TECH N9NE at Venue 222 at SXSW. Rating: NN
Who knew there were Juggalos at SXSW?
Not me, and a scanning the list of bands playing here you would never know it either.
Juggalos are traditionally fans of the Insane Clown Posse, the unruly, heavy drinking rap-rockers known for their painted faces, brutish lyrics and devoted underground following.
To fill that void in Austin is Tech N9ne, a 39-year-old Kansas City rapper who has sold more than a million albums on his own label.
N9ne appears at the Gathering of the Juggalos, a festival of like-minded acts. At Venue 222, it was SXSW's version of that trashy gathering.
Tech N9ne raps in rapid-fire staccato verses, often with chant-y, menacing choruses. The songs deal with the occult (he's fixated on ghosts), death, and Middle America.
More interesting was the culture of the aforementioned Juggalos. The whole experience was completely unique for a festival that prides itself on attracting unique acts.
N9ne himself appeared in painted face with his trademark long billy goat beard, wearing old sneakers and black socks with long shorts and a black gas station attendant's shirt.
He did strange choreographed dances with two backup dancers that felt more like crumping than anything else.
I found the whole thing to be cultish - not like Big Lebowski is a cult movie but like David Koresh led a cult in Waco. The music was jarring, almost certainly unpalatable to any fan of modern rap music. Its themes were dark and disturbing, and very basic at that. Like Eminem's trailer park tales dumbed down and mixed with creepy ghost stories.
Yet crowd was fanatic.
The ongoing sentiment at SXSW is to keep it independent, interesting, and outside the mainstream. Keep Austin Weird, as they frequently say. So, Tech N9ne it is then.