It seems there's no correct way to do SXSW.
Attempting to shovel as much brisket and ribs as you can into your mouth while sprinting down 6th Street (past rap entourages and cling-ons from the film / tech weeks) to fulfill your ludicrous band-watching itinerary is a fruitless endeavour.
None of this was helped by rumours of Kanye, Drake and Jay-Z appearances making the rounds, meaning that wherever you went, you were seized by a chronic fear of missing Yeezy. But what we did see, out of the 2,000 odd acts that ambushed the city this year, were some truly exciting performances – often where hip-hop and rap came out on top.
Now that we're home, and still running on the Texan clock, we've unpacked the highlights of Austin keeping it weird, yet again.
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God Damn having a bad day
The Wolverhampton duo's appearance at the British Embassy was plagued with technical difficulties – but they powered through in high spirits. After a long spell of loud feedback and pedal trouble, guitarist Thom Edward took the time to marvel at the self-tuning ("knob twiddling") guitar Gibson had lent him.
A 3pm louder-than-loud blitz on the workings of your ear is perhaps not the most relaxing way to start a week in the deep south, but it was at least an effective way to dispel any remnants of jet lag.
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Snoop talking Willie Nelson, KFC and abstract art
In conversation with his manager Ted Chung, Snoop Dogg's keynote speech at the city's Convention Centre was a highpoint. Things we learnt: had Dr. Dre not thrown a bachelor party for his friend a quarter of a century ago, where Warren G put on Snoop's mixtape, he might never have made it as a rapper. He's also, amazingly, only lost one battle out of around 3 or 400 - and his abstract art is hanging in the Versace hotel in Australia – featuring, naturally, a sprinkle of ash from his blunt.
The address also touched on his friendship with Willie Nelson (including some not-so subtle allusions to them going into "the green room" and "sparking up an idea"). His best line came as a Future-referencing one, where he revealed that "one of the best moments of my life was when me and Willie grabbed the same piece of chicken (from a KFC bucket) at the same damn time".
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Leikeli47 ensuring that the balaclava will be Autumn's must-have accessory
A downtown skatepark and Thrasher mag stage was one of the only all-age venues in SXSW, so sure enough by midday it was essentially one giant moshpit of skater kids going wild to Waka Flocka and Gucci.
Anonymous Brooklyn artist Leikeli47 reported to the stage, along with her hypegirls and guy in matching woollen balaclavas, to perform a selection of tracks off recent mixtape 'LK-47 Pt. II'. With a DIY aesthetic reminiscent of M.I.A or Odd Future, she expertly commanded the crowd - getting their elbows up, heads shaking and middle fingers to the sky.
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SOAK (or Steve Lamacq) reducing the British Embassy to pin-drop silence
Bridie Monds-Watson's fragile, ethereal music doesn't work in a bar of chattering, Dos Equis-gulping music heads, so Steve Lamacq took it upon himself to reduce the crowd down to a whisper prior to her on-stage arrival. "I'm SOAK, like a bathtub", she introduced herself, lamenting the fact that she wasn't old enough to drink this side of the Atlantic.
Armed with just a guitar, the Irish singer-songwriter delivered coming of age album tracks 'B a Nobody', 'Sea Creatures' and 'Blud', with a voice that could pierce through any bar babble.
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Dipset, Dipset, Dipset!
Giving stage space to up-to-the-minute acts like Rae Sremmurd and Kaytranada's brother (Louie P of The Celestics) as well as the OGs that are Ghostface Killah and Dipset, Boiler Room was the only place to be on Wednesday night.
BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah ripped through some of their recent 'Sour Soul' tracks, along with a cover of 'Daytona 500' (with the iconic Raekwon line "I move rhymes like retail, make sure shit sell"), 'C.R.E.A.M' and an off-the-cuff execution of the Jackson 5's 'I Want You Back'.
But it was the arrival of The Diplomats and Funkmaster Flex that blew the roof off, with Cam'Ron, Juelz Santana and Freekey Zekey performing 'Hey Ma' and 'I Really Mean It'.
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Passion Pit serenading the sunset
Glossy indie-pop works best when the sun's going down and you're swallowing mouthfuls of eye-wateringly alcoholic iced tea. Apparently. Taking to the Spotify House stage, warmed up nicely by HudMo dropping his co-produced 'All Day', the Michael Angelakos-fronted group toasted the evening with 'Little Secrets' and new album cut 'Lifted Up (1985)'.
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Dam-Funk bringing the house down at the Stones Throw showcase
Peanut Butter Wolf hosted a mammoth event at the Empire Garage, kicking off with Mild High Club (the sonic lovechild of Mac DeMarco and Tame Impala) and Silk Rhodes – whose Sasha Desree purred into the mic, clad in a velvety soft jumpsuit.
But it was Dam-Funk who stole the show. We had hoped that he'd bring out 7 Days of Funk co-star Snoop, seeing as he'd been delivering his keynote that morning - but no such luck.
Nevertheless, he does a solo rendition of 'Hit Da Pavement' (before embarking on a rant about widespread use of the n-word – and, later on, a running commentary on the size of Aretha Franklin's boobs).
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A Sausage House making the perfect host for some neo-soul
We found ourselves in the pouring rain at Banger's - home to Austin's largest selection of sausages - for Hiatus Kaiyote's performance. P Diddy's TV company were running things here, and the tight security made for a strange vibe. Frontwoman Nai Palm thanked a poncho-clad audience for "enduring the sh*tty weather" and treated us to a delicate, jazz-inflected array of tracks from the Melbourne quartet's forthcoming album, 'Choose Your Weapon'. No wonder Prince and Erykah Badu are fans.
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QT conducting an on-stage business meeting
Regardless of how you feel about London's PC Music brigade, the buzz (and queue to get into their show) was real. This week the whole family were representing: Danny L Harle, A. G. Cook, SOPHIE, QT, GFOTY, Hannah Diamond, easyFun, Kane West, Spinee, and Felicita.
At times their takeover of the Empire Garage could feel like one big joke - particularly when Spinee dropped Evanescence rework 'Save Me' - but when you let yourself get swept along the nostalgia trip of sugary chiptune, trance and J-pop, it was undeniably brilliant.
GFOTY (in a pink sweatsuit) brought out choreographed backing dancers, while QT spent her set in a virtual business meeting, headset on, and handing out cans of her sparkling energy drink. The night culminated with SOPHIE, PC's hottest property, who slotted abrasive, wall-quaking bass next to neon pink pop tones - revealing exactly why he's been chosen to produce for both Charli XCX and Madonna.
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Skeppy going Stateside
A less than lively crowd made it more difficult for grime veteran Skepta to #shutdown the Fader Fort, but he managed it all the same. Spitting over Dizzee Rascal's 'I Luv U' while performing 'That's Not Me' and the more US-friendly 'It Ain't Safe (ft. Young Lord)', which he brought the A$AP mob out for, Joseph Junior Adenuga proved that he has potential across the pond. Here's to 'Konichiwa' going global.
Words: Felicity Martin
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