In part one, I described how my best friend and I attended the SXSW fest this year in Austin for the very first time. We didn’t purchase any passes, badges, or wristbands. Nor did we have any press passes either. Here is part two, reviews of all the shows that we were able to catch.
We weren’t quite able to hit our goal of going to 10 different shows while at our first ever SXSW this year, but we did attend 9. If not yet obvious, we missed way more shows then we saw. Little Dragon, TV on the Radio, Wiz Khalifa, Phantogram, Jack White, The Strokes, Wu Tang Clan, Widespread Panic, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, The Bravery, Mars Volta, Jay-Z, and The Kills were just a small sampling of who was in town for the week. Here’s a run down of the shows we did somehow manage to make it to, in chronological order:
What? You still don’t know about hip-hop’s most exciting new artist yet? Well that is about to change forever and change fast. The recently signed Shady Records rapper from Alabama not only lives up to the hype, he far surpasses it! Peckerheads bar was extended to beyond full capacity (about 350) around midnight when we arrived. We weren’t quite sure what to expect from our first SXSW show. The venue was full of smoke and bodies and limbs, politely listening to others on stage performing hip-hop, but everyone was clearly there for one reason. The RubyHornet.com-sponsored Digital Freshness showcase and Closed Sessions:ATX record release party featured other emerging hip-hop artists like Skyzoo, Esso, Outasight, CyHi Da Prynce, and Blu. Not sure about them, but I am sure that everyone in the place became instantly fixated on Yelawolf as he suddenly (with help of security and staff) made his way through the huddled masses and onto the stage. The only way I can describe his explosive 15 minute set is to imagine what it was like when Eminem first performed “Lose Yourself”, or the first time 2Pac and Dre performed “California Love”. The tattooed Cherokee doesn’t depend on what the audience may or may not be like, instead carrying intense energy with him wherever he and the Ghet-O-Vision/Slumerican crew go. The only thing more shocking than the mc’s delivery and swag was the short length of the show. The mic was cut right before he was able to play his most popular track, “Pop The Truck”. An epic show, it would be extremely difficult to over exaggerate this artist or his performance.
I had only heard (barely) of this band by name only before the fest. This was a show I just stumbled upon while waiting for another. I was definitely pleasantly surprised, along with the other 500 or so people at Emo’s for this Windish Agency sponsored event. This L.A. band felt right at home in Austin where it seemed the majority of those in attendance knew almost every lyric and sang along, and didn’t mind singing along. They held every one’s attention the entire concert with no problem, especially for the crowd friendly favorite “Pumped Up Kicks“.
Landing somewhere between sounding like Portishead and Bjork, the trio from England’s buzz has been almost as viral as their “Marching Song” video. Dark, haunting, and Gothic have all been used to describe their tribal ethos. I knew about them since Spin magazine recently hailed them as one of 2011’s next big things. Watching the group live is both hypnotizing and mesmerizing.
4. Toro Y Moi
We were very excited to see Toro, having discovered him while researching bands before going to Austin. Even though we arrived late into his set, Toro sounded exactly as you would expect live: cool, chill, mellow, and straight up funky. Hell, they don’t call it chillwave for nothing. No one else I know of can blend pop, electronica, and jazz like this twenty something year old from South Carolina.
Our main reason for walking more city blocks than you can imagine was to make our way to the Waterloo Records store parking lot. Our day started seeing these legends whose once shared stages and cigarettes with Cobain. I know the question you first have now, because I wondered the same thing: how the hell would they sound now that all this time has passed? Amazing! These guys have aged well and are still rocking out, they even have a new record out soon.
6. Neon Trees
I only knew this band from their song on the radio “Animal“, so I didn’t have many expectations. The lot filled up to capacity quickly, with seemingly everyone wanting a glimpse of the popular new band. And who could really blame them, with an exhilarating front man like lead singer Tyler Glen bouncing all over the place. And I’m not just referring to his hair! High energy display from Neon Trees, reverberating into the energy from the masses equals one dynamic display!
7. J Mascis
This Saturday indoor session from Dinosaur Jr. member J Mascis was instantly classic. The intimate, enclosed, and mostly acoustic set was 1 of no less than 14 for the musician during his week. This one included 4 songs from his new release, some from the old Dino days, and finally a cover of an Edie Brickell tune. We kept thinking what a treat it was and how lucky we were to see J in this unique setting. No wonder he was on so many don’t miss this artist at SXSW lists.
One of the most quoted stories about this year’s event was how Kurt’s equipment was stolen. The no frills Philly rocker hasn’t let much stand in his way up to this point and this was no different. The hard working artist evokes both a bygone era of rock like Tom Petty and Iggy with some slacker rock and psychedelic thrown in for fun. The band sounded great live, as does his new record, Smoke Ring For My Halo.
The biggest shock, surprise, and discovery of our trip to Austin came the final night there. After meandering through the madness of 6th street, we decided to try our luck at a bar called The Blind Pig with a roof top patio deck. We stumbled upon the Fuggin Awesome Showcase featuring Killer Mike, Aleon Craft, and Emilio Rojas among others. But it was Rittz, aka White Jesus, from Atlanta who stole the show. Being affiliated with Yelawolf has to help your street cred, but so do fast flows like this performer has. Make sure you check him out asap before he blows up.
Part Three, the final, will conclude tomorrow with a summary of new music discovered during the trip, including HD video shot along the way of live performances.