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SXSW 2014, my eighth time in the last nine years and the first where I had no jet lag, only heat deprivation problems after my bronzed body had become used to the temperatures of Southern California.

I arrived Monday and managed to see two bands as music was already on the go, unofficially.

So off to Mohawk to see the first live act of the week. Met Al and saw Cymbals. Mellow indie swirling geetar band from London get things started.

Walking back at midnight we pop into Stubbs, breaking my intention not to go into my least favorite venue in the first minutes of my Austin week, we see GirlTalk and their party animal set.


  • Gossling @ Hilton Hotel
  • The Cush @ BDRileys
  • Son of Stan @BDRileys
  • Horse Thief @ Central Presbyterian Church
  • Arc Iris @ Central Presbyterian Church
  • Agnes Obel @ Central Presbyterian Church
  • Snow Ghosts @ Iron Bear
  • Mada Diaz @ Buffalo Billiards
  • Avi Buffalo @ Buffalo Billiards.

The Cush. Pretty good Sonic Youth thing going on.

Arc Iris, features the female member of The Low Anthem, a stunning eclectic set part vaudeville part prog rock. Watch out for this lot.

The main folk...

Fairly quiet day by SXSW standards , only Arc Iris blew me away.

But all that would change….


  • Krystal & Johnny Boy @ Convention Centre
  • Casual Sex @ Mohawk
  • Los Encantados at Cheer Up Charlies
  • Mr. Gnome at Cheer Up Charlies
  • Temples @ Fader Fort
  • Mirah at Cheer Up Charlies
  • Ages and Ages at Cheer Up Charlies
  • Those Darlings at Cheer Up Charlies
  • Joycut @ International Day Stage
  • The Magic Numbers @ The Hilton Hotel
  • Bonzie @ The Hilton Hotel
  • Sunbears @ Javelinas
  • Wild Party @ Bar 96
  • Pile @ Half Step
  • The Casket Girls @ Half Step
  • Asgeir @ Blackheart
  • Gabby Young & Other Animals @ Esther’s Follies
  • Future Island @ Haven
  • Warpaint @ Maggie Mae’s Rooftop

A bunch of buzz bands in that list. A load of my personal must sees. So who delivered and who were overhyped nonsense?

First up at midday in the little Next Stage in middle of the official conference hall were performance artists Krystal Boy and Johnny. Johnny wore bright yellow tights. Krystal was amazing, perpetual motion, surprisingly decent to listen to as well as look out. Day already bubbling up.

Did I say that all photos are reproduced exactly as I took them, so close up if I was next to stage, in crowd if not, back of the hall if there. Blurred etc. Real time real life. Some with my decent camera, some on iPhone, like this one. Everyone likes Casual Sex these days. This is the hottest band from Scotland , a bit Franz Ferdinandish but don’t hold that against them. Coming your way soon.

Temples were one of the UK buzz bands. Their formula was sixties ambience psychedelia. They were not bad but were trumped later in the week by a US band with exactly the same thang.

Next hot band of the day were Portland’s Ages and Ages. In a tiny bar which was jam packed they blistered through their harmony centered three minute pop masterpieces. Excellent.

Remember The Magic Numbers? Well I ate in our hotel bar whilst they took the stage. They famously walked of the set of Top Of The Pops, the UK music weekly TC show,when the presenter said, here are literally the largest band in the world right now. Size - ist? Decide for yourself. Pleasant way to eat dinner SXSW style.

The night was young, headed to Rainey Street which is a bit out of town but has a parade of about ten bars, clubs and restaurants which put on SXSW showcases. You can basically go up and down the street and criss cross into all sorts of cool venues. WE saw a load of bands. In the midst of this the standouts were:

Sunbears - They said - SUNBEARS! loudly promote peace and love through cosmic aural merry-go-rounds and phosphorescent guitar.. They were very correct. Brilliant.

Then after a bunch of bands, we saw a much hyped act, The Casket Girls.

They looked like living up to their buzz, but they sounded terrible. Unfortunately, you have not heard the last of them.

Then we saw the stunning Iceland band Aesgir. Genesis Peter Gabriel 1970-ish. Top notch.

