UPDATE: Now with video of Wu-Tang Clan and Erykah Badu after the jump, and lots more pictures to be seen in our slideshow.
The doors didn't open exactly at 5 p.m., but that didn't stop the Austin Music Hall from filling quickly just before Austin-by-way-of-Houston locals Ume took the stage, the first band in the all-night line-up for the 2011 Village Voice and Frank 151 Showdown at SXSW. With groups as diverse as Columbus's Times New Viking to Yelawolf and of course, headliners Wu-Tang Clan, tonight is one of the festival's most-anticipated showcases. Oh yeah -- did we mention Erykah Badu is also dj-ing?
So far, Wild Flag, with their Pixies-like blend of hard/soft/hard, have been a huge hit. The all-girl group features former members of Sleater-Kinney and Stephen Malkmus's band. Rocks Off saw several people in the crowd carrying vinyl from their merch table.
Aaaaand Trouble Andrew just hit the stage. You know how we know? Because the bass was so hard it was causing our drink to jump off the table. The internet just told us that dude is Santigold's fiance. We knew we liked him for a reason. He came out on stage wearing braces and a Fred Perry shirt singing pop punk funk, and was later joined on stage by a rapper/toaster with a nameplate necklace to rival a Houston Rodeo belt buckle.
Trouble Andrew was followed by Rocky Business, a band who's high-energy stage show would have been perfect were it nor for their reliance on pre-recorded backbeats and special effects.
They reminded us somewhat of M.I.A. with their multi-genre approach to political and cultural commentary. Singer Strictly Business (the band's name is portmanteau of his and that of collaborator/producer Johnny on the Rocks) bounded from one side of the stage to another, occasionally taking out his aggression on a floor tom next to the mike. They closed with a beat-heavy dance number that had the packed floor of the Austin Music Hall moving.
And then half the crowd took an intermission to swarm the patio for fireworks over Auditorium Shores, where The Strokes were playing a reportedly packed show. Which was a good thing, because the hip hop portion of our program was just beginning.
Back inside, singer/rapper Marz Lovejoy did a quick warm-up session before Houston's Trae Tha Truth took to the stage with an entourage of dirty south-Texas rappers. As soon as the bass kicked in, the audience went absolutely bonkers. The building literally rattled. And Wu-Tang ain't even in the house yet.
Yelawolf, whom our photog Marco Torres also caught yesterday at the Fader Fort, kind of defies definition. An Alabama boy with hints of Kid Rock and Tommy Lee (he's white as a dove and covered in pencil-thin black tattoos) raps about the bitch that left him with the speed of Eminem's most well-crafted rhymes. A few songs later he's asking "Can I drive your daddy's
limo Lambo?", drenched in sweat and bottled water. Rocks Off isn't sure how many people in the crowd were familiar with him before the show, but he certainly set the stage for the big closers.
At this point, sets and sound checks were lasting a lot longer than earlier in the day. Fishbone probably played for less time than it took to set up all their horns and the Theramin-in-a-suitcase. They seemed a bit out of place on this bill, but by the time their check was winding down the crowd was anxiously yelling out for lead singer Angelo Moore, who was behind the stacks wearing an Andy Warhol wig and practicing his cartwheels.
In December, Craig Hlavaty wrote about the interminable wait for Wu-Tang to perform at their Numbers gig. They didn't hit the VVM party until about 1 a.m., and by that time Rocks Off had personally seen two dudes piss themselves, three get escorted out of the music hall, and the bartenders had basically given up trying to keep service in order. It was that kind of party.
For many in the crowd, seeing Wu play was a bucket-list event. We heard one guy remark that he didn't even know they still toured. They played for a solid hour despite being plagued by mike problems -- too many people on stage with too many wireless microphones means issues with feedback -- but luckily most people probably didn't notice it until the special guest arrived, DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown. Also known as Dallasite Erykah Badu.
Badu was billed as a guest DJ but she shared the stage with Wu-Tang for their last few songs, singing in her nasal warble over the collective toasts of the Clan, desperately trying to overcome the feedback issues. She still sounded great.
Around 2 a.m., Wu-Tang Clan called it a night (morning?) and turned the party over to Badu, who played a mix of vintage dance tunes and modern hip hop for the stragglers who had made it through the night.
Not us. By that time, we were ready for bed. But be sure to tune in tomorrow morning for more pictures from the party. UPDATE: See pics here!.