SXSW 2012: Let’s Get Massive, Part 3

Continuing on….

**-Saturday, March 17–**

I killed two birds easily by lighting off to [Waterloo Records][1] for one of the shop’s parking lot shows today. As I’d missed [Kid Congo Powers][2] (ex-Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Gun Club, The Cramps, Divine Horsemen, et al) earlier in the week I made sure to catch him here. He played a tight, relatively short set of about 25 minutes or so and interspersed his utterly original garage rock (perhaps the only genre that has always been distinguished by the question “How many different ways can a person play the same three chords?â€) with charming banter of a sort I can hardly imagine any of his ex-band mates engaging in. Seeing him in the bright light of day was less of a disappointment than I’d anticipated, too. Not everything translates from dark clubs to sun-shiny afternoon outdoor stages but Powers obliterated the distinction.

After poking around very quickly inside Waterloo Records (which itself constituted the second of the two birds killed as I’d never been inside before) I hustled to catch a brief five minutes of [D/R/U/G/S][3] at Latitude 30 (worth it, should have stayed longer as you’ll read…) and while Callum Wright certainly played to his best his set wasn’t really making the daytime transition as well as Powers’ did. I closed my eyes for a minute and he was great but then opened them and everything was all washy and weirdly muted by too much visual stimulation (crowds walking by, traffic, etc.).

But it’s confession time and I gotta admit the only reason I’d allowed a mere five minutes for Callum’s project was because I was heading back to the convention center to see a live interview with the furious Faygo twins Insane Clown Possee. It would have all gone wonderfully if they’d bothered to show up. ICP canceled their session without any public announcement or explanation. The only word I could get from SXSW even semi-officially came from a staffer at the door to the room where it was to be held and he simply said—with an air of having been asked too many times–â€It had nothing to do with us.â€

And with that the Dark Carnival just got a lot darker.

So I went down to the 40 Watt’s annual Athens In Austin party. Right when I got there, I took a seat on a picnic table near the back to sort through some photos and just relax for a minute. Then this happened:

Right after I snapped this a mid-20s-ish couple came up to me and stated asking me where Pennywise was playing that night. I had no idea so they started showing me schedules on their iPhones which didn’t help at all. They asked where I was from and I told them. Then they asked if I knew any of the bands playing right then at the place where we were. I said, “Um, yeah. This is the Athens party. Do you know where you are?†They didn’t. They’d just heard some noise and stumbled in off the street, a position I sympathize with.

I was only planning on stopping by for a few minutes to snap some photos and that’s pretty much what I did. Love ya, Athens bands, but I see you around town all year long. So here’s what I snapped. Enjoy!

I needed to head back down to the [Fader Fort presented by Converse][4] to see what was gonna happen during the the “TBA†and “SPECIAL GUESTS†slots of 7 and 8 pm. The place was packed tighter than I’d seen all week and rumors were rampant: Jay-Z, T.I., Outkast, Lil’ Wayne, Nas and others were all objects of speculation even though only a few seemed reasonable. The way it worked out was that [Stalley][5], [Gangsta Boo][6]

and [Drumma Boy][7] did their thing over the better part of an hour before the big surprise of….

[Rick Ross][8], AKA Ricky Rozay, AKA Ricky Ross The Bawse.

(Slight aside: I had this whole idea of doing a section in this recap comparing Springsteen and Ross and calling it “A Tale Of Two Bosses†but that proved too unwieldy. But I liked the title and that’s my entire reason for mentioning it at all. Also of note, Flagpole writer David Fitzgerald had already sort of tipped me to the idea that it was gonna be Rick Ross. He had his ear a lot closer to the ground.)

