SXSW Day 4

Festival rolls into the weekend at a frenetic pace


It’s not even that hot in Austin (it was 20 degrees yesterday), but fainting is becoming a thing. “I’m going to get drunk tonight, I’m going to get high tonight, and I’m damn sure I’m going to faint tonight.” That was ScHoolboy Q during his far-too-short set at SPIN at Stubb’s annual day-party showcase. One of Southby’s most anticipated performers (his album recently went No. 1 on Billboard), Q turned out to be a huge ham, constantly cracking jokes about the size of the stage (he was squished onto a tiny platform area, giving him no room to move whatsoever). He also chose a set (Hands On The Wheel, There He Go, Collard Greens) that had the chilled-out, afternoon crowd nearly moshing in front of him. Never has a group of less gangster people yelled “Gangsta, gangsta, gangsta” at the top of their lungs.

The six-hour barbecue had one of the best lineups of any party so far. Earlier, recent David Letterman sensations Future Islands (from Baltimore) played the main stage and frontman Samuel T. Herring brought the same strange and magnetic qualities he displayed on late-night TV. The contrast between Herring – his voice, which alternates between smooth and a monstrous growl, and his hip-swaying bootylicious moves – and his uber-laidback, unmoving bandmates is fantastic. “Let’s get sexy,” he said, “watch out for your girls, bro.”

Other SPIN highlights: garagey punk-rockers the Orwells the impeccably tight Against Me! (Black Me Out is a really fucking fun song) and Cloud Nothings, whose Nirvana influences are very evident and also very awesome. One big lowlight: California indie-rockers Warpaint who kept everyone waiting again (they sound-checked for over 40 minutes a couple nights ago and ended up playing only three songs) and only squeaked out a few tunes. SXSW doesn’t fuck around – with thousands of shows, everyone is kept on an air-locked schedule.

Atlanta sing-rapper Future’s headlining set – with special guests Bun B and B.o.B – was the most meaty, showcasing all his hits (Tony Montana, Racks, Same Damn Time) as well as brand-new songs from his forthcoming record, Honest, which he was pushing HARD. There was even a posterboard with the album’s release date moving through the crowd. Kind of icky, but whatever. (One thing you cannot escape in Austin – whether it’s the iTunes festival, massive amounts of corporate sponsorship or artists hustling CDs on the street – is the fact that SXSW is as much a business conference as it is a music festival.) Needless to say, that particular crowd was buying what Future was selling, aggressively fangirling and fanboying until he closed down the event and everyone was ushered off Stubb’s grounds.

It’s easy to get stuck in one place at Southby. You queue long enough, then your venue has a killer lineup (so many of them do) and all of a sudden it’s 2 am. But it’s way more fun to bounce around from place to place. Especially at night. Sure, you risk getting stuck in lineups, but there is music happening every minute in every bar, tent and pop-up spot, so you’re never want for options.

With that in mind, I set strict rules for myself on Friday night: don’t linger anywhere too long.

I wasn’t overly impressed by the A$AP Mob’s performance at the Molson Amphitheatre last summer. Individually, I like Rocky and, to a lesser degree, Ferg, but I don’t understand the appeal of having ten emcees jumping around onstage somewhat haphazardously. Call me old-fashioned but I still like some semblance of a crafted setlist.

Maybe it’s just the infectious spirit of Southby, but I did like the mob quite a bit better on Friday. A$AP Ferg’s Shabba is a banger crafted purely for the live arena, and seeing Rocky crowd-surf in his on-trend, 90s-grunge plaid get-up was fun. (Much later, Rocky showed up at Illmore, the unofficial, after-hours, after-party spot that’s also hosted Big Sean this week.)

I skipped Flying Lotus and Nas at the same venue in order to finally see the British group Jungle, whose set I missed on Wednesday night. The electro-funk duo has been mysterious about their identities, and press releases are just as befuddling. But at the Hype Hotel they presented as a five-piece with a flashy light show and Bee Gees-like vocals from the two frontmen. They embrace the disco vibe that seems very in right now (Daft Punk, Broken Bells) and also 90s R&B. A full concert would be very cool.

I caught Perfect Pussy just down the street, playing the Red 7 Patio. The five-piece noise-punk band were definitely the loudest thing I saw all day, but I did want to crank up Meredith Graves’s mic just a touch so I could hear the wailing vocals a bit better. I cannot comprehend how she can yell like that night after night and still have a voice, or energy to spare for that matter. Good thing the songs are very brief.

Across the street at Red Eyed Fly, Angel Olsen couldn’t have been more of a contrast. All of the moods from her lastest album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness – punk, pop, folk, country – were recreated, but her voice is decidedly more impressive than the record reveals.

Finally, on a tip, I hiked east to The North Door, and arrived right on time to see an unscheduled Mike WiLL Made It performing his song 23 before – surprise! – another appearance and miniset by Future.

It was just starting to rain at 3 am when I crossed the Colorado River to get back to my hotel – the only damper on another wild day.

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