HomeNewsy BitsSXSW 2023 Day 1 – New Order

SXSW 2023 Day 1 – New Order

I touched down at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday 13 March for the first day of the music festival at SXSW 2023. (Just to be cheeky, I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest on the plane.) There was a chill in the air, but a damn sight better than the snow I’d left in Detroit. We’ve covered SXSW in the past, but this was my first time on the ground in Austin. I had no idea what to expect, and the thrill of discovery was upon me.

SXSW crowd at the Moody are ready

Day 1 at the music fest featured a Manchester, UK showcase headlined by New Order at the Moody Theater, home of the legendary Austin City Limits. This was an eagerly anticipated night for our Austin bureau chief, David Hopper, and myself, not just because neither of us had ever experienced the fabled and influential post-punk electronics of New Order live. We had the pleasure pre-fest of interviewing the two opening Manchester acts, Loose Articles and The Orielles, and we were primarily fired up to check out their live shows.

Loose Articles tarting it up

The four young ladies known as Loose Articles hit the stage promptly at 8pm. That’s not particularly punk-rock, but SXSW runs on a very tight schedule. (Honestly, everything seems to start on time.) Singer/bassist Natalie Wardle fronts this “both feminine & threatening” punk band, and she looked out on the crowd and surmised, “I guess they were looking for a party starter when they asked us to this.” They are definitely a party band, and they had their party clothes kicking. I was not expecting them to be tarted up in Daisy Dukes and tube tops, but I wasn’t complaining. I was a little bummed that their set didn’t seem to have the impact of their recordings or the stuff I’ve seen on YouTube. For one thing, it needed to be fucking louder! (which is not on them) They did not hold back though, and played a great set, featuring my favorite song “Snake.” But I’d like to see them in a packed pub with a few pints of Stella Artois (a band favorite) in me. Check out our interview with Loose Articles here.

The Orielles get noisy

I’d been travelling since early morning, so we climbed up to the balcony to claim some seats for the rest of the show. I fully expected the next act, The Orielles, to engulf the room in swirling eddies of electronic shoe-gazing noise pop. This band has recently taken a giant step forward with their latest release Tableau, and their recent live recording at the 482-seat acoustic marvel Stoller Hall in Manchester is absolutely immersive. Although The Moody, holding 3,000 bodies, is as guitarist Henry Carlyle Wade observed, “Fucking massive,” they did their best to saturate it similarly.

They did some of their older dream-pop stuff like “Bobbi’s Second World,” but the highlights for me were the soundscapes from their new album, particularly “Beam/s” and the hooky “Airtight.” I was glad to see that they brought keyboardist Emily Zurokowski along with them. She’s always up to something, like sampling singer/bassist Esmé Dee Hand-Halford’s voice, adding to the rhythmic churn anchored by drummer Sid Hand-Halford. Their set had a bit of an uneven start, but the band quickly hit their stride and built to a sonic frenzy, whipped up by Henry Carlyle Wade’s infectious on-stage energy. Definitely have a look to their live clips to hear them interpret their own material. You can see a couple bits in my interview with Esmé here.

Now it was time for the main event. But first, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham came out to say a few words about how progressive his city is. This is one of the few places in Texas in which such a boast will receive a rousing cheer. My wife the historian confirms that, indeed Mancunian textiles factories did refuse to buy American cotton during the U.S. Civil War. Burnham teased that he had a “major announcement” to make, to which a wag near us quipped, “Oasis are getting back together?” Turns out Manchester is mounting a new music festival called Beyond the Music, inspired by SXSW, via which Burnham proposes to change the music industry and the world. Applause for the effort, sir.

New Order came on at 10pm, as advertised. This latest version of the distinguished outfit includes founding members Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, with the addition of bassist Tom Chapman and guitarist Phil Cunningham. (Their other founding member Peter Hook does his own thing now, with his band The Light.)


I became a New Order fan primarily through club remixes of their songs, and the band definitely worked in elements of that house-music influence. The best bits turned out to be the intros to the songs, and the instrumental breaks in which the loops, samples and rhythm were the focus. To be frank, Bernard Sumner’s vocals seemed lackluster, and his attempts at stage energy looked quite like a “Mario jump” from Nintendo. Sumner also complained a fair bit about the smoke machine, his fan not being turned on, and his monitor mix. The light show and video elements were trippy and amazing, but every transition seemed awkward, with bright stage lights coming on. Drummer Stephen Morris was a highlight – totally engaged, driving the relentless rhythms with his drum kit and triggers.

Following their feature set, including favorites like “Crystal,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and “Blue Monday,” the band came back for an encore tribute to their original band, Joy Division. For those of us who were Joy Division fans first and have never quite gotten over Ian Curtis’s tragic death, it was a welcome tribute. I never saw Joy Division live, and it was eerie but cool to see Curtis’s eyes, larger than life on the video screen, overseeing the proceedings. The economical instrumentation on these songs, with more guitar and less club thump, seemed better-suited to the room. It was a fitting nod to New Order’s art-punk roots and, despite the miles and the passage of time, it was a pleasure to be in the presence of these brilliant creators.

The atmosphere was electric. A tremendous kick-off for the other 3,000+ acts that would perform in Austin the rest of the week.

Willie say relax

Read the rest of the story:

SXSW 2023 Day 2 – Stubb’s & Cheer Up Charlie’s

SXSW 2023 Day 3 – Zombies


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