SXSW cancellation provides a critical blow to Glasgow’s local music scene

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Credit: Ryan Loughlin

Jamie Kerr
Music Columnist

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a shutdown of Texas’ South by Southwest Music Festival, traditionally a platform for international acts to help break the American music market.

Following fears from within the music community of the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisers for Texas’ South by Southwest Music Festival, one of the most critical festivals for up-and-coming artists, made the difficult decision to cancel the event. While this is massively frustrating for festival-goers, the true devastation will likely be for the local artists who intended on playing the festival. With SXSW offering a platform to increase the profile of acts from all over the world in the notoriously difficult American market, it is known for acts to do everything in their power to perform at the festival. With the cancellation occurring only weeks before the event, and arrangements likely already made, it is likely to be a turbulent time for a number of Scottish acts.

Glasgow pop outfit, Walt Disco, despite only forming in 2018, have built a name as one of the most engaging and unique live bands offered by the Scottish music scene. In a statement to The Glasgow Guardian, Walt Disco explain, “We were very excited to fly the flag for Scotland in Austin and it was pretty heart-breaking to find out days before our flights that all of our hard work had gone to waste. That being said, we don’t want to dwell on it any longer, we want to continue to work hard, no matter what country we are in, and we have lots of shows coming up this side of the Atlantic, including a Scottish tour!” Their Young, Hard and Handsome Scottish tour sees the band play around the country with dates in Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Dundee and Aberdeen. The Glasgow leg of the tour takes place at King Tuts, before taking to the stage on the Road to the Great Escape showcase on 10 May (a show which sees the group warm up for one of the UK’s biggest new music festivals).

The Dunts are one of the hottest properties on the Scottish music scene in recent years, playing to a sold out SWG3 on 12 March. With this show likely being a one-off warm-up show for the cancelled dates, sadly there are no Scottish dates in the calendar for the remainder of the year. The release of massive singles in 2019, such as Bad Decisions and Marilyn, has led to an increasing presence on the resurging UK punk scene.

Having just finished a UK wide tour, Parliamo seemed set to take SXSW by storm. With the cancellation, however, there are little opportunities to catch the Perthian indie band. With no Glasgow dates scheduled for the remainder of the year as of this moment, you can catch the group as they find themselves performing at Scotland’s answer to SXSW, Stag and Dagger, on the Edinburgh leg of the Scottish new music festival on 2 May. 2020 has seen the band release new single Six Ways from Sunday, a song which radiates influence from Britpop and indie greats.

Edinburgh indie trio Vistas have had a massive 12 months, and with an imminent UK tour and massive festival dates, the cancellation of SXSW doesn’t seem likely to slow the momentum. With 2019 seeing the group supporting indie giants like the Wombats and Circa Waves, as well as 2020 seeing the release of their biggest single so far, Sucker, they stop in SWG3 on 4 June for a sold-out show on the Glasgow leg of their tour. The band will also be taking to the biggest stage in the country as they open the main stage at TRNSMT festival on 11 July.

One of the staple acts of the Glasgow scene in recent years, Catholic Action, were also due to make the trip to Texas, in anticipation of their new release Celebrated by Strangers. Following the release, the band are due to perform a massive hometown show at Saint Luke’s on 8 May, in one of only a handful of UK dates in 2020 announced currently.

One of the best new voices on the Scottish scene, Aaron Smith, is probably the act with the biggest online presence, with nearly 650,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Following a performance at SWG3’s poetry club, Aaron plays what will surely be one of the final chances to see him in an intimate venue at King Tut’s on 9 May on the Road to the Great Escape showcase. The Motherwell singer-songwriter will be performing at a number of UK festivals similar to that of SXSW, such as Newcastle’s Hit the North and Brighton’s Great Escape. With a flawless voice and sensational song writing, Aaron will be hoping to follow in the success of contemporaries Tom Walker and Lewis Capaldi.

Following from supporting KT Tunstall on her Scottish tour at the start of the year, Siobhan Wilson has constructed one of the most versatile and interesting discographies on the scene. Cancellations unfortunately mean that there are currently no opportunities to catch Siobhan, however for those wishing to support, she has recently released her Plastic Grave EP using eco-friendly materials.

Siobhan Wilson in particular has been vocal about the government’s lack of support for those who are self-employed or freelance artists following mass cancellations of concerts. As it stands, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a concerning situation for local artists, with many being forced to cancel shows, and those who need the money are continuing to put themselves at risk of illness and financial difficulty. There will be local acts who simply cease to exist due to this pandemic, so it is crucial those involved in the scene do everything possible to support these acts over the course of the next few months.