After so much waiting and wondering it was hard to discern completely if the crowd was cheering out of pure love for Ross or out of relief from anticipation. From where I was standing—approximately 50 yards or so from the stage—after about three songs people crowded toward the middle were leaving but their spots were filled immediately with those rushing forward. So it’s a draw. Seeing Ross onstage was definitely a little thrilling and he’s a definite showman. Although he seemed to get a little winded at the midway point and his DJ played that completely irritating “M-M-M-M-M MAYBACH MUSIC†sample over and over and over again throughout the set (Don’t know it? Well, [here ya go][9]) Ross casts a thoroughly intimidating shadow and commands the stage. The big pull quote from the show—at least what got thrown around thousands of times on Twitter– was his saying “Every boss in the game started from the ground up as a worker.” Hmmm. You know, for all the profundity that seemed to embody at the time even those with a cursory knowledge of hip hop history should take that as obvious. One thing is certain, though, Ross puts on a *show*. And nearly everyone in the crowd seemed to know every lyric of every track.

Do you see that guy in the suit up there to Ross’s right? He was onstage the entire show. He wound up in nearly all my photos, too. Everyone around me kept asking everyone else around me who he was and no one had any idea (private security was the best guess I heard) but he radiated an intensity and reason-for-being-there that just gave off this whole vibe that it was probably *him*, and not Ross, that no one really wanted to mess with.

One guy watched the whole through *through* his iPad. This is next level, folks. Feel free to name this level whatever you like.

Here’s some more shots from before and after Ross’s appearance. Hopefully they’ll impart some idea of the layout of this place and the size of the crowd.

By the time I split it was after 9 pm and I had to get my luggage packed, get showered and get down to the Austin Music Hall to catch Oakland rapper [Kreayshawn][10] at Perez Hilton’s [“One Night In Austinâ€][11] benefit for VH1’s Save The Music Foundation. (OK, this is a boring part of the story. Shortened: I did all the above.)

Kreayshawn was delayed by over an hour which was seriously crimping my plans for the rest of the night but she finally came on at midnight, played a tight set of pretty much only the most well-known tracks of hers ([“Gucci Gucciâ€][12], [“Bumpin’, Bumpin’â€][13], “Rich Whoresâ€, etc.). Hands down, though, this was the most surprisingly uplifting show I saw all week. Sure, Jimmy Cliff and Little Roy were awe-inspiring, Springsteen’s speech overwhelming and jaw dropping and Zola Jesus, The Men and the whole Sacred Bones crew artistically satisfying. But Kreayshawn’s show—performed with sidekick MC V-Nasty—was a singular moment of someone enjoying performing so much that their joy just filled the room. I don’t care if that sounds overly romantic or stupid. For approximately 30 minutes inside the Austin Music Hall cynicism wasn’t just unwelcome it would have been unrecognizable had it shown up. I mean, it’s not like this was church or anything. Dig her lyrics; can’t play ’em for grandma, you know. But still, there was something veneer-less and, I dunno, just *happy* about her.

Since it was already 1 am or so it was time to get to the Vice Kills Texas party and close out the night.

By the time I got there Trash Talk was almost over. As expected the middle of the crowd was basically in riot formation with flood-like amounts of water, beer, etc being thrown at the band, from the band, at the crowd, from the crowd, from and toward everyone within a good 50 foot radius. It wasn’t exactly like the last days of Rome or anything but might have been similar to the last days of some long forgotten western mining town where the ore is all gone but there’s just enough booze left to kill off every infection and worry before morning hits and you’ve got to pack it all up. Speaking of which, someone left this sitting on a table and I’ve got a feeling they were really missing it the next day.

I’ve seen Trash Talk a handful of times. Every single time they manage to create a huge hole in the crowd where 100-200 insane, testosterony young men create a Mad Max environment expands rapidly into innocent bystanders. On the other hand, there may be no innocent bystanders at a Trash Talk show. Being on the periphery of violence–whether actual, imitated or *merely intimated*–especially in the context of a rock show gives everyone a story to tell and if you can get that story without a fist to the face, all the better.

It’s long been accepted (for pretty indefensible reasons and, mostly, for the worse) that even the most bone-headed thrashing about at hardcore shows is par for the culture and, indeed, something is likely amiss if there’s not a certain amount of extroverted he-manisms happening. By the end of its set Trash Talk was instructing its crowd to bum rush the bar at the back of the building. Check out the 1:37 point in the video below…

That’d be enough to have any normal show shut down but, like I said, there’s a certain amount of this that people expect and, obviously, this fell into that category.

