Day 3 of SXSW started early. I woke up, partook in the self-serve Texas shaped waffle bar at the continental breakfast that was provided by my ritzy hotel, and headed out early to make my way to the convention center for Snoop Dogg’s keynote.
There was some confusion on Thursday as to when the keynote would begin, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that I wasn’t going to be almost an hour late to the party.
Upon my arrival to downtown, I sought out the Austin Convention Center parking garage.
SXSW Parking Pro-Tip:
Park here if you’re driving downtown. It’s only $20, and it’s good for the entire day. Don’t fall for the $30, $40, and even $50 signs by I-35.
Of course, if you’re planning on going downtown to get plastered, more power to you. Just do us all a favor and take a cab or one of the various other methods (Uber, Lyft, bike, etc.) of transportation. Don’t be a dummy.
When I got to the convention center, it seemed to be nearly abandoned. Then, I realized that I was on the exact opposite side of the building that the keynote would be taking place, so my sweaty speed-walk began.
I made it to the end of a fairly long line with full disappointment. I wasn’t aware as to how big the ballroom was that they keynote was going to be held in, so I assumed I’d be stuck in the back row.
The line moved quickly and efficiently, largely due to the fact that the SXSW employees and volunteers were all on point, except for the poor soul who was left to make sure the line at the end of the hall stayed intact and that the cattle took their turn in stride. She looked a bit… tired. We’ll blame the obvious hangover.
Still, she was super polite when not staring off into oblivion.
When I entered the ballroom, I was pleased to see it was quite a bit larger than I had previously expected. I ended up about eleven rows back near the middle, seated next to a row of Scandinavian SXSW attendees that brought in a satchel of breakfast sandwiches. They nearly got robbed, but I didn’t have very far to go.
I’m pretty sure there was also a cranky writer in front of me that wrote for another well-known publication around the interwebz, but who am I to judge.
I got pretty pumped when I saw there was a setup for what looked like a full band on the stage. It’s not often you get the chance to potentially see Snoop Dogg perform AND drop some knowledge bombs on a small crowd in such an intimate setting… at 11:00 am.
Much to my immediate dismay, it was not up there for Snoop. A band came filing out of the backstage area and started to set up. My disappointment turned quickly to intrigue as the lights dimmed and the band took their places.
I’d never heard of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble before, and I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to catch them any other time, but man was I glad I got to see them. Their energy level was at a maximum level and they got the crowd of sour, hung over SXSW attendees to their feet and cheering quickly.
They closed out their set, which lasted at least a half hour, with a song that appeared in “The Hunger Games” called, “War”.
Some of their set included some well placed rhymes, while most of it just slapped you in the face with some awesome, unbridled jazz/hip-hop fusion goodness. It was probably the best musical act I saw the entire time I was at SXSW, and it didn’t hurt matters that it was in such an intimate setting.
They kicked so much ass, they seemed to break the sound system… twice. This, of course, sent the sound team in the ballroom into a frenzy. Like true performers, they didn’t skip a beat, and honestly they didn’t need to. They were playing the hell out of those instruments so when the sound came back, it only intensified the song they were playing.
Good on you, HBE. I’m a fan, and hopefully you guys come around Houston sometime soon.
Snoop Dogg, you charming bastard.
So, I recorded the keynote conversation that took place between Snoop, and his manager Ted Chung. I’ll have that up on the site within the next couple of days. The conversation was pretty informative into where Snoop is currently with his life and his ambitions.
He’s really putting in a lot of time and love into his Snoop Youth Football League, which is responsible for sending many kids to big name universities on full-ride scholarships for football, and keeping them out of trouble.
Snoop gave us some back story on how he got into music as a child, and what it was like for him being introduced to Dr. Dre through Warren G at a party. I can’t express to you how cool it was to hear him go through the process as to how it all came together. Of course, this is all told while looking through a hazy rear-view mirror, but Snoop was just as smooth, calm, and collected as you’d imagine.
Oh, and high. He was extremely high.
He recalled his first meeting with Willie Nelson, much to the delight of the crowd in Austin:
I was like, “Willie, man… I think you would sound nice on this record right here”, and he was like, “Well, send it over to me”. I was like “Well, how about we do it together, I don’t wanna send it to you” and he was like, “Well, I’ve got a show in Amsterdam on, uh… 4/20.” I said, “Well, Willie… I’m coming to Amsterdam on 4/20”. So when I came out there, you know we had a good time. We performed together and the day after the show, we was chillin’ in Willie’s room playin’ dominoes, right. He was whoopin’ my ass at dominoes. But at the same time, he’s passin’ me a paper, a cigar, a vapor, a bong, and a little… what is that thing with the plastic bag, I don’t even know the name of it. A volcano, yeah.
