SXSW Review: The Lottery Winners, March 12, Seven Grand

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“This is our fourth show today. I’m losing weight. I’ve burned so many calories – I was saving those!”

So said Lottery Winners singer/guitarist Thom Rylance at the outset of their 1:00 am show at Seven Grand on Tuesday night and while he was making light of the situation, he was also pointing out the reality of the situation – for a band trying to make a name for themselves during SXSW, this week can be a grind.

It’s definitely a very common thing for up and coming acts to play multiple shows over the course of the week, often cramming a few into a single day just like The Lottery Winners did. It’s also not uncommon for me to sometimes catch an act more than once during the week, especially if they make a good impression.

It is exceedingly rare, however, for me to see a band three times in just one day. But that’s just what I did on Tuesday, catching the Manchester indie pop band first during their early afternoon set at Side Bar (which Rylance repeatedly referred to as “Side Boob,” much to his own amusement), then again at the British Music Embassy. And when I happened to check the schedule to see who would be coming onstage at Seven Grand after King Nun’s set and saw that it was The Lottery Winners again, I figured why not? So no, none of this was on purpose – it just worked out that way. As it turns out though, it ended up being an interesting case study: a day in the life of a band at SouthBy.

And while Rylance may have joked with the sound man when asked about how things were on stage that he was very tired and on the brink of an existential crisis, he and his bandmates weren’t really showing it. In fact, by the time they played their fourth show of the day, The Lottery Winners were a well oiled machine.

As they started out their set, Rylance seemed determined to make this a good one, introducing their opener “Worry” with a confident, “Let’s fuckin’ have it, man!” Egging the audience on by telling them to “pretend it was a hit” and cheer after every song turned out to be a good strategy – this was a crowd that was up for a good time.

And for their part, Lottery Winners did indeed bring the good times despite likely being very drained after a day of shows, playing their brand of catchy, positive pop tunes with plenty of energy.

One interesting aspect of seeing a band multiple times over the course of a day is that you really get to see what works and what doesn’t. For instance, the crowd participation moment on “Letter To Myself” where he got the crowd to sing along with the line “She’s not the one for you, mate, just forget her” worked every time. The dad joke where he referred to his ADHD as AC/DC, however, never quite landed during any of the shows. But hey, sometimes you do things just for you.

SXSW Review: Hypnosis Therapy, March 12, Palm Door on Sixth

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While the music portion of SXSW formally gets underway on the Monday, the first day of programming always seems a bit lighter. It’s usually not until Tuesday that the music programming seems to start in earnest, with the whole day filled with acts playing from mid-day to the wee hours of the night. And since SXSW at its best is about pure discovery, I took the opportunity to use much of that first day to take in something new and leave things up to chance a bit.

One of the first acts I caught on this quest for something new and random was indeed a unique one – Seoul based electronic-hip hop duo Hypnosis Therapy, who on this occasion would be a solo act as producer Jflow couldn’t make it, leaving his partner JJANGYOU to do it all on his own.

What followed was an interesting and entertaining performance, with JJANGYOU going all out as he rapped over some jungle/drum and bass-inspired beats. Interspersed with his aggressive demeanor onstage was his relatively subdued and somewhat amusing stage banter, with the absolute best bit coming in his deadpan response to some boos when he announced that he was about to play his last song:

“Fuck you, I’m tired.”

I get it. SXSW can take a lot out of you.

SXSW Review: Mogwai, March 11, Moody Theater

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A few minutes before Mogwai would take to the stage at Moody Theater on Monday night, I texted a friend the following: 

“At the Mogwai show and forgot my damn earplugs. Pray for me.”

It’s true, the Glaswegian post-rockers can get pretty noisy, but it’s a beautiful noise, and one they’ve honed over the course of their nearly 30 year long career. And the band were in town not just to play any old show, but to play a show in promotion of If The Stars had A Sound, the Antony Crook-directed documentary on the band, premiering at this year’s SXSW Film Festival

Following a solid set of spacey dub from De Facto, Glasgow’s finest took to the stage to play roughly one hour and 30 minutes of music that had its moments of both brutal heaviness and sublime beauty, often within the same song.

Near the end of their set, the band’s Stuart Braithwaite took a moment to call out the SXSW festival for having the U.S. Army and an arms manufacturer as sponsors. And while they may not have joined the now-sizeable contingent of performers who have bowed out of the festival entirely and/or canceled their official shows in protest, Braithwaite and his bandmates certainly made their position known. 

Keep on making noise, Mogwai. 

SXSW Film Review: Malta (Natalia Santa, 2024)

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

Malta follows its protagonist Mariana through her day to day life, a life she feels to be unsatisfying on some level. As the film unfolds, director/writer Natalia Santa shows us exactly why Mariana is unhappy and what it is that she’s looking to escape from.

Though she lives with her family in Colombia, Natalia doesn’t have the most stable relationship with her mother and only seems to drop in when she feels like it, preferring to stay with a friend or with whoever she’s picked up at the bar that night. Often sleeping during the day and filling her nights with German classes and her job at a call centre, she’s clearly not happy with her routine.

Mariana longs for an escape from the drudgery of her life – a better place to hope for. Where exactly will this escape plan take her? It could have been anyplace really, but Malta is where she’s decided on.

Shaking up her routine a bit is the return of her brother Rigo, who, much like Mariana, is not quite happy with his lot in life, and the arrival in her life of a classmate who eventually becomes a romantic interest.

Considering that it’s the film’s namesake, it’s worth noting that Malta the country figures very little into the plot of Malta the film. Rather, it’s the idea of Malta – or more specifically, what it represents to Mariana – that matters. The question that hangs over the proceedings is not so much whether she makes it to Malta or not, but what it will take to shake Mariana out of her rut.