Photo by Vickey Ford for Okayplayer
SXSW Day 1: Visa, Erykah Badu & Wu-Tang Clan Bring The Ruckus [Recap]
Our very own Elijah Watson is in Austin for SXSW. Check back each day to see what marvelous and surreal stories he has to share!
As is the case with SXSW the festivities surrounding the music portion of the annual event often kicks off on Wednesday, with Tuesday and Monday serving as appetizers to the inevitable insanity that ensues throughout the week.
Fortunately, not too much was happening on Tuesday, which led to some peculiar interactions while traveling through Downtown Austin.
Unable to get into a Noname show (the line was wrapped around the venue, and by the time I would've gotten in her set would've been done) I instead found myself at an event hosted by VISA, at a venue called Wright Bros Brew & Brew. Upon entering Brew & Brew, I was given a glowing VISA wristband from an employee that was scanned by the bartenders every time I received a drink (all of which were free).
But after a few beers and black bean empanadas, I found myself immersed in what the event was really about: VISA's strides in technological advancement for the future. There was one display that featured three different types of security VISA members could potentially use someday: a chip on a debit card that recognizes the owner's fingerprint; a scanner that not only recognizes a person's fingerprint but also the veins within them; and a laser scanner that you slowly move your fingers through as a form of recognition.
By the end of the demo I was already impressed, but the employee guiding me through each security device had one more thing to show me. Around one of her fingers had been this black ring — sleek, tungsten. The ring was actually a debit card. I can't recall the technical jargon the employee offered me about how the device will work (because, drunk), but the revelation was simultaneously intriguing and unnerving. That we continue to move towards this interconnected hyper cyber world is inevitable, but terrifying nonetheless. But this is what I signed up for — behind every free glass of beer or appetizer served on a napkin, something is waiting to be sold to you at SXSW.
Following VISA I made my way to the ACL Live at the Moody Theater, for a DC showcase that included Erykah Badu (performing as DJ Low Down Loretta Brown), Wu-Tang Clan and Thievery Corporation, as well as legendary go-go groups Rare Essence and the Backyard Band.
All I can recall about Rare Essence is that they brought out DJ Kool to perform "Let Me Clear My Throat," which was incredible. People were jumping up and down — from the floor area all the way to the second, third and fourth floors — and singing the song's hook with drunken glee.
After Rare Essence, DJ Trauma led the audience in a dancing frenzy, playing a set that featured everything from New York staples (Jay Z's "PSA"; Biggie's "Hypnotize"; and Nas' "The World Is Yours") to Migos chart-topping hit "Bad & Boujee," Ms. Badu took the stage.
Badu's set seemed to go as quickly as it came, but I still enjoyed myself. The most recent times I've seen her DJ she always finds a way to drop The Time's "777-9311" into her set, which is low-key one of Prince's most underrated contributions as a producer (the programmed, skittering hi-hats of "777-9311" essentially foreshadowed its takeover in contemporary rap music. Prince, always and forever a trendsetter).
Getting to hear "Lebanese Blonde" live by Thievery Corporation was cool, but I definitely used the group's downtempo soundtrack to rest my legs... and take a nap.
By two in the morning I was greeted by Wu-Tang Clan, but I was so comfortable that I happily waved my W from the comfort of a soft, reclined chair. Watching the Wu has become predictable and that's not necessarily a bad thing. They give their fans what they want — the hits. And as long as the hits are played the fans could care less who of the Wu collective pops up, although they always usually have a core in attendance — RZA, GZA, Raekwon.
Halfway through their set Wu invited Badu back onstage where she sang a cappella, with the members standing off to the sides her voice ringing throughout the Moody Theater.
I'm not sure if the set ended with that or if it continued on for a little longer, but it was a great way to end off what had been an already enjoyable day — the sound of Badu's angelic voice resonating in my mind as I walked through the dark streets of Austin.
If you're looking for real-time coverage of SXSW, or are "looking to build" and "f**k with the vision" while in Austin, make sure to follow Elijah on Twitter (@ElijahCWatson)!