So I’m like, “This old man is really trying to challenge me right now”. So after he gets me to say, “Hey man, let’s go get something to eat.”, because that’s the cue that you’re winning right now and I gotta find a way out. So we jump into a van and we go to our favorite spot, Kentucky Fried Chicken. We pull up in the drive thru, and we’re ordering chicken, we want a bucket of this and a bucket of that… So me and Willie are sitting side by side so when we get up to the window to pay for the food, we pay for it, they give us the buckets of chicken, and we open it up… Me and Willie, we stick our hand in at the same time and we grab the same piece of chicken. And I look at Willie, and I’m like, “That’s you dog, my bad.”
I let him go on and have it, and that was, like, that was one of the greatest moments of my life when me and Willie Nelson grabbed the same piece of chicken at the same damn time.
Check back for the entire transcript of the interview later.
After the keynote, I was determined to find a spot with a power outlet, and camp out for a bit to write, charge my phone, and relax for a bit. As I previously mentioned, the parking had been paid for, so I wasn’t planning on leaving any time soon despite the need to check into my new hotel room.
SXSW Extra Day Stay Pro-Tip:
Always check Priceline.com for their Name Your Own Price deals. If you want to stay an extra day, just get on there the afternoon before and see which hotel in the area will let you stay there for $60. Obviously, you’ll want to select something around a 2-3 star hotel in the downtown area or maybe the university area, but I got my extra room for a rate of $60.
Take that, suckers that paid $210 for the average rate.
Like I said, I paid for parking, and wasn’t going to vacate my spot immediately.
It was about this time that my phone went off with a message from the wife-to-be letting me know that I was about to be surrounded by rain. It wasn’t just going to pour for a bit, and then let up and have the sun shine down on us again. No. It was about to start raining for the next few days and not quit.
Super. There’s nothing anyone likes more than standing around with complete strangers waiting in lines to get into shows with slick floors and worse off bathrooms, right?
I said screw it. I still had my suitcase and extra shoes in my car that was in a protected garage. I ran across the street and dropped off the valuables. I threw on my rain jacket and grabbed a plastic bag for the phone and wallet (That’s right… I was the guy you saw texting on his phone inside a plastic bag. What?).
I had yet to visit the Fader Fort this year, so I figured if there was any time to do so, it was in the rain. I wanted to go where everyone else had to share in the plight of the weather.
It was actually a quite enjoyable walk from the convention center over to the Fader Fort, which was sponsored by Converse this year. It was sprinkling and I gave a total of zero eff’s. I knew that there were supposed to be two special guests at Fader, and usually that means some really big names will be on display. Rumors were swirling around who would be taking the stage, and I figured it’d be a good place to camp out with the potential for free beverages and delicious snacks.
I was glad to get there a bit early.
People were milling around inside, checking out the Converse art and footwear on display, and I headed out back into the rain for a frosty beverage. Honestly, I don’t remember what they did for drinks in years past, but I don’t remember there being a limit.
I was given two wooden Budweiser tokens, and sent on my way at the door, so I thought it best to take advantage of the rain and get in line.
Everyone was quite concerned with the weather, and there was constant talk of shutting down the venue at 4:00 pm (and then every hour after that) due to lightning and flash flood warnings.
With frosty beverage in tow, I walked back toward the stage in time to catch the beginning of Tei Shi, who proved to provide the most appropriate soundtrack to the day.
I got a spot at the very end of the covered area and enjoyed a tall, cool, Budweiser that would’ve made Harry Caray jealous. I don’t often get songs stuck in my head, especially nearing the end of my stint at a music festival, but the above song has stuck with me since seeing it live. It’s not my typical genre, but dammit if it wasn’t perfect rainy day music.
Next up was the poppy Brit-trio, Years & Years.
I took this chance to go get some grub. I watched for a few minutes and was more confused by the fact that I had seen this singer before, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I forgot about it until just now when I was looking for a picture to put up that I realized that the singer, Olly Alexander, is also in Penny Dreadful.
So that’s weird.
I hadn’t done much surveying of my food options. I’d only seen people walking past me with a mountain of fries from Chi’lantro.
Let’s get this straight. I never jumped on the kimchi hipster bandwagon. I don’t think “fermented vegetables” sounds like an appetizing garnish, and if you do, you’re a liar.
I thought I should go for it though, because, hey… what’s the worst that could happen? I mean, my stomach could reject it and I’d have to take care of some uncomfortable business in one of many COMPLETELY SANITARY portable toilets on site? Pfft. Whatever. I’m in.
So I go order myself some of their kimchi fries topped with pork bulgogi. All of that sounds like a disaster in waiting, but dammit if it wasn’t absolutely delicious. Thankfully, there was no… after effect…
Real talk though, Chi’lantro must have made a killing there. My fries were $9, but were worth every penny, and I was stuffed, happy, and ready to grab another beverage. I might not be a huge fan of kimchi, even still. But I’ll give it another shot as long as it’s made by them.
