Cigarette smoke being blown into your face and hair. An aggressive photographer pushing and shoving to get photos. This might sound like a rock show, but it was just the events leading up to and happening during the reflective, chill, and passionate show given by Strawberry Guy at SXSW.
Welsh born singer-songwriter Strawberry Guy, stage name for Alex Stephens, played at the DIY Magazine Showcase at Cedar Street Courtyard on March 14th. Preceded by Gallus and Nuha Ruby Ra, Strawberry Guy played for an introspective 41 minutes, turning the energy of the crowd inward as they mulled over his thought provoking tunes.
In the first song, “F Song”, Stephens’ vocals were getting somewhat lost between his bandmates, the talking crowd and the venue playing their background music. However, after this song, his soulful and smooth voice floated through the room, taking a gentle command of the room.
Stephens played his piano like a classically trained, mellow Little Richard, with passion and feeling, lifting his feet off the ground as he twinkled the ivory through the set list. The Liverpool transplant has clearly been influenced by classical pianists like Debussy, as beyond the songs sounding sonically cohesive, his technical skill shines in his piano ballads like “Company.” Beyond piano, Strawberry Guy utilizes the typical drums, guitar, keyboard, bass but also instruments similar to a wood guiro to bolster his compositions.
Beyond the music, the curly haired blonde's personality shone in the small moments before the show and between songs. From talking about curly hair with a fan before the show, to crying about making it to America, the kindness and charm of the artist brought more life to his songs. Through the glimpses of his personality, it made you sad that the singer had experienced sad times, as most of his songs have melancholic undertones. It was also nice to see his manager bobbing his head along to the music, showing he truly likes the music of the artists’ he works with.
However, since this musician's music would fall into the sad indie boy genre of music, there were times in the show where songs started to sound similar. Maybe this happens because he knows what works at and he sticks to it, or maybe it’s just a trademark of the genre, either way, I would love to see Strawberry Guy explore different sounds later in his discography.
Overall, for a SXSW debut performance with such a stacked lineup, Strawberry Guy displayed fiery fingers on the keys and a clear passion for his craft. With over two million monthly listeners on Spotify, there is success in the future for Strawberry Guy and his Berries (what he calls his bandmates). The future projects of this singer-songwriter have found a home in Austin.