SXSW 2015 Saturday - Under the Radar Showcase - TORRES, San Fermin, Amason, Boxed In, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019  

TORRES performs at the Under the Radar Official SXSW Showcase. Photo by Johannes Andersen

Amason, Boxed In, Dinner, Springtime Carnivore, SXSW 2015, SXSW 2015 Party, Talk in Tongues, TORRES, San Fermin

SXSW 2015 Saturday - Under the Radar Showcase - TORRES, San Fermin, Amason, Boxed In, and More, March 21st, 2015

Apr 03, 2015 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern and Johannes Andersen Web Exclusive
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For almost a decade now Under the Radar has been hosting unofficial day parties at the annual SXSW music conference and festival in Austin, Texas. For our first SXSW event, in 2006, we partnered up with the late great music publicity firm Tag Team Media, taking over both rooms of Emo's for a lineup that included of Montreal, Richard Hawley, Field Music, Serena Maneesh, The Hidden Cameras, and others. For the two years following we did events with the PR and radio publicity firm Team Clermont before striking out on our own. Over the years the likes of Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes, Atlas Sound (aka Deerhunter's Bradford Cox), Future Islands, Camera Obscura, Charli XCX, The Drums, Chairlift, and countless others have played Under the Radar's SXSW events.

This year we still had a Thursday unofficial day party at our usual SXSW venue, The Flamingo Cantina, that featured of Montreal, Mew, East India Youth, Jacco Gardner, SOAK, Matthew E. White, and Pompeii, but we also felt it was a high time we had an official nighttime SXSW showcase, something we had discussed with SXSW in the past but never pulled the trigger on. We were truly honored to host it at our very first venue choice, the Central Presbyterian Church. A working church the rest of the year, it is one of the most beloved and special venues at SXSW and we had long wanted to do an event there. The sanctuary has an incredibly high ceiling (a bat could be spotted flying around up there this year), which makes for amazing acoustics and atmosphere.

The event started with Danish artist Dinner (aka Anders Rhedin, now based in Los Angeles). He performed solo with a backing track featuring his New Wave-influenced electro-pop. As I wrote about in my Thursday SXSW review, normally an artist performing to a backing track would put me off, but Rhedin more than compensated with his amazing stage presence, audience interaction, and crazy dance moves. Still, I had worries that his solo show, which worked so well Thursday night in a small venue, would get swallowed up by the expanse of Central Presbyterian Church. Such fears were unfounded.

Rhedin, who was found meditating in the green room backstage prior to his set, got the crowd warmed up with an exercise routine, getting them to mimic his movements as he eased into his first song "Going Out." Clad in a black jacket with "Mickey" written on the back and armed with his deep voice, Rhedin had full control of the audience. His dance moves were hypnotic and somewhat reminiscent of Stop Making Sense-era David Byrne. Rhedin's favorite dance move seemed to be one where it looked like he might fall backwards at any moment. He also went out into the audience, who were sitting in pews, singing while lying down in the middle of the church aisle at one point and serenading a girl in the audience at another. I got the sense that most of the audience were there waiting to see San Fermin, who were up next, and hadn't even heard of Dinner. Rhedin's set was talked about for the rest of the night and he likely garnered quite a few new Dinner fans that night.

When we booked Brooklyn-based band San Fermin we pretty much knew they were the perfect band, sonically, to play Central Presbyterian Church and we were right. San Fermin mastermind, composer/songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who mainly played keyboards and electronics live, agreed. "It's basically by far the nicest venue we've ever played in, especially at South By," he said. San Fermin could be described as orchestral rock, emphasis on rock, for despite having a violin, trumpet, and baritone saxophone, there were moments where their sound truly exploded, an eruption of noise that brought the house down, with the sax and trumpet taking center stage down front (and at one point the trumpeter got up and played from the pulpit). San Fermin's dual vocalists also impressed, with Allen Tate's soothing and compelling deep voice and Charlene Kaye's powerhouse vocals. The band ended with the title track to their forthcoming sophomore album, Jackrabbit, which got the audience to their feet.

