SXSW 2013 - Wednesday - Austin, Texas
South By South West is an industry-based music conference/festival located in Austin, Texas. An average of 2000 bands play over a period of five days so it's a great opportunity to watch the latest "up and coming" acts from around the world alongside more established bands playing slightly more intimate venues than they are used to.
Wednesday began with a lunchtime visit to Empire Control Room to view my second set of the week from Danish popstrel Fallulah. Well, I say view but I could hardly see her for the first couple of songs as she was shrouded in darkness! I asked the soundman what was wrong with the lights and he said the the guy in charge hadn't shown up yet, so we all faced another song dancing in the dark!
Eventually a switch was flicked and the singer was illuminated. Unfortunately, it was still a hideous state for photography as Fallulah was bathed with a slightly psychedelic wash, nice to look at but awful for pictures, so I just had to enjoy the gig without shooting. This wasn't a problem though as the set pulled from Fallulah's second album Escapism and sounded sensational again.
After my dingy but delightful dalliance with the Dane it was time for another trek to Latitude 30 for a Welsh Music Showcase. I didn't really pay much attention to the first couple of bands that played as I was really waiting for the appearance of Miss Charlotte Church
In addition to covering SXSW for the Fix I also shoot for a picture agency and I did think some of the press back home may be interested in the Welsh wonder, hence my front row position at Latitude. That being said, I had taken a peek at some of Charlotte's new material and I was very curious about her new direction so was looking forward to hearing her live.
If anyone had told me before heading to this year's SX that my favourite act of the year would be Charlotte Church I would have thought them mad! I have to say though I was completely blown away by the singer's performance and ended up seeing her another twice that week. Charlotte has found the perfect musical style to display her vocals, travelling down a more experimental route, with just a hint of gothic rock. There were moments in her set that reminded me of Bjork but I also heard a few Cocteau Twins swoops and howls along the way.
Charlotte has released two EPs featuring her new material and has promised another three down the line. Set highlights were pulled from EP 1 and 2 including 'Glitterbombed', 'How Not To Be Surprised When You're A Ghost', the short but lovely 'The Mistress' and the song that made my afternoon, 'Say It's True' with its thundering drumming and huge chorus really hitting the spot!
The majority of my evening was spent at the Mohawk, with Iggy And The Stooges and The Specials both performing in the fairly intimate venue.
There were huge crowds waiting to get in so by the time Iggy appeared after the first band on the bill Japandroids the place was heaving. I had managed to grab a front row spot for the set and was pretty lucky to come out at the other end unscathed as it was total carnage throughout!
Iggy and his band have a new album Ready To Die out next month. They played a few tracks from it but their fans obviously wanted to hear the classics and didn't leave short changed, with 'No Fun' and 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' just a couple of the oldies played.
Iggy And The Stooges
The crowd thinned a bit after Iggy and things were running late so unfortunately the band that followed - Middle Class Rut - got a bit of stick from impatient Specials fans and had their set cut short along the way. I was just counting the minutes myself to the band's appearance as I had somewhere else to be!
The Specials eventually took to the stage, reigniting the chaos down the front. I had told a fellow photographer I was only staying till I heard 'Gangsters' so was happy when it appeared four songs in so I could get to my next show in time!
My final showcase was from Paloma Faith. Paloma's next London show is headlining the O2 Arena so I couldn't pass up the opportunity of seeing her play a midnight set at the Central Presbyterian Church. I had assumed the showcase would be mobbed so was surprised to see the singer take to the stage to a pretty empty room.
Paloma was backed by a piano player and a couple of singers and performed a set showcasing songs from her second album Fall To Grace. It was nice to hear the tracks in a stripped down setting but the gig became more unique when Paloma decided to deliver a large chunk of it from the crowd due to onstage sound problems, creating a very memorable show.