After a pleasant thirty minutes watching Gabby Young, I headed to see one of my TOP THREE must see acts, Future Islands. They had already played several times and it had been mobbed everywhere. But I got in and they were stunning. Samuel T Herring, their lead singer is a cross between Henry Rollins and Bambi. Dancer extraordinaire and a voice part choir boy, part demon Exorcist voice. They just performed on Letterman and everyone raved about their performance. This night they again were sensational. Loved it. You will either love them or hate them. Let me know.

Finally I headed to see another much vaunted band to close the night. 1am show to see Warpaint. Buzz band bomb two of the evening. They made The Casket Girls sound good.

Still a great day, Casual Sex, Ages and Ages, Sunbears, Aesgir and Future Islands - Special day , 19 acts seen, Five brilliant!!

And if you never saw Future Islands on Letterman, watch this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ee4bfu_t3c


Went to bed in the early hours with text messages ringing as a result of the incident outside Mohawk where a driver ran amok. Changed the atmosphere understandably. At midnight today in every one of the 100 showcase venues all acts stopped and read out a letter to the bereaved and injured then we held a minute’s silence. Sad, sad times.

  • Lost in Trees @ Day Stage Conference Centre
  • Cate Le Bon @ Red 7
  • Thumper @ Flamingo Cantina
  • NO @ Day Stage Conference Centre
  • Small Black @ Flamingo Cantina
  • Jay Arner @ Headhunters
  • Sam Smith @ Fader Fort
  • Eagulls @ Fader Fort
  • Streets of Laredo @ New Zealand Party Brush Square
  • Jordan Klassen @ Hilton Hotel
  • Dirty Prairie @ Stubbs
  • Lady Starlight @ Stubbs
  • Lady Gaga @ Stubbs
  • Opus Orange @ Esther’s Follies
  • Turin Brakes @ Palm Door on Sabine
  • Wye Oak @ Parish
  • Bob Mould @ Parish
  • Gungor @ Esther’s Follies

Every year bigger and bigger names come. SXSW have started drawing lotteries only for Badge holders ( a ticket where you basically walk to the front of all lines) to enter. This year I applied and won a ticket to see Jay Z and Kanye West on stage together. That was last night and I did not go - too many other things to see. Today I won again and Eve says I should go to see the act. So I did. More to follow on my Lady Gaga experience.

So I took some recos, abnormal for me. Lost in the Trees from Simon and Dave, Cate Le Bon from Al and John. Both were good, Cate Le Bon just shading it. Here she is, she is on the extreme right looking like Michael Myers from Halloween.

Thumper were on my list to see and they were fine. No groundbreaking , just a good thirty mins of live indie rock music.

NO were a band whose music I had heard. I expected a poppier The National. That is what I got, with a quirky lead singer. Of all the bands I saw, this is the one I would put money on becoming monstrous.

Shortly after I saw one of my son, Jake’s, top picks, the electronic pop of Small Black. They were excellent. However I just checked the photo below and it is obvious they appeal to males rather than females for some reason.

Onto the tiniest venue of the week Headhunters to see someone on my list, Jay Arner. His one song I know sounded great but I did not know he would look like the great unwashed bore. He was dull. Good wee venue though.

Then off to Fader Fort where first I saw the Sam Smith, lead singer on Disclosure’s amazing song Latch. Not bad live too.

Forget what he looks like. Listen to what he sounds like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93ASUImTedo&feature=kp

Next up one of the most talked about bands of the week, Eagulls from Castleton, Leeds. A wall of punk noise matched by a screechy vocal meant this was a nightmare. Did not live up to hype. Looked fine though.

Next a story. I was walking through my hotel foyer when I heard a cockney voice say that he needed to take out money from the ATM machine. Unfortunately he attempted to do this from a carpark payment machine. I decided to help.. Excuse me, I said, Mr Tony Hadley, that’s a carpark ticket machine - the ATM is yonder. One firm handshake later he was on his way to get twenty dollars for a G&T. Here is a picture of the suited gentleman getting his wads of money. To Cut A Long Story Short, I helped a Spandau Ballet person.

