SXSW Review: The Rite Flyers, March 16, Velveeta Room

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While perusing the SXSW app on Saturday night and looking to fill a gap in my schedule, I came across Austinites The Rite Flyers, whose bio on SouthBy’s site compared them to such luminaries as Teenage Fanclub and Guided by Voices, not to mention The Who and a little band called The Beatles. Some lofty company for sure, but I figured with those reference points, they might be worth checking out.

I wasn’t wrong. 

The show was taking place at The Velveeta Room, just steps away from the chaos of 6th Street on a Saturday night. Taking shelter from the masses gathering out on “Dirty 6th,” I opted to head inside and see what the quartet, made up of veterans of the Austin music scene, had to offer. But first a trip to the bar to order a Lone Star. Priorities.

Then, upon scanning the room, I noticed that this appeared to be largely a badgeless crowd, presumably mostly friends or fans of the acts playing that night, and not strictly speaking a SouthBy crowd. This looked more like a group of locals who were here to take in some local Austin music. And though I may not be a local, I guess that’s what I was there for too.

As the band launched into their opening number, it became clear that The Rite Flyers did indeed have the goods. With tracks like “Runway Lights”, “Help Yourself” and “Captain Sir Tom,” the band showed off their songwriting skills, living up to the hype of their bio and delivering a solid set of straight up power poppy goodness. 

The Rite Flyers latest album Butterfly on a Bomb Range is out now on Flak Records.

SXSW Review: Holly Macve, March 15, St. David’s Historic Sanctuary

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Like many artists, English singer-songwriter Holly Macve has made multiple appearances at SXSW over the years. She acknowledged as much early on in her Friday night set at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, telling the crowd that it felt good to be back in Austin and going on to say that the city has a special place in her heart.

Telling the story of the first time she came to Austin when she was 19, Macve mentioned how a woman who she referred to as her “Texas mum” took her in at the time and that she still visits this woman each time she returns. She went on to tell another, less happy story of how she was in Austin when she found out that her father had died. And though they may not have been close, something like that would obviously have an impact on anyone. It did indeed have an impact on Macve, who wrote a song about it, “Daddy’s Gone.”

I had previously heard Macve do that song during SXSW 2022 and having enjoyed that set, I decided to check in on her a couple of years later to see what she’s up to these days. As it turns out, a fair bit can change in a couple of years.

In the years since I last saw her, Macve’s sound has shifted from a folk/country based sound to more of a dreamy, cinematic alt-pop sound à la Lana Del Rey. As it turns out, the Del Rey comparison is an apt one – Macve’s recently released single “Suburban House” is a collaboration with Lana Del Rey.

And while some of the older tunes retained a bit of their folky delivery, the newer songs had a different, more dramatic vibe. Performed solo over just a backing track, it was a bit unusual (and more than a little Lynchian) to see a karaoke style performance in the confines of St. David’s, but Macve absolutely made it work.

SXSW Review: Dry Cleaning, Humour, Ash, March 14, British Music Embassy

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20240315 Dry Cleaning

The British Music Embassy has long been a haven for Team Panic Manual, giving us all a chance to indulge in our Anglophile tendencies while in Austin. We’ve seen a lot of great acts there over the years, and this year was no different. One thing that was different this year was the move to a new (and much larger) venue – the backyard of the Downright Austin Hotel. It was a bit of a glow up from the BME’s previous locations at Cedar Street Courtyard and Latitude 30, adding a second stage and significantly more space.

There was great stuff scheduled ay BME all week long, but Thursday’s programming, featuring must-sees like Ash and Dry Cleaning alongside new discoveries like Glasgow’s Humour, made for a strong lineup.

Dry Cleaning

Following a glowing introduction from BBC 6 DJ Steve Lamacq that praised the band’s uniqueness, London post-punkers Dry Cleaning took to the stage and put on an impressive performance. Watching the band lock into a groove while vocalist Florence Shaw delivered her stream of consciousness lyrics in deadpan fashion made for a memorable show. Dry Cleaning was meant to make their SXSW debut back in 2020 and, well, we all know what happened then. It may have taken a few years for them to get to SouthBy, but it was well worth the wait.

Humour

Glasgow punks Humour put on a fairly intense performance, with vocalist Andreas Christodoulidis yelping and yowling his way through the set while his bandmates laid down some heavy post-punk grooves. Fun fact about Humour – the band apparently all live together, kind of like The Monkees did on their old TV show. I only caught the last half of their set, but I liked what I saw and am looking forward to hearing more from Humour in the future.

Ash

To my ears, Ash’s 1996 debut album 1977 is a perfect album – and yes, that even includes the infamous hidden track “Sick Party.” It’s a solid collection of punky, poppy rock that’s all the more impressive when you consider the fact that it was made by a young group who were still teenagers at the time. Now middle-aged men, Ash are still going strong, with their eighth album Race The Night coming out back in September of last year.

The band took to the BME stage for a late afternoon performance that singer/guitarist Tim Wheeler pointed out was the longest one they’d be playing all week. As such, they were able to fit in a few extra tunes, making this one more like a proper show than the shorter sets usually prevalent during SXSW. Good stuff.

SXSW Review: Tommy Stinson, March 14, Valhalla

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At a festival like SXSW, with so many shows happening and a lot of moving parts, it can often seem as if things are flying by the seat of their pants at all times. And they probably are. But Tommy Stinson‘s Thursday night show at Valhalla was the first time I’ve seen a show materialize from almost nothing within a matter of minutes.

It all happened very quickly. Just minutes before the scheduled set time, there was no sign of Tommy and I was beginning to wonder whether it was time to bail and head out to try another showcase. But then the man himself appeared at the door near the stage, full band in tow, and proceeded to start setting up. Still, it seemed unlikely that this was going to be anything more than a very truncated set.

Then, all of a sudden, Stinson hopped onstage, plugged his guitar into a small amp and started playing a song before the mic was even on, all while the crew at Valhalla scrambled to set things up as best as they could.

“We’re improvising, it’s rock and roll!” he said, a mischievous grin on his face. Clearly Stinson was enjoying the idea of just winging it. Not too surprising considering the rag-tag reputation that his old band The Replacements had back in the day. And truly, it did make for a rather unique and memorable show, which ultimately is what you want at SouthBy. Playing most of the set solo on the guitar while everything else was still being built up around him, Stinson played seemingly whatever came to his mind at the moment, giving off a bit of a Bob Dylan vibe at times.

Finally, he brought up his band right at the very end – The Freedom Rockets, a group of very young-looking dudes clad in plaid vests, ties and white shirts with the sleeves cut off. I’m not sure how Stinson came to work with these guys, but they certainly made a strong visual impression and all involved seemed to be having a ball up there as they ran through the one solitary song that they had time to play – “Anything Could Happen” from Stinson’s days in Bash & Pop.

Actually, come to think of it, the phrase “anything could happen” is the perfect way to describe the overall vibe of this show. Coincidence? Maybe not.