SXSW 2015 - Wednesday - Austin, Texas
South By South West is an industry-based music conference/festival located in Austin, Texas. An average of 2500 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.
After only catching the tail end of Kate Tempest's set the previous evening I decided to start my day viewing a lunchtime showcase from the London poet at Red 7. As it was I could only watch a couple of songs as I had to shoot off to see Natalie Prass at The Mohawk.
I arrived a little bit early so was able to pop next door to Holy Mountain to take in a part of a set from Welsh band Until The Ribbon Breaks, whose arena-worthy electro pop showed great potential. Kate was on great form again at Red 7, going down a storm with the smallish audience, so it was a bit of a pain that I had to leave for Natalie's gig.
As it was I ended up waiting in line for a lengthy period, with the venue operating an agonising "one out, one in" policy, only entering in time for the last couple of songs from the singer, squeezing my way down the front, to shoot from the side, standing on a little plastic step! It was frustrating that I missed Natalie's performance but I'd one more opportunity in my schedule to see her, complete with the organ that wasn't working the previous evening.
Until The Ribbon Breaks
It was back to the Convention Centre for my next stop, taking advantage of their wi-fi to upload some pictures and also taking in a set from the lovely Laura Marling on the Radio Day Stage, promoting current album Short Movie
My evening's festivities were meant to start at The Mohawk but I'd noticed on the way down to the Convention Centre that country duo John And Jacob were performing a 'tea time' set at a party on the same street, so decided to pop in and see what the fuss was about, as a fellow photographer FB friend has been raving about the pair for months. I arrived about halfway through British singer-songwriter Charlotte OC's showcase. Charlotte had gathered a large crowd, including TV fave Dermot O'Leary (who was working for Radio 2 during SX) but he looked like he was giving his dancing feet a rest during the performance!
Sadly the audience had thinned out massively, down the front at least, by the time J+J took to the stage, with only myself and four drunk girls in my immediate area. It was a shame more didn't stick around as it was a phenomenal set, with great songs and a lot of energy on show, with the boys coming across like a hardcore Everly Brothers. The audience did gather more down the front as the gig went on and they were rewarded with one of my highlights from this year's SX. John And Jacob are supporting The Shires on their forthcoming UK tour so it's worth getting there early if you're going.
John And Jacob
I spent a large chunk of my Wednesday evening at The Mohawk, taking in a few bands including a second outing for rowdy Canadians Metz and fellow countrymen Alvvays, who dazzled with tracks from their self titled debut, including the awesome 'Next Of Kin'.
My main reason for showing up at the outside venue was to take in a set from UK punkers The Damned. It had been about five years or more since I'd seen them last, so a chance to reacquaint myself with the band was long overdue. The group were in town as a documentary about them, Don't You Wish That We Were Dead, was premiering earlier that day. I'm sure their Mohawk show won't go down in history as one of their best due to technical issues, leading to a late start and Captain Sensible keeping the crowd occupied while singer Dave Vanian worked out issues with his mic. That being said, I still enjoyed the performance immensely. It seemed a truncated version of their recent UK tour, including my highlight of the night 'Stranger On The Town' appearing alongside rip roaring versions of singles like 'Love Song', 'Neat, Neat, Neat' and 'New Rose', all causing the crowd to go nuts.
It was a great night for not walking too far as my final showcase was at The Main II on the same street. I arrived early so I was able to take in the evening's 'Special Guest' Zoe Kravitz.
I usually try and check out a few new acts online before attending SXSW and one of the singers that came to my attention was Kali Uchis. The Colombian singer-songwriter has recently released an EP Por Vida. It's an interesting collection that brings Amy Winehouse to mind in places. Kali put on a decent show but I do think it's early days for the performer and she could turn out to be a big star a year or so down the line.