by Jason Terracina
SXSW pulled off yet another great year. With not as many massive, corporate big-label entertainers/artist as in previous years, it still (and always will) had emerging artists and musicians providing the center of the festival storm. Hip-hop for the past several years has had a major role in the festivities and this year was no different. To say this year was hip-hop's 'coming out year' or 'the year hip-hop ruled SXSW' is to have no memory of SX in the past four to five years or to have not been taying appention.
"Indie Music" (whatever that really means) has always been the core/arguably at the heart of SXSW and was the same as it ever was. The essence of indie music, experimental music, music that ushers in new sounds/reasons/perspectives, is the purpose of a conference like SXSW. The principal function is be among the industry visionaries to hear and exchange ideas. Without groups that make you feel a uncomfortable about what you're listening to because it is truly something you've not heard or thought about, with out them, we do not have a SXSW.
This year's conference was dialed back in terms of pop acts, the amount of parties (non-offical, free, day and night) and dialed back in terms of aggression. Still in full force was the quality of performances, breadth of sounds and great experiences.
I'll touch on a few of my SXSW experiences. Lets get into it.
Tuesday the 17th, I managed to catch Ernest Gonzales' opening set at Exploded Drawing's party, XXIX SXSW Edition. By design, Exploded Drawing's venue was hard to find and it took a few random stranger's guidance to finally locate the event. A relaxed dude standing with a drink in his hand silently pointed to the Juice Land rug placed on the pavement provided the "A-HA!" moment. I was told to go to the back, check in at the door and take my shoes off because the night would take place in a yoga studio converted into a dance studio. I entered a tiny room with other people removing their footware, and then around the corner I found an open studio with a wall of mirrors, wooden floors and JuiceLand serving up free drinks.
After enjoying the fruit fusion juices mixed with vodka, Mexican With Guns, A.K.A. Ernest Gonzales, A.K.A. El Guapo, A.K.A... Na, just kidding but Ernest Gonzales kicked off the night right. He laid down tracks that had a house feel with shades of his signature tribal/latin core. Using well crafted layers of sound he wove an energetic set that fed the crowd. MWG sets I'm familiar with have more of a definite tribal beat to them but this one was different in a good way. The house and drum & bass fused set at times leaned a bit industrial demanded the audience's attention. Ernest Gonzales' identifying brush stroke lies within his choice of sounds and implementation of them not merely his style of beat or sound effects. This seemingly enables him to successfully dip into and out of any genre identifiable sound and pull off a great set and or album. This can be said for exploded drawing artists and good artists in general. Lets see what else MWG progresses into?
Wednesday the 18th
Capping the night at the Empire Control Room was the Boiler Room/RayBan Showcase featuring Ghostface Killah with BADBADNOTGOOD, Rae Sremmurd, J Roc and many more. Ghostface and BADBADNOTGOOD were amazing. I've seen Ghostface with the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan and I was Nas' Mass Appeal party last SXSW and saw BADBADNOTGOOD then, but never with the 4 joining forces. I've heard bits of their album, Sour Soul, they released about a month ago, but when I heard they were doing sets together at SXSW, I made sure to catch one of them.
BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah were made for each other and destined to rule SXSW 2015. The atmosphere created with the energy of the crowd was arresting and bad ass. No fucking way was there a better performance being thrown down this SX. Ghostface's poignant vocal flow and BBNG's musicianship was cutting. Their set was tight and brought out the best in each other. Their varied set of clips spanned the many Ghostface classics, ODB classics and all in the middle a fresh instrumental medley. The good crowd loved every second of it.
After Ghostface and BBNG set the tone Rae Sremmurd, they came out all business and had a ruckus set of their own. Starting off with one of their hits No Flex Zone they kept the crowd in a frenzy on through the end where they finished with their contradictory hit No Type. Their performance was solid and at the end a dude out of no where runs from behind the stage, grabs the mic from one of the Rae boys ( think statue of liberty hand off ), jumps onto a speaker stage right and pops off a 30 second surprisingly stunning rap that ended in a 'thank you, good night' shout out.