Photo by Andrew Zeiter
After sixteen and a half hours in my past-her-prime Chevy Trailblazer, my knees were sore and my back was knotted but I had gotten to Austin, and it was time to dive back into the deep sea that is South by Southwest. After hiking downtown through the cab-less wasteland that is downtown ATX and picking up the proper credentials, I took off for the W Hotel where local Chicago music label Maek was taking part in the Fashion Brain Bar, a cocktail party and show on the fourth floor of the W that served to introduce invitees to new acts. So, there are always lessons, and this year I got one early.
Having found a pair of brand new Converse Chucks in my closet from Christmas, I decided to run around my first day of SXSW tearing up my feet to the point of almost utter disrepair. Gingerly walking my way down the vaunted sixth avenue I came across artists from around Chicago’s scene including Calez, Legit, Eryn Allen Kane and Stefan Ponce as everyone milled about, looking for the thing to do on a fairly dead Monday night offset by the rain. I had the chance to catch Charlotte, NC dance duo Styles N’ Complete who got the rooftop indoor-outdoor space jumping with hip-hop infused production pieces that were equal parts sample and original work. After that I rushed down to the other side of the freeway to link up with Supa Bwe, Karl, Blakkass Westley and Netherfriends who put on a set at the Volstead that set the bar high on night one as he killed his night cap with his looping sounds, interesting overall aesthetic and powerful stage presence got the alcohol-infused crowd that got pushed out at close.
Waking up the next morning, startled again by the lack of white icy hills outside my window in March, I continued a slow transition into the full breadth of what SXSW can offer as Chicago came out in full force, led by the enumerable Mayor Rahm Emmanuel himself for a pre-party at the aptly-named The Chicago House, which was filled with artists, media members and local movers and shakers from around the Windy City. Red 7 on 6th St. and Red River was the setting for Chicago Made Blog’s showcase, hosted by Hologram Kizzie, which started off with a rousing, endearing set from ProbCause, who when paired with his live drummer Cofresh is a true sight to see and got the steadily-building crowd worked up before the very talented singer-songwriter Bonzie took the stage, changing the aesthetic as the sun began to wane. Rockers Autumn Defense and Archie Powell and the Exports did their thing, showing Chicago has much more than just the hip-hop that has burst from it’s streets over the past couple of years. ShowYouSuck did what ShowYouSuck does, joined again onstage by compatriot Auggie The 9th he put on one of his best sets to date, crowd surfing, moving erratically from one side of the stage to the other and waxing knowledge on everything from ‘Big Gulps’ to ‘80’s Boobs’. As fans patiently waited, the show slowly ground to it’s headliner after a heavily Kanye-influenced DJ set from The Hood Internet, who flexed his production muscle a bit by bringing up a host of earlier performers onstage to do a series of tracks including ‘Sub-Zero’ off of ProbCause’s The Recipe Vol. 2 which may go down as one of the cooler moments of this years SXSW, as Auggie The 9th showed how hungry he is to take his game to the next level, eagerly tearing through bar after bar with vigor. Chicago seems to have a new act pop every year, and Auggie made a case for himself surrounded by some of the city’s finest. The big moment finally came around 1 am for Chance The Rapper and Peter CottonTale to take the stage, which revamped the crowd who had stood in line and inside the venue for nearly six hours. Chano started things off with the familiar “Good Ass Intro”, dropping into “Brain Cells” which got a juke mix before rolling through his Acid Rap catalogue. But, suddenly, as seems to happen in Austin during SXSW, the fire Marshalls called, the police showed up and a comfortably outstanding show was cancelled. And that was it. Two days down so far, plenty more to go.