SXSW Review: Superchunk, THICK, March 15, Mohawk

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

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On “This Night”, Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan sings, “this night is like so many” but with the news last month that drummer Jon Wurster would be leaving the band, there was at least one way in which this night would be unlike so many that had come before. This night, the band’s set at the Mohawk would be one of their first without the longtime drummer after his recent announcement that he was leaving the band. Having seen Superchunk a couple of times before, I was looking forward to the show, but I’ll admit there was also some uncertainty about it.

Don’t get me wrong – I knew it would be a fantastic show regardless as Superchunk have a discography full of indie rock bangers and have always put on great shows when I’ve seen them in the past. But without Wurster behind the kit, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

After all, Wurster is one of the most entertaining live drummers to watch (and just an entertaining guy in general – his comedy work with Tom Scharpling on The Best Show is also worth a look of you don’t know it already) so the new guy had some big shoes to fill. Was he up to the challenge?

The new guy in question was Michael Benjamin Lerner and while I’m not sure if he was just filling in or if he’s a permanent replacement for Wurster, he seemed to fit right in with the band as they ran through a set that included classics like “Hyper Enough” and “Slack Motherfucker” as well as newer songs like the aforementioned “This Night” off of last year’s excellent Wild Loneliness. So was the new guy up to the challenge? The simple answer is yes. Yes he was.

Earlier that evening, THICK played on the same stage and it was an incendiary performance that set the tone for the evening. Fun tunes, a strong feminist theme running through the lyrics, and a decent contingent of hardcore THICK fans in attendance made this an unforgettable show that it was hard not to get wrapped up in. This night was a pretty good one.

SXSW Review: Kate Davis, March 15, Seven Grand

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

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“Is anyone else celebrating their first SouthBy?”

This was the question posed by Kate Davis near the outset of her Wednesday night set at Seven Grand.

“I am. I don’t know if you can tell. It’s been …” She paused for a moment paused before finishing her thought: “… stimulating.”

Stimulating is definitely one way to describe it and certainly a nice neutral choice on Davis’ part. Whether for good or bad though, SXSW can absolutely be a lot, especially if it’s your first time there.

And it certainly can be a lot of stimulation. I can only imagine what it’s like for musicians running around town all week and often playing multiple shows in a day. For her part, Davis seemed to be taking it pretty well, though she did seem at times perhaps a bit bemused by the whole thing.

Playing SXSW in advance of her new record Fish Bowl, Davis focused on new stuff for much of her set (though I believe she did also include some older material) with tracks like “Long Long Long”, “Fish Bowl” and “Monster Mash” (“its not a cover”) standing out as highlights.

Fish Bowl is out this week on ANTI Records, though if you were one of the lucky few who couldn’t wait ’til then and managed to snag one, Davis did happen to have a few advance copies on her for sale during SXSW. The rest of us will just have to wait ’til Friday.

SXSW Film Review: Northern Comfort [Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, 2023]

Posted on by Gary in Reviews, South By Southwest | Leave a comment


If this was the story of five strangers coming together to help each other overcome their fear of flying, it would have been a sorry premise for a feature movie. So director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson transported this flight of misfits, warts-and-all, to Iceland, and let them loose. And of course mayhem ensued: where’s the fun in not satisfying the viewers’ m-ice-maze schadenfreude?

Northern Comfort is a simple and lovable film. There isn’t a groundbreakingly complex truth that would only be revealed when the five protagonists’ tales are interwoven together. And only one of them has “a particular set of skills that was acquired over a very long career” – the veteran character actor Tim Spall plays the ex-commando-turned-famous-writer Edward. At the opposite spectrum sits Lydia Leonard’s Sarah and Simon Manyoda’s Charles, whose lives are fraying and cocooned, respectively. In between sits the superficially dysfunctional couple Coco (Gina Bramhill) and Alfons (Sverrir Gudnason), who teeter on the verge of splitting in opposite directions.

The trick in the writing is that every next turn is almost believable by itself, so it becomes all the more absurd that in the end, they all grow from the brief Icelandic experience and fly off in their separate ways for the better. Granted, some of these twists can seem odd, and the supporting cast are literally flattened characters that might as well have been props. But the film never strays from this recipe to indulge in a freefall of the Cabin-In-The-Woods trope. After all, how many protagonists would we want to see surreally disfigured in a world already too close to home?

And isn’t that just the way it is? Brief turning points, even if one degree at a time, will still forever alter life’s trajectories. Even a civil engineer working in fog-laden London may find herself upside-down in a volcanic snowbank with the “right” dice-throws – you just never know.

SXSW Review: William Prince, March 16, Swan Dive

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


So at SXSW, the day shows generally take the form of a showcase- usually each venue has a set of at least four or five acts that play and there’s a common element connecting them. Most of the time it’s either a record label, a PR group or in todays’ example a country. Almost all of these showcases dangle some sort of carrot for you to show up – the competition is high and so in most cases it’s usually free beer. However the people who have their shit together also have free food.

My first show on Thursday was unexpected – I had heard the Canada showcase had free food and this intrigued me. What was the food? Was this using my tax dollars? Either way it got me to show up to Swan Dive.

As I walked in, an artist was playing – I was still keen to get my food (DIY tacos) but something about this man’s voice compelled me.

That man was William Prince, a Juno winning country, folk and roots singer from Winnipeg. Normally I would say I’m not the biggest fan of singers accompanied by only an acoustic guitar, but I found William Prince’s set to be quite memorable.

Throughout his performance, Prince told tales that weaved into his track and you can see what each song means, even if it’s inspired by Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. The story telling was immaculate and added a lot of gravitas to the songs.

The songs themselves were melodic, soulful and just sounded really nice. It helps that Prince’s deep voice really added a lot to the tunes. Some people were just born to sing and William Prince is one of them

William Prince’s new record Stand in the Joy comes out April 14 on Six Shooter Records.