South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Palm, March 15, Fader Fort

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One of the best things about checking out a show at Fader Fort (other than the copious amounts of free booze and Vitamin Water, obviously) are the moments when a band that makes music that’s a little left of centre performs there before a crowd that’s probably mostly there to check out some of the pop and hip hop acts on the bill (and also the free booze and Vitamin water). Seeing people’s faces as they suss out exactly what this act is all about is always fun to see. One such act was Philadelphia’s Palm, who opened up the second day of Fader Fort’s programming with their experimental art rock.

Palm’s music offers up an intriguing blend of out there psychedelia with an undercurrent of poppy melodies buried somewhere in there. It sounds a bit like what might happen if The Beta Band, Battles and Jeff Lynne teamed up, got super baked, and tried their hand at writing a prog rock album. Oh, and their guitars sometimes sound like steel pans, which is awesome, obviously.

Palm’s latest, Rock Island, is out now on Carpark Records. Check it out.

SXSW Review: Shopping, Latitude 30, March 15

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An English trio who just recently released their third album The Official Body, Shopping brought a manic energy and energized the crowd on Thursday night as part of the British Embassy’s showcase.

Featuring a relentless beat and punctuated by Rachel Aggs’ non stop jagged guitar riffs (and endless enthusiasm), Shopping’s live show really highlighted the punchy elements of their post punk sound. I really like the three member’s vocal interplay throughout each song and it really makes the group’s music sound quite fresh, with the highlight being “The Hype,” a song we wrote about a bit earlier in the month.

An enjoyable set.

SXSW Review: Soccer Mommy, March 14, Container Bar

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Though Soccer Mommy were seemingly plagued by issues with the sound mix in their monitors, there certainly wasn’t anything noticeably off about their sound from an audience perspective during a Wednesday afternoon set at Container Bar. Live, the band put on a solid performance despite any issues as they ran through a short set dominated by songs off of the recently released Clean with some of the highlights including “Your Dog” and the somewhat Julie Doiron-esque “Still Clean.”

Soccer Mommy the band does not feature any actual soccer moms but is in fact the project of 20 year old Sophie Allison. It started out as a bedroom recording project before blossoming into a full band and while there’s still a bit of that lo-fi bedroom pop vibe in songs like “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)” and the aforementioned “Clean,” the tunes also have a fair bit of sonic heft and depth to them.

While Allison’s music has indie rock as a sonic touchstone and she’s stated that she’s taken influence from the likes of Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift, she chose a song from a songwriter of an earlier vintage to cover as one of a pair of solo songs she played without the band towards the end of her set – Bruce Springsteen. And even if it is one of the more commonly covered of The Boss’s tunes, her stripped-down version of “I’m On Fire” sounded absolutely lovely.

SXSW Review: Quiet Slang, March 14, St. David’s Historic Sanctuary

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Quiet Slang, March 14, SXSW 2018

“We’re usually drunk and reckless when we play. Tonight I’m going to try and be less drunk and reckless.”

So said Beach Slang frontman James Alex at the outset of the debut performance of Quiet Slang, his new side project offering up acoustic versions of his main band’s usually more raucous compositions. Hence the name. It was certainly a change for the guy who wrote the lyric “The night is alive, it’s loud and I’m drunk.”

It was clearly a unique show and a special night for Alex – he was living in the moment and savouring every second of his time on stage. “Wow, that’s the first time we ever played a song together” he marvelled after the first song, clearly quite elated over what they had created together. Alex noted that he almost wished he could be out in the audience just listening to it all and at one point even seemed amazed at how good it felt to hear one of his bandmates count in the beginning of a song, a la The Ramones (but, y’know, if The Ramones included a string quartet and piano instead).

Impressively, Alex revealed that they had only rehearsed for just about half an hour and that he had only met the string section roughly an hour before they would all be playing together for the first time. “I felt like we went from ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ to Sgt. Pepper’s,” he said as he thanked the audience for “accepting the change.” It’s hardly surprising though – it all came together quite nicely, transforming the band’s raucous punk anthems into gruff yet pretty arrangements that only made Alex’s lyrics stand out more.