seen + heard @ sxsw 2021

seen + heard @ sxsw 2021

As always, SXSW was packed to the brim with introspective panels, incredible showcases, and fun opportunities. And some conversations were less for informational purposes than to just have fun. After all, we’ve all been in some level of quarantine over the past year and seeing people is so different than usual!

That said, we had a few fun panels and experiences to share screenshots and quotes from on our SXSW adventure. Let us present our first edition of “seen + heard @ sxsw 2021.”

“We suffer when we can’t be honest about who we are” – Lori Gottlieb
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Robert Schwartzman | Co-Founder, Utopia Films and Altavod
Emily Best | Founder & CEO, Seed&Spark Inc
Maggie Mackay | Executive Director, Vidiots Foundation
Laura Harrier | Actress
Elijah Wood | Co-Founder, SpectreVision
Film Distribution in an Increasingly Digital Age

fierce panda x end of the trail creative | sxsw 2021

fierce panda x end of the trail creative | sxsw 2021

St. Patrick’s Day this year was just as entertaining as usual, as a slew of music showcases kept us popping in and out of different virtual spaces, much like we would be popping into different storefronts and venues along 6th street at SXSW had it been in person. (You’re welcome for that masterful run-on sentence.) Fierce Panda and End of The Trail Creative threw an absolute bash with some moody ass lighting. Caiine, Jekyll, Scrounge, Family Jools, and Enjoyable Listens left their best out on the floor for us. We took some screenshots while dancing around the living room. Highlights below.

therapy presents: the island stage | sxsw 2021

therapy presents: the island stage | sxsw 2021

The Island Stage is a platform dedicated to bringing music of the Caribbean to the forefront of the international music scene. Pioneered by rising artist Kalpee who hails from Trinidad and Tobago, and his manager Miss Vivianna of Therapy, the aim was to create a platform for Caribbean artists to come together and showcase their musical heritage. THERAPY.XYZ is a brand new series of boutique wellness and soul repairing events such as Music Festivals, Charity Events and Wellness Retreats & Seminars, which will take place in locations across the world that naturally promote healing.

On Friday March 19, I was introduced to a music showcase treat – Therapy presents ‘The Island Stage’. ‘The Island Stage’ has a mission to promote West Indian artists on the world stage. This first time entry streamed exclusively to SXSW and provided an hour packed with talented musicians, live from Hope Gardens, in Kingston, Jamaica.

First up was Mortimer, who sang an acoustic three-song set. ‘Careful’ was a blend of Caribbean rhythms and cautionary tale lyrics. This one easily segued into ‘Fight the Fight’ which also featured haunting lyrics. ‘Lightning’ is a love song written for his wife and three kids, and it was easily my favorite because of the emotion that Mortimer has in his voice.  He definitely set the bar high for those artists who would come after him.

Khalia was next on the bill and she also provided an acoustic set. Her two songs, both released in 2020, were the perfect showcase for her incredible voice. ‘Love is Real’ had more of a rock sensibility but smooth vocals. ‘Easy’ was a song that made me dance in my chair! The island beat was hard to resist.

The third artist was Sevana. You may have heard her on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (home) concert – she performed with a full band on that platform and acoustically for the SXSW stage. It was a real treat to hear the stripped-down versions of songs from NPR. The four-song set was bookended with ‘Blessed’ and ‘Mango’. ‘Blessed’ starts out slow like a torch song and builds to use the full range of Sevana’s voice. ‘Mango’ is a love song with irresistible lyrics and an unforgettable melody.

Tessellated was a complete departure from the earlier three acts in that he was backed with a full band, including horns. His songs were hip hop with a Reggae beat. You may have heard ‘I Learnt Some Jazz Today’ in an Apple commercial, but the full-length song is a jazz and island blend. Very fun! ‘Pine & Ginger’ and ‘Tropics’ also possessed Tessellated’s own original stamp of mixed genres.

Rounding out the showcase was Kalpee, who was doing triple duty for the ‘The Island Stage’. In addition to performing, he was hosting the event and is one of the pioneers of ‘The Island Stage’ with his manager Miss Vivianna of FVP Global. With a message of “music is medicine”, the Trinbagonian artist capped the night with a set that included ‘Water Flowing’ and ‘Put a Record On’. His songs have a pop energy with a Caribbean flavor, but I feel like he could sing just about any song with his voice quality. So very emotive.

I hope that this is not the only time Therapy presents a showcase. The artists that were highlighted show such range and variety. I loved this entire showcase. I will definitely keep these artists on my radar when their new music comes out.

twyla moves | sxsw 2021

twyla moves | sxsw 2021

Twyla Moves, the documentary story of the life and career of Twyla Tharp, had its world premiere at SXSW on March 17th. Steven Cantor, Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated filmmaker, crafts a piece using archival and current day footage to give us a look into the life of the acclaimed dancer, choreographer and director.

Twyla Moves opens in April, 2020 with Twyla Tharp creating a dance via zoom with four dancers in four separate locations after the pandemic necessitated quarantine. Herman Cornejo, Maria Khoreva, Benjamin Buza, and Misty Copeland all answered the challenge. As she was choreographing this dance, we are treated to the earliest film of Tharp dancing with her own voice as the narration, as well as taped interviews. Twyla Moves toggles seamlessly between the early days and the current times to show us the evolution of her dance which mixes modern dance and ballet. Although she began dancing in New York after college in 1963 – living in a Franklin Street ‘loft’ for $50 a month – it wasn’t until 1965 when she formed her first dance company that she began to get the kind of attention that would propel her to greater heights. That first company, Twyla Tharp Dance, was all women “because we didn’t want to be told what to do”. 

