Festival Reviews

Located on a waterfront site in Barcelona that has a slightly industrial feel to it, but at the same time provides excellent views across the sea. The festival is heavily corporate-badged, with each stage carrying a sponsor’s name. Seven principal stages, the two main ones ‘Heineken’ and ‘H&M” are located either end of an area the size of an enlarged football pitch with band sets alternating between the two. In theory this sounds like you could sit in the ‘centre circle’ and enjoy pretty much non-stop music. But in reality the sound desks and more particularly the bar areas do not make this possible. Additionally, with strong headline acts scheduled to play these stages it was necessary to get there early to get e decent position (i.e. for the previous band on that stage, meaning a wait of 2 hours).

Other stages are set in natural amphi-theatres giving an option to view from a seated position

The main festival area opens at 4.00 pm with bands on at 5.00. The main stage area opened just before 6.00 pm just before the first act. The late afternoon start time is entirely sensible given the heat, and it means the bands play through till 3.00/4.00 a.m.. Headline acts are on at 11.00 pm / midnight.

Organisation across the festival is very good. Plenty of bars plus vendors walking round serving beer from back-packs. Large beer is €5, with a €1 premium if purchased from a roving vendor. Only Heineken on offer - craft beer has not reached these parts (or maybe the sponsors are insistent on monopolising ?). This lack of variety is disappointing and after three days you are left craving something more flavoursome.

The festival ticket was €175. We purchased a package at £294 each which included 3 nights in a Holiday Inn - perfectly adequate. The festival ticket includes entrance to free gigs at venues in the city the night before the festival and during the afternoons while the festival is on if you are energetic enough and want to get some bands in before the 4.00pm opening time. Alternatively you could use your ticket for entry to the Beach Club, a chilled out area next to the festival site with DJ’s all afternoon.

There are 190,000 attendees across the three days, but it never felt too crowded, apart from the headline band sets. Food outlets were plentiful and provided good quality and value for money.

And so to the bands we saw:

Wednesday night - pre-festival gig at Sala Apolo

Stara Rzeka - a great deal of intense knob-twiddling creating soundscapes that somehow didn't seem to grip the audience. Penultimate track moved into Jonsi-esque territory and was the best song. Finished with a vocal-accompanied song which made for an eclectic mix.

White Fence - four-piece guitar band from California featuring Tim Presley on lead vocal. Good songs and would have liked to have stayed for longer than the 20 mins our schedule allowed

Younghusband - the smaller downstairs room (400/500 capacity) was full for this exciting English indie band. Their half hour set comprised mostly songs from their excellent 'Dissolver' album.

Suuns - took to the stage as a massive blow-up 'SUUNS' appeared which acted as a very effective back-drop for the light-show.

Thursday

Beach Slang - Firestone Stage: Philadelphia four-piece guitars. Lead singer sported a shirt, jumper and blazer so must have been extremely hot in the afternoon sun. Opening number had overtones of British sea Power but as the set progressed the band moved into a post-punk groove. Included a cover of ‘Friday Night And I’m in Love’

Autumn Comets - Rayban Stage: Six piece with guitars, keys and violin. Saved best songs till end of the set, slow-building numbers with screeching violin, ok but a little reminiscent of Snow Patrol

Algiers - Heineken Stage: Started off as a taste of WOMAD in the Spanish sunshine. From Atlanta. Played a variety of styles, World, Rock, Blues and Soul

Car Seat Headrest - Pitchfork Stage: Opened with solo rendition of ‘Way Down’ with the band taking to the stage and joining in toward the end of the song. Voice has a 60s/Lou Reed quality. PA was not as loud as it could have been and people chattering was an irritant. This was the most inventive of the bands of the afternoon. Their first tour in six years, but they still look extremely young. Across the set the songs moved from mournful to anthemic. Additional entertainment provided by blow-up blue dolphin in the crowd.

