South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Overcoats, March 14, Cheer Up Charlie’s

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Indie pop duo Overcoats brought harmonized vocals, choreographed moves and just good vibes to their show case on Tuesday night at Cheer Up Charlies.

The group’s harmonies reminded me of Lucius, a band I adore for their vocal-heavy blend of pop, folk and other genres. The intangible part of Overcoats’ show was Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell’s chemistry on stage – the duo was clearly having a blast up there and that really delivered a jolt to the crowd, many of whom were probably on hour nine of seeing live music. All in all, Overcoats were a fun time.

The group’s new album Winner drops April 7 and was produced by Daniel Tashian (a co-producer on Kacey Musgraves’s acclaimed Golden Hour), so you know they’re on the up and up.

SXSW Review: Swan Leak: A Silent Clown Ballet, March 14, The Creek and the Cave

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Photo by Luke Adams

How does one even begin to describe Swan Leak?

Well, I suppose the SXSW programme as well as the marquee outside of The Creek and the Cave already had the basic description covered ahead of time, billing the performance as “A Silent Clown Ballet.” But that barely even begins to cover the scope of what the audience experienced on Tuesday.

I think the guy sitting behind me said it best when, as the lights went up, he turned to his friend and simply said, “What did we just watch?” Indeed, what did we all just watch?

While I too didn’t know quite what to expect from Swan Leak, I at least had some inkling of what I might see going into this, as I had seen one of the performers in this ballet, Christina Catherine Martinez, as part of Nick Thune’s Sunday night Riffs and Riff Raffs showcase, wherein each of the comedians/performers incorporated a musical element into their sets.

On that evening, Martinez put on quite a unique show, one that involved some audience participation as well as some … memorable moments involving shrimp and pizza (the phrase “a fresh slice of Hoboken pie” will forevermore be a part of my lexicon). After that show, I too had my “what did I just see?” moment, but I’m not going to lie, it did leave me intrigued to see exactly what Martinez would have in store for her other appearance at SXSW. And what Martinez and her partner Natalie Palamides had in store ended up being one of the most memorable moments of my many years of attending SXSW.

Performing (mostly) silently and accompanied by a musician on piano and kazoo (and probably a few other things), Martinez and Palamides made the entire venue, and in fact the entire audience, a part of their performance. And what a performance it was – to borrow a phrase from Bill Hader’s Stefon, this show had everything – uncomfortable crowd participation, copious amounts of fake bodily fluids, raw fish … yes, fish. I happened to look down at one point and all of the sudden, each woman was holding a fish. Why? Well, why not? And yes, it did indeed make this a performance which incorporated all the senses.

I won’t go into too much detail on the specifics as I’m not sure whether Palamides and Martinez ever plan to do any more productions of Swan Leak or if this is a one off. I do so to avoid revealing any spoilers, yes, but also because I’m not sure mere words could even do Swan Leak justice. So I’ll just wrap things up by saying that much like Martinez’s Sunday night appearance at Riffs and Riff Raffs, this one will definitely go down in the books as one of my more memorable SouthBy moments. Bizarre, raunchy, and grotesque, sure, but most definitely quite memorable.

And in answer to the aforementioned question, what did we just watch? Swan fucking Leak, that’s what.

SXSW Review: be your own PET, Molly Martin, March 14

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be your own PET

I started off my Tuesday at SXSW at the Convention Center for a panel featuring The Indigo Girls. In town to promote It’s Only Life After All, Alexandria Bombach’s documentary on the iconic folk-rock duo, Amy Ray and Emily Sallers spoke on the subject of mixing music and activism and using your platform as an artist to speak out.

Amongst other things, they mentioned need to take in the wisdom of our elders but also the wisdom of youth and why the older generations need to engage with the youth. The panel ended off with a comment on the importance of growing hope for the future with the younger generation. It was an ispiring talk and that idea of the younger generation speaking out and using their music as a platform for activism was on my mind as I took in some musical performances later that day.

Sometimes activism can be as simple as speaking out when you see something wrong going on or just voicing your support for others. I saw this in action during be your own PET’s mid-afternoon performance at The Mohawk. The recently reunited band played a great set full of classics like “Becky” and “The Kelly Affair” as well as a bracing cover of The Misfit’s “Attitude.” Between songs, singer Jemina Pearl took a moment to speak out against the restrictive legislation recently passed in their home state, referring to it as “pure hatred” and also making it clear that they stood with their LGBTQ fans: “We love you. We see you. We stand with you. We support you. And fuck Bill Lee.”

Molly Martin

Nashville singer-songwriter Molly Martin may not necessarily be overtly political in her music but as the old saying goes, the personal is the political and after hearing songs like “Love Me/Hate Me” and “Someone That I Used To Hate” off of Martin’s debut album Mary, one can certainly see evidence of the personal and the political intersecting as well as that theme of hopefulness that the Indigo Girls brought up earlier in the day. Overall, Martin’s solid songwriting and sense of humour made for a memorable performance.

Martin not only let us know that she had merch for sale (she made a pitch encouraging folks to buy her t-shirts “… so we cam eat! Jokes … but not really.”) but also took the time to hype up her debut album, adding that you only get one chance at a debut album and that she was pretty proud of this one. And with good reason too.

SXSW Review: The Chairs. March 14, Elysium

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The Chairs

Taiwan is known for many things – boba tea, Night Markets, Braised Beef Noodles, and not being recognized by the UN.

What I learned in 2021 was that it is also home to an up and coming rock scene. One of the standouts from the 2021 virtual SXSW shows for me was the Chairs – their low key retro ’50s-’60s rock vibes really resonated with me. Fast forward to 2023 and the group finally made it to these shores as part of Taiwanese night at SXSW.

A large crowd at Elysium greeted the group, who wasted no time diving into their groovy weekend dreamy pop tune “Every Day is Sunday”. The Chairs’ set consisted of songs that remind me of a nice hot summer afternoon sitting by the chill resort hotel pool with friends. It’s got relaxed vibes with occasional harmonizing vocals, sometimes in multiple languages – music that just puts you at ease.

The crowd swayed and swooned with the group thoughout the set, ending off with their lead single “Rollin On” which inspired a bit of a sing along.

Good times were had.