SXSW Review: Ellie Goulding, Bat Bar, March 16

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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.

SXSW Preview: Foster The People

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Toronto – Easily one of the most promising bands that are on the verge of a massive breakout, Foster The People is an LA indie pop trio comprised of Mark Foster, Cubbie Fink and Mark Pontius. They recently released a self titled EP that just oozed potential with two glorious a-sides. Houdini, the first track off the record contains inspiring melodies, fun synths and an outrageous gang vocal outro that takes the song to another level. The second track off the EP – Pumped Up Kicks has already been floating around the internet for awhile now and with it’s catchy chorus and lazy summertime bass lines I wouldn’t be surprised if the track gets taken to another level as more and more people tune in. The band will be in Austin to not only promote their EP, but their self titled debut LP Torches which comes out on May 24th. I will definitely be seeing them. Don’t be surprise to see them pull a Temper Trap, another band with an outrageously awesome single that just exploded after a few terrific turns in Austin last year.

Check out Houdini

Here are the SXSW dates:
Thursday 17th, 4:00 PM, Cedar Street Courtyard as part of Filter’s Culture Collide Party
Thursday 17th, 8:30 PM, Stubbs – Official Showcase

Here are some non SXSW dates:
3/8 Santa Barbara, CA SOHO
3/13 Santa Fe, NM Corzon
3/14 El Paso,TX Lowbrow Palace
3/21 Tempe, AZ Sail Inn
3/22 Solana, CA Belly Up
3/23 San Francisco, CA Independent
3/25 Portland, OR Mississippi Studios
3/26 Seattle WA High Dive *SOLD OUT
3/27 Boise, ID Reef
3/29 Salt Lake City, UT Kilby Court
3/30 Denver, CO Walnut Room
3/31 Kansas City, MO The Record Bar
4/1 Minneapolis, MN 7th Street Entry
4/2 Chicago, IL Schuba’s
4/3 Toronto, ON Lee’s Palace
4/5 Montreal, QC Petit Campus
4/7 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall
4/8 New York, NY Mercury Lounge
4/9 Brooklyn, NY Knitting Factory
4/10 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
4/11 Washington DC Red Palace
4/17 Indio, CA Coachella
5/30 George, WA Sasquatch

SXSW Preview: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

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Oil portrait by Joanna Marie Care

Toronto – First of all, you know your band is doing something positive when someone does an oil portrait of you. Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr is a two man project composed of Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott. I had been receiving emails about the buzz that the band is generating since last June but because their band name reminded me of Dale Earnhardt, which reminded me of Nascar, I promptly ignored it. How stupid is that?

It was quite stupid. I rediscovered (or discovered?) this band whilst listening to a SXSW compilation. Amongst all the mediocre music you would expect from a compilation of a thousand or so songs, I was delighted to hear a catchy melodic track named Vocal Chords that evoked memories of jogging along the beach, buying a mango milkshake and eating an avocado sandwich. Of course, I have never done this before, but I can live vicariously through someone who has.

While it might seem like I’ve only been gravitating towards summery, breezy tracks that remind me of warmer times, one can’t deny this tracks overall quality. Many bands has done the whole “light folky pop backed by computer dance beats” tracks before, but few tracks come across as catchy as this one. The band’s debut album, It’s A Corporate World comes out April 26th and like all the other bands with albums out this year, they will be taking their show to SXSW. Here are the set time(s):

Wednesday March 16th, The Phoenix, 9PM

Check out the song I was talking about:
Vocal Chords-Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. by TimeOutNewYork