A Letter From America

Come with TMF contributor Lorne Thomson as he embarks on this year's SXSW Festival:

I arrived in Texas last night for my fourth SXSW in a row.

South By South West is an industry based music conference / festival located in Austin. An average of 1,500 bands play over a period of four 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.

This year I even got an extra day of entertainment as last night the British Music Embassy threw a bash for the final evening of the SXSW Interactive Festival, an event focusing on new media technology, headlined by The Proclaimers. The event was also open to Music badge holders and members of the public who had RSVP'd online.

The show was listed as starting at 9pm so I happily sat in my hotel room watching American Idol, leaving just before 9. Unfortunately the real kick off time was an hour earlier so the intimate Latitude 30 venue had reached capacity by the time I got there. Numerous tickets for the event had been handed out the day before to Interactive attendees so there were two lines, one for peeps with tickets, the other RSVP's and badge holders. You can guess which line I was in and which one was getting in first!

I waited outside for around thirty minutes, with the people in front of me either giving up and leaving or getting handed a spare ticket from someone walking past. Eventually the lovely girl who was handling the door conjured a ticket my way, even letting me join the front of the ticket line, getting me in the venue just in time for for Alice Russell's set. Latitude 30 wasn't as packed inside as I imagined, making it fairly easy to to join a few of the hundreds of snappers granted an official photo pass for the musical event down the front.

I didn't know a huge amount about English singer Alice Russell before seeing her. I had sneaked a listen to her most recent album "Pot of gold" a few days earlier, enjoying her Retro Soul sound but wasn't prepared to be blown away by her live performance as much as I was. In a way she reminded of a female Eli "Paperboy" Reed, delivering her set with gallons of passion. I'll try and see her live again at some point but probably not in Austin as there's too many other equally great acts to enjoy!

The crowd had thinned slightly by the time The Reid twins took the stage. The brothers were playing as a duo and ran through a fun set, pulling a few songs from debut album "This is the story" and follow up "Sunshine on Leith" , current album "Life with you" and throwing in a curious cover of "17" by Kings Of Leon. Although the crowd down the front were enjoying the performance, with shouts of encouragement throughout, there was a huge amount of background chatter for the set's duration.

It felt slightly strange watching an act that can pull in the punters back home play to a slighty apathetic audience at times but I had a fun time anyway, especially lovin' "Letter from America" and the band's encore "500 miles" , a song that was guaranteed to have even the chattering beer drinkers at the back singing along!

The British Music Embassy's show was a terrific way to start my SXSW this year but the whole thing kicks off in earnest today, with my band watching starting at midday and ending sometime in the early hours of Thursday morning!!

Check out The Music Fix next week for photo based reviews from each day of my SXSW experience.

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