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Scintillating Field Notes From SXSW 2015

Always See The Home Team First If I were to write a guide on how to experience SXSW, somewhere I would write about how to view the acts from your hometown performing in "away game" situations. For me, that meant Doeman wrapping an American-flag bandana around his head during Scope ATX or Maxo Kream bringing plenty of hype and menace to an outdoor set at "Welcome to the South" showcase last Wednesday night.

It's also neat to see Doughbeezy back on the stage after a near-tragic moment almost robbed him of that experience. See to home first, then spread out.

Leon Bridges Soul music is a rare treat at SX these days. If the entire festival is populated by rockers, rappers and DJs, the soul revival must seem like one giant outlier. But thankfully acts like Fort Worth's Leon Bridges exist. A few months ago, he was just another guy on the verge. Now after knocking out a show in New York City and a rather intriguing SXSW debut, he officially has next. And I've worn out the three songs he has on Spotify right now.

Big Sean x CRWN If I knew I was going to miss Snoop Dogg telling stories about he and Willie Nelson playing dominos during his SXSW keynote, maybe hearing about Big Sean -- fresh off a No. 1 album with Dark Sky Paradise -- sit with Elliott Wilson for the second SXSW edition of CRWN, would help make up for it. Like last year's interview with Lil Wayne, Wilson brought the best out of Sean, including discussing how Snoop Dogg's 1993 debut Doggystyle led him to getting spanked at Thanksgiving. He's earned a few bumps, and cares nothing about the gossip blogs that try to pry into his life with girlfriend Ariana Grande. "It's all about being happy," he told Wilson.

T-Pain Is Eternal The college years for me started in 2006, right when T-Pain was morphing into a ubiquitous Auto-tune monster who was on every hit on the radio. "Buy You a Drank," "Bartender," "I'm Sprung" -- all of them were ringtones or personal anthems. He closed out Friday's portion of the FADER Fort in a surprise headlining appearance, running through a 42-song set list. A time machine has nothing on T-Pain pop-locking and shuffling like he was Morris Day...nothing.

Goodbye to the Illmore? According to a few in the know, the fifth year of the Illmore, the massive after-hours mansion party held in by IllRoots and Scoremore, would be its last. The party's exclusivity is by now SXSW legend, and everyone knows about stumbling out at 5 a.m. in a daze after getting impromptu concerts and rubbing elbows with celebs. But after getting the likes of Lil Wayne and others to come hang over the years, only an appearance from, say, Drake or Kanye West would top things. Au revoir.

K.R.I.T., K.R.I.T., K.R.I.T. Music and sports analogies go hand in hand: certain venues make certain artists/players raise their games. Anybody who wore the tag "Best Basketball Player Alive" and Madison Square Garden, a Jay Z show in that same venue, Drake in Toronto or Houston -- the energy is different than a normal show. Big K.R.I.T. has officially taken the same feel when it comes to performing in the South.

After years of bouncing from club to club, K.R.I.T. had his one and only show Saturday night, all eyes on him at "The Only Show That Matters." Speakers rocked, the crowd hung onto every word and it just felt right. The only other acts I know who can treat any arena in the South as home? Bun B and OutKast.

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A City On Edge A venue being over capacity is not an uncommon occurrence at SX. But after last year's tragic accident that killed four people and injured dozens more, security was stepped up everywhere. When A$AP Rocky made his way into the "Welcome to the South" showcase Wednesday night, a large crowd followed behind him, forcing outside and inside security to promptly shut the entrance to the venue down. Even when sauntering out to catch another late-night showcase, the sight of so many cops and security officers startled me.

A Beat Battle In the Rain What do you do when Just Blaze goes up against Mannie Fresh and DJ Toomp in a beat battle? In the rain, no less? You sort of gravitate to it and watch Just Blaze demolish everything in sight while Mannie and Toomp are left with shit-eating grins. The Belmont courtyard became its own little cathedral for nearly two decades of hits created by the three men. Having Freeway come out to perform his four Just Blaze-produced hits was just icing.

South By Sauce West I've probably written more about the Sauce Twinz in the past five months than any other artist. Everywhere I went in Austin, I heard "Legited." Every venue where the Twinz were set to perform, I heard, "Where's Walka?" Adlibs, partying and everything in between -- by the time they did hit the stage for the "Welcome to the South" showcase, the usual SXSW crowd was hype in the back and pointing cameras on them in the front.

The Danny Glover Effect Overzealous volunteers guarding doors, people in the streets believing SXSW is one giant club...all while what I kept wondering to myself during some aspects of SXSW this year was, "Am I too old for this shit?" This was year six for me, and every year has offered different aspects.

From sleeping in cars to sleeping in hotels minutes away, I've seen the highs and lows of SX. Yet I'm pretty sure I'll find myself back inside the Austin Convention Center next year, ready for another year of new artists and experiences.

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