In 1973, Robert Joffrey asked Tharp to choreograph a dance for the Joffrey Ballet and this is where the real combination of modern dance with ballet occurred. Over the ensuing decades, she would go on to choreograph more that 160 works, including Broadway shows, movies, figure skating and television specials in addition to ballets.

In a particular montage from 2020 early in the movie, the 79-year-old Tharp does warm-up exercises in preparation to dance herself. I was exhausted just watching her move. Twyla Tharp continues to have an infinite well of energy as she plots the next stop in her creative journey. As Misty Copeland said, “Even in this stage of her career and her life, she’s setting the standard for where dance is evolving to.”

I found this to be a fascinating documentary and I really enjoyed Cantor’s storytelling choice to interweave the old and new footage. I discovered that Twyla Tharp’s creativity and fearlessness have been the keys to her long career in dance. I can only hope to be like her when I grow up!

Twyla Moves is streaming on PBS until April 23, 2021 as part of the American Masters series.

sweetlove, goodnight, lover

sweetlove, goodnight, lover

Sweetlove’s origin story isn’t anything reminiscent of a meet-cute. The work that seems to burst and pour from the seams of this artist has resulted from a long road littered with several intense personal battles. 6 magical tracks come at us today with the release of her EP Goodnight, Lover.

Goodnight, Lover is packed with the self-discovery that comes along with growing into your skin. “Devil on Your Shoulder” should be more sinister, but as Sweetlove implores that it “feels good when you’re living free,” there’s less of a negative connotation to the aforementioned idea of anyone playing devil’s advocate in your court. The title track slows the pace of the project down a bit, a twangy love ballad that will bring you right back to your boots. (Er, roots.) It throws feelings of all-encompassing passion out into the ether, preparing you for the slow, sincere beauty of third track “The House.”

“Did You Even Know” comes rolling in with Garth Brooks-esque momentum, a song that calls for appreciation in the now. Circling back to the theme of devils, “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” comes in with the soft, assuring instrumentals of a light, summer song from our youth. The soundscape is simplified, a sense of loss, a beautiful song that allows you to mourn as you sing “it will get better.” “Things I Didn’t Say” perfectly rounds out the established feelings of loss through a lens nothing short of bittersweet. It’s the perfect testament to a love experienced to the fullest.

We highly encourage a glass of whiskey or wine and a night on the patio under the stars with this new collection from Sweetlove. It will help you tap into feelings you won’t recognize, and many you simply haven’t felt for a hot minute. Check it out in its entirety below.

photo by Anna Azarov

charlie treat, the comet

charlie treat, the comet

For a rip-roarin’ good time, country singer/songwriter Charlie Treat’s new album is the perfect answer to your prayers. Beginning with the amped-up energy of “I Ain’t Gonna Be The One To Do It,” he finds a way to lure the audience in with wit and a bite of nostalgia in the instrumentals. Even the slow down of pace with the second track “Drink With Me” holds lengthy, rhythmic lines, with (what appears to me to be) clear nods to The Black Crowes. (“Hard To Handle,” specifically, for those of you asking. And yes, it did take me calling the insanely talented music journalist Elizabeth Schneider to pinpoint the exact sound. Kudos to her.) Just those two tracks will have your mind spinning, but there are ten more inspired songs left to enjoy past that with this new release.

“The Two Best People” really brings the energy down, while singing of “bringing each other down.” Bluesy, beautiful energy to launch you into a light, airy “Tune As Pretty As You.” “Steamshovel Blues” brings the pace up again, but “So Much Better” lulls us back into that slow, glittering, 70’s sound. “Rain Again” comes at you with an edge off the bat, with some quick bongos and even quicker lyrics.

“Drive My Blues Away” is the most melancholic track we have yet to experience on this collection. The vocals seem very inspired, at times Springsteen, and at others Steven Tyler. The piano and whirring guitar solo make the whole thing feel like it could have been recorded in the 90s.

Thank goodness “Dollar For Dollar” brings the pace back up, as the subject matter isn’t entirely something to celebrate. However, the idea of rallying for the working man is something we can all relate to, especially after the trials the last year has presented us with. “Dancing At The Bar (The Quarantine Song)” starts out with glittering synth, and honestly we could see this track being performed alongside anything by ABBA. (Can you hear it?) “Candi” plays with dissonance before the first vocals hit, making it feel almost calmer as the lyrics set in. The whole album is rounded out quite well with “Biggest Fool,” which somehow blendsseveral of the aforementioned genres into one song. (Is that sitar? Are we in a 70’s music video? Where did that trumpet come from?)

One thing is for certain. Charlie Treat has chops. His ability to write lyrics that somehow perfectly complement each instrumental, creating new sounds that simultaneously pay homage to genre-spanning predecessors, is actually quite unique and very appreciated. The Comet should be approached as an adventure and a very appreciated leap into nostalgia.

The Comet is out on March 26.