All of which is to say what happened in the next hour is kind of incredible.

A$AP Rocky had already played a lot of shows this week. By my count he’d already done three this same day. He and his crew were exhausted and most likely drunk and high as the highest kites. Still, they all managed to get onstage and start their show strongly. Even though A$AP Rocky really isn’t my thing I could recognize it was a decent performance. At this point, though, it was about 2:30-ish am and I went outside to look for a couple of friends I knew were there but hadn’t seen yet. That proved totally unfruitful so I abandoned the mission after about 15 minutes and tried to go back inside. A red-shirted security guard said they were clearing the building and the show was shut down. I asked why and he responded:

**”Big fight. The whole band. Every single one of those fuckers on stage.”**

I thought at first he meant the band and crew had gotten in some sort of fight between themselves. What actually happened was, well, just look:

People can talk all they want about gangsta shit and whatever but when I watch this I see a bunch of guys who are exhausted–and perhaps a little too amped on substances but whatever–and trying to do their show to a crowd that was basically told by Trash Talk to destroy the place. They don’t even mind water being thrown at them but cans and booze, you know, should be set aside. They’ve been dealing with stage divers. Someone gets their bandana ripped off. And people *keep throwing things* at them while they’re trying to speak. I’m surprised they were as patient as they were. In the end a few folks were bloodied.

I have zero idea what the internal operations of the party were or who had the final call (i.e. internal security or the Austin police) but I find myself feeling a little bad for A$AP Rocky and his crew. It’s as if Trash Talk had unwittingly set them up.

While walking away I saw a kid, probably in his early 20s, holding a bag of ice to his bloody head and climbing onto the back of a scooter driven by a woman around his same age. As they were trying to drive off a bunch of guys surrounded them–but let them leave after a minute or so–and yelled at him, “YOU RUINED A$AP! YOU RUINED A$AP!” Who knows if he was the actual instigator or just someone caught up?

Either way, the party was over and I had a plane to catch.

By 4:30 am I was at the Austin airport–thankfully alive after the most terrifying 80 MPH shuttle ride of my life–and going through security with Tommy Lee. By noon I was back in Athens.

Then I slept for 15 hours straight.


Oh, yeah, remember in the very beginning of [Part 1][14] when I mentioned having to get out to [Top Notch][15]? I did that Saturday morning. It took two city buses and about three hours (only 25 minutes there but a CRAZY over two-hours back due to bus delays and rerouting because of SXSW) but was totally worth it. But why?

Blame [Richard Linklater][16]. You’ll recognize the place as the drive-in where Matthew McConaughey starts spreading the word about a party at the [moon tower][17] in *[Dazed And Confused][18]*.

I’ve always been partial to the grumpy words uttered by character Tony Olson: “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I swore to God I’d never come to a Top Notch and here I am sorting through jalapeno burgers and soggy fries…”. (Note: The actual food at Top Notch is pretty tasty. Kind of like a much less greasy [Varsity][19].)

This place is now part of pop culture history. Admittedly, it wouldn’t have mattered so much if I wasn’t a fan of the movie. For me, it’s not all that different seeking this place out than walking a ton of dusty Texas-sized blocks to see legacy acts or waiting in line for hours to see Bruce Springsteen speak. (I know we’re supposed to kill our idols and that shit punk force fed us for decades but there was probably never a genre so bent on iconography as punk in the first place, even if it was a reactionary sort. Whatever. I can think for myself.) I’d spent the week visiting icons, anyway. From Springsteen to Jesus & Mary Chain to Jimmy Cliff. Austin itself, even.

Icons, idols, whoever, whatever…the point of all of this, every ringing ear and every 19 hour day, is, as Wooderson said, “You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N.”

**Consider it done.**

(Read Part One [HERE][20])

(Read Part Two [HERE][21])



[3]: http:///