After the madness at the Mohawk, I made my way to Latitude 30 for the British Music Embassy’s showcase. On this night, I was able to catch three very different groups, all of them very adept at churning out their respective sounds. I may have not been aware of any of these groups prior to seeing their names listed on the huge SXSW Music Festival line-up, but they all made quite the impression on me.
Francobollo, which means stamp in Italian, as the band will tell you, is a Swedish-by-way-of-England band that blew me away during their 40-minute set at Latitude 30 late Monday night. As is par for most of the shows I caught at SXSW, I had little to no idea what the band was about. I knew they were British, since they were playing at the British Music Embassy, and I knew that something about their sound had to have drawn me in to the point that I would have put them down as an act I wanted to catch. I quickly realized I knew nothing as the band churned out some of the best English-rock I have heard since I was first introduced to the Arctic Monkeys. Sure they are more like the Hives than the Arctic Monkeys, if the Hives dropped acid and tripped in some desert. Not only is the band classic rock and psychedelia infused, but it’s melodic and achingly catchy. As if the music wasn’t enough, their live show is incredibly entertaining. By the end of the set every member of the band was shirtless, save the bassist, Sam Bailey. Front-man, Simon Nilsson and drummer, Sean Bean (no not that Sean Bean) had traded spots for a song, showing their prowess as multi-instrumentalists. The show was fast, loud, and mean; everything you could possibly want out of a show. It felt like the show was in the basement of house party and the band was rushing to pump out as many tunes as possible before the cops arrived. I have seen a lot of acts, so many that they all start to blend together at a point, but Francobollo is emblazoned in my memory. The excitement I felt while watching their set was like the first time I had ever seen FIDLAR live; that raw adrenaline and energy that seemed to pump through my veins as if I was going 200 on the highway. It’s shows like this that make me love music, make me want to live, eat, and breathe it. For those reasons, I thank you Francobollo for blowing my f*****g socks off.
Hailing from Brighton in the U.K., Our Girl is one of the coolest acts that I have found in a while. I would describe their sound as garage-surf-rock-esque, much like Sleater-Kinney, but with the song-writing touches of Built to Spill. Essentially, Our Girl is the English answer to Alvvays, if I’m not going to far out on the limb. The band is calm, cool, and collected when on-stage, seldom showing any show of emotion, with the exception of lead-singer, Soph Nathan for leaves it all on the stage, running the emotional gamut during each and every song. Despite not knowing any of their music, with the exception of a song here and there, they had my undivided attention throughout their set. Technical performers, through and through, the band is able to keep listeners mystified by composing songs that feel like a teenage romance synthesized into a song. It’s truly an emotional roller coaster, with energetic highs, and anemic lows that make everything feel like it’s being bathed in a slight shade of blue. I think the most memorable moment of the set was when to my surprise, as if through muscle memory I found myself singing along to “Being Around.” A truly delightful band with beautiful music that should know no borders, that’s what I’m blaming for never having heard this band prior to seeing them on the SXSW Music Festival line-up, and I don’t want to hear anybody say I don’t try hard enough to find music, so that’s that.
The Sheffield punk band was exactly what you want from a band of that genre: brash, abrasive, political, and most importantly, unpredictable. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I love hearing British punk music, maybe because of the accents, or the fact that it’s just as political as early punk music was; something the genre stateside seems to have shied away from in recent years. Now, I don’t consider myself a punk veteran by any means, but I have to admit I was a little taken aback when I first saw the band come on stage. Most of the members were wearing nice button-up, collared shirts; the lead singer was even wearing a suit jacket and a pair of Hunter S. Thompson sunglasses (y’know, the type with the yellow lenses?). Almost immediately, that suit jacket and the glasses came flying off as the lead singer used the microphone stand as a sort of extension of his arm, extending it towards the sky and in the audiences’ faces. He had no shortage of energy as he jumped from side to side on the stage, even crawling on top of the bar twice, affixing light fixtures normally used to create some sort of ambiance as a spotlight and staring at bewildered audience members. At one point he just walked into the crowd, mic stand in hand and just sort of stood there staring dead-eyed at audience members who quickly gathered their phones to capture the moment. In between songs, the lead singer would say things like “F**k Brexit,” or “F**k Trump,” both of which seemed to resonate with the crowd that was decidedly more English than American. “Popular Music,” from their album of the same name, and “In Your Hands,” were some of the biggest highlights of the set in my opinion.
Thanks for reading! We have a ton of SXSW coverage still on the way, including interviews and more showcase reviews, so keep checking the site so you don’t miss out on what I did for Spring Break.