By now, the sheer lunacy that is otherwise known as the SXSW Music Festival in Austin should need no introduction. Sure, you've read all the stories, seen all the online videos and listened to all the rumors--but have you had an actual first-hand account given to you by an ordinary, music-loving individual that recently traveled to Austin and physically digested all of this madness? Well, gather 'round children and let me take you on a magical journey.
Allow me to set the scene for you. No vacant hotel rooms for the next 45 miles. I-35 southbound is packed almost to the point where it could actually be possible to get out of your car and spray paint the entire University of Texas football practice facility crimson and cream. And parking? It doesn't exist. But all of those facts are irrelevant because this is Austin and this is SXSW--everything seems to sort itself out.
After a nice long walk underneath the blistering sun, I finally arrive at the Austin Convention Center to greet my gracious weekend couch host (a fellow Oklahoman shamelessly turned law-studying Longhorn) who made the extremely wise decision to spend his spring break as a SXSW volunteer. He sharply points out that the men standing to left of us are members of the rap group UGK. About five minutes later, hip-hop artist Mr. Lif cuts in front of us at the registration line. I know, right? There's already this much excitement and I haven't even had a chance to take a leak and pick up my badge.
The registration process was surprisingly quick and painless. The Cool Kids, an awesome retro hip-hop duo from Chicago performed literally steps away from the registration booth at the ASCAP Showcase and Happy Hour. The next act to take the stage was The Blow, an eclectic one-woman mix of electro-pop and performance art brilliantly brought to life by Portland artist Khaela Maricich. As her 45-minute set and the free keg of Miller Lite began to come to an end, I took glance at the handy pocket schedule that was given to me at registration and noticed that Hanson was scheduled to perform next, so I did what any normal Tulsan would do in this situation--I hailed a cab and got as far away from the Austin Convention Center as possible.
Roughly five minutes and five dollars later we arrive at the Scoot Inn just as the sun was beginning to set and night fall was preparing to take the stage in Austin. We've traveled this far for legitimate reasons: one named Del and the other named Devin. Many of you may know Del the Funkee Homosapien from his appearance on the track "Clint Eastwood" by Gorillaz and his collaborative work with Dan the Automator under the moniker Deltron 3030. Del brought the energy while the next act, Devin the Dude, brought the entire city of Houston. For those of you that aren't familiar with Devin the Dude, the Houston native performs a number of songs that undoubtedly take hip-hop to a much "higher" level. And trust me, he certainly didn't disappoint anyone in the crowd on this evening.
The night was now in full swing.
The Presidents of the United States of America were performing right around the corner. We walk briskly down the street only to find the venue at maximum capacity, so the only thing left to do at this point was to head towards Emo's Main Room for a nightcap.
Our nightcap at Emo's consisted of the uber-hyped Jens Lekman and the band Islands. Now, if you're not an avid blogger or for some strange reason you don't have access to the Internet, Jens Lekman is a singer/songwriter from Gothenburg, Sweden who looks like a Swedish Marty McFly and spits nothing but melancholic, yet witty melodies. On the other hand, Islands is an all-out indie rock band from Montreal. This was my first Islands/Jens experience and I must say that both acts definitely put a smile on my face and a tap in my foot.
Day number two. Back to the music. Vampire Weekend, the up and coming afro-pop/indie rock group from New York was tops on our list this evening, but due to some technical difficulties we were denied access to the show. But no worries, we decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate St. Paddy's Day early at the Irish pub where one of my favorite bands, The Trainwreck Riders was performing. Traveling all the way to Austin from San Francisco, this awesome folk/blues/punk band didn't disappoint a soul in the house. In fact, to sum up the show up in three words: they absolutely rocked.
Up next on the agenda: a minute with Moby. If I have to waste time explaining who Moby is, then you don't deserve to be reading this article. The show was rad, but as I stated before, we could only stay for a minute because we had to continue on. This evening's journey was scheduled to come to an end at Stubb's BBQ, one of the more popular venues in Austin. An hour with N.E.R.D. is all we needed in order to make day number two a success, and an hour with N.E.R.D. is exactly what we got.
Onward to day three. More music. Our final day sent us down to Waterloo Park for the Mess with Texas 2 Day Party. This happens to be a real treat for me, because Two Gallants, a highly talented and extremely pleasant folk-rock duo from San Francisco is performing. If you haven't heard of Two Gallants, drop everything now and go find their album. You just might thank me later. Next on stage is Yeasayer, followed by Neon Neon and The Breeders. Absolutely insane. What an awesome way to wrap up the day.
As night falls, our energy levels begin to rise. Maybe it was the funky sounds of Bing Ji Ling (which is Mandarin for "ice cream"), the electrifying tunes performed by the Tokyo Police Club or the spicy sound of Seattle's very own hip-hop duo, the Blue Scholars. Or maybe it was just us anticipating the performance of the one and only GZA. Now, my love for the GZA goes way back to the days of my youth, when I could be found bumpin' Wu-Tang Clan's "36 Chambers" from the tape deck of my 89 Chrysler New Yorker. And believe me, the GZA sounded just as good now as he did back then.
Well, that about sums up my SXSW experience in a nutshell. OK, so I left out a couple of things like accidentally dropping an elbow on Pharrell Williams at Perez Hilton's "One Night in Austin" after party (which a female accomplice helped sneak me into), but for the sake of good journalism it had to be done. Thanks for the memories, UTW. See you in Austin next year.
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