The Orielles a wide berth, as they arrived in Toronto as close as humanly possible to play their first show during CMW while catching as much school as they could before they left. I understand they had finals to return to after; I hope the adrenaline off their first North American music festival saw the band through them.

The Orielles CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

While they played, excited whispers abounded all around me. “They’re how old?” “And they can play *that* well?” “When did you discover them?” “Liverpool Sound City?” “No, 2013?” “Seriously???” “How old are they again???” Opening the UKTI showcase might well have been ample cause for anxiety, but the young yet experienced in gigs trio from Halifax came out with tune after tune. The Orielles’ first North American appearance was a triumph in every sense of the word, impressing industry and punters alike with their energetic garage and surf-tinged performance.

The People The Poet CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

The People The Poet, now SXSW veterans after showcasing back to back in 2015 and 2016, were up next. From the surfy, psych vibe created by the Orielles, the Welsh band brought things back squarely to good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. The vocals of frontman Leon Stanford – growly, emphatic and Joe Cocker-esque – are a force to be reckoned with on their own. But accompanied by the band’s driving instrumentation with the anthemic glow of any Springsteen number worth its salt, the complete package of The People The Poet provide a formidable punch. Check out recent single ‘Club 27’ below.

Very early on in my CMW 2016 schedule preparation, I’d pencilled in The Undivided for my last night in Toronto. I’d gone through the profiles of all the UK bands headed out to the festival, and I had been most impressed with the oomph of ‘Invincible’. I fully felt the emotions of this band, displayed on their sleeve for all to see. It was a feeling I’d experienced 2 years ago at Liverpool Sound City when faced with Geordies Boy Jumps Ship for the first time. (They’ve just released their debut album this month, and I couldn’t have been prouder of and happier for them.) When you listen to the power of their music and lyrics together, you just know this means an awful lot to every member of the band. Even more weirdly coincidental, both of these bands’ names suggest an inclusionary, “all for one, one for all” mentality that is comforting in this crazy world we live in.

The Undivided CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

The Welsh band released their latest EP ‘Satellites’ on the 6th of May when we were all out in Toronto, so I hadn’t had a chance to listen to it. It’s on Spotify now, and it’s good stuff. This is loud, fast-paced rock with plenty of heart, and you should do yourself the favour of checking them out now. You know, before they hit it big and I say in a smug tone “I told you so” to your face.

I have gotten onboard with Slaves and have been known to sing along – loudly – to ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’. However, I have to admit that I still haven’t quite figured out the appeal of Fat White Family. Is it the camp posturing of Lias Saoudi that gets people hot and bothered? Is it the spitting? Is it the sleaze of ‘Touch the Leather’? Or is it just the anarchic feel of their brand of punk? Of all the bands at the UKTI showcase, they brought in the biggest crowd of the night. Is that a commentary on the music lovers of Toronto? Let’s hope not.

Fat White Family at CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

I left Velvet Underground with the same feeling I had closing out what will probably be my final Sound City in 2014. What was I missing about this hugely hyped band? A few weeks out now from my first CMW, I have come to the acceptance yet again that as they say, there’s no accounting for taste. TGTF will continue to do what we’ve always done: champion the little guy and the music that moves us. And we appreciate you all – bands and fans alike – being along with us for the ride.

 

SXSW 2016: final Saturday night festivities with NME and UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 19th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 18th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

I’ve always had a fondness for stories with tidy endings, so it seems quite natural that I finished SXSW 2016 on Saturday night at the British Music Embassy, even if Mary and I were a bit delayed in getting there. After our dinner hour activities at the Hilton Austin’s Liberty Tavern (which you can read about right back here), we stopped for a quick drink across the street from Latitude 30 before heading over for the NME / UK Trade and Investment showcase. As often happens with when I’m with Mary, we ended up engaged in a rather interesting conversation with some industry acquaintances of hers, and we had trouble tearing ourselves away for the final evening of live shows.

