The night started out a lot like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Our thick-calved pedicab driver (a former New York bicycle courier) weaved in and out of traffic, driving in circles, cutting off cars in the middle of busy intersections. (The turning radius on a pedicab is impressive!) There are hundreds of music venues hosting SXSW events in downtown Austin, so the trek from show to show can be a journey.
We quickly arrived at Antone’s, a musky venue blasting hip-hop music. We catch Hopsin, with his albino contacts, he’s suited for a creepy sideshow or maybe a walk-on role in The Walking Dead. He belts out angry tunes that slam Eazy-E’s wife’s record label, Ruthless Records, for not promoting him enough and “almost making him homeless” before he found the independent label Funk Volume.
Next up at Antone’s was the main event, New York’s Dead Prez. They had a soulful vibe, and their song “The Beauty Within” was pure poetry. The crowd roared and moshed to their song “It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop.” The highlight of Dead Prez’s show was when band member stic.man brought his young son, Hwela Ibomu, onstage to play covers of Marilyn Manson’s version of “Sweet Dreams” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Our next pedicab driver was able to exercize a little more restraint on the road, dropping us off safe and sound at a show at the Mohawk, sponsored by House of Vans. We were disappointed to discover we had just missed Iggy Pop and the Stooge. FAIL.
Sky Ferreira was setting up. Ferreira (a 20-year-old pop singer-model-actress who can claim the late Michael Jackson as one of her mentors) was having an off night. She cried into the microphone between songs about messing up lyrics and her voice being out and was stumbling around. Halfway through her set, she burst into tears and abruptly exited the stage.
Ghostface Killah (of Wu-Tang fame) picked up the slack and had the crowd in his hands.
Down the road a ways, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James hit the stage at the Hype Hotel a little after 1 a.m., light show in tow. The set consisted mainly of tracks off of James’s acclaimed new solo record, and combined with a spectacular array of lasers and fog, it was nothing short of dazzling.
After a classic SXSW night, we headed home around 3:30 a.m., still buzzing from the excitement of this country’s largest music festival.