Credit: Katie Hasty
Predictably -- and in so many way delightfully -- SWAGG Presents… Perez Hilton
’s One Night In Austin party during South By Southwest was cheesy as hell. And yes, I’m even lumping Snoop Dogg
into that classification, and not without admiration for his years of hit-making.
On the coldest night in Austin, with temps flirting with the 30-degree mark, pop-loving bodies shuffled in to a deep, dark warehouse, cartoony Perez introducing each act with boyish enthusiasm in a way that also simultaneously congratulated himself for his own taste. The crowd’s attentions shifted between two stages propped close to each other for quick changeovers. As I previously mentioned, things didn’t stay on time, but you can’t blame organizers for trying.
That merely meant in part that Estelle
’s bumping set was cut off at the knees, three songs deep, not long enough for the audience to truly appreciate her brilliant pipes and hip-hop/European house-influenced dance tracks. She of course sang “American Boy,” sans Kanye, and brought some further glamour by debuting forthcoming single “Back to Love Again” and performing “Freak,” the video to which has been turning heads as of late.
Snoop Dogg knows what the people want, and he proved willing to play his most popular tracks (see Gin, Juice, “Drop It Like It’s Hot”), with a mix of the nastiest new tracks (“I Wanna Rock”) and, via banter, encourage weed-smoking in his characteristic deadpan. After having seen his show a handful of times, these performances have become predictable and tame, but still laudable, positive affairs. Snoop’s willingness to license his tracks, and his inability to say no to any commercial opportunity in which his image or likeness is used means he’s well-aware of his own caricature and happy to play it up. Cheesy, respectable.
AlphaBeat, who opened for Lady GaGa for some dates in Eurpoe, got the crowd moving earlier. These Danes are unabashedly Euro-pop, utilizing dueling vocalists Anders SG and Stine B. If I had my way, the former would relinquish the spotlight entirely to the latter, become the orbiting moon to her planet. Stine B just has too much presence and soul for Anders’ own pinwheeling onstage antics; let’s get that girl dancing.
VV Brown brought her own sort of circus to the stage, taking on the first couple tracks culled from her 2009 set “Travelling Like the Light” in a gigantic Carnival mask, wielding drum mallets like hatchets of war. Personally, her songs are just too much, though her singing and performance talent is obvious: the dynamic is relentless, and there’s so much noise going on, it’s difficult to gauge when to fully engage. She at any given point played some doo-wop, old school rock ‘n’ roll, an R&B soul number on top, then a pop-rock hybrid. “I want to do it all!” she declared, though she may be better off sticking to her strengths (and musical styles of this decade).
Agnes and Mike Posner were disappointments in their overglorified karaoke bits. Both are obviously talented singers, and easy on the eyes, but singing along to a laptop and pretending to “direct” music with their hands just felt disingenuous. Agnes, too was plagued by sound problems, further handicapping the show.
Marina and her Diamonds were a pleasant, arty surprise. I couldn’t hum you a single tune, but I remember liking them all, and liking her engagement with the audience and her band.
Sliimy and Macy Gray: still trying so, so hard. I get it, but I don’t want it.
The British Embassy showcase boasted of Brooklyn buzz band The Drums ( who tried very hard to do what The Smiths have already done, without an ounce of self-awareness) but it was Everything Everything that knocked my teeth out. A friend commented that they reminded him of Vampire Weekend, with the sunny high ends and the vocals of a very pretty boy, but with the layering and complicated harmonic structures, unusual pop song meters and well-practiced spits and starts, it felt more like Dirty Projectors. I will now proceed to be a superfan.
In the future, to stay warm, SXSW
-fest goers should dance. This was a particularly easy feat during one of YACHT’s sets, with somewhat dumbed-down lyrics that hit the spot when the blood runneth cold and the beer floweth freely.
It‘s been a couple years since I saw them at CMJ marathon, but noisy instrumentalists When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth have gotten better, tighter, and were a perfect cap-off to the fest on Sunday. Now it's time to catch up on "Lost."