Sofar Sounds Austin ambitiously held four showcases during this year’s SXSW, all located in beautiful homes bordering the downtown festivities.
The first Sofar was probably the most notable of all, as guests were treated to a special performance by Edwyn Collins. The Scottish singer was in town for the film portion of SXSW to attend screenings of his documentary, The Possibilities Are Endless. The film tells the story of the singer’s journey back to music after suffering two massive strokes. While Collins sang, his son accompanied him on guitar as his wife cheered them on in the audience.
Collins sang “In Your Eyes”, “Felicity” (from his Orange Juice band days), “Down The Line” off his 2013 release, Understated, and of course his big hit, “A Girl Like You“.
Possessed by Paul James
Konrad Wert is the name and face behind Possessed by Paul James. The singer may not be haunted, per say, but he does lead a double life. For nine months out of the year Konrad Wert teaches children with intellectual disabilities at an elementary school in the Texas Hill Country. During his spare time, he writes, performs and even manages to tour internationally. He’s also a talented juggler – in addition to singing, Wert plays banjo, guitar, fiddle and stomp box during his live set.
The soulful singer played a number of songs off his latest release, There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely, including the title track (my personal favorite), “Songs We Used To Sing” and “Pills Beneath Her Pillow”. Whether he’s actually ‘possessed’ or not, there’s definitely something transcendent that takes place between Wert and the audience when he taps into that plane.
The Wild Family
Chicago folk-rockers The Wild Family have amazing energy and a magnetic stage presence. Brothers Jake and Zach Schweitzer are joined by college buddies Graham Young (vocals, guitar) and Kevin Koreman (drums) and together, they make pristine, melodic music. Add a little harmonica to the mix and it doesn’t get much better.
The boys mostly sing about heartbreak and for the Sofar show they played the forlorn yet upbeat, “Empty Promises”, “Depths”, “White Shirt” and “Gold”. While they wear the heartache well, I trust with these tunes the boys will be finding themselves new muses in no time.
Banjo wielding, folk songbird Anna Vogelzang left snowy Madison, WI to partake in SXSW and enjoyed some much needed Austin sunshine in the process. The solo artist commands a room with her vulnerable vocals and storytelling. Never missing a beat, Vogelzang was quick to make cracks in between songs, which were met with much laughter. While she mostly plucks away at the banjo, the singer’s also a skillful ukelele and guitar player. So skilled in fact that she’s shared stages with Sarah Bareilles, Mirah, Wye Oak and Amanda Palmer. For the Sofar show, Vogelzang treated audiences to “Undertow”, “Wishbone” and “Die Trying” all from her latest release Canary In A Coalmine, plus a newer track, “Amarillo”.
Antony and the Tramps
This five piece describes their sound as “American Gypsy” but I’d go a little further than that. Soulful vocal harmonies and woodwinds add an orchestral element to Antony and the Tramps’ style. Antony Ablan leads the charge on guitar and vocals while his ‘tramps’ lend support on flute, clarinet, keyboards, drums and bass. The lads sang selections from their self-titled debut album including “Elephant Painting”, “Gypsy Crow #3”, and “Gold Rush”. When this travellin show comes to town, expect all kinds of fans to, in the words of Cher, ‘come around and lay their money down’.