SXSW Review: The Chairs, GRRRL GANG

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Having seen a few shows now for SXSW Online, I really appreciate the effort some bands put into their SXSW streaming content. Some just go the extra mile.

The Chairs

Playing in what I can best describe as an indoor fishing pond that is popular in parts of Asia, The Chairs blew me away with their simple three song set.

With a seemingly Wong Kar-Wai inspired feel, the trio sings in multiple languages and has a sort of retro pop vibe that has me feeling like they would play a set in a dingy TST bar in late ’60s Hong Kong (or whatever the equivalent is in Taipei). It’s a simple three song sample, but I’m into it.

Grrrrl Gang

London’s Damnably Records is one of my favorite record labels of recent years and they continue to introduce me to great new bands. And one of the standout bands on their Friday night showcase was Grrrl Gang.

Grrrrl Gang is an Indonesian indie band that has clearly listened to the likes of The Vaselines and The Pastels growing up. Don’t let their influences deter you though, they are their own band and their jangly power pop shined through the TV screen. Colour me impressed.

Their set included someone biking into the space before playing an instrument and concluded with lead singer Angeeta Sentana going back to painting, because of course thats what they would be doing.

SXSW Review: Lambert

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

Lambert-Mercury-KX--scaled

In the lead up to last year’s edition of SXSW (prior to its cancellation), we here at Panic Manual wrote up several posts worth of preview coverage taking a look at some of the acts that were scheduled to appear that year. Among those acts was German pianist/composer Lambert and in his profile of Lambert, our illustrious writer Gary took the reader on an unexpected yet intriguing journey.

What began as a music review soon descended into some sort of cosmic horror tale involving beer drinking head worms and sentient, music making facemasks (Or are the masks made out of the music itself? it’s all a bit unclear). It definitely piqued my interest and upon further examination I found Lambert’s music to also be quite intriguing. So it was an easy choice to take in Lambert’s performance at SXSW Online and see how it would all translate to a (somewhat) live setting. And while Gary promised that none of what he imagined would come to pass, some small part of me half expected the show to erupt into a spectacle of semi-Lovecraftian proportions.

As it turns out, no, none of that happened, but what did happen was Lambert’s performance took us on a journey to (to borrow a phrase from Rod Serling) a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.

The setup for the performance itself was rather simple – just one man, his piano, and his giant horned Sardinian mask. When he addressed the audience at home a couple of songs in, he also did so in a fairly simple and straightforward manner, albeit with a suitably odd and humorous tone.

“Dear Texas, and the rest of the world,” he began, adding in a deadpan “Yippee-ki-yay, SXSW” for good measure. In describing his compositions, he noted, “You may call them masterpieces. We wouldn’t mind.” OK, Lambert, if you insist, I’ll call them masterpieces. That seems fair.

Said masterpieces, beautiful piano pieces all, may have been instrumental, but the music certainly told a tale all on its own … though Lambert’s fanciful introductions to pieces like “Jean-Luc” (which I’m pretty sure is about Captain Picard?) certainly helped to tell the tale.

As his showcase came to a close, Lambert addressed the crowd once more, reminding us all to “Stay safe and healthy and do it like Lambert – wear a mask.”

Amen, Lambert. Amen.

SXSW Review: The Mysterines, Enjoyable Listens, Scrounge

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Watching SXSW Online 2021 is an interesting experience. On one hand, I was rather sad that I was unable to attend these sets live and in person in Texas, but on the other hand, I was excited to discover new music again. In a way, I felt sorry for these bands because:

a) The audience is smaller
b) They can’t feed off the energy of the crowd

However, in a way, this is also great for bands because:

a) They aren’t exhausted when performing (most bands perform up to 10 times over five days at SXSW)
b) There aren’t sound issues
c) They get to give the performance they want.

Either way, I don’t think it replicates the live experience. I watched several acts over the past few days – here’s my take on some of the acts:

The Mysterines

Even through my TV screen, I can sense the power that is Lia Metcalfe’s voice. Her voice sounds somewhere between PJ Harvey and Marina and The Diamonds, Metcalfe’s voice and vocal delivery adds a level of star power and wattage to the group. Are The Mysterines trying to bring rock back? It seems so. Despite their nods to the past, it is a refreshing sound. The Liverpool group played a solid 3 song set that has me curious for more.

