During SXSW 2021, I had the privilege of being able to see musicians that I would not otherwise get a chance to see. One such showcase was the CLOSE UP: A Sounds Australia Showcase. Each of the three nights had six different artists, each performing two songs. As Sounds Australia said in their release, “These performances have never been seen before and all were recorded in the artists’ ‘backyard’ (however they chose to interpret that theme).” Dom Alessio and Glenny G, both of Sounds Australia, hosted from Glenny’s actual backyard.
On this third night of music, Dom kicked off the festivities by paying respects to the elders, past, present and future, and any Indigenous people. No Money Enterprise, a hip hop quartet from Logan City, Queensland, played their energetic music in what looked like a park. In a nod to their Polynesian heritage, native dances were incorporated into the set alongside the hip hop rhythms.
Hauskey, from Western Australia, was next on deck playing from a studio. Playing the first song on the piano and the second on guitar, Hauskey displayed a pop flavor and versatility that reminded me of Ed Sheeran. He was followed by Indigo Sparke, an artist from Sydney. She played a stripped down acoustic set. Indigo Sparke has a voice quality that is both sweet and haunting.
The Merindas played their set outdoors at night and I wanted to be invited to that party! The Melbourne based duo performed dance tunes that mix pop and R&B beats. Like No Money Enterprise earlier in the evening, The Merindas infuse their music with their native Indigenous language and culture.
The next artist was Didirri, who hales from the town of Warrnambool in Australia. He also played an acoustic set, using a piano for the first melancholy love song and a guitar for the second song. Didirri’s voice is raw with emotion that perfectly matches his lyrics.
The biggest surprise of the night was the appearance of Jaguar Jonze. They played a live set in front of an audience – people in the comments of the broadcast were as pleasantly surprised as I was. In all honesty, I have no idea how big the crowd was, but the people there were very responsive to Jaguar Jonze’ brand of rock music. They had an energy and stage presence that we haven’t seen since March, 2020.
I look forward to the new music that artists in this Sounds Australia showcase will be making in the coming months!
Thursday, March 18th brought with it some new sounds from far-off places. I was overjoyed to sit in on night 2 of “Close Up: A Sounds Australia Showcase.” Hosted by Dom Alessio of Sounds Australia, this relaxing evening featured music by Kee’ahn, Beans, Death by Denim, The Chats, and Kota Banks & Ninajirachi.
We think the photos do this showcase quite a bit of justice. The feeling of connecting with the earth and these natural landscapes while engaging with incredible international artists is absolutely captivating. Check out the snaps below, and add these bands to your next playlist!
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.
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, 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.
Monday through Friday at 6PM PST over on indie-pop band TWIN XL’s instagram, viewers will find a themed live stream. TWIN XL, is a three piece from Los Angeles, consisting of brothers and former members of The Summer Set John Gomez and Stephen Gomez, and Cameron Walker.
These weekday live streams allow for the band to stay connected to fans during these uncertain times. Each day follows a different theme ranging from Q&A’s, talks about the making of one of their songs, games, and play music.
On Monday March 30, John Gomez and Walker tuned into Instagram for one hour to play songs per request of the audience.
Starting off the stream, Cameron played an unreleased song of the band that they have played at shows called “Melt”, mentioning the possibility of the track being released soon. After that, Gomez and Walker would read the chat in the stream taking song suggestions. Some songs they played included “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional, “Love Like Woe” by The Ready Set, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. Gomez even pulled out an oldie and played “Chelsea” from his former band The Summer Set.
The whole stream felt like a jam session between friends. The two did come to the stream with a song they wanted to perform but the rest was up to the fans. As the stream started Walker joked by saying “we are going to ruin your favorite songs”. From the start it was clear that this stream was about having fun, and that is exactly what the stream was, fun.
TWIN XL set up these weekday live streams that have happened consistently for the last two weeks, to give fans one hour a day for some fun and stay connected. As concerts are being postponed or cancelled, bands are trying to find ways to stay connected with their fans, and provide them with some form of content in lieu of a concert.