Jake Bugg

Final SXSW Live Shots

Jake Bugg

Maggie Mae's Rooftop, March 13

With a song in his heart but no smile on his face, fast-rising British songwriter Jake Bugg took the stage in front of a tightly packed crowd, members of which started calling out for songs before he began. All business, the baby-faced teen simply announced songs, skipping banter – and, indeed, any sense that he was happy to be there – and just played. Fortunately, Bugg's talent belies any gig fatigue. Even with a sour face, he's too good to deny. Riding a Johnny Cash rhythm train with his adenoidal vocals and fleet-fingered guitar work, Bugg pulled sharp tunes from the air the way apple farmers pick juicy fruit. With a council housing background, class defiance and the determination to rise above one's station come naturally, giving folkabilly anthems "Trouble Town," "Two Fingers," and "Lightning Bolt" crowd-pleasing allure. "Slide," a grand ballad in the Noel Gallagher/Richard Ashcroft tradition, and a pair of loud new rockers with flashy solos, demonstrated a wider screen to his vision. Given both the instrumental facility and songwriting acumen pouring out of a kid who's only 19, the potential for magnificence is almost as exciting as the songs themselves.

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