"Lusts

As much as we might have liked to stay and chat, Mary and I both had other activities planned for the evening, and we made our way to Latitude 30 just in time to catch the first act on the showcase, groove rock brother act Lusts. In the brief snippet of what I saw and heard, their music was an interesting combination of heavy rhythms and hazy vocals, but it was really their insistent and compelling energy that left the strongest opening impression.

Julia Jacklin internal

The next act originally scheduled on the showcase was rap collective Section Boyz, but a last minute substitution gave us instead Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin. She facetiously introduced herself and her band as Section Boyz just to see if her audience were paying attention, but in truth, Jacklin’s warm folk rock couldn’t have been stylistically farther from the act she stepped in to replace. Jacklin’s music had more sonic impact than her diminutive appearance might suggest, and the lyrical substance of her track ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ particularly tugged at my heartstrings after she shared that she had written it for her little brother because she wanted him to think she was cool. Those small personal details can make a song seem much more special to a listener, and Jacklin certainly won herself a new fan in me that night.

Pumarosa internal 2

Following Julia Jacklin was self-described “industrial spiritual” band Pumarosa, who I’d seen previously on the Tuesday night showcase at Hype Hotel. They had the same lengthy setup issues here at the British Music Embassy, but once they got started, they fairly shook the stage with a much more confident sounding set than what I’d heard from them earlier in the week. The lighting at Latitude 30 allowed me to get a better photo of frontwoman Isabel Munoz-Newsome’s unusual guitar technique (which you can see below), and I was thrilled to have another go at dancing to Pumarosa’s exotic hit song ‘Priestess’.

Pumarosa internal

Next on the bill was an artist I’d been looking forward to seeing since our initial preview of this showcase, rock singer/songwriter Barns Courtney (pictured at top). After seeing him blaze through a spectacular set including his currently released tracks ‘Fire’ and ‘Glitter and Gold’, as well as the curiously-titled ‘Hobo Rocket’, I’m more convinced than ever that he has the potential to be a breakout superstar on the order of James Bay or Hozier if he plays his cards right. In the intermission between sets, I snagged Courtney for a quick back alley interview, which turned out to be quite possibly the most unforgettable conversation I had all week long.

Barns Courtney internal

I came back inside just in time to catch dance pop duo Formation, whose number had apparently multiplied ahead of their appearance at SXSW. Comprising brothers Will and Matt Ritson along with Jonny Tams, Sasha Lewis and Kai Akinde-Hummel, the band and their equipment fit on the small British Music Embassy stage with very little room to spare. But despite the close quarters on stage, the band played a beat-driven, movement-inspiring set list much to the liking of the late night dancers in the crowd.

Formation internal

Formation were followed on the docket by another Special Guest, who hadn’t been officially announced before the show but was rumoured to be American veterans-turned-newcomers on the music scene, PARTYBABY. I’d seen PARTYBABY along with Pumarosa on the Tuesday night Hype Hotel showcase, and I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the choice. PARTYBABY would certainly make an energetic closing act, I hadn’t found them engaging enough to stick around for twice. Fortunately, Mary arrived back at Latitude 30 just as they came on stage to set up, and we took the opportunity to make a final round of fond farewells to our friends at the British Music Embassy before officially bidding adieu to SXSW 2016.

Au revoir, Austin…until we meet again.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Clash in association with PPL, and NME in association with UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 18th-19th March 2016

 
By on Friday, 4th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy will return to Latitude 30 at 512 San Jacinto Boulevard, right by the heart of the action off 6th Street during SXSW 2016. On Monday and Wednesday, our editor Mary previewed the talent on show on Tuesday night (Huw Stephens with PRS for Music showcase) and Wednesday, then Thursday (Output Belfast and PIAS in association with AIM), respectively. This year’s showcases on Friday the 18th of March are set to include a host of artists from around the UK, including hotly-tipped acts from Wales and Scotland. The Welsh artists will be highlighted during the daytime show, presented by British Music @ SXSW in association with Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales. A pair of Scottish acts will feature on the evening showcase, presented by UK pop culture magazine Clash in association with music rights and licensing agency PPL.

