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SXSW 2014: the first half of Huw Stephens’ night at Latitude 30 – 11th March 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy at its Latitude 30 home has been hit (2012) and miss (2013) for me in past years of SXSW. Luckily, this year‘s line-up was made all the better by the bevy of BBC Radio presenters who flocked to Austin this year, including Phil Taggart who emceed Creative Belfast (read Carrie’s review and see my photos from Monday night here); Steve Lamacq, who made his triumphant return to SXSW after a 6-year absence, and the two that were players in Tuesday night’s programming at Latitude 30.

The cuddly Welsh teddy bear we all know as Huw Stephens has been curating a night at the British Music Embassy for I don’t know how long, but you can trust that he always chooses a good line-up. I was luckily present for the first three acts on Tuesday night. Sweet Baboo, aka fellow Welshman Stephen Black, was up first in solo form. I’m really quite glad I got to see him play with a full band in Glasgow’s King Tut’s last year, as I had a reference point in which to compare and contrast Tuesday night’s performance with. If you listen to Sweet Baboo records, the feeling you come away with is one of fragility; when Black performs live with a full band, there is fragility but also chaos. Black’s solo set felt somewhere in between those two extremes, with him being his usual self-deprecating self, cracking jokes while bemoaning his lack of band (“if you heard this one with the full band, it’d sound like Prince”). While EP title track ‘Motorhome’ and ‘Cate’s Song’ are gentle numbers that work well in solo confines, my personal favourite from 2013’s ‘Ships’, the brilliantly incisive yet poppy ‘If I Died…’ didn’t really work without a full band.

Next up were London’s next great hope for alt-rock, Wolf Alice. In her Doc Martens and sparkly tights, Ellie Rowsell held court, guitar in hand in front of an all too excited crowd at the British Music Embassy. I don’t know if I was just surrounded by Brits who had come over to cheer on Wolf Alice or these were new converts, but the screams were deafening. This seemed to be the week I would be taking the unpopular opinion, which included my stance on Wolf Alice: it seems to me that Rowsell’s ‘sweet’ voice is at odds with the harder edge of their band’s songs and would be more appropriate for the folk genre in which she started, and on songs like ‘She’, she seems to be stretching the Justine Frischmann and Courtney Love comparisons. But I’m thinking their fortunes have already been made. I mean, just think about it: the only other female-fronted massive rock band is Paramore, and they’re American. Maybe it’s time for a British rocker girl to take away Hayley’s sceptre?

I had no idea my world was about to be rocked by the third band on the line-up, Prides. I had already been impressed by early MGMT-sounding ‘Out of the Blue’ and more recent ‘The Seeds You Sow’. But I was not prepared for the synth / guitar / percussion powerhouse that was in front of my eyes. It should have come as no surprise that this New Wave lover once dubbed years ago as “the sucker for the synth” by Steve Lamacq himself absolutely fell in love with these Glaswegians. Just WOW.

The coloured lighting in Latitude 30 complemented the band’s sound as well, fitting the carnival / party / happy atmosphere their music created. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next. It was great to chat with them after, as they were clearly running on the adrenaline of playing a packed venue and having such a great reception in a town that they’d never played in before. (Listen to my interview with the band here.)

But it was still quite early in the evening. It was time to me to jet off to another venue a few blocks away.

 

(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #297: Wolf Alice

 
By on Friday, 28th February 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

London alt-rockers Wolf Alice are likely to bring in new fans from all corners at their SXSW 2014 shows next month. Their sound is a hybrid of styles, a slightly unsettling middle ground among cerebral indie folk, bright garage pop, and murky grunge rock. The band has grown from modest acoustic origins to a fully realized rock band, but even with the piercing guitar riffs and heavy bass reverb, they haven’t completely left behind their more organic characteristics, including the multi-tracked vocal harmonies of lead singer Ellie Rowsell.

Rowsell and guitarist Joff Oddie began their career together as an acoustic folk duo, adopting the name Wolf Alice from a short story by Angela Carter, which explores the social civilization of a feral child as she grows into a young woman. It’s an interesting analogy between that story and the development of Rowsell and Oddie as songwriters, especially with the addition of Joel Amey on drums and Theo Ellis on bass to flesh out the more savage emotional aspects of their songs.

Wolf Alice’s debut EP ‘Blush’ is incredibly mercurial for a collection of only four songs, alternating between wispy, breathless vocal lines with hazy bass foundations and frenetic bursts of rhythmic energy overlaid with piercing guitar riffs. The band’s own lyric, from the title track, ‘Blush’ might actually be the best description of their overall sound: “Punch drunk, dumbstruck, potluck, happy, happy.”

