SXSW Review: The Rural Alberta Advantage, March 17, The Stage On Sixth

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

Austin – It’s been quite a while since the last time I saw The Rural Alberta Advantage live, almost 2 years I think.  In that time, they have grown exponentially in popularity, selling out venues like Lee’s and getting booked to play the Coachella festival. 

The success is all well deserved, of course, and it’s great to see a band getting the recognition they deserve.  As I watched them play to a packed Austin crowd, I thought to myself, “Is this really the same band I saw playing a free show at Dufferin Grove Park all those years ago?”  They’ve come a long way since then (though technically, they were still playing a free show here in Austin, just for a much larger crowd) but all of the elements that make the band what they are were already more or less in place then, they’ve just been refined. 

 They delivered a rousing set.  Nils Edenloff’s powerful, earnest vocals drove the set forward, powered by Paul Banwatt’s crazy, powerhouse drumming.  Keyboard player/vocalist/percussionist Amy Cole added one more instrument to her arsenal with the bass pedal.  She may have had this setup for awhile, but not since I last saw them.  It was kind of fitting that I saw a Toronto based band whose first album was called Hometowns in Austin, as this show felt a little bit like a piece of home away from home.

SXSW Review: OFF!, March 17, East Side Drive-In

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Austin – I seem to be seeing a lot of supergroups at SXSW.  First Mister Heavenly, then Wild Flag, and now OFF!  Of all of those bands, OFF! has the players with the the longest pedigree.  Singer Keith Morris has been playing since the ’70s, first as the original singer for Black Flag, then as the frontman for seminal hardcore band The Circle Jerks.  The rest of the band is made up of Steve McDonald of Redd Kross (McDonald started that band way back in 1980, when he was 13), Dmitri Coats of Burning Brides, and Mario Rubalcaba of Hot Snakes/Rocket From The Crypt fame.  The band was playing as part of Pitchfork’s #Offline festival, which I just stumbled across as I was heading in the direction of Fader Fort to see what was going on there. 

The band was pretty intense.  Morris is a wild man onstage, with more energy at 55 than some singers half his age.  They blasted through a fairly brief set that lasted maybe 20 minutes, but with pretty much all of their songs clocking in at under two minutes, they still fit in a lot of songs.  Their sound is pretty much old school hardcore punk, but despite the retro nature of their sound, Morris demonstrated that he’s not just living in the past by wearing a No Age shirt onstage and giving a shout out to John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, who was watching from sidestage. “That guy fucking rocks!” said Morris.  Many in the crowd were probably saying the same of Morris after this show. 

SXSW Review: Ellie Goulding, Bat Bar, March 16

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

Austin – I have a soft spot for pop music, especially if it’s well made pop music. Hailing from England, Ellie Goulding makes what I consider to be well made pop music. A large star back home, Ellie Goulding has already achieved pop star status with a #1 album with her debut album Lights / Bright Lights, a smash hit Christmas single with a cover of Elton John’s Your Song and the top spot in “breakthrough act of 2010″ in BBC’s annual poll of music critics. With all that in mind, this spring Ellie Goulding will try the daunting task of breaking America, something that only Florence and the Machine has done in recent years. Like many artist trying to break through in this country, she will do that by playing a host of shows at SXSW. I was at her first one in the Bar Bar on Wednesday night.

It became pretty apparent early on that Ellie Goulding has kinda made a breakthrough in America already. The Bat Bar was packed with people by the time her set was about to begin, and it wasn’t just interested SXSW types, there was a swarm of girls who must have heard about this show and paid to get inside. Dressed in a cut off Wolf shirt with short (and I mean short) shorts, the petite Ellie Goulding took the stage shortly after midnight. Backed by a band that included a drummer, two multi-instrumentalist, the English singer played a hits filled set from her debut album. Not just content with dancing to her own music, Ellie showed off her acoustic guitar chops on some tracks, and it was pretty impressive. As the concert progressed, it became pretty apparent that I had been listening to the album more then I expected, as I knew each tune. However, I did not know each tune as much as the army of girls in the crowd, all singing happily along to tracks like Guns and Horses, Under the Sheets and Every Time You Go. They were also very aggressive in attempting to get better viewing positions at the show

Armed with a nice voice, strong acoustic guitar meets electro beat pop music and a charismatic stage presence (including a few unexpected f-bombs in her banter), Ellie Goulding went a long way in charming the SXSW crowd. Closing the set with a rousing edition of the mega hit single Starry Eyed (which seemingly included a lap-dance dance routine), the British singer songwriter left the crowd wanting more. A good start on the shores of America.

Ellie Goulding – Starry Eyed by Interscope Records

SXSW: Jonquil, March 15, Latitude 30

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Austin – Jonquil was awesome. Playing a packed house at the British Embassy, the Oxford group trio brought their keyboard driven soaring melodies to Austin and brought the house down. The band, comprising of Hugo Manuel, Sam Hudson Scott and Robin McDiarmid used keyboards, guitars and the occasional horns to create a fully layered summery sound that only seemed to be strenghtened with Hugo Manuel’s vocals, who seemed to remind me of Elbow’s Guy Harvey. A kickass rocking cover of The XX’s Infinity put a nice finishing touch to stellar show. Check out their debut EP One Hundred Suns, available now off Dovecote Records.