Don’t let anyone tell you that British music is on it’s arse – If our offering at SXSW 2019 is anything to go by, we’re set for a vintage year or so of new sounds, with plenty to be very excited about (writes Thomas Jackson from SXSW 2019). With a massively diverse range of British acts showcasing, and the strongest British showing in Austin for years, compiling this list proved harder than ever.
Sports Team occupy the same middle-England-pastiche as Pulp, The
Divine Comedy and the Kaiser Chiefs (when they were good). Add to that
the Jagger-esque stylings of frontman Alex Rice and you’ve a potent
combination, and a band who surely can’t be contained by 200 capacity
venues such as this for much longer. M5 is a disgustingly catchy
shout-along, and the standout number in a strong set, but in fairness,
this band don’t seem to have a weak point.
Standing at around 8 feet tall, and built like a brick outhouse, the
unmistakable Dylan Cartlidge dominates any stage he graces, and never
fails to astound – from the glorious wonk-hop of Love Spoons, to
impressive freestyling mid-set, to jumping onstage with fellow
Teessiders Avalanche Party to provide a stunning rap-metal vocal
performance when the itinerant Jordan Bell vacated the stage for the
umpteenth time. Dylan could be the surprise breakout of a North East
hip-hop scene which has threatened for years without really achieving
Speaking of Avalanche Party, they need a mention here. I’m not sure
what they’re putting in the water around Middlesbrough these days (or
what they’ve stopped putting in it?) but the quality of bands coming
emanating from that part of the world is unreal right now. Avalanche
Party tore every venue the played a new one, leading to show promoter
Kelly Munro to remark that of their performance for him: “isn’t a gig,
it’s a war”. Like a heavier Shame, this is a band that aren’t afraid
to get filthy, and their on-flyer mantra of “we’ll play anywhere, get
in touch” will no doubt have endeared them to the SXSW faithful.
Quite simply, Anteros do not deserve to be playing in a 200 capacity
dive-bar off 6th Street in Austin, Texas. This is an arena band who
have yet to find their arena, but they will. Part Muncie Girls part
Blondie part riot grrl part spangly 80s pop, it feels somewhat
impossible that Anteros will not be massive in six months. I’ll be
surprised if it takes that long. With debut long-player When We Land
just about to drop at the time of writing, and with the band getting
solid 6 Music rotation, Laura Hayden and her dream-pop ensemble will,
most likely, be a firm part of your summer festival playlists.
I saw The Blinders twice in Austin. Once in Champions, a bar that
would, if it upped it’s game, maybe turn into a provincial
Wetherspoons, where they performed a stripped back, acoustic-ish run
through the best of their debut album Columbia. The second time, at
1am in the British Music Embassy, was a much filthier affair. Vocalist
Thomas Haywood was the last to arrived onstage, stalking through the
crowd from the front door of the venue, all matte-black warpaint and
malice. Steve Lamacq (in attendance tonight) has championed this band
from the start, and it’s not hard to see why. Simply stunning.
Squid defy description, but I can say that if you love The Fall, We
Are Scientists or The Mystery Jets, you’ll adore this lot. They were
the talk of every show they played, and if good will was record sales
the Brighton five piece would be heading for about a year at number
one with the stupidly catchy Houseplants.
Jazz was in the ascendency at SXSW this year, with Sam Eagle wandering
around the poppier end of the spectrum with some gorgeous material
which seems custom built for lazy summer afternoons and Radio 2’s
playlist, and Ezra Collective and most notably The Comet Is Coming
killed it in venues across the city. Comet’s set at Latitude 30 was
maybe the show of the week for me, and notable for the first time I’ve
seen a mosh pit at a jazz show. Their ‘soundtrack to an imagined
apocalypse’ may seem a little weighty on paper, but in the live arena,
it comes to life. A pulsing, dynamic, largely improvised set which
moved with the crowd and ended right at the point at which it all felt
like it was about to come crashing down.
There are so many other acts I could wax lyrical about, and so many
that deserve a mention. Pip Hall, Fontaines DC, Annabel Allum, The
Pearl Harts and Penelope Isles (amongst many, many others) showed the
strength in depth that we have going on right now in the UK music
scene. Musically, we’re in a grand position, and long may it continue.