After their appearance at SXSW, Wolf Alice will embark on a headline tour of the UK; all dates are listed here. The ‘Blush’ EP is available now on Chess Club Records; watch the video for its first single ‘She’ below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpnGp7N4tfU[/youtube]

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014: Rock UK artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW (N-W)

 
By on Wednesday, 26th February 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2014 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite band is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the band’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

British rock and its many facets will be on display at SXSW 2014, judging by the variety of acts been given a shout by the festival this year. In the second installment of the exclusive TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014, we turn to the UK bands that play rock, punk, metal and everything in between, alphabetically N through W. (In case you were wondering, there weren’t any Y or Z bands announced, we weren’t leaving anyone out on purpose!) The first half of the rock list, in case you missed it, is here.

Natives
How many UK bands do you know of have already gone on tour in Asia even before their debut album has been released? Not many. Even less when you’ve never heard of said band. So there must be something more about Natives from the New Forest that deserves your attention. They sound entirely unpretentious and (gasp!) just like they’re having a lot of fun too. We don’t know much about them, but we’re guessing there’ll be plenty to say post-SXSW.

New Desert Blues
John writes: “With no sense of pretence, no dramatic unveiling, New Desert Blues have snuck up on my psyche, with the immense track that is ‘Adam’. The five impeccably dressed lads who sounded raw, and ebbed with potential at The Great Escape at The Fishbowl have created something really special with their debut effort.

Refined, and delightfully genuine, New Desert Blues aren’t bursting with youthful exuberance as you’d expect from a group of five less-than-likely lads. They instead emanate a dastardly sense of cool: whether that is in lead singer James Cullen’s ability to pull of the most pretentious of turtlenecks in Brighton sunshine at this year’s Great Escape, is yet to be uncovered.”

PINS
All girl group PINS sound more Brooklyn than Manchester in their raucous, fuzzy rock delivery. Admittedly, their complete lack of Y chromosomes sets them apart from all the other UK rock acts at SXSW 2014, but will this – along with their Christmas song getting an exclusive on Urban Outfitters’ Web site – work in their favour, or will they merely be a curiosity?

Public Service Broadcasting
Martin writes: “They take as their inspiration and sampling material that rich vein of mid-century film footage which gloried in the wonder of British achievements, celebrating the majesty of heavy engineering, the valour of daring explorers, and the gritty triumph of war. The band themselves mirror the tone of their subject matter by dressing in tweeds and having names like Wriglesworth; one half-expects the other band members to be called Ginger and Algy, and for them to fly off in Sopwith Camels after the show is over.

Each piece brings to life a particular microcosm of history via clips from vintage newsreels, spanning about 20 years from the early 1940s to the advent of practical colour television in the 1960s. Wartime propaganda is invoked in ‘Dig for Victory’, the distinctive iconography exhorting the populace to self-reliance via growing their own food is writ large across several vintage television sets adapted for digital projection. ‘Spitfire’ uses copious footage from the 1942 film The First Of The Few to honour the achievements of RJ Mitchell, the designer of arguably the most famous aircraft ever built.”

Royal Blood
The lone true rock band on the BBC Sound of 2014 longlist, the Brighton duo’s is the UK’s answer to, well, both the Black Keys and Queens of the Stone Age. And they’re ready to unleash their punishing bluesy rock on Austin come March.

Saor Patrol
Cheryl writes: “Playing what they have dubbed ‘medieval Scottish rock’, Saor Patrol – which translates as ‘freedom guard’ in Scottish Gaelic – kicks up the amperage on other traditional folk music. Not content to stick with the 100% traditional sound, these guys add a grinding guitar to pull it just this side of modern. Completely instrumental, the combination of this driving guitar overlaid with a bagpipe melody is just different enough from traditional bagpipe bands to turn heads.”

Read the rest of Cheryl’s Band to Watch on Saor Patrol here.

Save Your Breath
Cheryl writes: “There probably wasn’t a lot to do on a Saturday night in the port city of Newport in the south of Wales. Friends Ben Griffiths and Tom Owens solved the boredom by forming a band that eventually was fleshed out to become Save Your Breath. Taking their pop punk sensibilities from the likes of Green Day and their ilk, they forged their sound from the grit of the life around them. What must have started out as a lark between school chums, titles like ‘Not in the Mood for Kiwi’ and ‘Holy Shit, Fortune Teller Miracle Fish!’ show up on their first album, they have matured enough to temper their weird song titles but still have energetic, aggressive tunes worthy of a listen.”

