This year's SXSW was without a doubt the biggest yet. Here's my roundup of the best (and worst) of the fest.
Wednesday, March 13
Wednesday night kicked off with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds headlining the NPR showcase at Stubb's BBQ. In trademark black, Cave sauntered onstage a little before 9 pm. "We're going to begin with a long song and hopefully by the end it'll be dark," he said before launching into Higgs Boson Blues from his new record. By the end of the eight-minute-plus track, the sun had set and the crowd, packed with badge-holders and lucky ticket-draw winners, was visibly enthralled. The lithe frontman proceeded to wow with new material, including Jubilee Street and title track off his new one, Push The Sky Away, as well as classics like Red Right Hand and Stagger Lee.
Just a short trip across the highway, Wavves, Mac DeMarco and Unknown Mortal Orchestra were busy setting the stage for Odd Future standout Earl Sweatshirt. By the time he came on, almost an hour late and backed by L.A. beat-maker Flying Lotus, the crowd was more than ready for his high-energy set. A large mosh pit erupted near the front and didn't let up until the show ended, with the wildness peaking during Chum and recently released single Whoa.
The night ended with Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch and surprise guest Killah Priest closing down the Vans showcase at the Mohawk Outdoor Stage. The Wu veterans and former Lox member ripped through verse after verse, highlighting tracks from their latest Wu-Block project as well as performing a slew of hits that spanned their lengthy solo careers.
Thursday, March 14
Recent NOW cover girl Solange headlined Thursday's Fader Fort lineup, delivering a fun, feel-good set that had the crowd dancing and smiling the whole way through. Backed by a tight band, including Dev Hynes, who produced her True album, she sizzled the stage with her moves, voice, and undeniable charm, not to mention awesome wardrobe.
A few hours later Southern rapper Yelawolf celebrated the completion of his latest project, Trunk Muzik Returns, by playing the album in full while occasionally
rapping along. The obviously hammered rapper made matters worse by dousing the audience in beer throughout his set. Things picked up at the Peter Rosenberg-presented New York Renaissance showcase featuring Flatbush Zombies, Smoke DZA and Action Bronson. South-By 2013 stalwart Bronson closed the night with a tight four-song set.
Friday, March 15th
Friday night's highlight was L.A. based alt-R&B duo Rhye. Despite sound issues, it still proved to be one of the best shows at the fest. The group brought a cellist, violinist and trombonist onstage to help recreate the ethereal R&B sounds off their much-lauded debut album, Woman.
T.O.'s own BADBADNOTGOOD closed things off at the rooftop Sofa King Raw showcase, which also included sets by Machinedrum and Ryan Hemsworth.
Saturday, March 16
Saturday night's stacked lineup was easily the most impressive of the entire fest. Prince (with openers A Tribe Called Quest), Justin Timberlake, the Smashing Pumpkins and Kendrick Lamar all headlined conflicting showcases at different venues.
The Noisey closing party at Viceland was packed from the get-go, and for good reason. The bill featured the aforementioned Lamar, plus the Black Lips, Trinidad James, Action Bronson and Bauuer. Fans flocked in droves, much to the dismay of the local fire department. Kendrick's set was something special. Dressed in a white hoodie and backed by Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q from his TDE posse, Lamar once again reminded us that good kid, m.A.A.d city is one of the best hip-hop records of the past decade.