Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three

Festivals: Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three

Luck of the Irish? Nah, this is pure, hard-earned magic.

Day Three of SXSW’s music week and it’s becoming increasingly clear, increasingly quickly that, this year, there’s one name on everyone’s lips: Fontaines DC. Taking the 11pm slot at DIY’s showcase at Swan Dive Patio, the venue is absolutely heaving for the Dublin quintet. You can’t move for sardine-like packed-in bodies and, from the moment the band arrive, there’s a pit down front and a crowd of people attempting an Irish brogue (to varying degrees of success) behind them. It’s been like this all week for the band – capacity venues and wild swathes of excitement following them around the city – but tonight feels special, not least because legendary radio DJ Steve Lamacq is in the front row, shouting along to every word. From the first fizzing rips of ‘Hurricane Laughter’, the band are tight and wired and utterly brilliant. Singer Grian Chatten paces the stage like a caged tiger, while guitarist Carlos O’Connell scales a nearby amp to fully oversea their kingdom. There’s a tangible sense that we’re witnessing a moment – even the mumbling singer is graciously thanking people by the end – and, with debut album ‘Dogrel’ around the corner, Fontaines’ ascent seems all but guaranteed.

It’s the buzzy climax of the evening, but by no means the only highlight. Preceding them on the stage come Sweden’s Viagra Boys – a gnarly bunch of misfits who’d likely give your gran a coronary. Singer Sebastian Murphy – topless and covered in tattoos and a pair of wraparound shades – is a frontman of the purest kind, a sneering punk who spits beer and stalks the stage like the kind of back-alley bovver boy you’d cross the road to avoid. Somehow making a saxophone sound hellish, the addition of a bit of brass into the noisy punk maelstrom is like if the Fat White Family grew up listening to Madness; there’s one track that’s just one long, nightmarish instrumental (aka: fucking fantastic) and by the time they introduce the ridiculous banger of ‘Sports’ (“Baseball/ Basketball… Ping Pong/ Rugby Ball”) there’s not a person in the crowd that isn’t having a ball.

Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three

Australia’s Haiku Hands, meanwhile, are given the unenviable task of following Fontaines and, though there’s a notable exodus after the Irish lads leave, it only takes a couple of songs of the trio’s infectious, stupidly fun rap-pop to draw people back in. There’s simultaneous choreography, an array of flamboyant head wear and the kind of relentless, giddy energy that makes you firmly wanna be in their gang. ‘Fashion Model Art’ is a tongue-in-cheek 2019 version of ‘Vogue’ while ‘Not About You’ is like a trio of Charli XCX’s at their most playfully bratty. They give way to Leicester’s Easy Life who take an age to come on but finally emerge with a set that seems to act as a bizarre aphrodisiac to the gathered crowd – couples making out left right and centre to their hip-hop tinged indie.

Earlier in the night, there are more lovelorn treats to be found in the double whammy of former tourmates Puma Blue and Westerman. Theirs are songs that aim more for the heart than the groin however and, in the balmy Texas early evening, they’re the perfect ease in. Puma Blue and his band (offering up another saxophone – ‘tis truly the season) make the kind of introverted nocturnal jazz that’s quintessentially London 2k19, but there’s more here than just timeliness; Jacob Allen has a voice that’ll envelop you and enough soul to translate far from his hometown scene. Westerman, meanwhile, gets the raw end of tonight’s deal when technical problems force his band to have to abandon their instruments midway through. But where some artists might have sacked the whole thing off, Will adapts and decides to play the rest of the set solo. It’s a move that endears him wildly to the supportive crowd and, stripped back to their barest bones, it shows just how pure a songwriter Westerman is. A bit Arthur Russell, a bit Randy Newman, it’s the perfect showcase for his considerable talents.

Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three

Elsewhere, the afternoon sees former Cherry Glazerr keyboardist turned solo star Sasami take on Cheer Up Charlie’s sun-drenched outside stage for a set of hazy lo-fi fuzz that seems custom built for days like this. If her shouty and sweary between-song chat seems slightly at odds with the music, then these small, slightly jarring moments are worth it for the songs in between. Meanwhile New York’s Charly Bliss arrive later, singer Eva Hendricks sporting a metallic tinsel dress that’s somewhere in the realm of a human Christmas decoration, and deliver one of the best surprise gems of the weekend. On record, Hendricks’ high-pitched nasal twang can be polarising, but on stage, hyper charismatic and with the power pop-punk bounce of her band behind her, it works perfectly. Onwards to Day Four…

Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three
Fontaines DC continue their SXSW reign, while Viagra Boys, Charly Bliss, Haiku Hands & more highlight Day Three

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