From there I headed to a big tent to see the New Zealand band showcase, where I saw a bunch of Americana rockers called Streets of Laredo do some fine C&W.

Now, another story. I am a hypocrite. When it was announced that Lady Gaga would come to SXSW I moaned. Then she announced a limited entry show. I moaned. It would take place at the worst venue in Austin, Stubbs. I moaned. Nonetheless I entered the lottery for a ticket and won. Eve, I blame you, made me go so that I could say I had seen her. So I did. From the moment I got there, I moaned.

That is her with her wee arm up in the air waving to me. I watched three songs, after enduring possibly the two worst acts that i had ever seen at SXSW Dirty Praise, a NY glammer Billy Idol with no charisma band followed by the most crap DJ/Mixer ever, Lady Starlight. Avoid both like the plague. Gaga, exactly as I thought. Over the top pop which left me stone cold. Dung.

Minutes after this aberration I was in a venue with an audience of about 30 watching Opus Orange. Minutes after that I was at the Palm Door watching sheer magic. Turin Brakes.

Then one of the highlights of the week, another of my top three must sees. Wye Oak at Parish. One woman, one man, all of blissful sounds. Great mix. Great voice. They deserve to be huge. Thanks Al for introduction.

Next up was one of my heroes in same venue, none other than Bob Mould of Husker Du. Sadly, he was boring, :( I will blot this out and remember him as I did before I saw him. Be careful of seeing your heroes past their sell by date.

Back to Esther Follies to see Gungor to finish the splendid day. They were another multi instrumental spawned by Arcade Fire band. Very good though.

So Thursday over, 18 acts, five truly outstanding ones, Cate Le Bon, NO, Small Black, Turin Brakes and Wye Oak.


  • Damon Alburn @ Day Stage, Conference Centre
  • Public Service Broadcasting @ Blackheart
  • The Hold Steady @ Day Stage, Conference Centre
  • Night Terrors of 1927 @ Starr Building
  • DOTT @ BD Rileys
  • Roman Remains @ Buffalo Billiards
  • The Young Folk @ BD Rileys
  • Jamestown Revival @ Buffalo Billiards
  • Gary Numan @ Buffalo Billiards
  • The Defibulators @ Omni Hotel
  • The Boxing Lesson @ Swan Dive Backyard
  • Viet Cong @ Swan Dive
  • The Front Bottoms @ Palm Door
  • Hundred Waters @ Central Presbyterian Church
  • Quilt @ Swan Dive
  • Moving Units @ Swan Dive Backyard
  • American Aquarium @ Stubbs
  • London Grammar @ Stubbs
  • Wolf Alice @ Maggie Maes Rooftop
  • Gungor @ St. Davids Bethel Hall
  • Ezra Furman and the Harpoons @ Valhalla
  • Vance Joy @ St Davids Bethel Hall
  • Garden and Villas @ Red Eye Fly
  • Youngblood Brass Band @ Esther’s Follies

Yup, really.

Its only 11.00am and we are in the convention centre to see Damon Alburn with a little orchestra and a pentecostal church choir, as you do. Stunning. A tad different from “Park Life”.

Friday in full swing. Up to Rainey Street to Blackheart again. This time Public Service Broadcasting. Old radio announcements. Synths and a banjo. Brilliant.

Going for three stunning acts in a row I catch another much talked about band, The Hold Steady. I love their songs, but live they were dull - must have caught them on an off moment, maybe playing at 1.00 in the afternoon in a conference hall is not enough rocknroll for them.

I then popped in and out of a bunch of places as the Friday list above shows. Nothing to note until The Young Folk who were Ireland’s new Mumfords. Then great Jayhawks type harmonies from Jamestown Revival.

The pure genius. 55 years young. Gary Numan stormed Austin. With a backing band a la Sisters of Mercy, he was sensational. I last saw him as Tubeway Army in around 1981 with Carol. Every bit as good today. Loved it.

Then a break. I think I popped into a sushi restaurant on my own. One Sapporo and spicy tuna sashimi later I headed to the Omni Hotel. There in a cavernous reception area I saw the Defibulators, straight out of Deliverance it seemed. Fun half hour. Here is the view from behind the “stage” looking up into the hotel.

