South By Southwest

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.

SXSW Review: LUCY, March 14, Elysium

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A Taiwanese singer song writer born in 2000 (making me feel old), Lucy started off the Taiwan Beats night at Elysium with a handful of catchy tracks that were highlighted by their playfulness and accentuated with Lucy’s charm on stage.

Featuring one word song titles like “Cactus” and “Cocktail”, she got the crowd into each track. A surprise for me was her take on Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” – transforming the tune to a dramatic sweeping ballad. Most of the time I hate covers that transform the song, but this one I appreciated.

The fun set ended with the song “Oh Hey”, which had a nice call and response and absolutely sounds like a hit. Check her out.

SXSW Review: New Order, March 13, Moody Theater

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new order
In town to help promote the new Manchester based music festival and conference Beyond The Music, taking place from October 11-14, you could argue that legendary Mancunian act New Order was the headliner for the festival.

Even if they were not, it will be hard for any acts to top the 90 minute set of bangers that New Order put out on Monday night (most bands at SXSW are given 40 minutes)

Having seen New Order four times now (including last September on their tour with Pet Shop Boys) so I pretty much knew what to expect including knowing the song order down to a tee (predictable due to the use of visuals)

You would think that would have diminished it for me- NOPE! Starting with their 2000 hit “Crystal”, the band took the packed crowd at Moody on a journey through their expansive discography of hits. Predictably, the best responses were for “Bizarre Love Triangle”, “True Faith”, “Temptation” and of course “Blue Monday”. Who else can say they saw New Order play “Blue Monday” on a Monday? We can. Everyone was singing along to every song and it was one big dance party.

As per usual, the encore was dedicated to Joy Division and on this occasion we got more than the one tune we got at the Toronto show. “Atmosphere” and “Transmission” were added to the inevitable “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, which I personally love even if it does hit differently without Ian Curtis’ deep voice.

90 minutes of dancing, nostalgia and fun for the sold out crowd – what more can you ask for to kick off SXSW?

For more info about the festival they were here to promote click here.

SXSW Review: Dead Pony, March 13, Cedar Street Courtyard

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It’s not every day that you hear a band singing the praises of Mad Max: Fury Road as a part of their stage banter, but that’s exactly what Glasgow alt rockers Dead Pony did on Monday night during their midnight set as part of that night’s British Music Embassy programming. And truth be told, that may have played some small part in ultimately selling me on the band. That, and their appreciation for a certain Canadian popstar.

“We wrote this song after seeing Mad Max, the reboot,” said singer Anna Shields at one point. “Have you seen it? It’s a great fucking film.” That sort of off the cuff film fandom, addressing the crowd as if we were all just friends, may have been what endeared the band to me, but of course there’s much more to the band than their affection for post-apocalyptic action flicks. Not the least of which is Shields’ energy onstage as a frontwoman. And offstage for that matter – she initiated several audience invasions over the course of their roughly 30 minute set.

The band also dropped a somewhat unexpected cover song into their set midway through – a cover of Nelly Furtado’s “Maneater” that fit in pretty well with the band’s M.O. of mixing chunky riffage with poppy vocals and melodies.