Destroyer - Rayban Stage: Eight on stage included trumpet, sax and keys. Dylan-esque vocal. Glad to catch this band that we were due to see in London later in June, but we have had to swerve due to a clash

Suuns - Primavera Stage: this time the blow-up SUUNS letters appeared three songs in. Some good songs but they need to work a bit harder to achieve the artistry and charm of (say) a Hot Chip

Floating Points - Rayban Stage: Having caught the end of his DJ set earlier in the afternoon at the Beach Club it was intriguing to see whether this would be a true 'live' set. We weren't disappointed. Supported by a three strong band this was a find of the weekend producing a blend of ambient and rockin tunes

Tame Impala - H&M Stage: given the fairly specialist sounds this band create it is always surprising just how well the assembled masses know the songs. Centring their set on their excellent 2015 release 'Currents' the band were in fine form until, at the end of 'Eventually' the sound went bringing the set to a premature end. They tried to resume several minutes later but the vibe was lost.

Friday

Oh Pep! - NightPro Stage: a female duo from Melbourne, Australia; Peggy-Ann and Olivia, supported today by a couple of guys from Ireland on bass and drums. First set of the afternoon on this tucked-away stage so just 82 people there at the start (it filled up a bit during the set). Very good tunes, reminiscent of Emily Barker. Olivia was the main vocal lead. Peggy-Ann played excellent mandolin and made it sound like a plinky piano in places. Excellent set.

White Fence - Primavera Stage: Having seen the first 20 mins of their set the previous evening was glad to catch the second half this afternoon. Centre-piece of their set was a metronomic, floyd-esque number that saw the guitarist on drums (still with guitar) and the drummer playing feedback/scuzzy guitar

Ben Watt - Rayban Stage: Including Bernard Butler on a guitar who provided the best guitar-playing we saw all weekend on a couple of numbers. The bass player alternated between guitar and full double-bass giving breadth to Ben Watt’s feelgood yet thoughtful songs

Savages - Heineken Stage: Occupying the slot preceding Radiohead this had the feel of a support act. Not the band’s fault but this was a large crowd made up of people content to invest 3 hours waiting for the main act. With just pockets of interest, the audience showed polite appreciation to Jehhny Beth’s fantastic efforts at getting the crowd going with her multiple crowd surfs

Beirut - H & M Stage : Superb vocals harmonising with one another and also with the full-on brass trio that made up the six-strong line-up. The vocal sounded like Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip in places. A mix of waltz and paso doble rhythms

Radiohead - Heineken Stage: With the crowd now swelled to massive proportions we were understandably unable to retrieve the reasonable place we’d had for Savages so we ended up quite a long way back. Not a problem in itself but there was much chattering during the opening 4-5 songs which showcased their excellent new album ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’. The screens were a let down too, projecting the same as the stage back-drop (which everyone could see anyway) so no chance to see the band in action. We gave up on the set after 25 minutes due the chattering and constantly moving crowd, but we were still able to enjoy some classics (see below)

The Last Shadow Puppets - H & M Stage - Sat in front of this stage at the other end of the arena to secure a good space for this set. Fantastic festival moments when, despite everyone facing away from the Radiohead stage we all joined in with Karma Police. For a minute we lost ourselves. As for TLSP, the new sexy Alex Turner strutting around the stage owns this band completely. A lot of Libertines-style buddy-up moments with Miles Kane but you can’t get past this being AT’s side-project. A good mix of times with plenty from their solid 2016 release ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’.

Beach House - Heineken Stage: A shame that after the rest of the day running to perfect time this 2.00 a.m. set was late (they only started disassembling the Radiohead rig at 1.45). But it was worth the wait. Wonderful band, wonderful tunes perfect for a starry Spanish night. Chased away all feelings of tiredness.

