SXSW Tuesday; where fun happens? Where tiredness begins? Where the badge starts to weigh a ton? Where you can’t get a cab? Where your friends ask you where the afterparty is when you’re already home enjoying your second slice of pizza? I suppose it’s many different things. SXSW is a vast, complicated, bewildering machine – a sort of stratified, industry-fed music festival entirely run by howler monkeys. There is scarcely any rhyme, and never any reason.
Any levelheaded plan you enter is quickly sabotaged by any number of ludicrous propositions. Fielding hour-long phonecalls with a PR person stranded in security, or standing in a bare-bones warehouse plastered with XXL memorabilia only to slowly realize that Kendrick Lamar ain’t showing and having to propel yourself back to the far side of town, or getting turned down at the Stones Throw showcase because your 21st birthday is still a couple months away.
We roll with the punches, because SXSW might as well be founded on the very concept of rolling with the punches. Here’s a rundown of the acts I saw last night at SXSW.
Teengirl had the unfortunate positioning to be the bleeding-edge act of the marquee Pitchfork showcase of an otherwise light Tuesday night. That means the Oberlin disco partnership was grooving to about three dozen people at the top of their set. Fortunately, and perhaps due to the deftness of the Mohawk booking agency, they were easily the act best suited to nurture indifference. Smutty, kaleidoscopic synth-bombs essentially providing a backdrop for an entire week of consumption, overdose, and never-ending nonsense – I doubt many will remember their set, they were too busy getting first drinks, which made it feel that much more poetic.
You certainly wouldn’t call Shlohmo intimidating, and you definitely wouldn’t call him severe – in fact his complete lack of swagger, or any overt confidence can be a little off putting, like we were about to be witness to a historic train wreck inside the Mohawk. But those fears weren’t founded, his liquid synths and icicle-drop drums made a surprisingly deep impression – there was something resembling a banger when he trotted out his “Crew Love” remix. Kids were actually chanting “SHLO-MO SHLO-MO.” He never hid his quirks though, watching him dramatically and unironically lip-sync the intro to Aaliyah’s “One in a Million” might be one of my more vivid SXSW memories.
I didn’t go into Star Slinger’s set with any real articulation of who he was. His name has been unavoidable if you spend any amount of time talking about music, and I’m sure you’ve seen the term “Star Slinger Remix” on more than a dozen occasions. Who he is? A portly fire-headed dude from Nottingham named Darren Williams with a white-person’s crush on violent rap music. I for one can relate. Like the awkward, overweight nerd he is, he spent the first few minutes of his set exchanging highly technical discourse with the sound booth before offering completely byzantine apologies to the audience. The stuff only roadies and fellow DJs can understand. “So I’m doing it all off iPad tonight,” at least I understood that much. Then, he completely transformed into a trangressive pop star with the power of his laptop and an incredibly keen ear for what would work in an abbreviated set when the average audience knowledge of who you are is doubtful at best. He was chucking remixes from Rihanna to Danny Brown; at one point he settled into a beat that I’m pretty sure might be the sounds quasars make. The guy actually made the Mohawk feel like a club for a few minutes, which is something I’ve never seen happen before.
MR. MUTHAFUCKIN EXQUIRE
Some rappers bring an extended cruise on stage to have them look bored and stare at their iPhones in public. Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire is not one of those rappers. Without any intro, name-drop or DJ tease, there were suddenly more than 30 dudes of varying degrees of eccentricity vibing hard to their kingpin’s rhymes. More than any rapper you’ll see, Exquire actually uses the extended posse presence for energy rather than listless background imagery – they grabbed hands, screamed punchlines, and doused the first few rows with a bottle of water seemingly every song. You wouldn’t expect eXquire to really give a shit about his live show, but the guy gave us a distinctly above-average hip-hop demeanor. More like this please.
Over at the XXL warehouse Future was on stage for about 20 minutes because he has an album coming out in April. April 17, featuring singles x, y, and z. The room was absolutely covered in related memorabilia; posters with that April date touted loud and clear. It was the music industry hard at work. Oh yeah and the music? The music was alright. A rugged codeine croak over steely Lex Luger beats. Take it if you will.
You know, I don’t think anyone knew who Danny Brown was at the XXL Warehouse save for maybe nine people. For someone who arguably released the most provocative, transcendent, and critically respected rap full-length last year in XXX, you’d understand why he might feel a little offended. But the wonderful thing is he’s not. “I’m so honored to be here, even to be associated with XXL” he said towards the end of his set. When you think about it makes sense, there’s very little bravado to Brown’s shtick, he’s trying to gross us out far before he ever intimidates us, and at 30 years of age, he’s probably a little mature for the young-gun shit-talk.
None of that stopped him from delivering a wild, disarmed, psychosis-stricken set that probably scared a few people around me. By the time he closed with “Blunt After Blunt” it was just him and his few disciples screaming the titular BLUNTAFTERBLUNTAFTERBLUNTAFTERBLUNTAFTERBLUNT back and forth with absolutely no regard for how each other’s voice would feel in the morning. Forever an outsider. Hats off.