This year hip hop was large and in charge and rock showed up to the party but not as strong and belligerent as in previous years.
During Southby I usually try to listen for rock and roll that sounds interesting, this year I really didn’t hear anything that sounded cool and different.
But the rock stuff that was worth watching like a showcase featuring Jack White and his upstart all girl rock group The Black Belles was ridiculously impossible to get into. Even if you did have a badge, if you weren’t there early enough, just start walking broseph.
It’s possible that the departure of famed Austin music venue Emo’s and it’s strange progeny, Emo’s Jr., from 6th street; affected this year’s rock experience. Ever since EPCB began covering SXSW, Emo’s has always been the place where we’d see the best rock shows because it was such an intimate venue, bands like Titus Andronicus, The Black Angels, Kid Congo and even old school group The Sonics rocked our faces, literally.
That being said, simply put, this year hip hop sounded awesome to me and the rock I did hear was pretty bland.
Here’s how the week (yes kids, the week) went down, here’s hoping our memory doesn’t fail us::
After meeting with a few friends, we headed to the adult playground that is 6th street. On the way we had been informed of a free Ghostland Observatory Show at the Belmont. We didn’t think much of it, but was brought up by one of the crew. EPCB had nothing to lose at this point, it was Monday and we were down for anything.
Two lines had already formed outside the venue when we got there. But magically we made it into the show. Patience is a virtue and the 15 tense minutes of waiting in line had paid off.
The show was great, the crowd was in good spirits and responsive to the funky duo. These guys blasted their signature lasers into our drunken retinas at full force and dished out their groovy electro rock with stellar charisma. I was kinda disappointed to see lead singer Aaron Behrens w/o his signature locks but glad to see he hadn’t lost any of his front man power.
The first showcase we saw that night was at the Mohawk. This venue always promises a good time and this was no different. Hip Hop producer from Manchester, Star Slinger performed an interesting pulsating set that got the crowd going.
Then the Motha Fuckin’ Exquire got down hard with his crew. This was a fun hip hop show to marvel at, this entertaining New York emcee is deserving of the bold name.
After that we headed to a Stones Throw Records showcase at the Elysium featuring Vex Ruffin, which reminded me of a twisted B 52s mixed with hard punk beats, hip hop icon M.E.D and Sandman, a hip hop artist new to the Stones Throw roster.
Then, somehow, it was over to the Hype Hotel to see the Delta Spirit. After redeeming my drink tickets and drinking said drinks rather fast, I vaguely remember their set. But, these guys were pretty good from what I can recall. There’s all sorts of buzz about them and their songs were solid and they got pretty loud.
EPCB started the day with a river boat ride with free booze and music. It was quite possibly the most different, serene and awesome thing I’ve done in Austin. Something about being on a boat and being served free alcohol that lifts your spirits and makes you ready for the endless walking around down town.
Afterwards, we made our way to the Fader Fort, which is south of the I-35 Freeway. We had missed out on the rsvp and were hoping for an ATX miracle, which totally happened. Our photog Joey asked people in line if they had a plus one and people responded. Somehow, we all got a wristband and entry into the Fader Fort.
The goal of the night was to catch a performance by legendary reggae musician Jimmy Cliff. Most of EPCB’s crew got in except for a couple of us. The EPCB’ers that did get in said it was a great show and that there was a lot of pot smoking and ass grabbing going on. Those of us that didn’t make it to the show headed to the Blue Moon Bar for some good ‘ol Blues music by Sonny Wolf. The night finally ended with a blur of club hopping.
We spent some time at the Fader Fort. The Fort is basically a chill environment with free drinks and cool performers. This year it was sponsored by Converse, which is very cool, but there was something weak, or maybe, something missing from this year’s fort.
Anywho, the highlight of the day was a hip hop showcase at the Kung Fu Saloon. It featured the Bad Rabbits, a cool group that plays indie soul funk, Mob Deep, who gave a strong performance and Raekwon with fellow Wu Tang member GZA. It was a fun show and the beats were dropped in slick fashion and the rhymes were unleashed with a fiery passion.
THE highlight of this day was witnessing the raunchy hip hop of Juicy J of the 3 Six Mafia at the Green Label Showcase at Club Deville. Once this master of gettin’ higher hit the stage, the crowd went clinically insane as he delivered his rhymes and phrases with fiendish precision. He had his fans reciting his lyrics as if they were a gospel written for those that live trippy and geeked up.
As an added little bonus, Juicy had one of hip hop’s young emcees the exploding Wiz Khalifa on stage with him. As soon as people realized he was up there amongst the entourage, the ladies in the crowd went apeshit and bum rushed the stage.
Juicy J knows how to get the crowd hyped up to the point where they hang from the lighting wires. The performance itself was just powerful, full of energy and brilliantly brief. He was there one moment spitting radioactive fire and the next he was gone, leaving his beer soaked fans wanting more. Quite possibly, this was one of the wildest, most fun and dangerous shows EPCB had ever been to.
This year’s Saint Patrick’s day featured a start at local restaurant Sputnik for some tasty burgers then it was off to the Fader Fort for one last trip to the free drink line. After warming ourselves up for the day at the Fort, we walked across the street to the Mess With Texas party to check out the rising star of hip hop A$AP Rocky. This was a pretty cool show. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I don’t follow hip hop too closely but I was glad I went. This was a top shelf show and it got me juiced up St. Paddy’s style.
Then, if memory serves right, there was a lot of walking and wandering…
The day of green beer and our SXSW music experience finally ended with a superior dj set by DJ Jazzy Jeff and an awesome performance by the ever powerful Erykah Badu and her Canabinoids at the Red Bull Threestyle Showcase. She’s a great performer, her singing is like sweet syrup that pierces your heart and rattles your mind. Hearing her hit those high notes – especially her random jazzy shrieking freak outs – is a wonder I’ll never tire of. If you’re ever in Austin or happen to be in the area of an Eryka Badu show, go, your ears will be satisfied.
Sunday:: Drove home with nothing but great memories and sore legs.
As we travailed around ATX, the amount of music lovers and adventure seekers was astonishing to us this time around. The music capitol of the world was packed to the brim. There were so many people that you could literally feel Austin’s coffers being replenished with tons ‘o cash.
This festival attracts creative types from all over the globe because it’s the perfect playing ground for self promotion and provides up and coming musicians a chance to play in front of countless numbers of people and possibly get a recording contract.
On Saint Patrick’s day alone, the city gets an influx of 20,000 extra people. Austin was filled with many revelers in green that day, the only really wasted person we saw was at the Red Bull ThreeStyle showcase in which a young lady was being carried off by her friends right before Erykah Badu performed.
Amazingly, the enormous amount of Southby-ees doesn’t negatively affect the experience of being there because it’s totally part of it. If anything, the ever growing masses make the festival and add to the vibe of performances, that along with the long lines, inspired performances, free booze and swag, the smell of grilled onions on 6th Street and the raucous sounds of street performers, is what makes SXSW the music and cultural beacon that it has become.
by M. De Santiago
photographs by Joey Lozano and EPCB