SXSW 2013 - Friday - 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.
My Friday afternoon was spent in one venue - The Stage On Sixth. The club had outside and indoor stages and I spent the first part of my gig viewing outside checking out my second Lissie show of the week, with Dundee's The View kicking things off.
I can't say I would listen to any of The View's music in the house but their set was a fun way to start the day, even though they were all looking like the night before had taken it's toll! I'm not 100% certain but I've a feeling the bass player fell off the side of the small stage at one point!
Lissie produced a show featuring several songs from album number two alongside a couple of old favourites. As I said in my previous review, she's one of my favourite performers as her voice is terrific and she throws heaps of emotion into her songs. Add guitarist Eric Sullivan into the mix and you see why a live rendition of 'In Sleep' is such an exhilarating experience. The singer's set ended with her fairly traditional cover - Kid Cudi's 'Pursuit Of Happiness'. Lissie and her band have tried to drop it over the years but it's just too damn popular! Well, who doesn't enjoy shouting 'Fuck That!' loudly alongside fellow gig goers?!
My first show indoors was from 60s legends - The Zombies. There was a real buzz about the band's set and I was surprised to see a lot of younger people enjoying hits like 'She's Not There', Rod Argent's 'Hold Your Head Up' and 'Time Of the Season', alongside the "Oldies" in attendance!
The Bard Of Barking - Mr Billy Bragg was my final afternoon act. Billy has just released his new album Tooth & Nail and treated us all to a few tracks from the collection, including my fave of the bunch, 'Handyman Blues'. Billy's back catalogue wasn't forgotten though as 'Sexuality' and 'Greetings To The New Brunette' were both embraced by his passionate crowd.
This was the singer's final set of 2013's SX and he was in a real "End of term" mood, laughing joking, moaning about the (very hot) Austin weather and completely berating a poor lad in the third or fourth row who decided to check his phone a few times during Billy's set. So no tweeting next time Billy's in town and you're down the front. He just might have his eye on you!
Billy was joined at the end of his set by ex-Dresden Doll - Amanda Palmer, with the pair singing a duet together, followed by Amanda delivering a frantically charged and very funny 'Ukulele Anthem'.
Billy Bragg and Amanda Palmer
I had a fairly easy Friday evening planned, especially as I was heading to a superb double bill at Vevo TV Control Room, featuring two of my stand out SX acts - Charlotte Church and Fallulah.
I viewed a trio of Charlotte shows at SX this year. I went along to my first showcase out of curiosity and due to the fact that I also shoot for a picture agency so I thought some snaps may be useful. I didn't realise I would come away celebrating the fact that Charlotte was my favourite act of 2013's SX. When I attend SXSW I always hope to find someone new that will really impress, giving me something musical to be excited about. Normally it's a new act (2009's Janelle Monae's Brush Square Park gig springs to mind) but I'm more than happy to embrace a well known UK personality with a new musical direction!
Charlotte has recently dropped her commercial pop persona and is now travelling a slightly darker route, with edgier more experimental material though still containing plenty of hooks. This change in style gives Charlotte plenty of opportunity to use her voice to the full, with her live set taking in tracks from recent EP's One and Two.
One thing I enjoyed about Charlotte's set opener was the fact that its starts with fairly quiet distorted vocals so you begin to think "Voice of an angel?, Are you sure?", so when Charlotte's pipes really get going it completely draws you into the set and keeps your attention till the final song, where even more ludicrous notes appear! Believe me doubters, she really is worth checking out.
I know it's only March but I'm sure Fallulah's second album Escapism will remain near the top of my "Albums of the year" list. It towers above her debut and contains numerous stand out electro pop Anthems, including opener 'Deserte Homes', 'Superfishyality', 'Dried-Out Cities', 'Dragon' and the stunning 'Mares'. The Vevo set was my third time watching the Dane at SX and was my favourite out of the four I viewed, especially as she had several fans in the audience which always makes a difference.
My next stop was the Hype Hotel to see Laura Mvula. I'd been lucky enough to attend Laura's very intimate album launch for debut Sing To the Moon earlier in the year so was looking forward to her HH set. Unfortunately, the far larger venue was just a bit too crammed for me so it wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been. I did notice single 'Green Garden' working really well in the larger arena though.
My final act of the night was US potty-mouthed rapper Brooke Candy. Brooke played a very short but hectic set and was quite fun to shoot. It was an amusing way to end the evening and I'd be interested in watching a longer gig somewhere down the line.