In Austin, Texas, the city is currently inundated with tourists and travellers from all parts of the globe attending their 24th annual South By South West (SXSW) festival. The city festival, inspiration for Wales’ own Sŵn Festival, has been hugely influential. Expanding from its music festival roots in 1994 by adding in a Film and Multimedia section to the festival; these have now become festivals in their own right with all three running side-by-side for a whole SXSWeek each year.
Unsurprisingly, with Wales’ incredible music scene, a number of bands make the pilgrimage to the USA each year for the opportunity to play at the festival, notable for being a hotbed of new talent and frequented by many industry figures looking for “the next big thing”. This year, six acts – each making waves in their respective genres – have the chance to show-off their talents at the festival. However, this year marks the first time that a party’s been held to showcase the best talent Wales has to offer.
Who To Watch Out For
Hot off of the release of his second album, The Flight & Other Stories, Cardiff-based singer-songwriter Jonathan Powell is definitely getting noticed this side of the pond. Although romantically linked to Charlotte Church by the British tabloids (he co-wrote several songs for her 2010 album Back To Scratch), it’s his music ability that really has people talking. As a child, he was an accomplished viola player; winning the National Chamber Music Competition five times and being awarded a scholarship for the Royal Academy of Music in London, all by the age of 16. Making the transition to more contemporary fields clearly hasn’t stopped his success though!
Labelled as “one to watch” by The Guardian as far back as 2008, The Joy Formidable are certainly one of the biggest things to come out of North Wales. The female fronted indie rock band have drawn well-deserved comparisons to Arcade Fire and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, among others.
As with Jonathan, their appearance at the festival follows the release of a record with their debut album, The Big Roar, coming out back in January. The performance also takes place in the middle of an extensive headline tour of the USA.
Welsh Music Showcase
Also hailing from North Wales, we have electro post-rock outfit Gallops and We//Are//Animal, who have recently been signed to Japanese label Art Union to release their debut album, Idolise. They both joined one-man electro-disco extradinaire Bright Light Bright Light as support acts for The Last Republic for the New Music From Wales Party on Wednesday. Sponsored by Cerdd Cymru and curated by BBC Radio 1 DJ Jen Long, this marks the biggest step for Welsh music really getting noticed at the festival.
Award Winning Technology
The Last Republic released their debut album, Parade, last November to rave reviews, but it’s not just their music that brings them to SXSW this year. A longstanding relationship with Cardiff-based design upstarts FauvelKhan has seen the development of a whole host of online activity from their official website to their MySpace page but it’s the unique AirGuitar T-Shirt that has brought the the designers over to Texas along with the band. Developed last year, the Augmented Reality project was shortlisted for a SXSW Accelerator award, in the Music Technology category, which the company went on to win at the awards ceremony last night.
Although not featured by SXSW Film at this years festival, Wales-set film Submarine hits cinemas across the UK today and has already had a tremendous critical reaction from press showings. Based on the book by Joe Dunthorne, it marks the feature film directorial and acting debut of Richard Ayoade; perhaps best known for his portrayal of the character Moss in Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd.
Based in Swansea, the film takes a gritty yet comical look at the life of teenager Oliver Tate, played by Welsh newcomer Craig Roberts – most recently seen as the child vampire, Adam, in the BBC series Being Human – as he deals with the typical teenager drama of getting a girlfriend, as well as the not-so-typical one of trying to keep his parents marriage together.
Part-funded by Ben Stiller’s production company, Red Hour Films, the Hollywood star makes an uncredited cameo in the film. Be sure to keep your eyes open, if you blink you might miss him!
This entry was originally posted to the Visit Wales Blog on Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 3:27pm