Continuing from Part 2

SXSW Thursday 17th March

Another sunny day and more showcases. Today there are plenty of showcases, but the intention today is to park it in one spot and see what surprises we come across.

I had my eyes on one showcase that featured a few bands I knew and one that we wanted to see again and many that I knew nothing of, so off we go to the Sidewinder Bar, which is a solid venue with two stages, inside and out.

First off on the stage outside is Harriet, a lovely 4 piece from Los Angeles whose lead singer and keyboardist (former member of Dawes) stands upfront and leads the band through a set of textured indie rock.

Powerful songs flow from the band and despite the fact I had not thought to have heard them before, it turns out I had as they start playing a single that was featured on a playlist of new songs that I was sent.

Some research later reveals an album produced by Sean Owen who has worked with the National and the Replacements and will now get regular play when I get home. Leaning a little to the pop side of indie rock without being too glossy, they are a solid little band.

Now, we shift inside for something completely different, and it’s the band Lex. This is a four piece all women band that create synth pop sounds and according to their bio, they use all analogue vintage synthesisers and everything is executed live. It is clever synth pop and they sound pretty good and with all dressed in black leather. It’s certainly a change from what we just heard outside.

Back outside, and one of the main reasons we picked this showcase, is it’s wonderful Whitney. Now with all members available and a full soundcheck done, they hit us with an 8 song set with an Everly Brothers cover thrown in for good measure.

Their country based indie rock is a great sound, and with all band members in tow, this set is even better and band members seem to be in much better spirits than their ill fated show the previous day.

They really do offer up something a little different from what we have been hearing and the reaction of the crowd is pleasing. Most likely many here were unaware of their work before, but they seem to be enjoying themselves and it’s a vibrant full set of songs that I hope will make it to an album soon.

Another repeat band is going on inside and its Day Wave who are a little easier to see inside, they are very good performers and a very solid band. Their pop/electronic indie pop is really well done and when they do a cover of Joy Division "Ceremony", everything kicks off inside.

Really great to see them in this small venue and I don't mind seeing these guys twice. Another change of pace outside and its Lucy Dacus, a solid guitarist and singer. She has written some great songs and performs them well and her voice, on occasion, reminds me of Neko Case. With a solid band that back her up with some great playing, she switches from playing on her own to using the band and it’s a good blend of indie rock/dream-pop.

It gets noisy pretty quick when we go inside to hear Diet Cig. Another buzz band, these two offer up a level of energy that we have not seen today. Diet Cig are fierce with a charismatic lead singer/guitarist Alex Luciano who bounces around the stage as if she was possessed and drummer Noah Bowman who tries to keep up!

It's loud, but clean, with some infectious pop songs hidden behind the onslaught. Hard not to get caught up in their spirit. Their set is a blur and while its entirely enjoyable and wonderful to watch, the escape to the outside stage is welcomed to get some rest and to see Bleached.

Bleached are led by two sisters, Jennifer and Jessie Clavin (formerly of Mika Miko) and bassist Micayla Grace. They are a guitar pop band that leans toward the Punk side of life. They have a drummer here with them and it’s clear the buzz around this band is well placed. They create a very sweet sound, of a sweet haunting set of songs that greet the crowd outside and while its aggressive it’s also warm. It is a full sound and a very tasty treat and very different from the sound of Diet Cig.

And now inside for yet another change of pace. Its the wonderfully talented band Cloves. One reviewer has called Cloves the female Bon Iver...that pretty much nails it. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful and it takes no time for her to settle onto the inside stage and to start charming the crowd. She is only 19 but her songs are mature, well written and perfectly suited to her voice. It’s fantastic to be standing so close as she sings...she is delicate and yet forceful and seems to use no energy as she sings and its a great set of songs. I will be anxiously awaiting her album which is due in 2016.

Back to the outside stage to see the band that many are here to see....Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks are a Garage Rock Band that I have seen before and it will be interesting to see how they have changed. They have packed the outside stage area and as soon as they started the first song the crowd responds.

This big band is a manic energy driven punk guitar band and they are relentless. They have grown as a band and while their songs are quick and fast, it’s not at the expense of solid musicianship or sloppy singing. The energy of the band is matched by the energy of the crowd and we stand amused, watching both groups.

We are also standing with many of the bands label people and it is interesting to hear their take on the events and the bands progress. It is clear the band is popular here and they would like them to be more aggressive in other countries especially in the UK, so don't be surprised to see them in England soon.

Back in side and it’s a new signing to 4AD, three piece Aussie Indie Pop band Methyl Ethel. This reverb driven band packs a mighty wallop in their short set. They are rather bouncy and energetic and while it’s definitely rock n roll...its rather smooth. They seem to tick a lot of boxes that will make sure they appeal to many great musicians, great songs, fantastic singing and obviously play because they love what they are doing. Can’t really help but enjoy their set only a few bands left to this afternoon session.

Back outside for Pure Bathing Culture. This band includes two former members of the band Vetiver and they produce some lovely pop/electro indie pop. Great guitar work and solid rhythm section matches up well with lead singer Sarah Vesprille's voice. Its light and fresh warm and a very fun sound. No doubt the songs have some deep meanings, but the groove and bounce of the band is the focus for me.