The Friday afternoon show will feature a delightfully rich lineup of female artists, beginning with alt-folk singer/songwriter Rozi Plain and continuing with two Welsh acts, pop singer/songwriter Violet Skies and electronic musician Gwenno. Both Welsh women will be introduced in more detail in editor Mary’s upcoming preview of Welsh artists at SXSW 2016 later today.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/H4S0ME8Xyc0[/youtube]

Closing out the afternoon are two alliterative acts, our recent Band to Watch #372 Fickle Friends, followed by fellow TGTF alumnae Stealing Sheep. Fickle Friends vaulted to popularity in the UK with their debut single ‘Swim’ back in 2014 and have been on an upward trajectory ever since. Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep are sailing strong on their April 2015 release ‘Not Real’, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a hint of something new from them in Austin as well.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqVYDRM842s[/youtube]

The Friday evening Clash showcase is set to begin with DJ/producer/all-around-Renaissance-woman Throwing Shade, whose soon-to-be released EP ‘House of Silk’ features the above reflection on pop culture and social media called ‘hashtag IRL’. Scottish pop songstress KLOE and avant/experimental trio Hælos will fill in the middle part of the evening lineup, ahead of a rather intriguing To Be Confirmed notation at 11 PM; bets are open as to who might fill that coveted slot.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/vKakNhz2ToA[/youtube]

Playing at midnight will be Glasgow electro musician The Revenge, followed by London-based soul pop duo Honne (read more of our coverage on Honne here). The Revenge will feature in our upcoming preview of Scottish artists at SXSW 2016, along with the aforementioned KLOE.

On Saturday, the 19th of March, the afternoon show at Latitude 30 will start with Sheffield slacker punk pair Nai Harvest (read more about them on TGTF here) and Leeds goth-punk band Autobahn. Falling square in the middle of the docket, Liverpool indie rockers Sugarmen are sure to win fans with their psychedelic recent single ‘Plastic Ocean’, while grunge rockers Fizzy Blood and Demob Happy finish off the daytime slate.

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

Latitude 30 will be taken over by recently retooled and relaunched pop culture magazine NME in association with UK Trade and Investment on Saturday night, the final event at the British Music Embassy for SXSW 2016. Leicester brothers Andy and James Stone, known onstage as synth-rock duo Lusts will open the show (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here), to be followed by rap collective Section Boyz. London five-piece Pumarosa have already announced an autumn 2016 support slot for SXSW 2015 hit act Gengahr and will feature in the middle of this final night lineup.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/XA97m6L2-Dc[/youtube]

Deep-voiced Americana singer/songwriter Barns Courtney could easily follow in the successful SXSW footsteps of Hozier and James Bay before him. He’ll round out his trip to Austin with an appearance at the British Music Embassy, ahead of dance duo Formation (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here) and another tantalising to-be-announced special guest for the evening’s final set.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ckNWtmkA2_g[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2013: Day 1 – Huw Stephens / UK Trade and Investment showcase at Latitude 30 – 12th March 2013

 
By on Friday, 22nd March 2013 at 4:35 pm
 

Last year, I spent the majority of my time at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. It was so long ago now, I don’t really remember if it was more because it was a safe place for me because I knew exactly where it was on San Jacinto Boulevard, or if it was the line-ups that drew me there. In any event, at SXSW 2013 I was mildly disappointed by the programme being presented over the week, with a lot of bands that I just didn’t care for. Traditionally, Tuesday is the ‘easiest’ day of the festival, as there aren’t as many showcases put on because that’s the day the festival begins and a lot of the professional folks don’t make it into town until that afternoon. That said, that means every decent showcase will be rammed, which was the case with the Huw Stephens-curated UK Trade and Investment showcase that very night. I got in there early, figuring I wanted to hit the ground running, covering a whole slew of notable UK acts hand-selected by Huw himself.

