Depending on what kind of person you are, SXSW can be a time of excitement, adventure or anxiety. For me it’s a little bit of each. This is my 4th year entering the universe that is SXSW. I promised myself it would be different from all the other years for one reason – I would party hard & early.
Day 1: Tuesday, March 17th
Networking is my thing, so I arrived several days prior to my showcase to connect with folks. I started off solo bar hopping until I linked w/ some friends from Okayplayer. We continued over to Empire Control Room for a Paypal showcase, listened to some band that didn’t stick and drank some more. Paypal had a $1 special for all the food in the venue if you use their app to pay. Pretty swell idea, except the internet is ridiculously slow due the amount of people using it. Oh well.
Next stop was the seemly bizarre Exploded Drawing showcase, sponsored by Juiceland and hosted at Practice Yoga (which is an actual yoga studio). I even witnessed a yoga student in sweats w/ her mat waiting outside for class.
Me: “You going to the showcase?”
Her: “What showcase? I’m trying to go to late night yoga”.
Me: “Uhh I think it’s been cancelled. They didn’t tell you?”.
Her: “No. Man, just when I was ready to stretch out!”
I felt bad for the lady, but oh well, SXSW likes to play games. The showcase was awesome with performances by some of my favorite producers Daedelus, P.U.D.G.E. & Mndsgn. I was jamming until about 2 am or whenever they kicked us out.
Day 2: Wednesday, March 18th
This would be my longest SXSW day EVER at a whopping 15 hours. Since I had the official credentials, I wandered into a Convention Center showcase where a Japanese all girl rock band called TsuShiMaMiRe played. I was very enthralled by their bad ass ways and logged them into my memory banks. Also bumped into my homegirl Kalyn from Wheelchair Sports Camp while searching for free backpacks.
My next stop was the mystical Fader Fort. I moseyed over to the VIP line, got my credentials and made my way in. Inside the fences was like a mini Fader festival. Banners and sponsor logos as far as the eye could see. Even a huge cardboard box jenga set sponsored by Dell w/ environmental suggestions etched upon them (the irony of that still cracks me up).
Although the lineup was stellar, it wasn’t the main stage that kept me floating around. Besides the 3 free drink coins I acquired, I was drawn to New Jersey DJ UNiiQU3 and her spectacular dancers. Playing Jersey Club music, she had the crowd engaged and I fell in love with her vibe.
I caught Dej Loaf’s set, which folks were hyped about but she was very underwhelming. She did the “rapping over all her vocals” thing which makes me gag. Maybe with more practice her stage presence would be more engaging.
My stomach started to grumble so I hit up a quick BBQ with my Ableton & Serato folks. We then bounced around until we found ourselves at the IHEARTCOMIX showcase. Tired from my parade about downtown, I plopped down for a breather, little did I know that I placed myself right beside Zoe Kravitz! She was a fan of my DJ set w/ THEESatisfaction last year at AfroPunk, so I had to say hey. She chatted me up and gave me good instructions about selfies in the dark “you’ve gotta find the right light”.
Later she was performing with her band LOLAWOLF so I went to check them out. They sounded like a Little Dragon and No Doubt mash up. I realized I was standing by Daryl & Carol from The Walking Dead & totally geeked out. I snapped a selfie and praised them for the show. I also caught singer Kali Uchis. She has everyone in a hypnotic daze, myself included.
At this point it’s about 1 or 2 am and I’m making moves to a house party that Just Blaze was spinning at. By this time my feet and legs were numb but I danced none the less. Once my thighs started getting numb, I knew it was time to head on out.
Day 3: Thursday, March 19th
Thursday went by pretty fast. Stas had arrived from Brooklyn and we were off. Headed directly to the House of Vans swag spot. Since we were playing the showcase, we got all the way hooked up w/ shoes and little cute gifts like travel toothbrushes. While there we witnessed the Hip Hop sensation Migos and their massive posse. After observing their lifestyle for a bit we moved on to our next destination: the Grammy Party at the Four Seasons.
