It's the last day of what has been a solid visit to Austin. The sun is shining and a well balanced week means we still have some energy to be able to walk around the city so we are off It's a quick walk into the convention centre to check out Flatstock (a huge market of concert posters and gear) and while in the building we are able to catch two bands;
Spinning Coin are first up on the international stage, the indie rock band from Scotland were the opening band for Teenage Fanclub but on our UK visit, we had missed them at both shows. This riff heavy 4 piece put on a fairly good show for the few who have made it to the stage. It's a rather messy mix of sounds, some simple harmonies and they produce some pretty solid guitar rock.
The next band up on a stage in Flatstock is Ramirez Exposure. This youngster reminds me a lot of Jake Bugg but with his 5 piece full band, this young Spanish group produce a 60's influenced indie pop. Clearly a big fan of Beach Boys and the Beatles, there is plenty of wonderful harmonies and when some great guitar work starts washing over the songs...it's become Big Star. The kid is young but the band sounds mature and they work together well. This could just be the start for these fellas
Now the walk in the sun over to South Congress and we head back to South by San Jose and the comfortable surroundings of Hotel San Jose as does a large crowd as today's schedule is loaded.
We start out with Slow Dancer. This Aussie 3 piece that are based around lead singer Simon Okely, produce some very solid indie folk. There is a summer feel to these guys and as people scatter around the venue to find shade, the band plow through a set of songs seemingly inspired by some classic R&B and it works.
Ron Gallo is the next artist to hit the stage. This is one complicated band. They start with an awkward anti establishment speech and then jump into a set of indie, glam, fuzzy guitar punk rock. This guy and his two fellow band mates produce a garage rock that is heavy on noise but it's not hard to listen to, the songs may be bleak but his commitment to some high quality singing takes the edge off. This guy is one album in and I would suggest seeing him and making up your own mind
The next band is a departure from everything we have seen but it's more then welcome on this gorgeous sunny day. Khruangbin is a wickedly wonderful 3 piece who base their sound on what I discover to be Thai surf funk music of the 60's and 70's. With very little singing, the lead guitarist and bassist share duties fronting this band with some help from a very good drummer and they put on a rather stimulating clinic in how to get a crowd moving and inspired with only instruments. Please check them out as the are excruciatingly hard to describe but leave everyone smiling in this crowd in Austin and are a fantastic little band
Next up are another buzz band and perhaps why many of the crowd are here. PWR BTTM are an unapologetic queer punk band with a message and they are quick to warn the crowd of parents who have brought their children, that their method of communicating with the crowd involves a lot of rather profane language so we are all warned. Before they get too far into their set, the band are clearly here with an agenda as they are at all their shows, to entertain as well as educate.
They want the crowd to know about the importance of gender neutral language as well as the need to convince the Texas government not to support the bathroom bill that is being proposed that will basically restricts access for many transgender Texans to the washroom they require. It would mean this band cannot tour in Texas and they will not return. The message though is really much more positive as this band emphasizes love and friendship with their clever guitar songs and pop punk and melodies and you can't help but love this set of songs that all have a message to the crowd.
In no way does the set get dragged down by the message as the music is still fun and rather lovely, but it demands thinking and no doubt many who leave here have a new respect for the frustrations of the transgender community.
Cherry Glazerr are up next on the big stage and they are LOUD! I gather the band has changed members recently and what I see here is pretty impressive. Led by a very dynamic lead singer, Clementine Creevy, she howls through a set of indie punk and it's viscous in its intensity. This band seems angry and with some big guitar riffs and synths, I am kinda glad we are at an outdoor stage...this would be terrifyingly loud in a small venue. This Los Angeles based rock band have certainly woken this crowd up as there is still no place to hide and even though we have to leave 3/4 through the set, we can still hear the band blocks away.
Our plan was to grab a quick dinner now and get in line at the second annual Roots & Friends show at SXSW. Last years event drew a big crowd and a fantastic showcase from what we have heard so our plan is to get to the venue early Apparently, an hour early is not near enough time as there must be 1000 people in line. It's all badge holders and there is no way this small club show is going to be possible so, as happens often at SXSW..we go to our back up plan and we will head to Latitude and the British Music Embassy
It's a wild and wacky cross section of bands playing tonight and none more so than the first band up..Anna Meredith. It's a struggle to describe what is going on here. I find out that Anna used to be a member of the British Symphony and she "composes" a terrific set of wonderful and unique songs. She sings, plays keys, laptop loops..bells and a clarinet as her band plays a tuba, cello, drums and guitar? Its progressive pop and dance and upbeat and it's a great collective of sound. When they drop their instruments and sing in unified harmonies, it's a great little shift and throw in some math rock, some indie dance and it's clear you never really know what you are going to get from this band. It certainly gets the crowd bouncing around at Latitude and is a great start
Alice Jemima is next up and it will be difficult to follow Anna. Alice is a singer/songwriter from Devon and sings some rather atmospheric lyrics with minimal guitar backing and kind of reminds me of the sound of bands like the XX. When she cranks up her version of Blackstreets "No Diggity", which is rather clever, you can't help but be impressed but again, following Anna Meredith is difficult tonight. As this set ends, we get a bit of a break as somehow the club blows some breakers and with minimal lighting and no background music, we all stand in the quiet and wait. When the problems are fixed and a short sound check is done, Aquilo hits the stage.
Aquilo are a very polished band from the Lake District that produce some very soulful, ballad heavy songs. It's simple and rather pretty and clearly is based around the two young men who have some very lovely voices. It's not complicated and is rather catchy and the guys do well to produce a solid clean set with little sound check time due to the electrical issues.
Superglu is next up and you can't help but perk up and perhaps pay a bit more attention to these guys.. Tempo changes, some howling, big hooks and harmonies are all featured in the set from this 4 piece. They split the vocal duties and on top of some wicked guitar work and great percussion, you can watch this band and know they are having fun. It's a great little indie rock set from these British kids and it's very clever and fun.
Sundara Karma are up next and that might explain why the bar is a little more crowded. As said before, this band makes some big guitar rock songs, and combines it some pretty solid singing and harmonies and it probably sounds a bit better here in a smaller club show. The crowd again sings along and is another solid show
Finally, the last band of the night, and as often happens here at Latitude, the last band is going to be the one that is quite possibly the loudest. Life are another classic punk rock 4 piece band from the UK. They are gritty, angry, and rather brilliant. It's modern day punk and quite fitting to be the last band of the day. It's a very loud set and it's crowded in the venue, the bands that have played here during the week seem to all be in the crowd and it's getting a little hectic. I back out of the crowd and listen to the lead singer spit out his clever punk lyrics from the safety of the back of the club. I drift away from the bar as the band finishes its set, once more I have completed a full day and tomorrow we are off home.