Y Niwl SXSW 2013 live

The first band up was Y Niwl, an alternative surf pop band from Wales. First impression: their bass player was wearing a red knit hat that made me laugh, because the week prior our John Fernandez was trying to win a similarly epic winter hat in a Facebook contest. They don’t talk between songs and Huw even said in his introduction of them, “they told me to tell you ‘thank you’ now”, because they wouldn’t be stopping to chat. So between this statement and the hat, I went into this set chuckling.

I don’t speak Welsh so I can’t read you the titles of their songs or tell you what they mean, but all you need to know is that they’ve got a blend of the Shadows, the Ventures, the Surfaris and the Beach Boys (sans lyrics), with a penchant for both slower burning numbers and widely contrasting speedy ones that will remind you of the themes to Peter Gunn and the James Bond franchise. Y Niwl could definitely could be considered quirky on the basis of their handwritten set list that consisted solely of numbers (a special band code?) and not any recognisable words. Not even ones that looked like Welsh. Mysterious…

Lucy Rose SXSW 2013 live

Folk pop singer/songwriter Lucy Rose was up next, wearing an Adidas t-shirt, black jeans and some kick-arse–looking trainers. I kept in mind from John’s interview with her at Reading last year that deep down he’s a metal / rock loving girl and that this outfit made more sense in that context. Being so slight, she had brought with her a special stool and all her pedals were placed on top of an equipment case so her feet could reach them. (Bless.)

What became immediately apparent from the first song out of the gate was this was not the same anxious, timid as a mouse girl I saw open for Bombay Bicycle Club in DC just a year ago. If there was a time for her to bring the goods, this was it, her first big American music industry appearance in Austin for her SXSW 2013 close-up. ‘Middle of the Bed’ wowed the folks I was with who had never seen her before. She offered up a brand new song, and in her usual self-deprecating self, she organised her band to play another song that they never play live, saying “this is going to be bad!” But there was no indication of anyone, much less Rose herself, of dropping the ball. Maybe the first time she came to America, she wasn’t confident in her performing abilities, but this night, no one could touch her.

Tall Ships SXSW 2013 live

Tall Ships from Falmouth were a jarring yet welcome band to follow the folk of Lucy Rose. John had nothing but compliments for their debut album ‘Everything Touching’ from last year, and generally speaking, our rock tastes differ quite a bit, so I was expecting something loud and frenetic. In that respect, they did our John proud, guitars and hair flying all the place. A little loud for me but the crowd were loving it. I almost didn’t want to leave, but I had a date with another band elsewhere.

This is where things went pear-shaped. I was supposed to be on the guest list for the big Media Temple-sponsored SXSW Interactive closing party at Stubb’s. For a month prior, the internet had been abuzz about the headline set by deadmau5 vs. Richie Hawtin. As you can imagine, it was one of the biggest draws of the entire week and while I do like deadmau5, I was more interested in seeing the band directly before me, our friends the Joy Formidable. With a press wristband, I knew I hadn’t a hope in the world of getting in, and they had arranged for me to get in through the guest list. I arrived a half-hour early, figuring that would be plenty of time to get into the venue and get a good vantage point. Something went wrong though, as when I went up to the guestlist line and the man with the list – all 12 pages of it – flipped through the list with lightning speed, said I wasn’t on it and could I call the people who put me on the list to get in touch with them?

