Austin, Texas, USA 12-16/3/19 

SXSW has returned to its roots and functions brilliantly as the place to showcase new artists, some of whom play 10 or more shows each over the festival’s four days. This year’s undoubted No 1 buzz band was Dublin’s Fontaines DC, a spiky amalgam of The Fall and The Blue Aeroplanes, with a spot of Lee Brilleaux thrown in. Lead singer/declaimer Grian Chatten eased his bafflement at proceedings with copious amounts of whiskey. Other Next Big Things included the Catskills’ Nude Party – a sort of psychedelic Wall Of Voodoo – and an energy-filled Artisanals, from South Carolina.

Kicking the proverbial ass were two classic US acts blending hard rock, politics and in-yer-face entertainment: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires (Alabama), and Low Cut Connie (of Philadelphia). One recent festival institution is the Luck Reunion at Willie Nelson’s ranch, featuring a chapel, saloon, snakes, and, this year, a stellar line-up including Willie, his son Lukas, Steve Earle, and Mavis Staples. A lucky, gratifying highspot was provided by Arthur Brown, who, at a sprightly 77, with his crack Texan Crazy World, showed that he still has the basso profundo, vibrato, falsetto and head dresses to top them all. I Put A Spell On You and Fire were sensational. Oliver Gray Tour exclusive: Arthur Brown custom poster for his SXSW show.

Backstage with Arthur Brown

Do you enjoy the craziness of SXSW?
I remember when it first started, as I lived here from 1980 to ’96. It’s got a lot bigger, but it’s still an amazing atmosphere.

Tell us about your new box set on Cherry Red.
There’s a very nice piece of writing in it by Mark Paytress that tells the story of the band as it really was. There were three very creative people in it. The set also contains some BBC Peel Sessions with Ronnie Wood on bass. There’s vinyl in there, and a poster. It’s a fine vignette of the time.

Are there any new songs in the offing?
Yes, we’ve got a new album that’s about to come out, though not on Cherry Red.

Do you still get a buzz from playing live?
I do, and I think that will never change. It’s something that some people are born to.

Are you planning to tour?
There’s a tour being prepared, probably for the autumn, because I’m touring in July with Carl Palmer. But it’s something that I can’t tell you more about yet.

How do you keep in such good shape?
I do a lot of exercise. I dance, meditate and, most days, sing for at least an hour.
Oliver Gray (pictured above with Brown).


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