SXSW Day 1
September 20th 2017
It was just like any other day as I drove on the now two lanes that make 290 connect from Houston to Austin. It was a bit of a drive and me and a friend left as soon as we were out of work on Wednesday the 15th to SXSW. It has been a number of years that I have gone to the festival and each year brings with it some insane story that sounds half real and half imagined. This year I was looking forward to the same sense of adventure and wonder. Although I had new people I was going with to the SXSW, I was still excited.
We all have different adventures and stories even though we are at the same place at the same time, and this city is no different. The entire town is a festival, and we were just arriving as the music portion of the festival was picking up. This year it started off just like always, with no plan in mind. All it takes is a very open mind, love of music, alcohol, twitter, Facebook, maybe some other substances, and sheer will to have a damn good time.
Having no badge to SXSW, to some people may seem like worth not going. It takes skill in order to maneuver through Austin without a badge and still catch amazing shows and performances. Having gone for five years, this was now a simple task. Leading up to South By I looked at all RSVP shows and venues and booked from there as well as from some record labels and artist which I fancy. This led us to the IHEARTCOMIX Official Showcase at Clearport on 6th Street.
The venue was half empty, fine, or half full, when I arrived. It was obvious that it was not meant to house people who are invested in music and felt architecturally like a top 40's rooftop club. The locals who frequent the venue spoke about how it looks different and how the people who are there do no match the typical crowd, which made it in my mind much more fun.
The artists who played there vastly ranged in genres and performance. The lineup consisted of Sweater Beats (Live), H09909, Pomo, Sad13, Frankie Rose, HAPPY MEALS, Two Feet, QUALIATIK. All of these artist were astounding to see live and each held to their own, and having seen Frankie Rose a few years ago, it was superb to see them evolve the way that they have. Seeing Frankie change her sound from what we were used to from Dum Dum Girls to doing her own thing was refreshing and the sound was more of a landscape and new wave than before. If anyone who listens closes their eyes, it sounds like an artist who would be featured on Majestic Casual without any of the generic bass.
This was nothing in comparison to what happened when Ho99o9 took the stage. The lead signer was in either a very vibrant bridesmaid dress or a very minimalist wedding dress with a blue mask that burn victims would wear. This attire can mean only one of two things, this is either going to be really good or really bad.
This hardcore hip-hop band was fucking insane. Excuse the lack of intellectual critique, but it is very difficult to describe this band. It was as if Rob Zombie and Black Flag with Lil Uzi Vert and Health with a hint of The Cramps all got together and had a sweaty disgusting unnecessary orgy, and from the juices of that is Ho99o9. Their energy was something that bands wish they could do, or should strive to do live. It was a raver bashing trill beat that belittles the current political climate. It is beyond expressing an opinion but also voicing frustration and truth from the artist’s experience. There aren't just lyrics to the songs, but passion and ambition to spread the truth to those willing to listen. This was absorbed by the crowd which gathered the energy from the band and used it for themselves. As the chorus began, the few people at the front of the stage began to jump and push and shove, thus creating the first mosh pit that I experienced as South By. It was beyond the control of any one person as bodies flew and jumped on the dance flood, which led for the band to play with more veraciousness and even louder. It was a circle of passion and frustration. A depiction of the angst felt by us all in physical form.
As the second song was playing, the venue security stopped the artist from performing by going on stage and carrying the band off the stage. A band being carried off stage is nothing new, but the way it was executed seemed a bit excessive. This led to an even more unruly crowd, with members of the band cursing out the security as they played even after their sound was cut. The audience was already beyond upset that the band was taken off. Things turned sour quickly and the entire venue decided then to shut down and kick all of the patrons out. The bars closed and no one was served drinks, and those who had drinks were forced to chug them and get out. It was an epic way to start a night.
Following that we were left to wonder the streets of Austin. Although it was a weekday, 6th Street looked as alive as a normal Thursday night. It was fairly full from people who were in the film portion of the festival. This only led to wanting to go to the more musically inclined part of the city which resides on Rainey Street. This tiny section of downtown which was the calm and tranquil part in recent years had turned into a gentrified, overly priced, IPA drinking part of town. During SXSW it plays hosts too many showcases which wish to stay away from the noise and congestion of 6th Street and focus more on the music.
The problem with being on this street or with bigger showcases, was that most of the required badges to enter. As luck were to have it, the night took us to Rainey and to look for smaller showcases to enter. Being a fan of The Walkmen, I highly sought out to see Hamilton Leithauser as he was at the Stub Hub showcase. Once at Bangers, the venue which he was playing at, the crew at the front saw the lack of audience and allowed us in without badges or paying. Unfortunately, he had finished his set early and the next artist took to the stage. This was not that bad of a circumstance whatsoever. It had been a number of years since I had seen the duo, and now trio live. The last time was with the release of their second album, “Reign of Terror,” at Warehouse Live in 2012.
Their show was raw and intense which was a perfect depiction of their music. The guitars were going off and the drum machine and bass filled the air making the solid gravel ground shake like the Jurassic park T-Rex scene. Alexis Krauss, lead singer was not just dancing and moving but was the sole energy on the entire stage as she maneuvered around Derek Edward Miller, the guitarist who tested the total amplification of the speakers. Each strum echoed into the night as the cars from 35 drove behind them in the near distance. This was just the first day at SXSW, with much more yet to ensue.