Los Angeles' Talk In Tongues are one of this year's most promising new psych-rock bands and have drawn favorable comparisons to both Tame Impala and Temples, while also charting their own sound. Live, they were incredibly tight and loud with a set which captured their upcoming debut album, Alone With a Friend, well.

Springtime Carnivore is the project of Greta Morgan. The Chicago-based musician released her self-titled debut album as Springtime Carnivore last year via Autumn Tone. Clad in a flowing vintage looking orange dress, Morgan had good stage banter, joking that performing at the church she felt like she was in the Whoopi Goldberg movie Sister Act. She mainly played with a backing band, but her voice sounded even stronger when she did one song solo. Morgan wasn't interested in performing to a static seated audience. "We've got just a few songs left so if you want to get your 'dancing through the aisles of a church' fantasies done, now's the time," she encouraged. And it worked, several attendees got up and started dancing up and down the center aisle, before a dance party settled at the front of the stage.

Oli Bayston is a well-regarded London-based music producer in his own right, but also just released his self-titled debut album under the moniker Boxed In. Boxed In's electro-rock is akin to LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip, with more Krautrock groves thrown in. Live, a full band backed Bayston. They adjusted their set list for the church setting to include slower Boxed In album closer "Wild West," but then Bayston too was eager for the crowd to get up and dance. "Enough of that soft shit," he said and then apologized for swearing in a church before encouraging the audience to dance. Boxed In really gave it their all on final song "False Alarm," enough to get the dance party at the front of the stage going again.

"We're Amason and we're from Sweden. I don't know why, but I feel a bit shy since it's so quiet in here," said Amason frontwoman Amanda Bergman from beneath her orange, slightly tilted trucker cap. The band have been described as a supergroup, with its members also playing in Idiot Wind, Little Majorette, Miike Snow, and Dungen, although the latter two are the only ones to make much of an impact in America. Amason almost equaled San Fermin as the band on the bill that was most suited for the church setting, in part because they feature an organ. The lights were dimmed for their set and their folk rock had a nice chill vibe, despite some of the members switching instruments between songs. Bergman's vocals (with a tone comparable to Feist's) soothed and the band's harmonies enveloped the church. There was some whistling and a couple of songs in Swedish. The whole thing felt like we were watching some '70s music TV show, featuring Fleetwood Mac or a similar band. Amason's set was simply captivating and earned the band a standing ovation.

I'm the first to admit that I initially got it wrong with TORRES (aka Macon, Georgia-raised, Brooklyn, New York-based, singer/songwriter/guitarist Mackenzie Scott), as I wasn't quite as enamored by her 2013-released self-titled debut album as some critics were. But all that changed when I heard her forthcoming sophomore album, Splinter, due out May 4th via Partisan. In my opinion, it's a huge step up both sonically and in her songwriting. Splinter's tracks range from '90s alt-rock influenced guitar anthems, such as the title track, to the haunting solo acoustic near eight-minute long album closer, "The Exchange," which is about how Scott was adopted, as was her adoptive mother.

"It's so late! Thank-you so much for being here. I'm genuinely flabbergasted," a humble and truly appreciative Scott said at the start of her 1 AM set. Scott and her backing band fully upped the intensity after Amason's sometimes delicate folk-rock and appropriately police sirens could be heard in the distance from the rain-swept streets of Austin near the beginning of TORRES' set. Scott's music effectively played up to soft to loud aesthetic and she brought the rock to the church with songs such as blistering Splinter album opener "Strange Hellos." Overall, Scott came off as fully authentic and ended all of SXSW 2015 with a stunning set.

Several hours later Central Presbyterian Church would host their regular Sunday service, but that night we worshiped at the alter of good music. I may be fully biased in saying this, since it was my event, but there really wasn't a bad set the entire night. Everyone sounded fantastic in the church and the diverse lineup helped the event as a whole from becoming stale and one-note, as the sounds ranged from electro to orchestral to psych to dance to folk to pure rock. In putting on the event both SXSW and the wonderful people who run Central Presbyterian Church were a true pleasure to work with and we definitely hope to do another event there next year.

Check out a full gallery of photos from Under the Radar's official SXSW showcase at Central Presbyterian Church.




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