Saturday

Cass McCombs - Firestone Stage: Featured CM with bass, drums and keys. Chilled out indie tunes with a hint of Americana. Some impressive keyboard/guitar interludes and the keys-man added occasional falsetto harmonies

Joan Serat - Rayban Stage: Spanish female singer-songwriter supported by a 5-strong band that gave depth to her sun-filled and enjoyable tunes. Occasional overtones of a country twang

Wild Nothing - Heineken Stage: 5-piece indie guitars and keys. Nothing to get wild about apart from a stand-out track which had a keyboard intro, deeper vocal and a dancey middle section. Best tune of the day so far

U.S.Girls - Adidas Original Stage : Unlike American band ‘Girls’ and Ireland’s ‘Girl Band” these really are girls..... two of ‘em. Dressed in jump-suits, one white one black; put you in mind of Abba c.1974. A highly theatrical performance - both girls on vocals with back-up loops. Edgy, funny, quirky, raunchy in equal measure. Funniest moments were when a guitarist appeared from behind the PA sporting a cowboy hat and white trousers. The first time he appeared for no more than 10 seconds playing a riff and immediately disappearing. Two later appearances were slightly longer with slide guitar riffs complementing the loops. Different, quirky - great fun.

Autolux - Primavera Stage: Three-piece guitars with a female drummer who shared lead vocal. The two guys were all in black; she was also in black but with a fluorescent pink tabard which was particularly stunning when she took the lead vocal standing on the drum-kit. Could really play their instruments.

Richard Hawley - Rayban Stage: we have seen a lot of RH over the years and had there been a competing act we might have swerved this set but glad we didn’t. It was utterly brilliant. Really has moved on over the last 5 years, playing a rockin set with just the occasional crooney ballad. A fantastic musician and surrounds himself with great people to create his marvellous sound.

Chairlift - Pitchfork Stage : Curious line-up: vocals/drums, bass/sax. Energetic dancey tunes

Parquet Courts - Pitchfork Stage: Our original motivation for booking this festival was Saturday’s headliner Sigur Ros, so it had been a disappointment to see Parquet Courts were billed to clash with them. All things considered with the main stage layouts (and the fact we are seeing SR later in the year in UK) we opted for Brooklyn’s finest, Parquet Courts. Their 2016 album ‘Human Performance’ is also one of my very favourites so far this year. I had a minor reservation that the crowd would not be as ‘up for it’ as an English crowd as there had been little evidence of mashing/crowd-surfing all weekend. I needn’t have worried. The band opened with 4-5 songs from ‘Light Up Gold’ and the crowd was extremely lively from the off; and the mashing didn’t cease as they moved into songs from their latest release which were delivered with the now familiar aplomb from this excellent band. A wonderful set for us to conclude the festival with.

This is a great festival albeit we found it a hard slog. Fortunately we had had the foresight to book a further three days in a resort hotel which allowed us to recuperate and enjoy the sights of Barcelona, making this a highly agreeable trip.

@Si_Westley

This is our second visit to Howlin’ Fling (following 2014’s edition) and this time the event is advertised as a stripped down affair of two days, well Friday evening and all day Saturday.

Life of Eigg however, has to be experienced first hand and once onshore, Eigg time begins. We arrived Friday afternoon via the Shearwater ferry and left Monday morning. Howling’ fling is not just a music festival, this is an opportunity to share island life for four days with some of the most hospitable people you could find anywhere. Eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy the music and the company of 200 fellow festival goers, the artists themselves and the fine people of Eigg, that is the prevailing message of the weekend.

The Lost Map record label provides a fair share of the weekend’s bands understandably and the festival itself kicks off with the performance artists and band, Monoganon. Quite a start it is too with just a stripped down two piece version of the band, they certainly left an imprint on the mind.

A forty minute break between each band gives everyone time to eat, drink and chinwag. The ever wonderful Rozi Plain melts the audience with a sublime set and she is followed by Slow Club who mesmerise and seem a bit disengaged with each other at the same time. A pair of solo songs each, sees the other partner in the band seemingly pretty disinterested to what the other one is signing, Perhaps it’s just the night, the tunes are as great as ever, let’s hope this band can forge forward together.

Johnny Lynch aka Pictish Trail (Lost Map boss, festival organiser, compere and singer/songwriter), who sticks in a great full band set. Johnny seems to be following the John Grant route of acoustic singer/songwriter goes electronic, but it all makes for a bouncy set.

