London indie label presents in Texas

Look, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.

As an English person, I’m clueless about how to celebrate patron saints. St. George’s Day is the International Men’s Day of saints’ days. It’s only ever brought up to let the air out of someone else’s big day, and when it happens we “celebrate” it with a kind of blank confusion - like a dog being dressed up for a birthday party.

But I never really enjoyed the lime-green chaos of St. Patrick’s Day until I got myself in front of a band that really knew how to party. Someone like Skinny Lister.

Yes, I know. Drink is fun, and wobbling around Main Street like a frog-coloured Subbuteo figure is a fine way to mark any Saturday (or Tuesday. Or Thursday). But nothing gets the juices flowing like hopping around next to a backyard stage in downtown Austin with a guy wielding a double-bass over his head.

Greenwich-spawned Skinny Lister are a skin-flaying blast of riot folk, a stage-filling troupe of thumping drums, searing string and shouting. Lots of shouting. And it’s beautiful.

Hurtling onto the stage on the last day of SXSW, they doused the Texas crowd with adrenaline with songs like ‘Wanted’, and the hollering chant track ‘John Kanaka’. At times they’re deliberate, thudding and rhythmic. Then they’re careening around the stage like lost pinballs, bouncing off each other on songs like ‘Trouble on Oxford Street’.

Skinny Lister were the most energetic name on the bill for the Xtra Mile Showcase, which plonked itself down on Barracuda for the evening. The London-based indie label boasts a neat stable of folk and rock acts. It started at a slower pace, with the haunting vocals of Texas-based Many Rooms and the solo acoustic flourishes of Non Canon.

Young Brighton act The RPMs switched the mood with a burst of upbeat guitar pop. The RPMs specialise in joyful, jumpy indie, with the sort of beaming enthusiasm you normally associate with summery radio, or the bubbly timeline of someone who likes motivational quotes on Instagram.

And then it’s back to the storytelling, with folkie Will Varley. Almost immediately, Will called for a whiskey from the bar at the back, and then he’s off on a wander through stripped-up, vulnerable ballads such as ‘Seize The Night’. Will had fun with the crowd on the night, hauling Frank Turner on stage for the tale-of-a-life track ‘King For A King’.

Frank Turner, of course, is everywhere at South By, like some sort of guitar-wielding Being John Malkovich. We’d already seen him about four times that week, and Britain’s most ruthless tourer brought the evening to a close.

Frank fills a stage pretty effortless for one guy and a guitar. Austin knows this guy, and they were on board for classics such as ‘Get Better’, ‘Recovery’ and ‘The Way I Tend To Be’. But new tracks like ‘1933’ went down damn well too, and it feels like it’s going to be a good year for Hampshire’s finest.

In fact, it could be a decent year for a few of these lot. Watch this space.

Words: John Hill
Photography: Thomas Jackson


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