Its a warm 25 degrees celsius when my plane lands in Austin, Texas, for SXSW. The cloudless baby blue sky and flat lands let me get oriented to the new environment better, as I have little knowledge of this city except for the “live music capital of the world" thing.
I see cowboy hats as often as in Calgary, feel southern hospitality, hear the city quietly function, smell crisp yet moist fresh air, and taste anticipation of the overwhelming music schedule. I'm also going to explore what's up with SXSW having a smaller percentage of hip hop music than Toronto’s smaller CMW.
I spend the night in the hotel room of 4th Pyramid, a fellow hip-hop act, at the Omni West Hotel. Our cab driver clearly and blatantly detoured from going straight to our hotel before doubling back, charging us an extra 8 dollars, and then, upon discovering we were musicians, strangely turned from surly to sagely, dispensing 5 minutes of career and life advice to us about how to succeed in the music business, and how we needed to collaborate more. The road to hell on earth is paved with good intentions.
Another cloudless day is here for us music lovers to enjoy. Two generous friends of 4th Pyramid pick us up to help run some errands, like grab up some clothes to look kosher for the Motorhead/High on Fire/Napalm Death show he's hosting tomorrow, but to also find breakfast. This is where I discover Austin's anti-corporate attitude.
We spend nearly an hour driving for breakfast and see only two McDonald's restaurants and one Wendy's (not that I consider that "food," I just know that there's always a better option in life) amongst dozens and dozens of independent businesses, most of which look rather colorful and creative with names like Texadelphia and The Potbelly Sandwich Works.
There was one amazing pizza place that looked like half Jetsons, half Flintstones designed by Andy Warhol on acid. Then I learn they have Connect Four, dominoes and other games cause there will be a wait for pizza. What's up with that?
I discover the town slogan on some tourist t-shirts, like "Keep Austin Weird", and I start to see it. But beyond the wackiness, pure live music flows through the veins of Austin all year long, as I'm informed. I also see the most spirited harmonica player ever, busking "for a good cause: me!"
After eating a delectable veggie burger at famous vegan-friendly restaurant called Mother's, we go to the main stage across from the convention center to see the grand hip hop finale of Megazoid, Scratch Bastid, Sixtoo, Weez-L, Cadence Weapon, Grand Analog, and Ghislain Poirier. Grand Analog ripped it open with a blistering mic check, and a couple viciously grinding electro funk jams.
Cadence Weapon continued on the same wavelength but just amplified the energy a bit more, especially when he brought up his lanky length homeboy Subtitle to freestyle something dope. Then seeing Scratch Bastid and DJ Weez-L tag team the turntables was utterly jaw dropping. Seriously, they’re two of the best DJs in the world right now, straight up. And they are proud Canadians. The intensity of the concert reached a fever pitch when Sixtoo, Scratch Bastid and all the DJs were cutting the records like clockwork, moving like a “rhythm is a android” dancer and everyone trading places like Eddie Murphy. It was insanity!
Word was that it was the first hip hop electro fusion segment of the annual Canadian blast, and though it was energetic and exciting, the vibe sadly started to fade when the reggae portion began. But, regardless, it was a proud moment for the Canadians representing for 2008, and a realistic hint of the future.