The evening goes on till around 4am on Saturday morning, but this correspondent heads tent bound, down the lane and across the stepping stones on the river for a night’s kip. Night’s are short on Eigg this time of the year, it is still light approaching 11pm so you could be up at 5am and find yourself chatting with the locals and late night revellers. Saturday morning passes with bacon and egg butties from the ever wonderful harbour-side kiosk and a walk around some of the island.

Ed Dowie, a composer who has been making music since the late 1990’s kicks off today’s music with a sweet atmospheric set. I think James Blake must have listened to this guy. Victoria Hume from Jo’berg is heavenly, songs and a voice that again melts the heart. Life Model a Glaswegian garage band really ramp up proceedings with the most rocking set of the festival so far, a band to most certainly keep a eye on.

The quality of bands and artists is first class and most importantly they seem genuinely delighted and humble to have been asked to play on Eigg. Gwenno (Saunders) has totally reinvented herself from her Pipette role as a champion of Welsh Music. Her album ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ was Mercury nominated and her set comes from that excellent record. An enthralling performance.

There are moments in your experience of live music that are nearly impossible to re-tell. You've got to be in the moment and all that drivel. But what the hell, let's try to explain a dozen pop star cross-dressing nuns on this wee island of Eigg. Howlin' Fling 2016 gave us a new kind of supergroup. Forget Blind Faith. Forget The Band. Forget the Wilbury's or all that you ever saw or imagined.

Yet Blind Faith is an apt reference point - many of us couldn't find our way home. Billed as 'Look Who's Mappin' Too', you might get a flavour if, to the words of a familiar Sgt Pepper track, you sing along: 'Picture yourself in a hall on an island, with transgender nuns holding fender guitars ..... in short, TLC's 'Scrubs' was suitably irreverent and angelic, while Bowie's 'Let's Dance' probably had David Jones jigging in his grave. Neither song will ever be the same again.

Spirits were among us, and no doubt inside us. A brilliantly ramshackle ultra-group of musicians conspired to deliver - in full habit regalia - half a dozen 'tributes' in covers-band style. It was pure magic and drew possibly the biggest cheers of the weekend. They say pop will eat itself - this was pop peeing itself with joy and with a beaming smile on its celestial face.

Break for dinner with the ever superb ‘Where the Monkey Sleeps’ catering crew means next out on stage is ex Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones and his band. Certainly the set of the weekend, almost a Neil Young and Crazy Horse vibe at times, the band is full of genuine musicians in superb form. A stunningly good set in the tiny Ceilidh Hall (where all the music is staged).

Jane Weaver another Liverpudlian plays a storming set of psych/folk around her successful ’Silver Globe’ album and is followed by the ever maturing and classy rockers, Tuff Love and the soulful danceable machine that is Glasgow’s Bossy Love.

Sunday is a day for exploring the island on bikes as the sun shines. Thanks to Libby for opening her tea shop for us! Then it’s an afternoon/evening around the campfire where those who have not caught the ferry back to the mainland just test the local craft ale and kickback. People chat, musicians pick up an instrument and perform or invoke a sing-a-long.

We are piped off the island on Monday morning with new and old friendships made and re-kindled plus, many happy memories. There truly is nothing like a Howling Fling on the island of Eigg!

Pete & Nige

Photos

Lost Map Records

Isle of Eigg

As always Glastonbury this year was superb for me. The music and atmosphere was the best, the lovingly created art intrigued and delighted the eye, the beer and food was fine fare indeed and yes the mud was especially challenging. Michael said it was the worst ever! But that shared experience only enhanced the special bond between the Glastonbury revellers.

The following ramblings are about my highlights of this year’s festival. I saw many other bands which I will not mention some good and some not so good for me!

Wednesday

I have been to every Glastonbury since 2004 but this year I really thought I wouldn’t get there after failing to get a ticket last October. However I managed to get a coach ticket leaving the O2 in London at 5 am Wednesday morning. We should have got to the festival at about 10am but the roads around Glastonbury were gridlocked and we didn’t get there untill 3pm! Cars were getting stuck in muddy car parks and there were horrendous tailbacks. But when it was pissing down with rain whilst I was in the coach, it seemed the best place to be!

