50 Cent and Eminem at the Austin Music Hall. More photos below.
50 Cent / Eminem – Austin Music Hall
Never mind that Get Rich or Die Trying actually came out in 2003; the moist and dewy crowd at Austin Music Hall last night was plenty psyched for the “10th anniversary” of 50 Cent’s debut. Backed by a full band, 50 came out in his signature vest, though it proved unnecessary as not a single shot was fired at him. His mentor Eminem came out as surprise guest, rapping passionately from beneath his hoodie. The show was further proof that this “artists doing their seminal albums in full” thing is popular music’s best trend.
Being at South by Southwest can sometimes feel like walking through a hall of Super Bowl ads—take the giant Doritos vending machine where I caught a set by Gemma Ray. The British singer-songwriter stayed classy amidst the commercialism, making the best of it with her two-piece band as the crowd munched on tortilla chips. In an alternate universe, her snarling slide-guitar work would make her as popular as Adele, but in the real world, she’s a cult heroine for Anglophiles—and, of course, those who enjoy the most tasty of stoner staple snacks.
Gemma Ray – The Giant Doritos Vending Machine At Red River & Fifth
Trampled By Turtles – Swan Dive
Duluth extreme acoustic pickers Trampled By Turtles were the final act of an all-Minnesota showcase (co-sponsored by the City Pages music blog Gimme Noise) during a sticky afternoon at Swan Dive. Although charmer frontman Dave Simonett—who looks like your hometown bar’s favorite bartender, complete with Let It Be t-shirt—expressed concern that Doomtree’s mercilessly sweaty set would be tough to follow, that sort of challenge brought out a mandolin-cracking set (figuratively) from the gents. More important still was a rowdy, packed audience. “Wait So Long” proved to be just the song to make those in attendance lose their collective shit. And quite a few attendees probably needed to shampoo their beards afterwards anyhow.
“The only thing I’ve ever seen like this Mohawk scene right now is the first scene in The Warriors,” a friend wrote on Twitter last night, and it was pretty close to the truth. I wondered if this would be the “Death From Above” moment of the 2012 fest, when black-clad fans left out on Red River would storm the gates en masse. It’s easy to joke about producer Sonny Moore, a.k.a. Skrillex, and his one-note, wait-for-the-bass-to-drop mall rat sternum-rattle, but his diehards lined up some five hours before the show. I saw teenagers in love, wearing matching homemade Skrillex t-shirts and holding hands. I witnessed a couple drunkenly (and literally) fighting over a hot dog; parents holding crying toddlers; and a woman getting hit by a car. I overheard a conversation about how dubstep is actually part of a bigger terrorist recruiting program. I wanted to hear more about that particular topic, but I was distracted by some guy swinging nunchucks with glowsticks on them very near my face.
The line for Skrillex – Mohawk
New Build – Clive Bar
Playing one of its first US shows, and missing key member Felix Martin—who was home sick—Londoners New Build nonetheless showed a throbbing SXSW crowd that this new band is worthy of the high expectations surrounding it. With LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip member Al Doyle handling vocal and guitar duties, New Build issued a brief but awesomely seductive set of worldly dance-pop. The highlight was undoubtedly “Do You Not Feel Loved”; the group’s disco-driven single felt huge underpinned by a drum kit, two percussionists, and numerous layers of synths. Doyle’s voice isn’t a wonder, but the six-piece band made up for it with warm harmonies and relentless, multivalent rhythms. At the start of last night’s show, the ginger Brit singer expressed surprise that so many had crammed into Clive Bar’s diminutive backyard to see this brand-new outfit. But judging by the way New Build whipped the chatty crowd into a gleeful dance party, Doyle and Co. ought to get used to that.
—Ian S. Port
Houston Invasion Party – Gypsy Lounge
Houston has always been a songwriter’s town, and that fact has not been lost on its newest crop of musicians, whether they are they are practicing dreamy pop (Wild Moccasins), alternative-leaning rock (The Handshake, The Tontons), paisley pop (Chase Hamblin) or sharp alt-country (Folk Family Revival). The bands I saw Friday at Gypsy Lounge had more of a mainstream appeal than a lot of the stuff out here, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Certainly not after enduring the tinny and painstakingly slow Youth Lagoon at the Brooklyn Vegan party next door at Hotel Vegas, which may go down as the most excruciatingly boring 15 minutes I have ever endured at SXSW.