South By Southwest

SXSW Review: COSBY, Roller Derby, March 15, Half Step

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


We need to talk about COSBY. No, I’m not referring to W. Kamau Bell’s thoughtful docuseries on the rather complicated legacy of Bill Cosby. Nor am I referring to the man himself, though I suppose we do, as a society, still need to talk about that creep. No, I’m referring to the unfortunately named German indie-pop band and specifically why they thought it would be prudent to name themselves after a disgraced comedian who is now known as much for his transgressions as he is for his comedy.

How exactly did this happen? Do … do they not know who Cosby is in Germany? Does it mean something else in German? Sure, the band probably chose their name a while back, but bands have been known to change names that have problematic associations – The Chicks and Sea Power are just two that spring to mind off the top of my head. And sure, there’s a good chance that The Cosby Show (Das Cosby Shöw?) probably wasn’t very big in Germany, and the band could be young enough that they might not have remembered it even if it was. But even if we assume that was the case, you’d think they might do a quick Google search on that name to see what comes up before deciding that this would be their chosen moniker. Unless you’re a death metal band naming yourself after a notorious serial killer or something like that, this is probably not the kind of association any band wants with their name. Then again, maybe it is what they want? I mean, I am writing about them after all, so maybe this is all part of the plan and I’m playing right into their hands. Either way, it’s a very bad band name.

Still, all of that aside, I decided to check out the band anyways and judge them on the merits of their actual music. Would their music be able to rise above such a poorly chosen name? I was curious to see.


But before I would make my verdict on the Munich indie pop band’s music, another German act would take to the Half Step stage on Tuesday night. With a similarly synth based sound but a much better and much less problematic name than the band that would follow them later that evening, Hamburg’s Roller Derby put on an enjoyable set of dreamy indie pop that definitely made a good impression. The band must have also made a good impression on whoever was in charge of Sunday night’s SXSW Music closing party as they were on that bill alongside Balming Tiger and Los Bitchos. I had a chance to see all three of those acts at other points throughout the week and I’m sure that Sunday show must have been a lot of fun.

But what about COSBY? I’ll admit that the show was kind of fun – they had a good energy and got the crowd moving a bit, and I did appreciate singer Marie Kobylka’s stagewear, which had a Lady Gaga meets Edith Prickley vibe. Giving their music a bit of a listen again after the fact, I did find their recorded output to be a bit too glossy for my taste, but the live show was enjoyable enough. Shame about the name though. They should definitely change the name.

SXSW Reviews: Mallin Pettersen, Holly Macve, Abby Hamilton, James McMurtry

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

While we try to check out as many different kinds of music as possible at SXSW, it’s always a treat to take in a set by a talented songwriter working within the folk/country end of the musical spectrum, and so I always find at least a bit of time to devote to checking out something from those genres. This year was no different and there were most certainly a few talented singer-songwriters who caught my attention this year. Here are some of the ones who stood out:

Mallin Pettersen, March 15, Lazarus Brewing Co.

She may be Norwegian, but Mallin Pettersen’s sound is pure Americana. Playing a mid afternoon set on the first day of Music For Listeners’ series of day parties at Lazarus Brewing, Pettersen and her band impressed with a warm, twangy sound

Holly Macve, March 18, Flatstock Stage

To introduce her song “Daddys Gone”, English singer Holly Macve told the story of the last time she was in SXSW when she got the call bringing her the sad news that her father, who she didn’t know very well, had passed away. The song itself was quite lovely, a beautuful Emmylou-esque performance of a very personal song. Another memorable moment in her set was her cover of “I Will Always Love You”, written of course by another of this year’s performers – Dolly Parton.

Abby Hamilton, March 19, Flatstock Stage

Also appearing on the Flatstock Stage and starting of the final day of the festival for me was Kentucky singer-songwriter Abby Hamilton, whose sound brought to mind the likes of Kathleen Edwards and Lucinda Williams at times. Her standout track was “Trailer Park Queen”, a song inspired by the real life tale of her cousin, who Hamilton noted is “tickled that she’s a song now.”

James McMurtry, March 19, Mohawk

“Rumour has it we put out a record back in August. I heard it’s not bad.” It’s true, James McMurtry did indeed put out an album last year and having given that album, The Horses and the Hounds, a listen, his humble statement on his own work is an accurate one. McMurtry is a stalwart of the Texas scene, with his first album Too Long in the Wasteland coming out way back in 1989. McMurtry’s songs are within the classic story song tradition and to see him play them on the Mohawk stage on the final official night of programming made for a satisfying end to my SouthBy experience for this year.

SXSW Review: Best Coast, March 19, The Sunset Room

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Covid anxiety can be a real bitch at SXSW when you’re a Canadian who’s still into masking up while practically everyone else is in “Covid’s over” party mode and throwing caution to the wind. But it certainly helps to ease the anxiety when you’re watching an old favourite play a solid set to a packed ( but not obnoxiously so) room. And I guess the free White Claws help too, though you’ve gotta take the mask off for that. Hey, we all have to make sacrifices sometimes.

The aforementioned old favourite was Best Coast and yes, they were playing a late afternoon set at The Sunset Room, rebranded for the last few days of the fest as the White Claw Surf House. Bethany Cosentino speculated that part of the reason they may have been booked to play there was the beach-like vibe of songs like “The Only Place.” That song was an obvious highlight of their set, as were tracks like “California Nights”, “Everything Has Changed” and “Goodbye”, which she dedicated to her cat Snacks, who recently passed away.

Cosentino mentioned how the band first played SXSW about twelve years ago and that it felt good to be back in Austin. She also noted how good it felt to be playing in front of a crowd in general again, seeing as how the band has had to put their tour behind 2020’s Always Tomorrow on pause several times over the last two years or so. And it felt good to see them too, even if I was pretty much the only one wearing a mask.

SXSW Review: Working Men’s Club, March 19, Elysium

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


One of the things I missed the most during the pandemic was dancing. Just listening to music so moving that your body naturally starts moving however it may to the rhythm and the beat. Not only is it great for weight loss, it’s also great to just have those moments.

For those who are missing the feeling – all you have to do is attend a Working Men’s Club show to get it back. The West Yorkshire band played a great set that had everyone moving their feet and hips as if it was 2019 all over again.

Mixing in heavy elements from early New Order, later Depeche Mode, rave and even wall of sound guitars, the band played a pulsating set of music featuring influences from many bands that I like. Against the backdrop of those beats was Sydney Minsky-Sargeant’s dry delivery and snakey dance moves, all formulating together a feeling that you are watching something cool. There was a moment during the show where all the different beats were merging together, but then Sydney brought out the guitar and the next thing I knew, I was wondering how much MBV they listened to. It’s great to know that the foundation the band has already set is so strong that in future tracks they can continue to explore different areas of music to merge into their sound.

The band released a debut record during the pandemic, and from what I have seen and heard, it’s an incredibly promising start. I’m excited to see where they are headed next.