Uhhh, that would be a little difficult to achieve because it was 30 minutes from the Joy Formidable’s set list and us bloggers are all too aware that bands get psyched up for their performances right before and we cannot expect them to be near their phones. A kind request for the man to look over the list one more time, more slowly, was met with a curt shout of “you’re not getting in!” Okay, then. I was also bristling as some women behind me, barking at security that they should be let in immediately because they were from the BBC. Sorry, but no-one was getting in unless you were on the guest list, whether you’re from the Beeb or not. The experience soured me on Stubb’s for the rest of the week and I refused to return. This was really disappointing to me as last year I had a very good night there seeing Kaiser Chiefs and the Temper Trap. While I realise that especially on that night when they were being shouted at by drunk festival-goers desperate to get in to deadmau5 that tempers all around were frayed, but being professional is part of running a venue, SXSW or no SXSW, and I don’t think any punter acting reasonably and civilly to staff deserves to be screamed at. Respect people, whoever they are. I walked back down Red River Street, defeated, hearing the faraway strains of ‘Cholla’ and wishing I was inside Stubb’s instead of kicking dirt down the sidewalk.

Well, what to do now but to return to Latitude 30? Remember that I said earlier in this piece that Tuesday night was light with showcases. I’ve never seen so many people outside Latitude 30, trying to get in. Then again, nearly every band I wanted to see there at SXSW 2012, I had arrived well ahead and managed to get inside with no problem. It became eminently clear that with my press wristband, I wasn’t getting back in for the 1975. Considering how much we’ve written about them on TGTF and the fact that I was probably one of few people who knew several of their songs, let alone heard of them, I was fuming. Those of you who have met me know exactly how short I am. Despite standing on my tippy toes, I couldn’t see a thing. They sounded amazing though, and judging from the screaming after each song, they got in and did what they needed to do: wow the Austin crowd.

Willy Moon SXSW 2013 live

The crowd significantly thinned out after the 1975’s set, allowing me to squeeze in to the side for Willy Moon. One of his songs was recently featured on an Apple advert here in America, so I imagined there would be a decent buzz around him. However, it appeared everyone I was in close proximity to was there to wait for Bastille, who I’d read in a press release the day before had hit #1 in the UK albums chart with their debut. In that respect, I thought Moon had an uphill battle ahead of him.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like him live, as I had always thought on record he was a bit gimmicky and too reliant on ‘50s style. But surprisingly I liked him a lot. As I had imagined in my head, he has a Little Richard / Jerry Lee Lewis frenzied throwback vocal style about him. But what I was not expecting was how animated he’d be on stage, hips swinging like a 21st century Elvis, crooning and preening. With a huge quiff and dressed to the nines in a smart suit, he just oozed cool. He had played a show in DC when I was poorly in February and boy, was I glad to have finally seen live.

Bastille SXSW 2013 live

I still don’t get the appeal of Bastille. Being Tuesday night, it was the last hurrah for the SXSW Interactive conventioneers, and I met several of them who were ending their last night in Austin with this rousing night with Huw Stephens. A new friend from London said that the Bastille sound is the sound of London right now, and maybe that is why I’m not getting it. Having heard the new Dan Croll single ‘Compliment Your Soul’ on BBC 6music earlier today, I am not so sure it is limited to London.

Since it had been such an arduous task to get back into Latitude 30 after the 1975’s set and after a ridiculously early night the night before not getting into Peace at Viceland, I couldn’t be bothered to leave the venue where I’d managed a cosy spot down the front for the evening’s headliner. Initially when I saw Dan Smith, he reminded me of one of my friends Matt, and I immediately starting missing him. There are synths and lots of percussion that make up the Bastille set-up, and make no mistake, Smith’s music is a lot of fun and it incites wild dancing wherever he goes. Surrounded by folks who were obviously into this kind of music, their arms in the air to the beats, I felt like a wet blanket. I just don’t fully understand why their debut album hit #1 on the UK albums chart. While I am not saying it is entirely soulless, there seems to be something missing there, at least for me, and it’s that block that keeps me from enjoying the music fully.

Overall impression of the evening: most bands very good, but Stubb’s security loses them at least a thousand points.

 
 
 

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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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