Okayplayer’s All-Encompassing Adventuristic Experience At SXSW 2018 [Recap]
Micah Young, along with photography extraordinare Vickey Ford of Sneakshot Photography, shares with us the fuckery and foolishness that was SXSW 2018.
Picture it: Austin, 2018. The last hints of winter have left the Southwest and spring is nearly upon us. Nearly every possible surface capable of holding a poster, billing or advertisement has been wrapped in cellophane; streets have been blocked off and hotel prices have “mysteriously” doubled their nightly rates. That’s right folks, it’s the time of year again, it’s South By Southwest time!
SXSW is the annual 10-day conference held in the most musical of southwestern cities, Austin, Texas. Comprising “educational, music and film” festivals, along with an Interactive and Gaming conference, SXSW is the behemoth first quarter event detailing everything cool and next for the year and years to come. Tech demonstrations directly from the future; educational thought leaders and innovators; filmmakers and musicians from every corner of the globe come to town to do what they do, and we come to cover, see, dance, party and soak it all in.
Hopefully we all learn a thing or two, have some fun and at least find a new favorite band to enjoy. Here is Okayplayer’s daily recap of the festivities, fuckery and foolishness that marked SXSW 2018.
DAY 1: March 13th
And so it begins. After getting badged, tagged and credentialed it was time to hit a few showcases. First was the Soundcloud Showcase at The Native Hostel to see South Side Chicago native, Melo Makes Music. Melo was making his only official appearance at SXSW and the waiting crowd was here for it. Plied with free booze (the best kind) and all the stickers, fidget spinners and white sunglasses an overactive 20-something could handle, the crowd was ready for Melo to take the stage. They sang along, chanted and bobbed their heads to the trap influenced 808s. While not necessarily my brand of whiskey, the kids seemed to enjoy themselves and that’s really all that matters. The connection to the audience can make or break a performance, and the assembled as I said, the assembled lils were here for it. What followed was a whirlwind of showcases at every corner of downtown Austin that went from lit to lounge to lit again.
Jordan Rakei delivered a soulful set to a capacity crowd at Elysium. From behind his keyboard, Jordan crooned like a late ‘90s Lewis Taylor and looked the part as well. The audiences couldn’t have been more different between Jordan and Melo. While one was primarily young, tragically hip and trendy, constantly Snap-booking the event to their selfie feed (I’m sure those are things young people do, right?); the other looked more like the former’s teachers, out on the town for the night.
Next was Blvck Spvde at Parish on E 6th Ave. followed by Duckwrth across the highway at Lustre Perle. Blvck Spvde’s set was apart of the RAS day showcase centering on left of center soul, jazz and hip-hop acts. Blvck’s set featured a live band for several funky, jazzy numbers. Blvck invokes the spirit of afro-futurists ancestors of Sun-Ra and the Queen Nina Simone in songs as cool as the other side of the pillow. Duckwrth, performing his third show of the night brought all the heat and energy as if it were his first. Duckwrth showed himself worthy of every ounce of buzz and hype he has garnered over last few months. Effortlessly blending hip-hop, R&B and what he calls “ugly” funk, the Los Angeles native is set to have a moment in 2018. He calls his sound ugly, because once the bass groove hits you, all you can do is screw your face up ugly-like and say, “DAMN, that n***a’s UGLY!” While these showcases were planned, scheduled and printed in the official Musical Guide handed out at registration, SXSW doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes a show pops up at the last minute, a sponsor will throw a show together and drop the word via social media accounts, spinning fans and curious music lovers into a frenzy. This is what happened next.
Back across town at the Mohawk Austin, Miguel and Jhené Aiko fell through Austin to deliver surprise sets at the Tinder Swipe Showcase at Mohawk Austin. While rumors swirled all day, nothing was confirmed until a few hours before the show. The uncertainty created a buzz, and a buzz created the one of the most feared specters at SXSW, a line.
This was the first of a recurring theme of our time in Austin, something we’d like to call “The Line Conundrum”.
“The Line Conundrum” is like game theory for event attendance. Due to strict capacity statutes, attendance is never guaranteed at any SXSW showcase, panel or event, and as such, you must weigh your time appropriately. Do you wait on line for the thing you might get into, or explore and absolutely get into something else? Do you gamble on an at-capacity maybe or a low attended sure thing? This is the struggle of attending a massive event like SXSW where you simply cannot see everything at once.
As for me, on this night, we gambled on Duckwrth killing enough line time and thinning the herd. By the time we made it back across town from Lustre Perle to Mohawk, the line was non-existent, and we slid in as Jhené finished her set. She was ethereal in her kimono and her angelic voice was a perfect digestif after the rocking Duckwrth show. Miguel brought the energy back to 11 with his kinetic band and expert stage show. Decked in what appeared to a very expensive hemp bathrobe, Miguel led the assembled fans through his catalogue of not-so subtle suggestive tunes. He and his band whipped everyone into a frenzy with his latest, “Sky Walker,” and ended my first night in Austin with a bang.
All told, I saw six shows at five clubs in about three hours. I walked over six miles between the convention center registration process and picking up credentials in addition to seeing showcases. Not bad for the first day.