The most important thing I learned from being at SXSW is that I should not under any circumstances make any decisions to move to Austin based on my experience at SXSW. Yes, the city is amazing, hip, and fun for 10 days out of the year, but what about the other 355? I’m willing to bet at least 60 percent of attendees thought to themselves “You know what, I could totally see myself living here.” For San Franciscans and New Yorkers, that number is probably 80 percent. Not to mention, summertime in Austin is a devil’s combo of Arizona heat and Deep South humidity. In addition there’s only one light rail line in this huge sprawl of a city; Austin’s population is a little larger than San Francisco’s but has more than five times the square mileage. I feel this is necessary to point out because I have a feeling there are a dozen or so people every year who did this and after a couple months of living here they panic and are like “Oh god! Why did I sign that one-year lease!”
On to day three (Friday).
Part of the reason I was so excited to visit Austin was for the barbeque, specifically brisket. My original plan was to visit the famous Franklin’s BBQ, a place that usually has a three-hour wait. But when I saw that people were camping out in line, I said scratch that. The first two days were brisket free for me, therefore my third day had to be brisket day. I went to some place called Noah’s and had a brisket plate and a brisket sandwich to go. The plate was good at first and then became mediocre half-way through. When I had the sandwich later on in the day, it was dried out and there virtually useless, I still ate it anyway. My determination to find a decent a brisket joint was still undeterred. I found a food truck area and convinced myself to order a $10 brisket sandwich. It too was mediocre. My friend had a brisket from another food stand, I had a bite of it and it didn’t do anything to impress. Here’s another lesson for you, food at big events sucks, it’s the more expensive and mass-produced version of itself; Outside Lands is very guilty of this.
Anyway, back to the music.
Day three was also my sleep-in and rest day. Walking 14 miles a day with sun in your eyes and loud noise in your ears and staying out to 2 or 3am can really wreck you. At around 4pm, I’m fully recharged and I make my way to the Fader Fort for one last hurrah. Unfortunately, this time around even the badge-people are having a hard time getting. I’m stuck in line for 80 minutes, while my friends are enjoying the hedonism of the Fader Fort. I finally get in, I catch the last three songs of Young Thug’s raucous set. I find my friends and we decide to bounce, I bid adieu to the Fader Fort.
For our last night in Austin, my friends and I decide that we’re going to stick to one showcase and spend the entire night. We finally decided on the Fool’s Gold showcase hosted by A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs. On the bill was A-Trak, Migos, Travis Scott, Black Atlas, Treasure Fingers, Berkeley rapper 100s, and about 234 other rappers and DJs. We get in line two hours before doors open at 8 and of course there are already 30 people in front of us. We pass the time by playing games, eating dinner, and making new friends with our line buddies. Then 8pm rolls around, the moment we’ve been waiting for. Nothing happens besides someone telling us to form a strict single-file line. Then at 8:40, we make our way in knowing our patience will be greatly rewarded.
The waiting, however, is not over. The first hour and a half of acts are by and large forgettable. They're all rappers whose gimmicks, fist-pumping, and attempts to “turn up” were doing little to affect the crowd.
Four hours after we got in line, the real fun kicks in when Treasure Fingers hops on the ones and twos. He spins a bombastic set of fast-paced galloping electro and bass-drenched hip hop, a near perfect threading of the border between hip-hop and electronic music. Fool’s Gold co-head Nick Catchdubs takes over the DJ baton after Treasure Fingers and switches to a more hip-hop centric set that's just as exciting. Sweet vindication for all that time waiting is settling in, my version of the marshmallow experiment.
However, I was not prepared for the next two and a half hours. I had never experienced such a colossal amount of hip-hop bravado, swagger, and stage presence packed into such a small space (the venue was a car repair garage.) 100s led off this hip-hop marathon with his silky perm and synth-hop beats. When they say SXSW is a platform for artists to take off, they’re talking about artists like 100s.
A-Trak takes the stage after 100s and starts turntabling for a bit and then out of a nowhere Danny Brown pops out as the “surprise” guest of evening. The crowd goes wild even though despite this being one of the least surprising guests SXSW. Danny Brown throws down a rambunctious set mostly because the crowd is so hyped to see him. He yells “Where’s the molly at?!” of course, then does one more song and bows out to Migos.
As soon as they grab the mic, it's apparent that Migos are natural performers. Not too many acts can have an iron-fisted control over a mob of drunk and high hip-hop fans. During “Versace” and “Hannah Montana,” the energy in the air is so palpable I think the entire place was going to collapse. Then Young Thug bursts out of nowhere, causing an earthquake registering a 7.2 on the richter scale. Tsunami warnings are issued all along the Texas and Gulf coasts.
Young Thug and Migos
It's one of the most “Can’t stop, won’t stop” moments I've ever witnessed in hip-hop. More and more guests like A$AP Ferg, Travis Scott, and YG. Each guest somehow finding a way to turn up the crowd more. Every time I feel like we've reach peak turn-up, the next track manages to turn up even more.
At the end of this hip-hop extravaganza, I am left nearly catatonic and speechless. I literally OD on hip-hop, and plan to go cold turkey for the rest of the month. When I regain consciousness, a pain and numbness takes over my legs, leaving me with the daunting task of walking two miles home.