Photo Credit Paul Ramirez
To clarify, I did not wake up early enough to catch Bun B‘s SXSW Keynote interview with J. Prince. I was given special clearance to sleep in and took full advantage. So I head into town with Dpat for some barbecue at Freedmen‘s. Once we sit down, the messages start flooding in. Whether at a show or over text, the question you hear most at SXSW during the day is: “Are you going to Illmore?”
Even as I’m walking into FADER Fort with Tory Lanez and Dpat, thanks to the magical finesse powers of Jamil Davis, everyone is asking the same question. “Yo, am I gonna see you at Illmore tonight?”
At a festival that has grown in such a way, that you’re forced to hyper prioritize your friends and contacts, Illmore is the one place you can relax and just talk with folks you’ve been spending all week trying to catch up with. The daytime schedule is just too crazy. You’re budgeting time to catch one set at The Mohawk on 10th & Red River then run all the way down to Rainey Street to catch the next set. There’s just no time for engaged conversation until you get to Illmore. But the irony is: not everyone is getting into Illmore — and there’s not much you can really do about it. Kudos to folks like Trey and Cheyenne at Giant Noise, Illmore’s hired PR help, who keep a level head throughout the night and turn down finesse requests with the calmest demeanor.
I digress… Back at FADER, after debating the merits of falafel vs. shawarma with Illmore’s Sascha Stone, OG Tuma Basa introduces me to Amir Abassy. There aren’t too many Arabs in the biz, happy to meet another one. I turn my head and catch a glimpse of Little Simz, wandering around the bar. After a hug and traditional greetings, we grab a seat to enjoy some lemonade. Simz introduces me to Kehlani, I introduce Rembert to Simz, and just as quickly security is kicking people out.
The wristband that got some people back here was apparently time sensitive and no longer being honored. They’re trying to kick Simz out, but I’m not having it. She didn’t travel across two ponds to get kicked out. No way. I keep the police and security at bay until Jamil arrives to once again finesse a wristband for Simz.
I’m talking to Kehlani about maybe coming by Bun’s birthday concert. She recognizes that Bun is the Trill OG, but it sounds like her schedule is booked up for the night.
A crack of lightning and just like that FADER Fort shuts down after Tory Lanez performance. Texas weather means we have monsoon rain for 30 minutes and clear skies afterwards, no buffer.
The rain pushes me into Bun’s show about an hour early, not a bad thing. After setting my stuff down, I do my usual round of handshakes with security and venue managers.
We’re going to fast forward to 12:30 AM, when Bun takes the stage for his birthday show. It’s not as star-studded an affair as last year, but Joey Badass and Statik Selektah show up straight from London to take the stage.
Bun is a little bit stressed from having to put together his birthday show in less than 24 hours, but he’s channeling that energy into his performance and the crowd loves it.
After closing out with “International Player’s Anthem,” it’s off to Illmore where Bun is scheduled play but won’t end up doing a set because the venue is at capacity and he’s rolling deep tonight. The Money Team bus is parked outside, ain’t no way all those dudes are getting in. Some of them do, though. They’re roaming around with a camera and maybe the brightest LED light of all-time.
I’m in the Blue Room getting oriented when some drunk dude walks by and shouts into his phone, “It’s a purple-ass room with a bowling alley!”
This is clearly the Blue Room, so I automatically don’t trust that guy.
The rain earlier essentially nixed the hookah setup on the patio, Rembert can’t get in, and Bun wasn’t able to bring in his posse, so I don’t feel too great about the night.
Statik Selektah walks by, a few drinks in, and asks, “Yo, where’s Bun?”
I tell him the situation and he shakes his head, “Nuff said, man.” Statik is gone for the night.
Joe Budden is walking around solo, looking really sad. I don’t know Joe, but this doesn’t seem out of character for him.
All at once, Marvel (who produced “Shabba” for ASAP Ferg), Dpat, Amaya and Yousef all end up in the center of the blue room. Yousef was wearing a camo jacket so I almost didn’t see him. I’ve got jokes.
Upstairs, in the Red Room I see Jazz, a young woman attending The University of Texas who runs Orange Magazine and runs with some of the Mud Magazine crew. She’s one of the official Illmore photographers and is walking on a cloud right now because of how gracefully Vince Staples handled her camera troubles a few moments earlier.
“He hugged me,” Jazz says through a bright smile.
Another Jazz, Jazz Cartier, is in the main room swinging from the ceiling. Metro Boomin, Bas & Cozz (from Dreamville), They and Rae Sremmurd all performed. But Jazz Cartier is swinging from the MF ceiling. To use the parlance of our times, it’s lit. This is a LITuation.
Yes Julz is roaming around, so is Aleali May, and the building has been at capacity for an hour now. I don’t know what they do, but people I trust told me they do cool shit. The line is spilling out onto the street, and it looks like there’s no hope. If that’s the situation for tonight, who knows what it’s gonna look like with a rumored Drake appearance tomorrow.
At 3:30, it’s incredibly packed. Dpat, producer/singer Asante and I walk out. We were going to make a b-line straight to my car, but they have some arcade style basketball hoops. Dpat usually smokes me in 2k, so this is my chance for redemption. In a best of three series, I go 1-2. At least I got one. I’ll take that.
And with that, we’re out. Night two is in the books. Tomorrow night is the last Illmore night ever, I’m expecting grand flourishments to be bestowed upon us all.