SXSW 2013 - Thursday - 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.
Every year SXSW holds its annual Keynote Speech. Recent participants have included Bruce Springsteen and Smokey Robinson with 2013 introducing Foo Fighters mainman Dave Grohl to the stage.
Photographers were allocated a couple of minutes to get some shots so I started my Thursday on my knees front of stage then scrabbled around for another decent spot a few second later!
After Dave it was time for a walk up to the FADER FORT - Presented by Converse. The Fader Fort is one of the best places to hang out at SX. It always has a great range of up-and-coming bands alongside a few secret headliners and copious amounts of free alcohol! There was a specific reason for heading along Thursday afternoon and that was to watch a set from Scottish band Chvrches. It was worth the trek as they were on good form with their synth pop songs sounding superb - all ably topped with a Scottish accent!
I hung around Fader after the set for a bit, chatting to a few folk before lazily making my way back to the Convention Centre. I had it in my mind that US retro folk rocker Lissie was playing at four on the large Radio Day Stage but she wasn't actually playing till five, with Family Of The Year in the 4pm slot. This was a real treat for me as the band's Loma Vista was one of my favourite albums of last year, finally giving me the opportunity to hear their summery pop sounds live.
Family Of The Year
Lissie is one of my favourite acts around at the moment. I saw her several times when she was promoting her debut album Catching A Tiger so I felt privileged to be one of the first audiences to hear some new material. There was no drastic change in direction with the songs previewed but the songs were certainly there with a couple sounding really memorable on first listen.
The singers's set was also peppered with older material including 'When I'm Alone", 'Everywhere I Go' and 'In Sleep', with the song's searing guitar solo from Eric Sullivan bringing a lot of the seated crowd to their feet.
My evening started with another showcase from Charlotte Church. This was my second Charlotte show of the week and had been really looking forward to it as the set the previous afternoon really impressed, with the singer's new more experimental indie/goth rock sounds winning me completely over.
Charlotte was playing at the Rooftop on 6th, which wasn't an official venue so the bar was full of general American drinkers! The set up was a bit odd as the stage was in front of a raised section containing stripper poles and there was only room for a handful of people between the pole section and stage.
It was entertaining watching the punters getting pulled in by Charlotte's performance and there were plenty cheers around when she really let her voice soar. Set highlights were the same as the day before but I have to mention 'Say It's True' from EP One as it was phenomenal.
I'd seen UK singer Lianne La Havas a few times live in 2012 at festivals but I'd never actually caught a full set due to running off to cover someone else. I wasn't in such a hurry in Austin so was finally able to devour a full portion of Miss La Havas' output at Empire Automative, including the delightful 'Age', 'Au Cinema' and the title track from her album Is Your Love Big Enough and it was well worth the wait!
Lianne La Havas
My final act of the night was a second SX helping of The Specials. The band were playing a new venue, Hype Hotel. The venue held official showcases but it was also open to the public if they'd RSVP'd in advance and there was plenty free food and drink on offer for all.
HH is a very large venue and I didn't have separate media credentials to enter their photo pit so had make do with squeezing my way down the left hand side, which worked well for me as I ended up with a front row position with a large flat surface to lean on, meaning I could take a few shots and relax and have a singalong throughout the band's set. I think it must have been the most relaxing yet rowdy gig I've ever been to!!