As soon as I checked in, I could tell this was not your average SXSW party. Paul Wall was on stage performing while people sipped cocktails and chowed down on BBQ. Then I saw Taylor Hanson from Hanson and became a 12-year- old teeny bopper all over again. I deliberated with Stas for 10 minutes before deciding to say hello and get my prized photo. He was super nice and asked for a CD, which of course I didn’t have on me. Yet the fact that he asked was all I needed.
The last event of the night was off the grid for a Beathaus showcase at Juiceland at Hyde Park. Caught my buddies Norvis Jr. and Iman Omari amazing set and called it a night.
Day 4: Friday, March 20th (First THEESat showcase)
These next two days whized by as Stas and I had our first performance at the Break Thru Radio showcase. This band before us, Guantanamo Baywatch had catchy tunes. Lead singer was a dude singing about how he loved a guy and knew he would break his heart but loved him anyway. Overall it was an awesome showcase w/ good sound and sweet crowd.
Then the rain came pouring down. Stas and I ran to a friends car, then headed to our interview w/ Flaunt Magazine. Got more swag.
Everything moved pretty quickly after that due to the rain. Ate a delicious steak dinner at Moonshine Grill. Quickly ubered over to the Spin Royal Roast for more interviews and swag.
By now it’s already time for our second showcase Y’all Or Nothin. It was the perfect queer scene for SXSW, felt so cozy amidst the broseph vibes that was ever present. Great sound and crowd. Couples would make out and then walk up and introduce themselves with googly eyes, then drift back to their corner to feel each other up once more…cute.
Post-performance I headed out to the Thrasher/Fool’s Gold showcase only to wish I went back to the hotel. I had finally found that strange aggressive energy I had been trying to avoid. Got trapped in the throes of overly popular top 40 music mash ups. Heard a crowd chanting “We want Leaf!” assumed it was MY L1ef, but nah it was a young lady who was dressed Vanity, but sounded unenthused. I was also unenthused and left shortly….
Day 5: Saturday, March 21st (last day & final showcases)
Saturday was my last real day at SXSW, so I had to make it count. Checked out one of my favorite groups Loaf Muzik. They are composed of a group of young men with a Leaders of the New School feel. I’m a big fan so I catch them whenever I can. They drove from NY to Austin and found a showcase on site! Now that’s what I call dedication. After them I was drowsy so I took my first SXSW nap!
Now it was time for the final stretch. Played the lovely Okayplayer & okayafrica showcase at Bungalow for the second year in a row. Caught a bit of Greighwolfe, what an awesome set of pipes this dude has! We performed and jammed then had to make a mad dash run to the House of Vans showcase. Was sad to miss Ibeyi but I’m gonna catch them at Neumos on April 5th.
The HOV showcase was awesome. Caught The Whooligan’s set. He’s a dope DJ from the Soulection crew also had a special appearance by Waldo, an excellent rapper & poet. After our set, I headed back to the Bungalow to peep Hiatus Kaiyote. Love their sound. I look forward to their new album “Choose Your Weapon” is out May 4th.
I had the honor of running into Eric Andre, Hannibal Buress, Ali Shaheed, Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest & NPR Microphone Check & Kiran Gandhi (Percussionist & MIA’s drummer). All were very kind and had me a little lost for words!
My very final show of SXSW was the All Hip Hop Showcase w/ Raekwon & Ghostface Killah of WuTang. Saw all of the performance but the sound was horrific! Seems as though the sound engineer had wandered off, so the backing tracks would sometimes lower or shut off entirely. Even the mics cut off! Ghostface keep it going and poor Raekwon had lost his voice from all of his SXSW appearances, which makes sense because it was the last night and everyone was pretty restless at this point.
All in all SXSW 2015 was a major success. If you have some cash, are quick to RSVP and can find a floor to sleep on, I highly suggest you attend next year’s festivities. It’s well worth the trip!