South By Southwest

SxSW Review: Calva Louise, March 16, Cedar Street Courtyard

Posted on by Gary in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

20220316 Calva Louise
Calva Louise specializes in what should be termed pop-guitarism. The band name may have been inspired by a bald lady after people watching in Manchester. Or a beloved childhood cartoon character. Or a game of charades one random night. Or Google Translate as read by a drunk reviewer fumbling for context at 12 in the morning at Cedar Street Courtyard.

As with previous singles and EPs, Calva Louise’s music centers on passages of meaty guitar riffs dressed up with with pinches of vocal utterance. Songs such as “Hunting” and “Belicoso” have little internal progression, and make for a square wave set that goes from quiet banter to 120% volume for the next 3 minutes, then repeats. However, they did sound much better live when the music is less wrapped up in electronic embellishments.

There are lots of bands that strive to bring together far-flung musical influences from the “corners” of the world – a mix of British, American and Latin music doesn’t sound like a particularly ingenious potpourri, if you will pardon the pun on their EP by the self-conscious name POP(urri). What sets Calva Louise apart is an additional emphasis on the animation projected behind the drummer. Designed by the lead guitar Jess, they don’t so much create a new mood as present a more interesting photo-op as opposed to the brand/sponsor logos. Despite what may sound like misgivings, the energy from their live set is undeniably attractive.

Calva Louise are currently on an American tour behind their new album Euphoric.

SxSW Review: Strawberry Guy, March 16, Cedar Street Courtyard

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20220316 Strawberry Guy

Dream Pop has always sounded more like a violent catastrophe than the label for softly enveloping music. Fortunately, Liverpool-based Alex Stephens (aka Strawberry Guy) subscribes to the latter definition. In an early afternoon set at Cedar Street Courtyard, Strawberry Guy sat serenading from his keyboard, in what I gather was BME‘s attempt to pacify the crowd after Walt Disco’s boisterous play.

If we were still mired in the drugged-up, intoxicated ways of the ’60s, Strawberry Guy would be a fair and perhaps obligatory performer. In the current climate, it is more difficult to gauge whether we should put our cynicism or naivete first. With a singing voice bordering on anemic and a habit of capping each number with “~cooool~”, the live set felt decidedly less serene than the recording. It’s the difference and subjective taste between a warm breeze and a cozy blanket – neither is a salve if you came in frozen from a Walrus Club meet.

Amongst the set of 5-6 songs, “Take My Time To Be” off the eponymous EP as well as “Sun Outside My Window” from the new album, released back in October 2021, stood out. But each shared the same DNA of unhurried calm, where much of the lyrics center on everyday observation and introspection. It is probably by design that little of a profound or otherworldly nature was said. But then again, perhaps Strawberry Guy, a self-proclaimed One-Man-Impressionist (as if Manet and Monet painted in tag-team), believes we are all Universes onto ourselves.

SXSW Review: Self Esteem, March 18, Cheer Up Charlie’s

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Self Esteem, aka Rebecca Lucy Taylor, presented a tour de force show on Friday at Cheer Up Charlies. Sometimes you just need good pop fun and that’s exactly what Self Esteem brought. Accompanied by a live band and two dancers, Self Esteem quickly declared herself as an act to pay attention to from the get-go, as she and her dancers took to the stage in a surprisingly dramatic fashion.

The next fifty minutes saw Self Esteem play tracks off her 2021 critically acclaimed record Prioritise Pleasure, an album filled with uplifting pop bangers while engaging in fun choreographed dancing with her dancers and all in front of a fan that made everything more intense. I had never heard Self Esteem before this, but I was instantly transformed into a fan.

I, for one, cannot get enough of her track “I Do This All The Time.” Highly recommended.

SXSW Reviews: Daniel Casimir, Yoo Doo Right, Voka Gentle

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

20220318 Daniel Casimir

At its best, SXSW is all about the joy of discovery, of finding something brand new to you that totally blows you away and makes a lasting impression once the chaos of SXSW is over and done with. This is especially true of acts that are making truly ambitious and interesting music and of the many acts who played Austin last week, here are a few who impressed with their musical prowess and sonic explorations:

Daniel Casimir, March 18, Brush Square Park

Okay, the London-based Casimir wasn’t entirely a new discovery as I’d been turned on to his music just before heading to Austin and had made it a point to fit one of his shows into my schedule based on what I’d heard. And Casimir and his band did not disappoint.

Daniel Casimir has been a fixture on the UK jazz scene for the past few years and has appeared at SXSW in the past as a sideman for others, but this year he got the chance to showcase his own work accompanied by a stellar band. The interplay between all of the players was impressive, though I have to give a special shout out to his drummer, who not only kept the groove going on Casimir’s compositions, but elevated everything to the next level.

Yoo Doo Right, March 16, Swan Dive Patio

We made the call on Wednesday night to head out to the Pop Montreal/M pour Montreal showcase at Swan Dive and happily came across a stellar set from Yoo Doo Right, whose heavy psych/krautrock hit just the right spot at just the right time. The influence of Can is evident in the band’s name, but I also detected some Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and even hints of post-punk and shoegaze in their sound.

Voka Gentle, March 19, The Green Jay

It’s rare to see a band take to the stage on the last night of SXSW, announce that they’ve been in town for close to a week, and then go on to play what was apparently their first and only set of the festival, but if I heard it right, that’s exactly what happened on Saturday night as English band Voka Gentle took to the stage for an evening of weird and wonderful music. Or maybe it wasn’t their only show as a quick look at the band’s social media suggests they played at least one other show during the daytime, but it makes for a better story to say they only played one show. Either way, it was a show I won’t soon forget.