SXSW 2019 - Day 2 - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

SXSW 2019 - Day 2

by Howard Scott Rating: Release Date:
SXSW 2019 - Day 2
SXSW 2019 - Day 2

It is almost impossible to go anywhere in Austin during the SXSW festival without encountering live music. Hotel lobbies, pop up eateries that were parking lots the day before, urban sidewalks and even rolling flatbed trucks all sound out with artists demonstrating their talent and love of music.

After a completely exhausting first day of running all over the city (and risking my life to get here on one of those dreaded Boeing 737-Max airplanes!) to soak up as much ambience as possible, I decided to dial it back and pace myself a bit more on day two. One of the more intriguing venue lineups was offered at Maggie Mae’s, which is located in the heart of the Sixth Street club scene. Two stages, one upstairs and one on the main floor, each had six bands scheduled to play, so I decided to park myself for a couple of hours and sample the sounds. 

The upstairs stage, which was covered with a huge vinyl roof, seemed to be having issues with sound for a fair amount of the evening, but it seemed more bothersome to the bands themselves than the crowd. Several times after a song, a plea from the stage for “less bass on the left” or “more vocals from the back” could be heard, but none of this really hampered the performances. 

img 2686The group wowing the crowd downstairs was San Mei, which is the alter ego of Australian singer-songwriter Emily Hamilton. Her hard-driving three-piece group served up a healthy helping of power pop to a large crowd hungry for the feast. Hamilton possesses a strong overpowering voice perfect for just such a gathering, and the heavy guitar pickings fit around her like a glove. 

In the upper environs, another Aussie, Gabriella Cohen opened the evening with cuts from her two released albums. I only caught the tail end of her performance as dinner took longer than planned, but an enthusiastic crowd seemed fully satisfied with the performance. Ms. Cohen has a uniquely deep and somewhat mournful voice that is soothing while still being a bit edgy.

Austin’s own Sun June was next up and it is readily apparent why the locals have taken them to heart and launched the group to a more worldwide following. Laura Colwell is the face of the band, doing all lead vocals while handling the keyboards, but her supporting cast is an outstanding collection of musicians as well. I found myself mesmerized by the Telecaster stylings of Michael Bain. He sounded great on the record, but even better live.  While that iconic instrument can be made to do almost anything with enough pedals and fuzz options these days, it was a distinct pleasure to hear the instrument played as I imagine Leo Fender envisioned all those years ago. It wasn’t overpowering, just pleasant and skillful. Stephen Salisbury also enhances the sound with his six-string, while Justin Harris on bass and Sarah Schultz on drums laid down a perfect foundation. Several cuts from their recent album “Years” were performed, as well as a new single entitled “Monster Moon”. The slightly-over-thirty minute set ended too soon, but the band will be appearing at other venues later in the week.

img 2692Another Sky came on next, and their brand of British rock shook the rooftops. Vocalist Catrin Vincent’s voice has been described using words like “haunting” and “unsettling” and it was obvious to even a casual observer why. Her vocals have a masculine flavor that can be a bit jarring coming from a rather petite woman, but she has no issues with reaching the back of the room with her outbursts. The four-piece, which all hail from Goldsmiths University in the UK, showed off the experience only garnered from touring live as they kept the throngs enraptured and bouncing for another forty minutes. 

Another part of the whole SXSW experience are panel discussions on virtually every topic under the sun held at various locales all over the city. My daughter, who is acting as my tour guide for most of the week, since she lived in Austin for a number of years, wanted to visit some of these earlier in the day. So, before Tuesday was over, I learned a little about America going to hell in a handbasket, how to sell a movie or TV pilot to Hollywood, how to traverse the world in a year on a limited budget, and how to get rich selling products to cat lovers! Not exactly heavy on the music, but a quiet and pleasant diversion from the exploits of the later evening. Again, if you can’t find something to do that interests you during SXSW, you just aren’t trying very hard. Now it’s off to find the instantly-popped-up Mexican food place for some much needed (and free!) tacos……

Photos: Cindy Scott. Instagram: @cinderstravels

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great color on the festival and great photos. I know it's a chore. Just five more days to go!

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