Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
There is a moment at every South By Southwest festival where it’s all worth it. The relentless hangover, the dirt caked into the beds of your new summer sandals, the sunburn, the string of mediocre bands, they all fade away and you remember why you come here every year. Sometimes it’s a rock show: Courtney Love flashing her panties while belting out “Violet,” the entire Wu Tang Clan appearing at Stubbs for a surprise day show, Okkervil River more times than I can count. But this year it was a moment: Walking towards the freeway down Fourth street with friends after hearing bits of Rick Ross at the Fader Fort, then bailing in the name of finding the perfect mediocre Mexican food and strong margaritas. As we crossed under the freeway overpass dodging pedicabs, the traffic cop said something about it being Saturday night and I realized I had absolutely no idea what day it was. I hadn’t just lost track of time but of, like, era. It could have been 2003 or 2013. I was totally caught up in that Austin vortex where the only constants are attire (sundress), general mindset (buzzed) and destination (the next party).
“It’s always deranged and wild, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a menacing way.”
The next party turned out to be the True Panther event held in an open lot that also contained a makeshift Flea Market and a bunch of gourmet food trucks selling sweet potato fries and fancy grilled cheese. Philosophy major turned electro singer songwriter Nite Jewel was set to play, followed by Brooklyn’s new indie mascots Tanlines, but the scene had already descended into that last-night-at-SX disorder as people downed $3 Lone Star tall boys and stumbled around trying on Union Jack platforms. Nite Jewel played (I reserve judgment till I see her and her band at a real venue) and as we all stood around waiting for Tanlines a crew of energized young rappers commandeered the stage and started shouting at the crowd. A friend asked the sound guy who this band was. “Nite Jewel,” he said, eyes glazed. No. They were Miami rap collective SpaceGhostPurrp (I am not making these names up). It’s a post-Odd Future world.
I split a song or two into Tanlines to go see Space Ghost collaborator and supposed future of hip-hop A$AP Rocky at the Vice Party. Every year Vice hosts the closing night after-hours blowout. It’s always deranged and wild, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a menacing way. Trash Talk, a hardcore band from Sacramento got us in the right mood to rage by encouraging everyone to “Throw your fucking beer in the air right now, it’s free tonight!” Then left the crowd alone at the open bar for half an hour before A$AP came on. Within three minutes the crowd was pelting A$AP’s crew with cans and the rappers were leaning down and getting in the faces of individual people. I left before people started punching each other.
Walking back to my hotel I thought about the best show I’d seen in my short run at SX this year, Blood Orange, the newest project of mercurial visionary Dev Hynes, also known as a former member of kind of terrible but kind of amazing dance punk band called Test-Icicles and Lightspeed Champion. “That name makes me thirsty,” a friend commented when we interviewed Dev as Blood Orange at the Fader Fort a few days before. The music is as juicy and exotic as it sounds, very early Prince. Before his show, Dev told me he has a habit of getting drunk and then going shopping online. Days later packages show up at his house and he has no idea what they are. “It’s really embarrassing,” he explained. “I buy lots of books that way. Artists’ biographies from when I’m drunk and convince myself I’m intellectual.” I asked Dev, who is also a well-known producer and songwriter for hire (he’s worked with Florence and the Machine, Theophilus London, and the Chemical Brothers among others) about his studio setup — does he go all candles and incense on everyone? “When I write, I write in my living room,” he explained. “I mainly just lay out pictures of trannies across the floor and drink whiskey but with other people’s stuff, they can do what they want.” He pulled the brim of his leather baseball cap down (another drunken internet purchase) and laughed. See you next year, Austin.