Concerts

SXSW Reviews: Thus Love, cumgirl8, Shannon and the Clams

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20240316 Thus Love

While the forecast for Friday called for plenty of rain, luckily, other than some early morning showers, the weather held off and it ended up being a relatively nice day. With the fear of getting soaked out of the way, we were free to do a little exploring, musically speaking. Here are a few of the highlights.

Thus Love, March 15, The 13th Floor

SXSW at its best is all about discovering something new and so in that spirit, we walked into The 13th Floor on Friday night to check out Thus Love knowing very little about them. Delivering a bracing set of moody post-punk tunes, the Brattleboro, Vermont-based band put on an impressive and impassioned performance that left me wanting to dig a little deeper into their discography.

cumgirl8, March 15, Parish

While cumgirl8 looked to be one of the buzzier acts going into the festival, they were also one of many who opted to bow out of doing any official shows in response to SXSW having the U.S. Army as a major sponsor. Luckily for those of us looking forward to seeing them, the band still came to Austin to play a few shows around town.

Taking to the stage at Parish wearing (fairly revealing) outfits emblazoned with the words “SXSW IS OVER,” the New York City quartet certainly didn’t shy away from making a statement and made it clear how they felt about the festival and its ties to the military and to defense contractors. The band commented that when they decided to drop out of their official shows, they had to ask themselves, “What would Cicciolina do?” Unsurprisingly, they followed that by launching into “Cicciolina,” their tribute to the pornstar/politician/musician of the same name taken off of their phanteasea pharm EP.

20240315 Shannon and the Clams

Shannon and the Clams, March 15, Radio Day Stage

A ballroom in a convention center is no one’s ideal spot to take in a concert, but Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams made the most of their late afternoon set at the Austin Convention Center’s Radio Day Stage regardless. Shannon Shaw and her mustachioed bandmates played a solid set of 1950s-inspired garage rock, with the absolute highlight being brand new single “Real or Magic,” taken from their upcoming album The Moon Is In The Wrong Place.

SXSW Reviews: Merv xx Gotti, Living Hour, Indian Giver

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With plenty of Canadian acts in town for SXSW, Panic Manual did our civic duty and showed some support for the home team, taking in some of the Wednesday and Thursday afternoon Canada House showcases at Swan Dive as well as Range Magazine‘s official showcase at Chess Club on the Thursday night.

Merv xx Gotti, March 13, Swan Dive

I thought that seeing the moderator for the Star Trek: Discovery panel geeking out over Trek minutiae would be the nerdiest thing I’d see all week at SXSW but then Merv xx Gotti became a contender during his Wednesday afternoon set at Canada House when he introduced a song by asking if anyone had seen Dune in the past couple of weeks before adding, “This song is called Dune. It’s about Dune.”

Yes, the Regina-based singer-songwriter does seem to take a fairly literal approach to songwriting, but what he may lack in metaphor, he makes up for in tone and atmosphere. Gotti mentioned he’d previously been at SXSW back in 2018 with his hip hop project. Based on the mellow, moody sounds on Gotti’s Guitar Songs EP, clearly this is a different beast.

Living Hour, March 14, Swan Dive

Winnipeg’s Living Hour has been on my list of bands to see for a couple of years now, and on Thursday afternoon at Canada House, I finally got the chance to see them. I was suitably impressed by what I saw and also a little surprised. I was expecting a bit more of a subdued, chilled out dream pop vibe and while there was certainly some of that, a lot of their set was also a bit more rocking. I look forward to seeing what’s next for Living Hour.

Indian Giver, March 14, Chess Club

Also playing Canada House on the Thursday was Toronto-based indigenous hardcore band Indian Giver, though I opted not to see them play that afternoon. Rather, I waited until later that night to catch their set at Chess Club as that seemed like a more suitable venue for a punk show than the stage at Swan Dive. What followed was one of the most intense and powerful performances I saw all week. It was so good I didn’t even mind that some dude spilled his beer all over my back during their set. 

SXSW Review: The Rite Flyers, March 16, Velveeta Room

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While perusing the SXSW app on Saturday night and looking to fill a gap in my schedule, I came across Austinites The Rite Flyers, whose bio on SouthBy’s site compared them to such luminaries as Teenage Fanclub and Guided by Voices, not to mention The Who and a little band called The Beatles. Some lofty company for sure, but I figured with those reference points, they might be worth checking out.

I wasn’t wrong. 

The show was taking place at The Velveeta Room, just steps away from the chaos of 6th Street on a Saturday night. Taking shelter from the masses gathering out on “Dirty 6th,” I opted to head inside and see what the quartet, made up of veterans of the Austin music scene, had to offer. But first a trip to the bar to order a Lone Star. Priorities.

Then, upon scanning the room, I noticed that this appeared to be largely a badgeless crowd, presumably mostly friends or fans of the acts playing that night, and not strictly speaking a SouthBy crowd. This looked more like a group of locals who were here to take in some local Austin music. And though I may not be a local, I guess that’s what I was there for too.

As the band launched into their opening number, it became clear that The Rite Flyers did indeed have the goods. With tracks like “Runway Lights”, “Help Yourself” and “Captain Sir Tom,” the band showed off their songwriting skills, living up to the hype of their bio and delivering a solid set of straight up power poppy goodness. 

The Rite Flyers latest album Butterfly on a Bomb Range is out now on Flak Records.

SXSW Review: Holly Macve, March 15, St. David’s Historic Sanctuary

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Like many artists, English singer-songwriter Holly Macve has made multiple appearances at SXSW over the years. She acknowledged as much early on in her Friday night set at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, telling the crowd that it felt good to be back in Austin and going on to say that the city has a special place in her heart.

Telling the story of the first time she came to Austin when she was 19, Macve mentioned how a woman who she referred to as her “Texas mum” took her in at the time and that she still visits this woman each time she returns. She went on to tell another, less happy story of how she was in Austin when she found out that her father had died. And though they may not have been close, something like that would obviously have an impact on anyone. It did indeed have an impact on Macve, who wrote a song about it, “Daddy’s Gone.”

I had previously heard Macve do that song during SXSW 2022 and having enjoyed that set, I decided to check in on her a couple of years later to see what she’s up to these days. As it turns out, a fair bit can change in a couple of years.

In the years since I last saw her, Macve’s sound has shifted from a folk/country based sound to more of a dreamy, cinematic alt-pop sound à la Lana Del Rey. As it turns out, the Del Rey comparison is an apt one – Macve’s recently released single “Suburban House” is a collaboration with Lana Del Rey.

And while some of the older tunes retained a bit of their folky delivery, the newer songs had a different, more dramatic vibe. Performed solo over just a backing track, it was a bit unusual (and more than a little Lynchian) to see a karaoke style performance in the confines of St. David’s, but Macve absolutely made it work.