SXSW Day Four -A Review In Pictures - Austin Texas

South By South West is an industry based Music Conference / Festival located in Austin Texas. 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.

I had a bit of a Saturday morning lie in so started my gig watching around 1.30, heading over to Latitude 30 for another British Music Embassy show.

Rolo Tomassi were busy blasting out a racket when I entered the venue. The Sheffield hardcore act were entertaining a fairly subdued lunchtime Austin audience so the atmosphere wasn't as great as it would have been playing to fevered fans. They still pulled out all the stops though, putting on an energetic and aggressive show.

I stayed around to check out Leeds trio Sky Larkin playing tracks from debut album "The golden spike". They weren't too bad, enough to make me check them out again anyway, especially as I really warmed to singer Katie between songs due to her Northern banter.

After my noisy wake up call I headed back to my hotel for a bit, venturing out again for a late afternoon showcase from Chop Shop and Atlantic Records over at Brush Square Park. The showcase offered free food and beer, which was a shame as I had stuffed my face back in my hotel! I still managed to squeeze in one plate of food and obviously took advantage of the beer offer as I sat down to watch my first band on the bill.

I'd encountered The Little Ones live on numerous occasions a couple of years back, banging in to them several times as a support to Omaha stompers Tilly And The Wall and playing alongside other acts I favoured.

Our paths hadn't crossed much in the last year or so though, except a brief viewing of three of their songs at London's Royal Festival Hall whilst shooting for the picture agency I work for so it was nice to get up to date with where they were with their brand of Sunshine Pop.

Although I picked up a promo of their "Morning tide" album long before it appeared in the shops I hadn't really given it much of an airing so it was interesting to hear a handful of tracks from the release live, making me want to revisit the collection at a later date.

Anya Marina was one of the singers I had been looking forward to see at this year's SXSW. I'd been listening to her album "Slow and steady seduction : Phase II" for the last couple of months, enjoying it immensely. Anya met my expectations, performing a terrific set including opener "Cowboy", 'All the same to me" and single "Move me".

Anya came across as quite a quirky performer between songs, reminding me slightly of Nellie McKay or Giant Drag's Annie Hardy, adding to the pleasure I received from the set.

Atlanta's Janelle Monae hadn't appeared on my radar before SXSW and I had only seen her picture on the cover of the previous days SXSW magazine before she set foot on the Brush Square stage.

Janelle was one of this years acts that had Austin buzzing, with the Brush Square tent full to capacity and a mass of photographers crowding the performance space, eagerly awaiting her appearance.

There was almost a James Brown style sense of occasion as one of her band members warmed the audience up, increasing our anticipation. We were finally rewarded with Janelle's appearance and what an appearance it was! The quiffed, Kung Fu kicking, diminutive Diva treated us all to a set consisting of Funky, R and B and Dance material with a slightly off the wall feel, covering every inch of the stage, draping herself on the piano and stage diving into the crowd.

Amongst all the action Janelle still found time to slow things down completely, performing a heart tugging version of timeless classic "Smile", showing how sensational her voice is and how great a performer she was even without all the theatrics. Janelle's set was the best thing I encountered at this years SXSW, standing head and shoulders above everything else.

Little Boots is a performer that should tick all the right boxes for me. She's someone I'd been meaning to check out for ages so I was glad I'd finally get the opportunity on SXSW Saturday.

I was a bit surprised that the tent had emptied almost completely after Janelle, leaving Little Boots with a smallish crowd to entertain. I hate to say it but her Electro Pop filled set did nothing for me, leaving me with a great feeling of disappointment and a sense I'd encountered the Emperors new clothes. Perhaps I would have warmed to Little Boots appearance another time, another place but after Janelle's performance, oozing star quality and charisma it had all the excitement of someone coming on to sweep the stage.

I was in great spirits by the time I arrived at my first Saturday evening showcase - The Asteroids Galaxy Tour at Maggie Mae's Chop Shop stage. I'd seen the Danish band at the same venue on a different stage earlier in the week so was really looking forward to hearing tracks from their forthcoming album "Fruit" again. The band were on amazing form, giving me my favourite set from the three times I've caught them live recently.

This was probably the band's final show of the Festival, bringing a great atmosphere as they pulled out the likes of "The sun aint shining no more", "Around the bend" and "The golden age" from their repertoire. I was especially happy to hear "The golden age" as it was missing from their previous Wednesday performance.

I decided to hang around in Maggie Mae's returning to the Chop Shop stage to view my second Anya Marina set of the day. It was pretty much the same standard as the afternoon performance so I couldn't really ask for more!

I had planned to catch an 11pm set from Spanish Ska band The Pepper Pots but I realised after looking at the map that they were playing blocks and blocks away in the opposite direction from the majority of the SXSW action. I really wanted to see the band but there was no chance of catching a taxi and my body just wasn't up for a very long walk four days into my SXSW experience! In the end I more or less decided to call it a day but would pop in for one more showcase on my way back to the hotel.

Ireland's Wallis Bird seems to be having a good year in 2009. Recently signed to the Rubyworks Independent company after major label disappointment she then went on to win a Meteor award (the Irish equivalent of the Brits). Having her only official showcase at Habana Calle 6 Patio at the very tail end of SXSW Wallis just couldn't wait to get started and threw every ounce of energy she had into her opening song, leaving her slightly spent at the end of it, needing a moment to catch her breath!

I stayed for a couple of extra songs, enjoying Wallis's passionate performance but I needed to get to bed, with my hotel about a minute away calling my name! So I sadly took my leave, just as Wallis was starting up "Counting to sleep". I almost turned around to go back at the end of the road but decided that was the end of my 2009 SXSW.

My fourth SXSW in a row was just as entertaining as the previous three. I was able to take in some great bands, both new and old and spent a lot of time socialising with fellow music fans and industry types. It seems to be the one musical event where you can believe the hype as every SXSW virgin I encountered spoke passionately about their time at the music bash.

It's a slightly pricey excursion from the UK, especially with the current hideous exchange rate but I can guarantee you'll get value for money from your trip.

Category Gig Review

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