There were a bunch of us camping together. The others were held up for hours so we didn’t get camped untill the evening. After that we wandered over to West Holts stage for food and ended up at my favourite bar on top of the hill behind the Park Stage. This was new last year. It has real ale in barrels and the views over the site are spectacular. That night there was a myriad of twinkly lights and every so often the night sky lit up with a fireball as they were testing the flares on Arcadia.

Thursday

There is more music on a Thursday that they used to be. We started out at the Greenpeace Stage to see the New York Brass Band, they were playing covers and included a Prince tribute. All great for a sing-a-long.

I went to see This Is The Kit on my favourite small stage The Crows Nest at the top of the hill behind the Park. (That stage will feature a lot in this blog). Lovely indie numbers from Kate Stables band which included the superbly talented Rozi Plain on bass and vocals. 

The other highlight of the day was Kate Tempest performing on The Hell Stage in Shangri-La at night. She was so good. I loved her machine gun delivery of poetic rap. The poetry of her words is brilliant and is intertwined with serious social comment, e.g. “just because you can’t see the bars doesn’t mean you aren’t imprisoned” I had the privilege of meeting Kate a couple of days later at The Crows Nest!

Friday

The day started with The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians with Damon Albarn on The Pyramid Stage, it was good to support them as it is noble project which is a mixture of classical orchestra and eastern music and included a session with Damon singing 'Out Of Time'. Next up was Rokia Traore on The Pyramid from Mali, she was superb as usual. She has a wonderful voice singing mainly in French with an African funky rhythm.

More French connections with French singer songwriter Christine And The Queens on The Other Stage. Synth pop with the best dance routines I have seen! She was dancing with 3 male professional dancers who are part of her normal band.

With all the mud you can’t loll about on the grass so I treated myself to some chill out time lounging on a settee in a café in the hippy atmosphere of the Tipi Village. It, of course, had a stage with a band playing, as does almost every café in Glastonbury.

To the Pyramid Stage to get near the front for The Foals.
They were so good. What Went Down was one of my top five albums of last year. I hadn’t seen them for a couple of years and they just get better and better. Rock at its best especially when shared with hundreds of others rocking out around you in the evening sun. (yes sun!)

Muse were next on as headliners. They seem too often get a bad press, but I enjoyed their epic numbers and especially all the visual images and effects on the giant screens behind them, the visuals for Starlight was like flying through space.

My final highlight of the day was Jagwar Ma on at 1:30am at the Crows Nest. The small venue was packed with not much room to move to the electro dance sound of this three piece band which felt so good.

Saturday

Started off at The Pyramid Stage for Baaba Maal. Squeeze sere on and were really good . You forget how many great songs they had. I loved the sound of Baaba Maal. African rhythms with passion and soul. He is from Senegal and was another singer who was singing in French!

The Band Of Skulls were great on The Other Stage. Nice riffs and rock sounds.The soulful ballads of Michael Kiwanuka were excellent at The Crows Nest. He was followed by Alexis Taylor. Gentle thoughtful songs which he accompanied on the keyboard.

I moved down the hill to the Park Stage. The penultimate highlight of the day was Mercury Rev. they were truly wonderful. I loved the ethereal sounds of the band. When they played The dark Is Rising it felt so good. it gave me goose bumps!

The final highlight of the day was the band The Very Best in the Crows Nest after a few pints at the neighbouring bar. They had been playing the West Holts Stage earlier that day and it was like being in a great party with a live band playing funky Afro pop and they didn’t finish till 2:30am!

After that I went to one of my favourite bar in Greenfields to chill on the comfort of their settees. It’s an amazing place like being in someone’s lounge for a party with a bar, table football machine and a DJ.

