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Rear-view: SXSW 2016

photo by Nichole Connor

photo by Nichole Connor

Jason Terracina: SXSW 2016 was a different one. (Full disclosure I'm an employee of SXSW this time - these are my opinions, words and no one else's). Sticking to the observable changes and differences that we all can see and feel, at 30 years, it felt like SXSW found a good groove. The restricted permitting process, the cognizant and tangible emphasis on safety, the visible APD presence in strategic locations and the quality of performances all contributed to a certain confidence and feel of "senior year vs being a freshman."  

For seasoned SXSW goers, in general, things were not incredibly different, but then again nothing ever surprises those people anyway, right? This year's conference had it's most notable keynote speakers in the Obamas, Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah. The Obamas were in and out of town with no more traffic obstruction than the usual road fatalities that are becoming way too familiar in this city.  

There was a bull rush at the gates of Austin Music Hall and a firing of a gun into the air on 6th St. (not a "shooting"). Yes, there was the remove-your-Hijab faux pas, pepper spray to the face of a handcuffed detainee and spontaneous show cancellations. All of which will either see their day in the social media court, or actual court. Of course the ever anticipated unknown "special guests" were endless. Music lovers and scenesters alike had to make excruciating decisions on which showcase to try to get into in order to be at the best, greatest and classiest show of all SXSW time!   

Lower Dens by Kaitlyn Lang-Ricci

Lower Dens by Kaitlyn Lang-Ricci

Edmond Ortiz: This year marked San Antonio's biggest official activation at South by Southwest, but mostly for the local tech and culinary community. Led by the new nonprofit Choose San Antonio, a coalition of more than 30 private and public sector partners supported -- in various ways -- panel discussions, parties, a three-day takeover a bar on Sixth Street and a trade show space that resembled an icehouse, complete with Cruz Ortiz's artwork.
 
The San Antonio's presence at this year's South by was more organized than in previous years, and reflects the growth in the city's tech sector and culinary and political talent. But the city still lacks representation - at least larger scale and more collectively -- in the film and music parts of the Austin festival. In film, two local high school students got to screen their short movies. The San Antonio Film Commission was a co-sponsor in a reception for filmmakers. Kiko Martinez, editor at CineSnob.com, attended the film festivities and even got to interview Don Cheadle, who spoke during SXSW. Local filmmaker and educator Sam Lerma, and Adam Rocha, director of the San Antonio Film Festival, helped to promote San Antonio at the city's trade show space, talking with attendees about how San Antonio is a hub for creative professionals.

by Nichole Connor 

by Nichole Connor 

Edmond Ortiz: San Antonio musicians seemed to have the same number of opportunities to play for official and unofficial SXSW showcases and parties as in previous years. Patricia Vonne sang at The Continental Club while Illustrations rocked Sledge Hammer, and Deer Vibes played St. David's Episcopal Church (the same night as Joe Scarborough and his band performed). Additionally, the Last Bandoleros provided their take on alt country at The Majestic, and the multidisciplinary art collective, House of Kenzo, performed at Barcelona. Memories in Broken Glass brought their metal to The Dirty Dog Bar. Nina Diaz of Girl in a Coma stayed plenty busy with her band, as they played at a party for the San Antonio SXSW initiative at Old School Bar and Grill (nicknamed Casa San Antonio during the festival's first weekend). She had some more shows toward the festival's final weekend, including a chance downtown street meeting with George Clinton that was captured by onlookers via social media.

 But San Antonio hip hop and DJs (natives and current residents) had quite the showing in Austin, with showcases from K.P. the Profit, Worldwide, Creep$ide, Drew Anderson, DJ Sermon, Five 2 Oh, Casey Jay, Jarrell, DJ Hella Yella and Dante "Nawm$aiyan" Maurice. Overall, as per every SXSW, one's chances at getting into a preferred event depends mainly on how fast you get to the venue. Nina Diaz at the Choose San Antonio party had a decent crowd and a lively set from Diaz and her band. Patricia Vonne had a good turnout for her Saturday night set at The Continental, and she's just as alluring now as she was when she first burst onto the scene years ago.


