Disclaimer: The next six artists played at the Mad Decent Garage/Control Room party. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera this one night.
- Lawrence Rothman: Another LA local and one of my breakout artists of the week, Lawrence Rothman takes the rock/gospel undertones of Johnny Cash and combines them with synth-heavy electronica melodies. All of this framed by his intensely unique baritone vocals. Trust me, give this guy a listen. He’s got 300+ followers on Soundcloud and needs MORE.
- Dawn Golden: Dexter Tortoriello, better known as Dawn Golden, is by far the most expressive artist I’ve ever seen perform. His music’s epic, sweeping quality was emphasized by a soul-wrenching vocal performance and a stage-pounding playing style. Excited to see this guy live again.
Photo by the incredible Echo Giselle Widmer
- Mø: Big ups to lovely Danish singer Mø for taking a moment to acknowledge the tragic events that loomed over this year’s SXSW festival like a dark cloud. In her appeal to the audience, she asked everyone to pay their respects for those who weren’t so fortunate to join us today and to celebrate life with a positive intensity that was framed perfectly by her electro-soul performance. Couldn’t get enough of her sound!
- Cashmere Cat + Trippy Turtle: This back-to-back set was my must-see event for that particular night. Recalling now that this day was logistically the most insane. Tons of venue drama with fire marshall presence. At one point, they had to shut down the entire party, turn on the lights, and clear out exactly half of the room before starting things back up. Just as I was about to get kicked out, I walked headlong into the dark crowd to escape the room sweep. Worth every moment of waiting. Biggest surprise, I had no idea people were so batshit fanatic over Cashmere Cat. Loved the crowd energy.
- Mr. Carmack + Djemba Djemba: Another back-to-back set that I was convinced I Could. Not. Miss. I knew things were going to be good when Djembe Djembe got on the mic and told the audience that “Mr. Carmack went to go get some Jameson. Let’s just get started.” Was awesome to see the entire Mad Decent family get on stage to dance alongside these two insanely talented electronic producers.
- WhatSoNot: Sadly did not actually get to see the Aussie duo with their mind-warping and entertaining trap tracks, but be sure to follow up on their Soundcloud. My biggest bummer of the festival was not seeing them play.
- BadBadNotGood: More goodness from our good natured Canuck neighbors. The music of the instrumental jazz trio from Toronto had an epic, melodic quality similar to the likes of Hans Zimmer with hard-hitting percussion and breakdowns to get the entire crowd grimacing…at how sick their sound was. Watch them play and you’ll know.
- Classixx: My biggest yay/boo moment of SXSW. Seeing LA-based duo Classixx was one of my most anticipated experiences for the week. It happened, but unfortunately was cut very short by scheduling and technical difficulties…to the tune of only two songs played. A HUGE bummer, but hearing the beachside nu-disco duo was great every moment it lasted. No big deal. Just more reason to catch them in person next time.
Jerome LOL: Winner of the award for “best pleasant surprise” of my SXSW experience. Jerome played a cross-genre dance set at Summit, a dedicated rooftop party venue, co-hosted by Encore Beach Club and Blu ECigs company. Their party was like a snippet of Vegas, drastically different from the wood grain and whiskey vibe of all the other venues I’d been to. Originally I had no clue that I’d end up here, but hopped in by chance to meet up with some friends of friends. Really glad I did.
- Plastician: Had absolutely no inkling that I’d be seeing Plastician until the very last couple days of SXSW. I originally stumbled upon this guy through his awesome podcast series, Rinse FM. He’s a fantastic curator for what I like to call “UK swag” — low, snappy, future hip hop/trap/bass/garage that, well, screw it, just electronic music that I really enjoy.
Story continues: I saw that I’d missed him play a show, tweeted how bummed I was, and he listed the last three shows he’d be playing in the last 48 hours of SXSW. It was totally by chance that I barely managed to get myself to Republic Live, a fully stacked dubstep show with a horrendous line situation. And I have to say, it was worth the wait.
- Lil’ Jon: Legitimately, my week’s highlight. I know, I know. I’ve spent all this time talking about smaller-scale independent artists, touting the benefits of discovering underdog acts and following the road less traveled. But I don’t care — this was a hilariously awesome moment of my SXSW, the perfect cherry to cap off a full seven days as a visitor to Austin.
Story starts by tweeting to the people who threw the Summit party (see Jerome LOL above). From there, I was invited to come out and see Lil’ Jon courtesy of the good people at Blu E Cigs. I ended up with some pretty awesome access for some great shots of Mr. Jon, as well as a request from the evening’s lighting gurus to get some rooftop shots, leading me to sneak by the venue’s bartenders, go through a trap door, and climb up a rickety ladder to stand at the top of the party, “Turn Down For What” in full effect. In fact, he “loved the song so much” he played it twice (lol).
And for anyone who’s curious what a Lil’ Jon DJ set sounds like, it’s pretty much what you’d imagine: the tracklist from a Top 40s club night with big room house bangers interspersed with hip hop, EXCEPT you get the hilarious commentary of Lil’ Jon. No “WHAT?!” or “YEUUUHS” like you’d think, but instead just basic, hilarious interjections of cheeky Lil’ Jon wisdom, like when he turns off the music for a second to give a shout out to someone named Doug, only to say, “Fuck you, Doug!” then, “Just kidding. I love you Doug.”
SXSW Was Like a Lil Jon DJ Set
And what I mean by that is it was hilarious, chaotic, and unpredictable, but in a great way. My expectations were blown out of the water, and I was especially happy at how serendipitously everything came about.
And in these words, I’ve done my best to wrap up my SXSW experience in readable form, something that I’ll admit was not easy to do because for every story I’ve told today, there are 10 more stories that I couldn’t fit in. Like the mind-blowing run in with a couple who looked like they’d just gotten off a Metro in the Bronx, only to have them sit down in front of me to speak fully fluent French to each other. Or my personal heart-jerking moment: being dropped off in front of a Whole Foods after eating nothing but Texas BBQ for a week. You know, ridiculous stuff like that. (FYI, I do not consider potatoes to be vegetables.)
TL:DR: SXSW is fun as hell, but lodgings and transportation can be pretty inconvenient. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly, so if you’re interested, make sure to give it a go.