Inside it’s a quick set by a pair of very young DJ's Louis the Child. Kids are energetic and an odd choice for this afternoon slot, but I find them amusing. As they mouth the words to all the songs they play, they dance around and share the duties on stage. Clearly these two have fun doing what they do and I can see them packing a dance floor somewhere, but here, the crowd has arrived to see the band going on outside.

Honne are a British electronic soul duo who tour with 4 back up musicians. Their songs are mellow & trippy, upbeat and completely danceable. Having heard a few of their songs recently, it was interesting to see how it translated to the stage. It does have quite the groove and it’s rather catchy. It’s fun and smooth and offers up something rather different as this showcase's last band.

Need a little nourishment, a little rest, and its off. While the night offers a multitude of choices, it’s been decided to take our one opportunity to see an icon of the Country music scene...Loretta Lynn

Loretta plays the first slot at a major showcase at Stubbs, a lovely outside venue that holds a huge crowd for the first ever BBC Introducing night show here. It’s quite the showcase, but most are here to see Loretta. This 80+ yr old young lady can still belt out the tunes. With her son and full band in tow, it’s a set of classics that reminds me of family back home and how much time we spent as a group listening to this music. Takes little or no time to be singing along and enjoying each and every moment Loretta is singing. After a number of songs she sits down and continues to sing because she is getting a bit tired but that changes nothing.

Her voice is as good as it gets and she is a feisty one. Sitting close to the audience down front, she asks for any requests and while her band behind her are starting to get into playing a new track, Loretta has chosen a song requested from the crowd. Her band are not paying enough attention and start in on a new song and Loretta sits with a bemused look on her face. Eventually she turns back to her band to remind them they can be replaced and the crowd erupts in laughter. The band has now taken notice and the set continues.

It’s a brilliant reminder of just how a show should go..there is great songs, even greater banter and a crowd that has gotten exactly what they wanted and probably more..its great.

As mentioned before, it’s a showcase that features all sorts of bands and up next is a beauty as well, but one that is quite the change from Loretta

Sunflower Bean are up next and are one of my bands to breakout this year. They are a three piece from Brooklyn that simply can’t be predicted. There is nothing standard about their approach as an indie guitar punk band with influences from Zeppelin to the Velvet Underground their songs go in every direction, but it’s clear they are brilliantly constructed with layers of noise and a balance of voice vs instruments that indicate that this relatively young band are the real deal.

Some songs surely last over 7 minutes, but you barely notice. Even when it’s an instrumental portion of the song, it feels like the vocals are not missing, just not needed, and to me, that is rare. Distorted guitars, stunning psych rock and wonderful’s a perfect package. At this point, I can’t see how this band will not succeed in taking over a few festival stages over the next year and become a much bigger band. The shift is on now and we head to The Parish

At the Parish we arrive to find a rather large crowd singing along to our fellow Canadians the Strumbellas. This six piece alt country indie rock band are clearly popular in these parts and their songs are rather infectious. As the set flows through these folk pop songs, almost every song includes a singalong with the’s a wonderful set of songs that have pleased all within the club. Some great banter from the band and a very pleased crowd entertains even someone like myself who has seen the band often, and very happy to see them get their dues and be as popular as they seem to be.

Next up is the exquisite Polica. Featuring a number of songs off of their brilliant new album, the band is even better than the last time we watched them. A hauntingly beautiful set of synth pop and having toured together for sometime now, this band is perfect with their execution. It’s a very polished set of instant classics and it’s hard not to be impressed with where this band is right now. Its passionate and intense and a very wonderful example of not complicating a set too’s the best I have seen of the band and these electro/r&b/pop songs end too soon, but I won't forget the voice or the playing anytime soon.

Another change of gears and next up is Cullen Omori. Cullen, alongside our earlier reported new favourite band Whitney, are former members of the US band the Smith Westerns. I was a fan of theirs, so after seeing Whitney and loving them as much as I did...I hope the other half of the band performs as well.

Cullen hits the stage to a small crowd. It seems many have left after Strumbella's and Polica. He does seem to be in a mood and rifles through a set of synth heavy guitar rock..some fantastic pop songs with the vocals way out front...he is a great singer. While the show is short and there is no pause between songs. I am happy to have tickets to go see him in Toronto when I return as I believe a normal club show will give me the opportunity to see Cullen again, when he is at his best.

To end the night...I needed a big burst of energy and that comes from the fantastic Aussie band the DMA's

Think Oasis, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays..these guys check off a lot of boxes for me, especially at 1:15am 6 members, 3 guitarists, bass, singer and drums, it's a full on rock show of Brit rock done Aussie style.

Attitude and wearing your influences on your sleeve doesn't always work but they are unapologetic. They push through a great evening set of classics, a number of songs I am familiar with and they do them well. If you are tired of Brit Rock, these guys are not for you, but for me it’s a remarkably satisfying way to end a great day and hope to see these guys again soon!

That's it for this day full of shows and it’s time for some rest!

Continues in Part 4

Jim & Sandra