For more on Save Your Breath, read the rest of Cheryl’s Band to Watch on them here.

Slaves
Garage punky duo from Kent have already made a big noise in London and on tour with fellow SXSW 2014-ers Drenge for their punishing live set. Not much else to say except if you like punk, you better start planning your SXSW schedule around these guys, because I think it’s pretty assured their sets will be rammed.

Splashh
Kind of poppy, kind of rocky, kind of surf-y. Not terribly cerebral, but hey, this is the kind of music I expect Best Coast fans to enjoy (and there are a lot of those).

Syd Arthur
Syd Arthur – there is no man named “Syd Arthur”. No, they’re a psych rock band with a wink wink, nudge nudge hippie name, and the players all with long, unkempt hair. “Greatly inspired by the sonic pioneers of the late 60s and early 70s, they have patiently learned how to engineer, produce and mix themselves, using an innovative hybrid of analogue and digital techniques.”

Teeth of the Sea
Instrumental proggy guitars plus synths band with their latest album, ‘Master’ (2013), receiving rave reviews across the board for its inventiveness. Their live shows have received similar plaudits, so if you’re into this kind of music, they’re unmissable in Austin.

Traams
Like your punk as well as your melodies? Described often as “noisy”, “happy” and “joyous”, Chichester’s Traams, then, are for you.

We Were Promised Jetpacks
The Scottish band’s cult popularity in the States was on a high in 2012 when the band appeared at SXSW last, but after being off the radar for quite a while, they’ve just released a live album ‘E Rey Live In Philadelphia’ and will be looking to solidify their standing stateside.

Wolf Alice
Carrie writes: London alt-rockers Wolf Alice are likely to bring in new fans from all corners at their SXSW shows. Their sound is a hybrid of styles, a slightly unsettling middle ground among cerebral indie folk, bright garage pop, and murky grunge rock…The band’s own lyric, from the title track ‘Blush’ might actually be the best description of their overall sound: “Punch drunk, dumbstruck, potluck, happy, happy.”

The Wytches
Ben writes: “These Brighton based psych surfers take a battered base of shoegazing garage rock, douses it with B-movie psychedelia, throws on a lighter and watches it blacken into a ghastly yet basely expressive lump of carbon. The far out three piece had a degree of success with two singles on Hate Hate Hate Records, before announcing their switch to Heavenly Recordings with the release of Afree digital download ‘Gravedweller'”.

Keep it here on TGTF for more in the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014, coming soon!

 

Wolf Alice / May 2014 UK Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 4th February 2014 at 9:00 am
 

London quartet Wolf Alice have just announced a May 2014 tour of the UK, to follow their appearance at SXSW 2014 in March. Tour dates include festival appearances at Liverpool Sound City, Live at Leeds, and Stockton’s Sunday Live the first May bank holiday, as well as the band’s largest headline show to date at London Scala on the 28th of May. Wolf Alice will be joined by Superfood on all dates except on 12th of May. Tickets will go on sale Wednesday the 5th February at 9 AM.

The band’s EP ‘Blush’ is out now on Chess Club Records. Check out the video for the song of the same title below the tour date listing.

Thursday 1st May 2014 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Friday 2nd May 2014 – Liverpool Sound City
Saturday 3rd May 2014 – Live at Leeds
Sunday 4th May 2014 – Stockton Sunday Live
Monday 5th May 2014 – Hull Fruit
Tuesday 6th May 2014 – Sheffield Leadmill 2
Wednesday 7th May 2014 – Newcastle Think Tank
Thursday 8th May 2014 – York Duchess
Monday 12th May 2014 – Birmingham Temple
Tuesday 13th May 2014 – Oxford Academy 2
Wednesday 14th May 2014 – Cambridge Portland Arms
Thursday 15th May 2014 – Bedford Esquires
Friday 16th May 2014 – Guildford Boileroom
Saturday 17th May 2014 – Leicester Cookie Jar
Sunday 18th May 2014 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Tuesday 20th May 2014 – Brighton Haunt
Wednesday 21st May 2014 – Preston 53 Degrees
Thursday 22nd May 2014 – Stoke Sugarmill
Tuesday 27th May 2014 – Milton Keynes Craufurd Arms
Wednesday 28th May 2014 – London Scala

[youtube]http://youtu.be/O_QBC_pDkeU[/youtube]

 
 
 

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