5 Bands I saw at New Colossus on their Way to SXSW (Penelope Isles, Be Forest, more)
The inaugural New Colossus Festival happened in NYC this past weekend, bringing a whole bunch of bands from all over the world to the Lower East Side and East Village, most of whom are now on their way to Austin for SXSW. I saw a few bands as part of it, mostly on Saturday, all of whom you can catch at SXSW.
This Brighton, UK band were on their third show of the day when I caught them at Berlin Under A at 10 PM, which is good practice for what's to come for most bands at SXSW. They didn't seem worse for wear, though, telling the crowd near the end that it was their favorite show of the festival. Penelope Isles were also the best band I saw at New Colossus, mixing complex (but not complicated) pop songwriting, musicianship and explosive energy. While they've only shared a few songs since their 2015 debut LP, bassist/keyboardist Lily Wolter said all the songs from their set were from their forthcoming album, Until The Tide Creeps In, which will be out this summer on Bella Union. There is a grandeur to their songs, big and swelling, ebbs and flows, with lead vocals often traded between siblings Jack and Lily Wolter. The whole band is seriously talented and you might not expect, given jazzy songs like the just-released "Chlorine," that Penelope Isles seriously rock, too.
Sydney Australia's Body Type made for a nice start to my Saturday with an early evening (7 PM) set at Berlin. The band, who had just played two nights with Irish band Fontaines DC at Union Pool, are led by guitarists Sophie McComish and Annabel Blackman and play a hazy brand of indie rock that's not a million miles away (sonically) from Chastity Belt, though they are a tighter band than those Seattleites. Sophie McComish admitted they were still on Sydney time and feeling a little out of sorts but they rallied for a terrific set that did their debut EP one better. She also noted that their single "Ludlow (Do You Believe in Karma?)" was written when she was living in NYC, just around the corner from the venue.
I made my first visit to Coney Island Baby, the fairly new Ave A venue in the old Hi-Fi/Brownies space, on Saturday in between sets at Berlin. (Both venues are owned by D Generation's Jesse Malin and have very similar stage design.) I'd been wanting to see Italian trio Be Forest for a few years and though their set was short, it did not disappoint. The band make a moody brand of shoegaze, part Slouvaki-era Slowdive and part gothy 4AD, and make a lot of sound with just three people. Guitarist Nicola Lampredi played an old hollowbody with one pickup that looked like something Gene Vincent might have used but he created a gorgeous miasma of sound through all his effects pedals. Costanza Delle Rose brought ethereal beauty to her vocals and a dark streak with her basslines; while stand-up drummer Erica Terenzi's pounding, tom-heavy style (think The Cure's Pornography) brought everything together. Be Forest are on a full U.S. tour in support of their excellent new album, Knocturne, and will be back in NYC to play Elsewhere Zone One on April 3 with Monograms (tickets).
All Be Forest dates, including their SXSW schedule, are here.
Montreal artist MUNYA (aka Josie Boivi) played New Colossus on Thursday, March 7 at Berlin, the night before her new EP, Blue Pine, and the vinyl compilation that collects that and her first two EPs, was released and she was beaming with excitement. While she has a band, this show (and her SXSW sets) were solo, with Josie playing keyboards and guitar backed by an MPC. I would like to see her with a band but the songs -- which mix classic French pop styles, '80s R&B and pop into a dreampop style -- stood up in this setting and her voice, which can sound like both Liz Fraser and Minnie Riperton at times, more than carried the show.
MUNYA's SXSW schedule is here.
Right before Be Forest's set were Hickeys from Madrid who were super psyched to be playing New York City even though they had to immediately head to the airport after the 8:30 PM set. They made the most of it, cramming in maybe seven songs into 20-minute set that mixed garage-psych, punk and surfy dreampop. Listen to last year's Diamond Munch EP and their SXSW schedule includes the Desert Daze showcase at Hotel Vegas on Wednesday that also includes The Chills, Oh Sees, Pottery, Bedouine, The Mystery Lights, and more.
One of my favorite sets at Berlin on Saturday night was by London band flirting. who appear to have been over just for New Colossus and are not going to SXSW. Singer Poppy Waring, who was wearing a t-shirt that read "Poppy from Flirting," told the crowd that this was only the band's third time playing outside of London in the three years they'd been together. Flirting. are very hard to pigeonhole, making a decidedly arty brand of indie rock that is both twee and punk, with Waring and guitarist Arthur Davies Evitt favoring a speak-sing style that reminds me of early-'00s band Life Without Buildings. They were deafeningly loud and entirely compelling at Berlin and I hope they come back soon. You can check out last year's This Would Be Funny If it Were Happening to Anyone but Me EP below.