Tales from SXSW - Wrap Up

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By Chris Faraone, Boston's Weekly Dig

I woke up this morning with no teeth, four limbs full of track marks and three kids who I'm not interested in raising. A way-ahead-of-time warning to those of you who plan to ever hit SXSW: wear a full-body condom and drink lots of water.

Friday kicked off with an hour-long talk with Pharrell Williams. The N.E.R.D. front man and his two-man crew sat with me for an exclusive interview that will run in next month's YRB NYC magazine, so I can't disclose much besides that when I asked him if he needs extra strong windshield wipers to knock off all the bitches clinging to his car, Pharrell responded: "You can't fuck 'em all."

After that tame drug-and-alcohol free excursion I went to what was propped as — and in many ways turned out to be — the most insane party of the entire week. Hosted by Mad Decent and IHeartComix — the "Texas Blowout" managed to fill a parking garage and roof deck with hipster cats wearing everything from "I Fuck on the First Date" t-shirts to Alonzo Mourning jerseys to tight black jeans, tight black jeans, tight black jeans and tight black jeans. I even bummed a smoke off a dude whose tight black jeans were such tight black jeans that he couldn’t fit the pack in his pocket.

The only problem was that despite the range of activities and free booze including shuffleboard, Rock Band and ginger beer and Dewars, nobody was content. Instead, they were obsessed with entering the next level VIP lounges despite not really knowing what was up there.

Never before have I seen a VIP within a VIP. So when I made it to the top level — which was equipped with two super-chic swimming pools and more complimentary intoxicants — I decided to stop the social climb. There was one more exclusive door to wait in line for, but I was too insecure to press my luck any further.

On the roof, I got to meet Hollywood Holt — a maniacal half-hipster hopper from Chicago — and see a performance by Roxy Cottontail, a glorified stripper with a voice box who has no business rapping but will certainly make big business rapping because of her stinky slice and blond hair.

If you followed my dispatches the whole way, then you’ll know that I promised a young deranged MC named Dubb Sicks that I would play wingman to his Friday night show outside of Austin. He promised to pick me up, so I recruited the super party rocking DJ On&On and we looked for the "'91 Firebird with spray paint on the hood" that Dubb was driving.

After scooping up his girlfriend and a twelve-pack of Miller Light, Dubb and his hype man Mumbles took us for a ride into Deliverance country. We drove past several signs for Waco, as well as more than one house with a marquee out front. I’d never seen a house with a lit up sign that had the family’s name — where I’m from we just have numbers.

When we arrived at our destination — The Oaks — after getting lost for at least half-an-hour, it was truly hip-hop. The DJ inside was bumping The Pharcyde, and the half-toothed bartender told us that while they only served beer, if we had a bottle of liquor in the car we were more than welcome to bring it in. She was so hip-hop that she even offered to provide shot glasses.

The few heads who came to watch Dubb Sicks were dedicated to his lethal brand of degeneracy. Reciting lyrics like “I’ll shove my fist up your bitch like a ventriloquist,” his fans made the already frightening scene that much scarier. There was an un-plumbed toilet in the middle of the venue, the sound booth looked more like a sniper nest (and probably was for those who step out of line), and Dubb’s girl was on stage in a short red dress and high heels pumping a keg.

Back to reality — or at least Sixth Street in Austin — On&On and I linked with DJ JayCeeOh at the Firehouse Lounge. Together the two of them are The Masters, and even though they hadn’t planned on rocking out together, the shit went down anyway and the crowd full of b-boys and sluts hit the dance floor something fierce.

But I needed to explore something from outside of Boston, so I hit the Chingo Bling show at Fuze. Unlike most SXSW showcases — even the hip-hop ones — that are filled with white, white and maybe some off-white folks – this one had some color.

Chingo Bling is a Latin Texan who sports cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and get this — a diamond-flooded cowboy boot chain around his neck. He’s got a sense of humor too; in doing the impossible he even spit a version of Birdman’s "Still Fly" that was even more ignorant and hilarious than the original.

