When you’re a music geek like me, and you spend your days reading blogs and messageboards and talking to other music geeks, your perspective on reality tends to get a little warped.
Since relatively few of my fellow geeks seem to give two shits about Buck 65 and Saul Williams, I assumed that their showcase at Emo’s last night would be lightly attended. Damn, do I need to get out more. The place was packed with screaming fans who knew all the words to both men’s songs. That made me feel all warm and mushy inside. These guys deserve to be huge.
Buck told a story about being confronted by lacrosse players in Bend, Oregon who said “you’re a punk-ass rapper.” His response? “I know.” That pretty much sums up his deal. He sounds like Tom Waits raised on Run DMC, he looks like he should be in Pavement, and he gestures like a diva. His songs rock harder than most rock bands. He played a few new songs from his forthcoming album recorded with Tortoise as his backing band. Unlike everything else I’ve ever heard by that band, the songs kicked ass. He played a thrash version of “Wicked and weird” and threw glitter on the crowd.
Saul Williams is an electrifying performer, which isn’t surprising considering that he got his start as a slam poet. Up there with a violinist and DJ Thavius Beck, he raged like a hardcore punk and testified like a preacher. I find Williams to be one of the few people who can successfully pull off the whole hyper-political hip-hop thing, mostly because the risks he takes both musically and lyrically tend to hit the mark they’re aiming for more often than not. During “African Student Movement,” he lead the lily-white crowd in a chant of “African people! African people!” Then he commented, “I bet that’s the first time you said that.”
After Saul Williams, I saw motherfucking BLOWFLY. (There’s some SXSW schizophrenia for you.) Billed as “The Original Dirty Rapper,” the man formerly known as Clarence Reid made an appearance at the Alternative Tentacles showcase, appropriately staged at the Jackalope, a bar with velvet paintings of naked women on the walls. Jello Biafra introduced him and his backing band of crusty veteran punks, and Blowfly took the stage in his trademark cape and mask, accompanied by a go go dancer. He then warned us that we were headed for “pussy hell,” so all the nice girls better leave immediately. Of course, I stayed firmly planted in my spot right in front of the stage. This resulted in my getting several songs about Blowfly’s penis sung directly in my face. The crowd got rowdier and rowdier as the set progressed. Eventually, two girls from the audience were grinding with each other on stage and a dorky indie rock guy was wearing Blowfly’s mask. Blowfly for President!
I really should have ended my night– and my SXSW experience–then, but instead I trudged onward to the Pecan St. Ale House to see the Cribs. I didn’t know anything about them other than that they were from Leeds and the Kaiser Chiefs had recommended them in an interview. Turns out they’re three guys with ’90s skater boy butt-cuts playing high-energy pop-punk. Really catchy, really melodic, kinda reminded me of Green Day. Exactly the kind of band that can benefit from SXSW. I wanted to pogo down in front, but I was too tired.