For four days last month, Austin, Texas, was the epicenter of the music universe as nearly 2,000 bands descended on the city along with literally thousands upon thousands of fans to enjoy the nonstop music frenzy known as the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW).
SXSW began 25 years ago as an indie music festival (translation: obscure up-and-coming rock and heavy metal bands) but over the years has expanded to include digital and film components while also attracting the who’s who of music. The scale of the festival is over the top. According to the SXSW website, in 2010, 1,978 bands played at 89 venues over the course of just four days.
Now I know what you are thinking. You hear Austin and “indie music” and begin envisioning a lot of loud guitar playing, head banging, long hair slinging, skinny black jeans-wearing individuals that are keeping tattoo and piercing parlors all over the world in business. I cannot tell a lie, there is plenty of that. But judging by this year’s lineup (and the lineup over the last several years) the “South by” crowd can’t get enough hip-hop, rap and R&B. In the course of about 96 hours I caught performances by Raphael Saadiq (whose performances never disappoint), YelaWolf, Fishbone, Talib Kweli, Zeale Rapz (an Austin artist who had Chamillionaire‘s DJ on the tables during his performance), Riders Against the Storm (also known as RAS, a husband-wife hip-hop duo out of Providence, Rhode Island currently residing in Austin. I know right … who knew they had black people in Rhode Island?), Charles Bradley & the Menahan Street Band (think James Brown meets B.B. King), J*DaVeY (My favorite find that I am at a loss to describe. Imagine if Macy Gray and Prince had a baby and it was raised by Lenny Kravitz and Meshell Ndegeocello. It’s kinda like that but not exactly.), Jean Grae, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, Mayer Hawthorne, Warren G., Wu-Tang, and Erykah Badu (OK, she was going by DJ Low Down Loretta Brown that night. But hey, I respect her right to exercise her creative prerogative). Needless to say, the Snoop Dogg and Warren G. performance included a tribute to the late Nate Dogg.
Although thrilled about the acts that I caught, I was equally bummed about the ones that I missed including: B.o.B., L.E.P. Bogus Boys (shout out to my Chi-Town homies who were kind enough to give me an impromptu photo shoot in an alley), Mistah F.A.B. (I met him at a movie premiere. I hear he’s spreading a positive word with his music.), Invincible (she played right before Jean Grae on the final night of the festival. Reliable sources tell me she killed it!). If all this isn’t enough, on Saturday, the final night of the festival, many acts were added at the last minute (where would we be without Twitter?) including a single ridiculous show that included Kanye West, John Legend, Mos Def, Jay-Z, Kid Cudi and lord only knows who else because I didn’t have enough clout or game to talk my way into the party. But I did give it the old college try as I was shuffled from one line to another trying to figure out if they were going to admit media. I bailed at about midnight and the show hadn’t even begun yet. I have no idea how long each artist performed once the show got started, but I suspect the concert went until sometime on Monday afternoon (OK, that’s a joke people).
Other than being hit in the head by a beer can thrown by someone in the crowd during the Fishbone concert (hey it was St. Patrick’s Day and the crowd was rather full) and almost being knocked over by Diddy along with his entire entourage while waiting with said mob scene to gain access to the Kanye concert, the entire experience was worth the lack of sleep for four days. A side note on my unfortunate incidents: I forgive the person that that threw the beer can (they had no idea it would end up on the side of my head). But I have no love for Diddy and his crew because they clearly saw me standing there. Yo Diddy, what’s up with your manners? While I wait for my answer from Diddy, I think I’ll take a nap. I’ll need my strength to do it all again next year. –lauren mccadney