Sunday

The cool man who is Gregory Porter was on the Pyramid Stage in the morning when I got there. He was followed by Laura Mvula looking wonderful in a flamboyant dress with large neck piece patterned like a union jack and sporting the most enormous earrings. I was wanting to hear her soulful voice and was not disappointed.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO played next on that stage. It was a smooth performance and a real guilty pleasure to hear those 70’s and 80’s sounds and hits like It’s Magic and Telephone Line. Band Of Horses were on the John Peel Stage which had moved up the hill on the Worthy farm side to where the cinema used to be. They were really good with their American sound of rocking Americana.

The big highlight of the day was to see Coldplay headline the Pyramid Stage again. The show was a visual and aural delight. They put so much into their performance and there were fireworks, confetti cannon, lasers, and we all wore wristbands which lit up and changed colour according to some central control!

During the performance they had a tribute to Mohamed Ali and also played a Viola Beach number in tribute to the that young band. Bee Gee Barry Gibb joined the band for a couple of classics. The whole show had a feelgood finish to another superb Glastonbury.

And you know when after hearing a band a particular number will continue in your head for a while well the lights on my wristband continued to change colour as a reminder until about 6 pm the following day!

I love Glastonbury even in horrendously muddy conditions. Let’s hope I can get tickets again next year and keep up my unbroken run of being there since 2004!

Ken

Summer has arrived for the Sunday of Field Day 2016, following the monsoon on Saturday, Sunday brings mud and showers.

First band up are Arthur Beatrice and a fine early afternoon show this is, vocalist Ella Girardot is the focal point of the band and her vocal range is excellent. The band have an enthusiasm that really lights the spark for the bands to follow.

Parquet Courts are the first band on the main stage. Twenty minutes late, they waste no time in bringing their Talking Heads/Pavement style songs to our earlobes as they hurtle through a set of material mainly from their new album Human Performance’

Steve Mason is on solid form and is another one with a new album to promote. The Return of the Rual tent is packed for his set. The Thurston Moore Band follow next and are in sonic form. Just a 45 minute set was short particularly, as the band were scheduled for an hour. Some great guitar work!

Blossoms have a steady growing fanbase and a heavy shower meant a packed Shacklewell Arrms stage (as it is for most of the afternoon) for their set of pop tunes.

Set of the day goes to The Ben Watt Band featuring Bernard Butler who had a teatime slot in the tiny Moth Club tent. Quality songs, mind blowing guitar, a tight rhythm section and a fine beard courtesy of Laura Marling’s bass player. a brilliant set from a band of quality musicians plying their trade.

John Grant gets an hour in the sunshine on the main stage and really gets the crowd engaged and dancing. Beach House headline the Shacklewell Arms stage, which I suppose is the second stage at Field Day. As a second stage this really needs to be bigger or an open air stage, over the years it is constantly packed and overflows (12 people deep for Beach House and something similar for the Fat White Family) but this has been the same across the many years of the festival. Beach House played pretty much in the dark but, they sounded magnificent.

PJ Harvey is the headliner and it is a brilliant show to round off another excellent day in Victoria Park.

Pete

 Festival website

 

 

 

 

Continuing from Part 4

SXSW Saturday 19th March

Well..today is it, The last day of our adventure here in Austin? We have had a good rest, and a lovely breakfast and we have decided to try to get into the Rachel Ray party at Stubbs. An American cook show host has a large party every year that usually consists of some very solid artists and this year it is no different with Jenny Lewis, George Clinton, and Andersan Paak.

This party is a popular one. Open to the public, it’s always quite busy, but we figure we will give it a go and that was a mistake. Even an hour early, at 9am, there are over 1000 people in line. Security tells us that the line was well over 500 people at 7:30 am. An open party, with a solid lineup that has free food and booze is always going to be popular, but this is ridiculous. As the doors open, our hope is that we make the cut as we have already waited for well over an hour. Stubbs holds a lot of people and we have already committed to this showcase so we just shuffle along. Luckily, there is no other showcase this early in the day so we are not missing anything.