Enjoyable Listens

Given the amount of IDLES-inspired acts that permeated many of the showcases, it was super refreshing to see Enjoyable Listens play their set. A one man act, Luke Duffet danced to the TV while singing some delightful 80’s ballad tunes in his baritone voice – tunes that brought a smile to my face. He sounds a bit like Morrissey to be honest, hopefully doesn’t share the same politics. Either way, Duffet seems like a riot based on the 15 minute set and I’d be excited to see how they pan out

Scrounge

A duo from South London, Scrounge’s pulsating riff driven rock music made me comment to my friends that “Scrounge makes me miss live music”. As I watched them, all I could think about was being once again in a dirty bar, head nodding up and down, pseudo-drunk and just feeling energized from the energy that would emanate from the band and would proliferate throughout the crowd. So in other words, Scrounge caught my attention. I want their energy. Listen to this song – feed that into my veins.

SXSW Review: Altin Gun, Enola Gay, HAEPAARY, Hook, The Lazy Eyes, Hachiku, Alexander Biggs

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

With the first day of SXSW Online under my belt, it really didn’t take too long for me to fully embrace the couch potato aspect of this year’s festival and lean hard into the channel surfing element of it all, taking in a little bit of everything on the second day of programming. So in the spirit of me flipping from channel to channel, here’s a quick rundown of the acts that made the biggest impressions (both good and bad) for Day Two:

Altin Gün
With a compelling blend of Turkish folk sounds and funky psychedelia, the Amsterdam-based Altin Gün made a strong impression as part of the New Dutch Wave showcase.


Enola Gay

Like a lot of people, I was quite taken with the aggressive, abrasive and confrontational sound of Bristol’s Idles when they first made the scene a few years ago (I still look back fondly on my introduction to the band when they played the tiny stage at BD Riley’s as part of their first jaunt to SXSW) and, like many, I was also quite taken with the small ecosystem of Idles-esque bands that have risen to the forefront in the ensuing years. There’s something about the immediacy of that sound that hits just right. But I am sad to say that while they seem to fit the bill, Belfast’s Enola Gay might be the tipping point for me in not just immediately loving bands of this ilk. While the energy and attitude was there, there was something about their performance that didn’t quite click for me. Maybe I’ll give them another chance though and revisit their stuff a little later on down the line.

HAEPAARY
On the other hand, I was immediately drawn to Korean duo HAEPAARY right off the bat with their cool electronic sounds. Standout track: The excellently titled “A Shining Warrior – A Heartfelt Joy”

Hook
Playing as part of the Move Forward Music showcase, Riverside, CA-based rapper Hook put on a performance that was chaotic and joyful and fun and … Damn, I wish I could have actually been watching this live and in person (and preferably at a tiki bar like the one she seemed to have recorded her SXSW set in.)

The Lazy Eyes/Hachiku/Alexander Briggs
I slowed down on the channel changing a little later on in the evening and settled on the Sounds Australia showcase wherein all of the performances were loosely organized around the theme of “Close Up” and had each performer playing in whatever their interpretation of their backyard would be. The Lazy Eyes were already on my list of bands to check out based on the strength of their single “Where’s My Brain”, which they played during their two song set and which did not disappoint. In his preview of the band leading up to SXSW, Ricky described the song as “… an adventure, moving in and out of whatever wave you are on, and just when you think it’s over, it comes rip roaring back again.” Accurate.

Up next was Hachiku, who definitely put on the backyard-iest of the backyards sets, with the band set up on the porch of a suburban Australian home, except the guitarist, who was stuck inside and playing by the window because it was raining a bit while they played an there was only so much space. The band, led by Anika Ostendorf, impressed with a set of catchy dream pop-inspired sounds. Stand out track: “I’ll Probably Be Asleep.”

The final act of the night (for me at least – Sorry, Sycco and Shannen James, I’ll catch you next time) was singer-songwriter Alexander Briggs whose sound brought to mind Conor Oberst mixed in with a little Ben Lee and made for a pleasant way to end off my evening. And now, on to Day 3!