Viet Cong, born from band Woman, were not bad. The Boxing Lesson have a great album but live were like watching some aunt and uncles play in your living room. Hundred Waters were one of my must sees - another mistake - ghastly. Quilt were pleasant. Moving Units were a great party dance band, watch them. But best in the middle of all this were The Front Bottoms. Great live and they brought their loyal fan base who sang every word on every song. Party Central once again. Here is a photo of someone photographing the main man.

Then another must see band let me down, London Grammar. Disappointing. Hey I am a tough crowd, but that was followed by a brilliant set from Wolf Alice in the crazy busy Maggie Maes Rooftop, which had a stage which made for impossible viewing. So I watched from afar and saw the band occasionally when they jumped about. Majestic noise though. Here was my view. If you look carefully you can see a mic that someone occasionally sang into. I needed the rest from the crowds up front though.

Then I sort of let the evening flash by me in a daze. Saw two good shows at St David’s Bethel Hall, Gungor, for second time, this time sort of unplugged and Vance Joy, Australia's folk rock star. Decent set from Gardens and Villas including a flute, then a raucous show from a seven piece brass band with three drummers, Youngblood Brass Band. I left at 2am and they were still going strong.

Fun day, the best being Damon Alburn, Public Service Broadcasting, Gary Numan, The Front Bottoms and Wolf Alice.

Only One . More…Day…..


  • The Spyres @ Palm Door
  • HolyEsque @ Swan Dive Backyard
  • Yellerkin @ Cheer Up Charlies
  • High Wasted @ Cheer UP Charlies
  • Tourist @ Holy Mountain
  • Mutual Benefit @ Holy Mountain
  • The Griswolds @ The Dirty Dog
  • Mother Falcon @ Convention Centre
  • Splashh @ Latitude 30
  • San Fermin @ Latitude 30
  • Bo Ningen @ Latitude 30
  • Majestico @ Lamberts
  • The Eastern Sea @ Lamberts

A calm day. Lots of packing up, sitting down and walking slowly.

Day started with that other sixties psychedelic revivalists I told you about, The Spyres. They won, better than Temples.

Then a lot of nice stuff without being excellent until i went to see Dave and John’s pick, Mutual Benefit. Pretty good band obviously inspired like a hundred or so others in the public eye now, by Arcade Fire, only they are good at it.

Then a few bands later I used my express pass, go to the front of the queue ticket thing to make sure I got in to see my number one pre SXSW pick, San Fermin. WE got there early and saw great band before them Splashh. Then on came San Fermin. Just fantastic. Miss them at your peril. Great music. Great voices. Great to watch.

As I was leaving after them I was stopped by a person who said do not leave you will not want to miss the next act. They also said they were indescribable and that I would love them. So I waited and on came four Japanese guys, wearing dresses with hair down to their knees. They were Bo Ningen and they played a screeching wall of guitars with a weird high pitched vocalist. They also threw them selves around the stage. I cannot imagine ever listening to them again, but for this thirty minutes they were jaw dropping fascinating to watch and hear.

I avoided the madness of Sixth Street and headed way out of the main drag to Lamberts to see The Eastern Sea, my favorite act of last year. They were not bad but I think I had reached saturation point. So I left and headed to hotel to call it a day, a week.

Saturdays best were Mutual Benefit, Splashh, San Fermin and Bo Ningen.

Overall I saw 85 bands spread across 33 different venues. Some dazzled, some fizzled, some were just good to dip in and out of. I got what I came for!!

The Top 20.

Casual Sex
Ages and Ages
Small Black
Turin Brakes
Jamestown Revival
The Front Bottoms
Mutual Benefit
Cate Le Bon
Wolf Alice
Arc Iris
Bo NIngen
Public Service Broadcasting
Damon Alburn
Gary Numan
3. Wye Oak
2. San Fermin
1. Future Islands.

Here is my favorite t-shirt of the week, which started many a conversation when I wore it.

SXSW 2014, every bit as good as the previous years.