As it happens, we get within 60 or so people to get in, and they shut the doors down. The venue has hit capacity. Sadly, it takes a quick look at the schedule of shows inside to see that with the free food and booze and the fact that most people are here to see the bands that come on in about 3 hours...we don't stand a chance.

What we can do is check our back up plans and make a decision.

We decide to wander around and then head to a party that starts at 1pm and we go and hang out in the wifi lounge at the Hilton. There we run into a friend from Toronto who has decided to head to the show we are going to as well so everything works out for a reason!

We are off to a party at the Barracuda. It’s another venue with an inside and outside stage, perfect to keep moving and maximizing the amount of bands we can see. Not sure what to expect here as the bands I am familiar with are coming up later so..here we go.

First up is the Danish band Yung. These guys are relentless, a mess of feedback and rhythms, a quality rock band who's opening set is spirited enough to wake everyone up. It’s noisy but it is rock n roll and that's fine with me. Have seen a lot of guitar rock bands this week and these guys definitely know what they are doing as well.

Inside it is the Sun Club. These guys are a wacky 5 piece band from Baltimore. Big percussion, crazy upbeat and frantic singing, solid guitar work, it's an odd mix that plays itself out on stage. They don't do mellow..there is nothing that slows these guys down. You can’t watch these guys, it’s a rather amusing band to watch and the songs are pretty good, but perhaps pushed to a different level because of their frantic live show.

Back outside and it’s the NYC band called the Drowners. Its kinda "friendly post punk" that is sung by Welsh singer who moved to NYC years ago. The songs come on like a softer Strokes, and the singing is quite good. The songs switch from short 3 minute punk pop tunes to longer more complicated Smiths like songs. It is a great overall set of some pretty accessible songs and the set finishes a bit too soon.

Inside is a band I have tried to see a few times over the years. They tour a lot but it just has not worked out. Inside is Public Access TV.

Public Access TV is another band from NYC. This 4 piece band have been buzzed about for the last year or so. It's a splendid pop punk band that will end up reminding me of the Clash fairly often. They play very well and I can see why NME considered them one of the best bands to have recently come out of NYC. It’s sort of a retro punk sound that pleasurable to listen to and for such a young band.

We could stick around here for the rest of the showcase, but I really want to see the band that s coming up at the Brit Embassy bar Latitude and that is Nai Harvest.

We walk over to the venue and walk straight into their set. I have been a fan of theirs for some time. Nai Harvest is a 2 piece band that draws influences from 90's emo and alt pop bands and morph the sounds into their own. As a two piece, they to do a lot within their songs, a lot of stop start moments, some distorted voice and guitar and some frantic drumming and screaming that create all sorts of different levels of music. It is hook laden and riff driven and often reminds me of a smaller version of a messy Teenage Fanclub so I am pleased.

We can stay for one more band here before a quick trip to a nearby bar so up on stage, its Autobahn. This band is loud, and dark. A mix of Sisters of Mercy & Joy Division but with some growling guttural singing and a mess of noise. They are spirited but it’s a quick set and we have to move to get to the next venue.

Up next at the Vulcan Gas Company bar is Fantastic Negrito. This band won the NPR "Tiny Desk Contest" in 2015 and have been an often mentioned band in many friends lists of bands we have to see. Described as Black Roots music for everyone, and Blues with a punk attitude, it’s a band that strives to bridge a gap from Leadbelly to modern sounds by using loops and samples and some wicked musicians. Lead singer Xavier Dphrepaulezz is dynamic and assured. He speaks to the crowd as if he is leading a sermon, and the crowd eats it up. It's funk with a message and its sounds fantastic in this new bar.

It is difficult not to notice the meaning of his words and the themes are all statements on social issues and the band tries to push a message using instruments. It’s a quality set of songs and I am glad we made the time to get over here.

Now late afternoon and decisions need to be made. Our last night in Austin and we want to make sure we make the most of it. We have to make time for dinner, but also want to catch a few bands in multiple different venues and locations. Once we map out our approach, we have dinner, a fine craft ale and then we are back at it.