It should also be noted that there were plenty of coolers around the lot that had free bottles of water and Vitamin Water as well. They were trying to keep everyone hydrated in between all of the kimchi, beer, and whiskey. That was really nice not having to pay $6 for a bottle of water… *cough* AUDITORIUM SHORES *cough*.
Moving through the rest of the day was pretty difficult. I heard I was missing some pretty fun stuff happening over at Stubb’s, as well as random events and parties on 6th, but I was determined to stick it out to see who the special guests were this year.
The next act I caught was Viet Cong. I’m sorry to say that these guys had nothing going for them in terms of crowd involvement, sound, or songs. I was kind of excited to see them on the recommendation of a few people, but they fell flat. More people were leaving the covered stage area during their set than were staying. It seemed that an inevitable bathroom break was in order.
Also, it didn’t seem like anyone got a kick out of the, “We’d like to thank Nike for putting this together” joke they threw out there.
After grabbing another beverage, I came back to the stage because the first special guest was about to be announced. This one didn’t seem to be that big of a mystery, as people had been saying he would be performing here throughout the week.
Big Sean hit the stage at about 6:15 or 6:30, and the crowd went nuts.
He played some of his songs, and some from other artists he appeared on, but my personal favorite?
When he went into his verse from Drake’s, “All Me”.
It was an odd thing going from listening to Snoop Dogg tell us about his transformation from a rapper who admittedly showed blatant disrespect toward women, to a husband and a father that wrote songs for women, rather than songs that objectified them in a disrespectful way… to listening to Big Sean getting a crowd full of mostly women to scream the lyrics to the beginning of his verse: “Hoe shut the f*ck up, I got too much on my mental”.
Poetry, ladies and gentlemen.
I will say it was cool seeing Bay Area legend, E-40 come out to perform the lyrical classic “I Don’t F*ck With U”.
After Big Sean sort of just… hopped off the stage without saying anything to the crowd, it was time for Atlanta rappers, Migos to come up.
Hooray for 30 guys on stage with microphones screaming things.
Clearly, I was reaching the end of my capacity for social situations.
At this point, I was all in on any of the rumors being true as to who the special guest would be. I’d heard Kanye. I’d heard Rihanna. I’d heard Drake. Snoop Dogg was in town, so maybe he’d surprise us all.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN….. T-PAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What happened next surprised me more than anything.
Floods of people were heading for the exit. Sour hipsters, unhappy with a t-shirt clad T-Pain were heading out in droves. Keep in mind that for every person that left, more were in line so the place was packed. I’ve never been where I was in terms of viewpoint to be able to see what happened as each artist took the stage. It was pretty interesting.
I didn’t last long either. It was partially due to the fact that I’d been standing in the rain for over 6 hours to hear “Cyclone” and “Black and Yellow”. Props to him for bringing the live band and playing what looks to be parts of 40-something different songs, but I couldn’t hang.
My apologies Mr. Pain.
I made my way back to my car at the convention center parking garage and headed for my hotel. Grandpa was finished. I checked in to a whopping 3-star hotel near my previous 2 1/2 star craphole and entered the elevator, which, much like everything else in Austin that week, reeked of pot.
After I made it to my room, I realized that I must have scored the jackpot of all Priceline deals, because this room was amazing in comparison to my last one. There were no stains on the carpet. The seating area didn’t have rips in the cloth. I felt like I was home.
Better take a shower, right?
I’m assuming someone was unhappy with their check-out bill because the bathroom smelled like someone decided to coat the walls with urine and the shower looked like it should have been in a prison.
“Can I get a new room please? This one smells like someone peed all over it.”
I never thought I’d ever have to utter those words, but they were quite accommodating. I was put down the hall near what smelled like a party, but my room was pee-free.
I showered up and met a couple of friends for a drink down the street and decompressed.
I had a blast overall, despite not necessarily liking each artist I saw live. It’s not always about that. I probably wouldn’t have ever seen any of them if it weren’t for something as widespread and diverse as SXSW.
I packed up the next morning and headed home. It’s not hard to see how my mind would have been racing from one show to another, trying to figure out what to write about.
That is, until my car decided to shut down in a thunderstorm in the middle of nowhere.
Pro: Ford got me taken care of pretty quick.
Con: Tow truck driver had a bag with a knife and a handcuff hanging out of it.
Until next year, SXSW. Next time, it’s party time.
Thanks again, to Elizabeth and everyone at SXSW for getting me set up. It was a killer time. I’m just glad I didn’t actually get killed in a tow truck during a thunderstorm by a crazy tow truck driver.
I’m selling that idea to a writer next year during the film week… don’t steal it.