The best British music at SXSW, as selected by MOJO editor-in-chief, Phil Alexander
Johnny Flynn & the Sussex WitLatitude 30, 11pm
Meet Britain's new anti-folk poet! Few performers reference acoustic existentialist John Fahey, classical magus Vaughan Williams, and the Pixies as key influences. London-based Johnny Flynn, however, isn't like most performers. A trained Shakespearean actor, his music breathes with a bucolic sense of melodrama that's both earthy and ethereal. The son of a former show singer and an ex-pupil of the Pilgrims' School, Winchester, Flynn blames his accentuated sense of old world romanticism on the environment that surrounded him. "From the age of 13 I lived in a world of pipe smoke and polish, like something out of Dickens," admits the fresh-faced 24-year-old.
Indeed, there's something Dickensian about both his demeanor and the music he creates with his band, the Sussex Wit. Their windswept shanty-styled songs fuse banjos, mandolin, fiddle, cello, and acoustic guitars, matched with an extraordinary talent for literary lyricism – the latter stemming from Flynn's life-changing discovery of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan at a car boot sale in his teens.
Of course, Flynn's world-view hardly fits within the current British scene that's drowning under a deluge of decidedly slovenly indie-rock outfits. Then again, with Flynn being entranced by New York's anti-folk scene – Diane Cluck is a particular reference alongside Jeffrey Lewis, not to mention Langhorne Slim – you sense that he's blissfully unaffected by the very concept of modernity. It's precisely this that distinguishes him from the equally tiresome cult of the singer-songwriter and which adds power to his spellbinding storytelling.
As well as playing a number of shows at SXSW this year, Flynn and his band of merry men are also performing at the MOJO-sponsored Bootleg BBQ at the Mean Eyed Cat on Saturday, March 15. Also on the bill is kindred spirit Laura Marling, another Cluck devotee and Flynn's recent touring partner in the UK. Somehow the duo's appearance at a rail-side bar whose raison d'être is paying homage to Johnny Cash seems all too fitting. See them and be seduced.
Four more 'MOJO' Brit picks:
Noisettes, SXSW Live @ Austin Convention Center, 2pm
Billy Bragg, SESAC Day Stage @ Austin Convention Center, 3pm
Fuck Buttons, Red Eyed Fly, 12:10am
The Wombats, Maggie Mae's Rooftop, 1am