We hit the Blackheart on Rainey Street to catch the band Pins. Pins have been mentioned on numerous occasions as a band I need to revisit this trip. Two friends have seen them already this week and they all found ways to see them again because they were so good. I have seen Pins in years past but it works out that we can see them over here.

Pins are an all girl band from Manchester. They have been around for awhile but they seem to have stepped it up a bit. Guitar work is catchy, the Rhythm section is as good as I have heard on this trip and the voices are spectacular. It’s a beautiful wave of guitars and pop vocals, it’s as catchy as it gets and its delightful to see and hear. They have improved tremendously since the last show I saw and they are fun to watch. They are a very good group mixing up the girl group pop with some punk elements and it works well.

We are off now to check out the Aussie band Harts again. Sometimes you have to fit bands like these back into your schedule because the first show we saw of theirs was simply not enough. We enjoyed it so much, we have to see them again. In the back of my mind is the fact that we run the risk of getting shut out of the last showcase we plan to hit but it’s worth it for Harts.

It’s a walk to Esther’s Follies and we get there in time for the band before Harts. Breanna Barbara is up on stage and her band is really quite good. Always love these surprises and she has fantastic voice and a great band. Her first album is coming out shortly and I am quite intrigued by it. She is a lo fi punk blues artist with an incredible voice and I can’t wait to hear more. Sadly we catch only a few songs.

Harts is up next and they do not disappoint. This kid is ridiculously talented, with a Hendrix guitar style, throw in some funk, a greater drummer. It takes no time for pedestrian traffic outside the front window of the venue, to stop and start accumulating to take photo's and to witness this guy.

6th street is a madhouse tonight, but we watch from our seats at this venue as people wander by and can’t help but to stop. It’s a fantastic set of songs and despite the risk, whatever happens for the rest of the night, it was clearly the right decision.

We now rush over to the British Embassy at the Latitude bar, again, to catch Barns Courtney. This would be the only chance I had all week to see him and we are able to get in so the worry is over and I am happy.

Barns hits the stage and I certainly understand what the talk is about. This kid is awfully confident for being such a new artist, he sings like an old pro and he stands along plucking his guitar singing his country style pop hits and every song sounds strong.

There is no dud among them and his country style often morphs into a blues rocker and it’s easy to see a Carl Barat influence who is someone that has taken a keen interest in this kids future. There is an edge to this kids music which will appeal to many and I certainly can see why he has earned himself the opening slot for Ed Sheeran and the Libertines. Kid has talent and its fun to watch.

Now it’s time for a complete change of pace. Seems the British Music Embassy is going to finish off their showcases in Austin by having a bit of a dance party. Formation hits the stage and again, everything kicks off. The bar is full of many of the bands that have played here over the week and they are here...to dance. Everywhere I look..they have moved forward and as soon as the band hits the stage and the lead vocalist, Will Ritson starts singing, its full on.

Quite the change from Barns Courtney, Formation are energetic and overwhelmingly boisterous and fun..full of funk and a dance beat frenzy that is quite welcome at this point. Will eventually comes into the crowd and dances along with the rest of us and its been rather entertaining. Not a bad way to make sure we end this festival in a way that we won’t forget..it was a blast.

Perhaps it was all the dancing, but all of a sudden I am feeling the effects of a full week of this. Though the next band has been promised to be the ultimate party band..aptly named PartyBaby, a guitar based funk dance band from Los Angeles, they can’t get this guy to move anymore. I was done in by Formation and PartyBaby, despite throwing out a lot of grooves and entirely danceable songs, I am done in. It’s here that I wave goodbye to my favourite venue of the city and walk to 2 blocks to our hotel because I do have to fly home sadly.

Overall, it was yet another successful SXSW and a quality visit to Austin. Was able to go from showcase to showcase without any hiccups, was able to get into the night showcases without a problem and despite the few technical issues at some shows and the ill fated attempt at heading to the Rachel Ray party, all has gone well. I hope to see a few more friends in Austin next year in March for SXSW2017

Jim & Sandra

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