She Shreds magazine, founded by Fabi Reyna, is a publication “…dedicated to educating, inspiring, and encouraging future and current musicians by highlighting female guitarists and bassists from all over the world.” I’ve got to say, this is an idea I can get behind, and the magazine was responsible for putting together a pretty great lineup that certainly lived up to their mission statement.
I arrived at the venue just as Seattle’s Chastity Belt were about to take the stage. I’d heard good things about them and they easily met my expectations with some jangly, punky tunes that stick in your head. One of the highlights of their set was “Time To Go Home,” a song that almost could have been written about some of the folks who will undoubtedly be seen stumbling down Sixth Street by the end of SouthBy. It’s a tale of fun times gone too far until having a good time turns into “I can’t see straight” and then it’s time to go home.
Following Chastity Belt was Hinds. While the Spanish band may have thought they were playing outdoors upon arriving at the venue, they conceded that the inside stage was also pretty cool. They probably even benefited from the smaller space as the packed in audience made for a more communal party vibe. Based on the reaction of both the band and the crowd, it’s safe to say that everyone walked away from this one satisfied.
As usual, Latitude 30 was home to some up and coming UK acts. Here’s a look at two of them
It only took a few minutes for me to realize how much more talented William Doyle aka East India Youth (pictured above) was then I. Playing only by himself on stage, Doyle went used laptop, synthesizer, played bass AND sang during the course of his all too brief set. Doyle is an intense performer and his energy created for a tense session with the crowd as it was becoming increasingly clear that one of his many gadgets on stage was failing him and you can see that he wanted to destroy it. Alas, it was SXSW and who knows if you can rent another one if you break your music gadget on the first night. Still, his layered electronics sound was impressive. Doyle’s vocals are so good I feel like he can just be a successful singer if he wanted, but in some sort of mad genius rage, he instead uses his voice as merely one of the many tools in his arsenal, and I am more then fine with that.
Shura is another UK artist on the cusp. Lead singer Aleksandra Denton’s vocals and sound reminds me of smooth early 90’s pop music which then reminded me of Jessie Ware. Denton doesn’t have the charm that oozes off Jessie Ware (she’s one of a kind), but her music holds strong promise. There was actually a funny moment where Denton referred to SXSW as the Hunger Games and then held up her hand with three fingers which I assumed was some sort of Hunger Games thing. Actually, now that I am reading her wikipedia page, it says she produced Jessie Ware’s Say You Love Me, which makes perfect sense to what I just wrote. Either way, I can use more good pop tracks in my life given the amount of crap that’s produced for top 40 these days, so put me on the Shura bandwagon.
For all the talk about the big acts playing SXSW every year, it is actually the potential for an act to become a big act that is most exciting. Recent years have seen acts launch to mega stardom after SXSW stints (Sam Smith, Bastille, Haim all come to mind) and so it is this search that is one of the most exciting things about SXSW.
James Bay has the chance to be one of these people.
A singer-songwriter from the UK, Bay’s most recent single Hold Back the River has already made strides overseas and he is now primped and proper to take over stateside. After witnessing Bay’s set at the Austin Conference Center, it’s easy to see why he’s one of the artists pegged for the big time.
Having already opened for Hozier all across the Stateside, Bay has already developed (or maybe always had) a charismatic, low key presence on stage. It’s a very welcoming warmth and sets the right atmosphere for his heartfelt and soulful folkish songs. The music for most part, is impressive. The singles have a nice hook and Bay has the vocal chops. It is still however a guy with a guitar singing love tracks, so it’ll always have that “purchased at Starbucks” vibe, which is all fine and dandy, because that is a very successful career decision.
Part hip hop, part spoken word, all truth. Kate Tempest put on one of the best showcases I have seen in awhile at SXSW. A spoken work artist who has won poetry award and slam contests, Kate Tempest blends works and messages with the best of them. She’s also a proud performer capable of delivering her messages a capella, which is itself quite different.
Combining intricate wordplay with boundless energy and bone shaking beats, it was one of the most freshest and funnest shows I have been to in a long time.
She’s playing four more times at SXSW. Do yourself a favor and check her out.