SXSW Review: Morgxn, March 18, Toms

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My name is Morgxn with a X, because that is now my essense.

This is how Morgxn introduced himself at the Tom’s showcase on Saturday afternoon. Normally that is something you can mock rather easily or make some sort of Zoolander joke, but after seeing the sincere show that Morgxn put on, I’m more tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt. A singer from Nashville, Morgxn engages in electro pop that mostly seems to have a positive message. He was joined by a guy on the keyboards and a drummer and most of his songs have that millennial indie dance rock feel to it. You know the type, with the big buildup and a lot of Ooooooooooooooooohs. It’s somewhat samey, but it still sounds good. Probably science.

With dyed blue hair, Morgxn did the hustle and got the otherwise neutral crowd (most were probably there for the free booze) fully engaged with his music. The energy the man exerted to get everyone involved was rather amazing. You don’t know his lyrics? No problem, he’ll teach you. You don’t want to sing? Hard to do when the man is 15 feet away from you and literally rallying groups of people to sing different parts of an unknown song. Through it all, Morgxn seemed genuinely excited to play the show and through his excitement, the crowd ended up excited as well.

SXSW Review: Garth Brooks, March 18, Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake

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When Garth Brooks plays a free SXSW show that you don’t have to line up to get into, you kind of have to go. Obviously, I am not a country music fan but I’ll be damned if I pass up an opportunity to see one of the most famous country singers of all time. Despite it not being in the 90’s, Brooks’ star power was evident as we approached the Auditorium shores grounds in Austin. People had camped out in the morning to wait for their chance to get in and those who didn’t get tickets were already situated in parking lot roofs or any elevated grounds that could provide a view onto the stage. Given that we were in the heart of Texas, it should not be surprising that a free Garth Brooks show garnered a lot of interest around the city.

Brooks took the stage just a bit after eight and just went right for it. As I noted to Paul about ten minutes into the set, he went from 0 to 100 almost immediately. What I mean was, by song 2, he was already busting out a ballad and had the crowd singing along with lighters in the air. Typically, that stuff is done at the end of the set, unless your name is Garth Brooks. I only know one of his songs (The Thunder Rolls) but Brooks played a lot of his hits (I think) and had the crowd singing and dancing to every song.

Brooks maintains a pretty good stage presence, he wears one of those headset microphones that’s normally reserved for dancing types like Britney Spears, but it allows him to roam the stage and sing and point to people in the crowd. In other words, his crowd coverage is good. The man loves pointing to people during his music. His songs follow some familiar country genres, and to paraphrase him, there were love songs, dancing songs, drinking songs and the like. Garth seemed to really appreciate the audience and told the crowd that he really hopes that the live version of The Thunder Rolls was the best live version they ever played. It’s kinda corny, but it’s still appreciated.

In the end, a good show for me, but a great show for many.

SXSW Review: Kid Wave, March 18, Kebabalicious

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


One of the cool things about SXSW is that pretty much anywhere and everywhere in Austin becomes a venue during the week – parking lots, retail spaces, hotels, whatever. So when I noticed a show was happening at a kebab shop, I headed over there to check out London’s Kid Wave.

Frontwoman Lea Emmery commented on how chilled out the environment was on the restaurant’s backyard patio: “I love it, I feel like a more chilled out version of myself.” Accordingly, the band played a pretty chilled out, though still fairly rocking set of shimmering, poppy indie rock.

In many ways, a good band is a lot like a delicious kebab. First you need a nicely seasoned meat as your base – that’s the song itself. Then of course come the toppings, all the extra flourishes put on top of the “meat” that give the songs flavour. Then finally, the sauces, which I guess give more flavour to the songs. And then the pita that holds it all together. I suppose that would be the band. This metaphor may not be holding together too well (much like some kebabs) but you see where I’m going with this. Ultimately, much like a good kebab, Kid Wave made for a nice, satisfying mid-afternoon musical snack.

SXSW Review; Matt Maeson, Agnes Obel, March 17, St. David’s Sanctuary

Posted on by Gary in Concerts, Everything, Music, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

I saw two acts as part of the “traditional” (for me) Communion Night at St. David’s Sanctuary this year.

Matt Maeson

Matt Maeson
As with each new generation of pop music, Matt Maeson’s songs are full of emphasis. They are overt and attention seeking. It’s something worth putting on Instagram but may not stay with you by happy hour Saturday evening.

Even though they were delivered in a church with just a guitar, the dramatic pauses, the obvious epic-tempo, the produced and formulaic melody and structure asks one to listen, but can’t produce the substance and soul.

I’m probably doing it wrong – I don’t have the acronym and meme vocabulary of an 18 year old to correctly comment on this. Nonetheless, I don’t have any sentiments against Maeson – he certainly has the vocal range and talent, and no one doubts his authenticity. Yet a music video where a pastor synchronized his punches to music really made me (and everyone) cringe, just a little.
Agnes Obel

Agnes Obel
I have heard cello concertos in an orchestral setting, and always felt that they were simply alternative, deeper voiced violins. But that’s mainly because they can be buried by both the composition and the sheer number of instruments. I haven’t appreciated their power (albeit amplified) and versatility until now. Perhaps Agnes Obel is right in her more pared-down and focused approach to composition. Whether it’s completing sentences of opposites or driving a marching bass line, the cello proved incredibly apt at supplanting the air conditioners in supplying the atmosphere. That was a surprise that the recordings never did convey.

When the red lights came on before she took the stage, I thought that it would pass. But Obel constructs everything intentionally, and of course lighting is the other half of the ambience. And the lighting is best bloody dark. She was visibly annoyed when this illusion was broken and shafts of light peaked in with the swelling audience mid-song. She sang the main registers here and left the flourishes to the percussionist. It was no surprise that she would play “The Curse”, the 2013 hit that first drew our attention to Obel’s song writing. And of course “Familiar”, the single from her new album Citizen of Glass continues in that austere tradition. Beautifully flowing, intense yet personal, it’s a successful way to integrate classical elements for modern sensibilities. You are led to follow each melodic development instead of a fully-assembled harmonized sound.