Jason Terracina: There were some truly, extremely, amazing, outstanding, brilliant shows at this year's SXSW. Miike Snow and Baio put on a great show at Bangers hosted by StubHub. Pure Bathing Culture had the mesmerized crowd eating out of their hands in the rain at The Mohawk. Anderson Paak gave it to them good with a refreshing live R&B/HIp-Hop performance before SBTRKT turned the Hype Hotel into an old school warehouse rave and made everyone sweat on a cool night. Nas' Mass Appeal Live at the BBQ showcase with DJ Khaled had more special guests and historical hip-hop talent ever to grace an Austin, Texas stage at one time.

I saw Chairlift open for Blood Orange at the Copper Tank. I had been waiting for the opportunity to see Blood Orange for sometime now since they don't tour often. The Copper Tank isn't a typical music venue and it's small, compact "intimate" feel played right into the hands of Dev Hynes' R&B cutting sound. He opened the set with a duet with Chairlift's Caroline Polachek. Everything was on. The sound had been checked perfectly, the back up singers were vocally enhancing and beautiful, the guitars were crisp and catchy and Dev Hynes was passionately juicy. Blood Orange's timely prose of love, heart ache and conquering in the new millennium was captivating through the low lit haze of the hall. The performance was as great as I ever imagined it and more.

Edmond Ortiz: More often than not, Stubb's BBQ does not disappoint when you're in a pinch to get in and see someone you really want to see. Charli XCX and her new collaborator, producer Sophie, had a few appearances at SXSW this year. But Friday night, the duo saved the show with an avant-electro side that differs mightily from Charli XCX's pop/punkish approach from the last couple of years. I say saved the show because before Charli XCX & Sophie, Crystal Castles hit the stage later than scheduled. After 15 minutes of uninspired music and misses with the sound, Crystal Castles walked off stage once, tried again, failed and then left for good. What was already a sour festival for them, being removed from Tumblr's feminist-party following Alice Glass' departure, only worsened. 

After Charli XCX and her many "what the fuck is up, South by!" Santigold dominated the Stubbs stage. She was not fazed by sound problems that plagued Crystal Castles. Her lyrical stylings, enthusiasm and smile carried the crowd past 1 a.m. 

Then there's the final Saturday night, which of course is chaos in a sense with so many people in downtown trying to score one final great show. Steve Aoki's headlining show at The Main was at capacity long before his set began after midnight. So it was off to The Mohawk for Joey Bada$$, except that too was at capacity for post-midnight set. But Cheer Up Charlies still had plenty of room to party on the outside with Har Mar Superstar, who late into his set didn't care for the chilly weather and threw off his shirt and dashed into the crowd with the mic in his hand. Inside the bar, Sons of an Illustrious Father performed an approrpriately initimate set as the night grew very late.
 

photos by Nichole Connor, Kaitlyn Lang-Ricci and Edmond Ortiz. video by Jason Terracina.

Jason Terracina: You know what else was great? The Roots with Big Grams at the Bud Light Factory. This production was expansive in every way from the process of getting in, to the known line up, down to every single special guest. Of course with The Roots and Big Grams playing only one show, together no less, everyone wanted in, including me. The line was long and arduous to get in but for those select few who did, they say it was worth it.

The Roots for about 75% of the show were the band or back up band for everyone. The Roots played some cover tracks and had invited a few up and comers to open the show up and get the crowed ready. You could tell the crowd was anxious for the big names to start the hits, so patience for the new sounds were slim. The up-and-comers did a damn good job no less.

After that - it was all a blur. The Roots stepping aside and when Big Grams finally came out and dropped their new work on the crowds ears, everyone responded with energy and a loving familiarity. Big Grams is the collaboration of Big Boi of Outkast and Phantogram. Both parties are arguably at the top of their artistic games and it showed. Not all pairings and meshing of genres are equal, no matter how big or talented the names involved are. With Big Grams they've managed to have one fingerprint that sounds like it was always meant to be.

I could go on for a while discussing the fresh, triumphant solid work they've given us but lets get back to that crazy show. So, Big grams comes out, does their thing and the crowd is going nuts. After that set with about a minute of change over, Phantogram does a three /four song set and then Big Boi comes out and drops a 3-4 track set. All the hits, ALL. Of. Them. After that The Roots do a set, then Yo Gotti and then Talib Kweli. The crowed is getting wild. Then Ashanti comes out, the girls go crazy and then finally Naughty by Nature comes out and everyone is going crazy. All playing hits, all of them. Oh and I almost forgot to mention Too Short opened up for Big Grams! Yeah, a bad ass show. Bad ass SXSW. 

 

This SXSW was a success and scarred my brain in the best way.