I remember going to SXSW a few years ago without a place to sleep, less than $100 to spend, no agenda, badge, wristband, or RSVP. I bar-hopped up and down Red River, made friends, snuck into Stubb's, ate cheese pizza and drank Lone Star.
After years of busting my ass as a music photographer and writer, I've been upgraded to staying at the Hilton, carrying a music badge around my neck, and getting exclusive access and invites to the kind of parties, showcases, and backstages that most people can only dream about.
And you know what? Both experiences are equally amazing and fulfilling. Here is my list of the Best Shows of SXSW 2013:
Lionfest at Viceland featuring Snoop Lion and Major Lazer The Dogg has been transformed into a Lion. The legendary West Coast rapper debuted his movie Reincarnated at SXSW, then blessed us with his new reggae jams at the Viceland party. Aided by Diplo and Major Lazer, both the album and movie are one of the best collaborations you will see/hear all year.
The film documents Snoop's journey to Jamaica and the recording of this truly inspirational effort, and includes candid conversations about his family, legal battles, and how he dealt with the loss of his close friends Tupac Shakur and Nate Dogg.
After missing Diplo and Major Lazer at Free Press Summer Fest last year, I made sure to catch them in Austin. I was not disappointed. The energy and charisma of Diplo and his team is downright nasty, hardcore fun. In a sweet break in the action, they also invited Amber Coffman onstage to sing "Get Free," which is about as perfect as you can imagine.
The Fader Fort presented by Converse The Fader Fort is the most sought-after RSVP during SXSW every year. With a mix of rock and rap, the lineup is always outstanding and the special guests make this event the place to be on the east side of Highway 35. This year, I began my Fader experience early with a VIP preview party last Tuesday night with Matt & Kim, Just Blaze and Baauer. High energy, colorful visuals, and a tent full of beautiful people... what's not to love?
Kendrick Lamar hit the stage with his TDE homies on Wednesday, Trinidad James brought his "All Gold Everything" on Thursday, Usher made a surprise appearance with the Afghan Whigs on Friday, and to close things out on Saturday we saw Earl Sweatshirt, Bun B, Macklemore, Diddy, and French Montana.
Soul Temple Showcase presented by RZA feat. Ghostface Killah, Adrian Younge, and U-God at The Scoot Inn Ghostface has always been by favorite member of the Wu-Tang Clan due to his smooth yet gritty vocals and imaginative storytelling. His new album Twelve Reasons to Die, which will be released this April, is scored by a dapper and immensely talented, funky gentleman named Adrian Younge.
The composer/bandleader/producer/DJ was on hand with his band to showcase the soul and funk grooves that will be prevalent on the album. Indeed, he and his band was my favorite discovery at SXSW. Pairing this amazing band with one of the best rappers alive turned this into a special and fascinating show.
Red Bull Sound Select feat. The Geto Boys As a music photographer and writer from H-Town, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see The Geto Boys reunited. Although many of us have seen Scarface and Willie D perform at shows individually within the last few years, seeing them together with Bushwick Bill had not occurred in over a decade, except at some weird little get-together in Illinois last year.
As I was escorted backstage a few minutes before the show, there they were: Bill wearing an Elmo beanie, Willie looking menacing with a bandanna and muscle shirt, and Scarface asking Just Blaze for a beat that we hope makes it onto an upcoming album. They took the stage individually for a song apiece, and then roared back together with "Still," "G-Code," "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster," and "Mind Playing Tricks On Me."
Mass Appeal Showcase at Austin Music Hall The lineup was dope, and the crowd roared in appreciation for every act and every song that hit the stage: Pusha T, Pharrell, Kendrick Lamar, Raekwon, A$AP Ferg, and Bun B
Danny Brown. Yep, it was crazy amazing.
That Brass Band Playing Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" on Sixth Street Best showcase of them all.....
Hasta next year, SXSW!!!
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