In the highlight of my Friday night — and possibly even my entire weekend — I made friends in the balcony at Fuze with BO$$ from Intense Entertainment. I’m not insinuating what BO$$ and his homeboys do for a living (the picture will do that), but I will say that the bouncers let us chill for at least a half-an-hour longer than everyone else so that we could finish drinking on some Grey Goose. Props to the Intense Entertainment dudes by the way for being cool to a whiteboy in a Mickey Mouse shirt.

Next to crusty box, there’s no better taste on earth than warm Budweiser, which is why I started my last day in Austin slugging two of them. Gross as they were, though, it’s a good thing I had a drink before witnessing the scene down the street from my apartment.

So, I’m walking down the block to have a drink at the Beauty Bar — an outdoor café that I thought would be a good place for free cocktails and sun — and I run into the week’s most awful sight: more than 400 people lined up to enter Rachel Ray’s party. Since it wasn’t ridiculous enough that she was having a party featuring her husband’s band, every chump in Austin had to show up.

After shouting at the fucks waiting to see that training bra Food Network trick with an upstate accent, I was inspired to hit some off-the-radar gigs. If all these alleged fans, DJs and critics come down for the mundane, played out and straight commercial shit that they can see on television and in their town anyway, I would do the opposite.

The "BRMG Hip-Hop Not Heard on the Radio" showcase at the Fireside Lounge was exactly what I needed. The first act I saw there was the D.D.C. crew, whose "Fat Boy Anthem" was, in their words, "Ballin’ like Spalding" (it rhymes in their Dallas accents).

Then came London MC Sway, who has twice the dexterity of the ever-popular Dizzee Rascal and an even better sense of humor than Mike Skinner. According to Sway, "People from the UK don’t just drink tea and eat crumpets;" they drop dope tracks about getting their first credit card at the age of eighteen. Now that’s a universal struggle.

The BRMG event also delivered sweet sets from Ann Arbor MC Buff 1, Austin aesthete Zeale and San Antonio rapper Question, who did the realest thing I saw all week by bringing Virginia’s Doujah Raze and Bronx legend Percee P on stage to erase artificial regional boundaries. When it was all over Boston’s Termanology capped the show with a tremendous "Watch How it Go Down."

Saturday night brought me to one of the few non-rap showcases that I went to at SXSW (it’s ignorant – I know – fuck you). The band was Low vs. Diamond, and they’re fronted by my high school buddy Lucas Field. There’s nothing like catching up on 10 years at a noisy rooftop club when you have no voice left whatsoever, but we drank a beer and took a pic. I could only stay for two songs, but I’m proud to say that homeboy Luke laid some shit that was sexually commensurate with that of Uncle Luke.

Back to planet hip-hop. The only show I made a point to hit all weekend was the Megaphone gig at Light Bar on Saturday. And Special Blend, Moe Pope and Headnodic did not disappoint — between the sound effects, love, enlightenment and Billy Ocean interpolations I think the crowd of mostly southern hip-hop fans took on a slight inferiority complex as they nodded in astonishment.

Lastly, I ran though a club called Prague to see the Cunninlynguists (not a live sex act, but instead a dope underground rap group from Kentucky). As fortune had it, I also got to check Seattle up-and-comers Blue Scholars and Canadian outfit Grand Analogue, whose bass lines were so delicious that I would have sniffed them had it not there not been so many people around.

I know I’d been drunk for four straight days by the time I saw them, but the Cunninlynguists brought the most intense encore imaginable. While blunts got passed around the absolutely packed crowd, Kno, Deacon and company proved that they haven’t just been "thugged out since Cub Scouts," but also serenading live shows since that tender age. I hope they all get merit badges for their SXSW performance.

Actually, I lied. My night really ended in an alley outside the Music Gym drinking Budweisers with the guys from UndergroundHipHop.com and AmalgamDigital.com. From what I remember, we were break dancing and singing, "Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Portuguese."

If there’s a better place on earth than Austin during SXSW, then arrange for a liver transplant and show me the way.

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