So, my SXSW went down in a wave of flames (and Tyler the Creator “fucks”) tonight/this early morning, and it’s an appropriate way to end this week of awesomeness/awfulness and long lines. I’m burned out, and looking forward to going back to Madison, Wisconsin. That place might be messed up right now, but at least I know I won’t get throttled in the junk by a photographer’s gear bag while flying home (seriously, can we talk about how out of control the photographers are? I mean, there must be 65,000 photographers here).
For those of you that don’t follow Twitter feeds and the like during the fest, here’s what happened: Odd Future were booked to play Billboard Magazine’s Bungalow at Buffalo Billiards. This is not your typical Odd Future club: It’s basically a pool hall, and they keep the bottom half open to regular pool players during SXSW, I guess because they don’t want to commit completely to this music shit. All night, from Big K.R.I.T.’s triumphant set, Black Milk’s awesome live set up to Curren$y’s less than stellar one, the sound system in there was too quiet, never allowing crowd leveling beats to explode. That is, except for when Big K.R.I.T. played with Grillade, a live band, and when Black Milk played with his band, which suggests that the sound dude there knows how to make a band loud but not a turntable. But, I can’t say for certain in that regard. I am not, after all, trained in working soundboards.
The other thing you should know is that the club was starting to get packed with people who were seemingly there just to see what this Odd Future shit was about, not necessarily people downloading MellowHype singles on the regular. There were more gray hairs here than I saw watching OMD at Spin on Friday.
Up to this point, Odd Future haven’t really had to face a crowd of mostly indifferent people. At SXSW, they’ve played shows at Mess with Texas, Fader Fort by Fiat (twice, once with Lil B!), the Woodies, and the handful of shows they’ve done in big cities, and never really had to face a crowd like this. Or at least a crowd made up of less than rowdy “regular” and industry people.
And predictably, things went to shit. From the first moment Syd dropped the beat to “Sandwitches,” it was clear something was off. It seemed like it was coming in from an iPod dock, and the energy level was basement low. When I saw them at Fader Fort, people literally lost their shit just at the sight of them: They were off to the side of the stage during Smith Westerns, and people were turning and facing the offstage area. Here, Tyler burst onstage, and only some people in the front lost their shit. They stopped the song. Tyler told the crowd they sucked, and started again. Things never really picked up. MellowHype did a song. Things never picked up. Tyler yelled at the sound guy to make the beats louder. Left Brain said, “Yeah, I want to hear my production,” which made me laugh. Tyler said, “Here’s the song you guys all came out to see anyway.” He did “Yonkers.” He then said “You know what, fuck this. Fuck Billboard. I don’t even read that shit. Come see us at Vice” and then ran off the stage. Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis followed. Left Brain jacked off his mic towards the audience. Syd argued with the soundman. Their people came out and grabbed their stuff and the group bounced. People at the front shout “Wolf Gang.” It was bonkers. And it was over.
I guess I’m sorta who Tyler was mad at: I was near the back, trying to avoid getting mixed in with the club girls (and fucking photographers!) that were packing the front of the stage. But I got one hell of a case of stink eye from a woman next to me when I shouted the “fuck a mask I want that hoe to know it’s me” part of “Sandwitches.” But maybe I wasn’t shouting enough and shoving people? And that was a problem. And I am to blame? Sorry, Tyler. But at the same time, it’s not like everyone at Fader Fort dug them completely: I remember multiple people basically abandoning ship during their set. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the group gets forced out on a giant U.S. tour and something similar happens. I just know we’re probably never getting them in Madison, so this fest might be my only foreseeable dalliance with the group.
It was probably the most “punk” thing I’ve seen in person, and it was from a teenage rap group. Openly hating the audience and the publication bringing you in to play is so Sex Pistols, so Black Flag. It was also the worst, because they were the only group I cared about seeing today, and I assumed that seeing them in a club would be even better, because the sound could be huge, and I could get closer. Neither was the case, unfortunately. I bailed on seeing Lil B for this, and I blew it, probably. I’m sure Odd Future are going to level the fuck out of the Vice party tonight.
And technically, the group’s trip to SXSW disproves all of those violent miscreants thinkpieces that get written about them. They were consummate professionals: They were on time, they showed up, they played great all week. This was a case of the venue and the audience being less than ideal. I feel like bailing on a magazine’s showcase because you hate the audience and venue is a credibility move that can’t be topped, and one that will get Odd Future more fans than if they had played the full set. At this point, a few hours later, I’m maybe thinking part of it was staged, because it’s going to play so brilliantly into their hands. Even if Tyler did back off saying “fuck Billboard.”
So what else did I see today? James Blake again, this time at Fader Fort by Fiat. He was not as great as at Pitchfork, but most of that was due to the Fader Fort by Fiat being loud, and Blake being quiet. He still killed with “Limit to Your Love,” though. Dude seemed less nervous though, so he’s improving. I can’t imagine the limited dates he has on the calendar now will last long.
Trash Talk played after him, and they got the only “boos” I’ve heard all festival: People were generally pissed that the band helped create a giant mosh pit in the middle of the Fader Fort by Fiat tent, and were instructing people to throw trash cans at each other. Things went crazy: Dudes were shoving each other, moshing occurred, people were running away. I saw a dude get moshed while holding his beer, and seriously, the can was crushed on his chest. It was unreal. I hated the music, but enjoyed fleeing the spectacle.
But other than that, I kept it lowkey on my last day in Austin, only seeing a bunch of rappers at night. They ran the gamut from great (Big K.R.I.T., Black Milk), okay (Cool Kids, Big Sean, Killer Mike), overhyped (Curren$y) to meh (Spoek Mathambo). All told, K.R.I.T. was undoubtedly the best thing I saw all day, but his set will be forever overshadowed by Odd Future blowing up Billboard.
In some ways, this was the ending I needed. There’s nothing better to remind you how much your feet hurt, how much you’re sick of giant crowds, waiting in lines and getting sunburned, how you had food poising from some street food of questionable origin just 24 hours ago, how you were luckily able to avoid seeing Yuck all week (except for when you and Chris Weingarten said, unenthusiastically, “Hey, there’s Yuck,” when you see the afro-ed one walking on the street), how no one back home will care about anything but the story you now have about Diddy cutting in line in front of you at Iron Works (which happened to me and publisher Dave Park today), and how you probably fucking blew it by bailing on that Lil B show to see that Odd Future show, than having a group say “fuck Billboard” before running off stage. Austin, I sorta tolerate you but you’re dragging me down. I’m out.