South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Kate Davis, March 15, Seven Grand

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

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“Is anyone else celebrating their first SouthBy?”

This was the question posed by Kate Davis near the outset of her Wednesday night set at Seven Grand.

“I am. I don’t know if you can tell. It’s been …” She paused for a moment paused before finishing her thought: “… stimulating.”

Stimulating is definitely one way to describe it and certainly a nice neutral choice on Davis’ part. Whether for good or bad though, SXSW can absolutely be a lot, especially if it’s your first time there.

And it certainly can be a lot of stimulation. I can only imagine what it’s like for musicians running around town all week and often playing multiple shows in a day. For her part, Davis seemed to be taking it pretty well, though she did seem at times perhaps a bit bemused by the whole thing.

Playing SXSW in advance of her new record Fish Bowl, Davis focused on new stuff for much of her set (though I believe she did also include some older material) with tracks like “Long Long Long”, “Fish Bowl” and “Monster Mash” (“its not a cover”) standing out as highlights.

Fish Bowl is out this week on ANTI Records, though if you were one of the lucky few who couldn’t wait ’til then and managed to snag one, Davis did happen to have a few advance copies on her for sale during SXSW. The rest of us will just have to wait ’til Friday.

SXSW Film Review: Northern Comfort [Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, 2023]

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


If this was the story of five strangers coming together to help each other overcome their fear of flying, it would have been a sorry premise for a feature movie. So director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson transported this flight of misfits, warts-and-all, to Iceland, and let them loose. And of course mayhem ensued: where’s the fun in not satisfying the viewers’ m-ice-maze schadenfreude?

Northern Comfort is a simple and lovable film. There isn’t a groundbreakingly complex truth that would only be revealed when the five protagonists’ tales are interwoven together. And only one of them has “a particular set of skills that was acquired over a very long career” – the veteran character actor Tim Spall plays the ex-commando-turned-famous-writer Edward. At the opposite spectrum sits Lydia Leonard’s Sarah and Simon Manyoda’s Charles, whose lives are fraying and cocooned, respectively. In between sits the superficially dysfunctional couple Coco (Gina Bramhill) and Alfons (Sverrir Gudnason), who teeter on the verge of splitting in opposite directions.

The trick in the writing is that every next turn is almost believable by itself, so it becomes all the more absurd that in the end, they all grow from the brief Icelandic experience and fly off in their separate ways for the better. Granted, some of these twists can seem odd, and the supporting cast are literally flattened characters that might as well have been props. But the film never strays from this recipe to indulge in a freefall of the Cabin-In-The-Woods trope. After all, how many protagonists would we want to see surreally disfigured in a world already too close to home?

And isn’t that just the way it is? Brief turning points, even if one degree at a time, will still forever alter life’s trajectories. Even a civil engineer working in fog-laden London may find herself upside-down in a volcanic snowbank with the “right” dice-throws – you just never know.

SXSW Review: William Prince, March 16, Swan Dive

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


So at SXSW, the day shows generally take the form of a showcase- usually each venue has a set of at least four or five acts that play and there’s a common element connecting them. Most of the time it’s either a record label, a PR group or in todays’ example a country. Almost all of these showcases dangle some sort of carrot for you to show up – the competition is high and so in most cases it’s usually free beer. However the people who have their shit together also have free food.

My first show on Thursday was unexpected – I had heard the Canada showcase had free food and this intrigued me. What was the food? Was this using my tax dollars? Either way it got me to show up to Swan Dive.

As I walked in, an artist was playing – I was still keen to get my food (DIY tacos) but something about this man’s voice compelled me.

That man was William Prince, a Juno winning country, folk and roots singer from Winnipeg. Normally I would say I’m not the biggest fan of singers accompanied by only an acoustic guitar, but I found William Prince’s set to be quite memorable.

Throughout his performance, Prince told tales that weaved into his track and you can see what each song means, even if it’s inspired by Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. The story telling was immaculate and added a lot of gravitas to the songs.

The songs themselves were melodic, soulful and just sounded really nice. It helps that Prince’s deep voice really added a lot to the tunes. Some people were just born to sing and William Prince is one of them

William Prince’s new record Stand in the Joy comes out April 14 on Six Shooter Records.

SXSW Review: The Zombies, March 15, Stubb’s

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


Ten years ago, The Zombies made their first trip to Austin for the 2013 edition of SXSW. I saw them that year, and was impressed that this band that has been around since the early 1960s were making their way from showcase to showcase like a band of hungry young twentysomethings rather than the established legends of the early British rock scene that they are. Clearly they must have enjoyed it though, as they returned a couple of years after that and were back again this year, with a new documentary on the band airing as part of the festival and with an upcoming new album, Different Game, due out later this month.

Alongside a handful of other shows this week, the band played a headlining set at Stubb’s on Wednesday night, running through a set full of classics like “Tell Her No”, “Care of Cell 44” and “She’s Not There.” I took note of the fact that, ten years after seeing them for the first time, singer Colin Blunstone still sounds fantastic. A lot of singers seem to lose a bit of range after many years in the game, but Blunstone can still belt out those tunes much like he did in his younger days.

So yeah, to borrow a phrase from their 2015 album, The Zombies have still got that hunger. Or, to borrow a phrase from John Wick, the latest edition of which also premiered at SXSW, I’m thinking The Zombies are back. And they still sound pretty great.