CJLO @ SXSW: Amrew's Three-Day Recap

This year, I had the privilege of attending South by Southwest 2018 in Austin, Texas, with my fellow music directors. I was really excited because Austin has the perfect weather, great people and southwestern charm. During SXSW, the city is filled with loud music and a ton of great shows to see and artists to discover.

On our first day, after picking up our badges at the Austin Convention Center, we tracked down nourishment for the night ahead. I met up with a rep and headed to The Belmont for the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, hosting RZA of Wu-Tang featuring Stone Mecca and Pussy Riot.

I was excited to see Pussy Riot, because these women were sent to jail for two years for performing a song in a church criticizing Vladmir Putin. The show began and a masked girl and DJ started to perform with a background screen showing politically charged visuals contrasted with lyrics with happy colours and kitties. We also had the pleasure of hearing girls scream pussy is the new dick with them jumping and dancing in the air. The crowd enjoyed dancing and partying with them.

After a short intermission with no announcement needed, RZA braced the stage with a few friends including Raekwon, Inspecktah Deck singing “C.R.E.A.M”, then Ghostface Killah came on stage to bless us with a few bars. The crowd went wild: RZA said, “you weren’t expecting that” to which I said, “HELL NO!” It was great.

After they left, the real show began. RZA was with a band with an awesome guitarist who would make you think of Jimi Hendrix. They played songs inspired by the Beatles. It was my first time seeing RZA perform with a band and not performing only hip-hop songs. He does not do shows as often, but he did that night because it was a worthy cause. It was a great and memorable show.

Day 2 of the CJLO SXSW invasion, I went to Mohawk for the Sound + Vision' SXSW Official Day Party mainly to hear Talib Kweli DJ, which was completely new for me. There was an outside and inside stage and people would go in and out depending on whether there was a performance. While I was inside, I saw a performance by Chicago native Kweku Collins. It was the first time I heard of him. He was really energetic, his songs were fun and had a trap electro sound to it. He seems like someone you would want to party with and the way he spoke to the crowd made you feel like it was someone who you knew already and was having a hang out with. During his performance, he covered Drake’s “Best I Ever Had”, which was a crowd pleaser.

After his performance, I went outside to see Talib DJ. It was a treat: I didn’t know he DJ’d! I enjoyed his set because he played rock songs from the 60s to The Black Keys; he also played El Michel Affair who plays an instrumental version of Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M”.

Another notable performance for me was IDER, two girls who played electronic music and sampled Outkast’s “Roses”.

Later that day, I headed back to the Belmont for an all-female showcase which included Kitty Cash and Rapsody, an artist I really wanted to see. Watching the other artists perform before her was also great. Some of the artists on the bill were Taylor Made, who had a powerful soulful voice. I especially enjoyed her song “Mama Ain’t Raise No Fool”.

Rico Nasty from New York came in with her alternative rocker wear but put it down with a trap sound and lyrics letting you know that she is in charge.

Kitty Cash and DJ Osh Kosh played in between sets. I wanted to hear Kitty Cash after hearing about her when she did a mixtape with Toronto nation Rochelle Jordan. She had the crowd rocking with songs from Drake, Kanye, Kendrick Lamar and more.

Kamaiyah performed after. She is from the Bay area and everyone in the crowd who was from there (it was a lot) went crazy for her. She put on a good performance and got the crowd moving. Her song “How Does It Feel to Be Rich” was a crowd pleaser.

Rapsody was next after Kamaiyah. She walked on stage with a strong presence, like a queen. She performed songs that empowered women and what stood out for me was the crowd’s reaction. Many of them didn’t know who she was, but loved everything she was saying and was in awe of her. Even though her style was different from the trap sounds, dirty lyrics, and sexy dancing from the other performers, people loved it and learned from her. My night was made.

Friday was Day 3 for us and the final day for the CJLO gang. The day was mostly spent shopping and getting some great food with nice hangs.

At night I made my way to Empire Garage for the Stone’s Throw showcase. The main acts I wanted to catch were Homeboy Sandman and Edan, Karriem Riggins, and Peanut Butter Wolf.

The last time I saw Homeboy Sandman perform was at CMJ at the Fader Fort party in 2010, so I was really excited to see him perform, especially with Edan who is a cool DJ/producer. He brought the high energy with his quick flow and clever rhymes. He got the crowd moving. He and Edan had a back and forth moment, Homeboy encouraged Edan to rap and he did it like he didn’t know what he was doing. They got back to performing, while Edan rapped behind the turntables like a seasoned professional!

After Homeboy Sandman, Karriem Riggins got on stage for a DJ Set and got the crowd vibing with hip-hop, soul and funky beats. The next artist on the bill was Sudan Archives, a violinist and vocalist. She is the Miri Ben Ari of Stones Throw with her experimental, electronic sounds. When you watched her on stage, you were entranced in her presence and her sound.

Finally, we had Peanut Butter Wolf who got the crowd vibing and singing along to classic old school hip hop songs which had me feeling nostalgic. I was really happy to see him behind the turntables again.

After his set, there was a food stand in the venue and I got myself a Frito pie, which is a South Western dish consisting of Frito corn chips, chilli and cheese. I got a vegan version with chickpeas, veggies and tomatillo. I met Sugarface Belfo outside and we made our way back to the hotel.

I enjoyed my second time at SXSW. Although there’s a lot of people and a lot going on, it seemed like it was a little less hectic. I also got to catch more Hip Hop shows and discover new artists. It was great to hang out with my fellow music directors and enjoy Austin with them.