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SXSW Day 2: Reflecting Eternally on a Night of Degeneracy

 

Imagine your favorite artist of all-time performing his or her best material that you’ve never seen live before. That’s what I got last night when Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek nearly tore through the entire Reflection Eternal disc, Train of Thought; I had more blood rushing through me than when I got my debut blow job back in eighth grade.

 

It was a long day before I got to Kweli at the Scoot Inn – and to the afterparty at the Red Bull Moon Tower in the middle of absolutely nowhere. I ate lots of barbecue and even nearly shat my pants; but it was beyond worth it – I’m considering adopting grandchildren just so I can tell them about my adventures.

 

As it turns out, brisket goes well with junky music. I won’t call anyone out (though I bet Brodeur will), but the sounds penetrating my skull while I grubbed baked beans and free potato salad at the SoHo Lounge nearly forced the barbecue right out the other side.

 

If you have a minute, shed a tear for lonely guys who strum guitars on corners and belt heartfelt lyrics; they’re the only ones who care about their feelings – kind of like Britney Spears (whose slide show is for some reason the most viewed item on ThePhoenix.com).

 

I caught Great Northern at the Filter party; and while I don’t generally pass judgment on things non-hip-hop, I dug the groove. The lead singer could use a sandwich and the guitar player sweats like a pig prostitute, but their sadness intrigued me.

 

In other rock news: it’s too bad that five percent of shitty bands take up ninety percent of radio airplay; there are so many awful bands out there that need to be heard.

 

I made a goofy, baseless prediction that the Harlem Shakes would walk away from SXSW with a backpack full of props. And while that might end up being the case, their afternoon set at the Scoot Inn was relatively empty. The Harlem Shakes, as it turns out, are not a black Michael J. Fox cover band, but rather a very radical New York unit with a lead singer who drums it up on the monitor.

 

Here’s a band name I’d like to see: Sobriety Behind Sunglass. Either that or The Dirty White High Tops.

 

DJ Diamond Tip smoked the tables at the Spectre hip-hop meet and greet, where Zion I, Black Skeptik, P. Casso, Percee P, and a whole bunch of other MCs took their cipher to the street. Leave it to hip-hoppers to congregate outside the club; if there are people to pass CDs to – that’s where you’ll always find them.

 

At the meet and greet I complained to rap journalist Davey D about how there were too many dope shows last night; Big Boi, Camp Lo, Reflection Eternal, and 8-Ball and MJG were all scheduled to smack at the same time. But Davey made a solid point: at least we were bitching about there being too much hip-hop.

 

What do I have to say about the Sounds of Spain party in Brush Square Park? Uh – well – there was free paella and a wicked clean porta potty.

 

My first evening stop was the Karma Lounge, where Austin degenerate extraordinaire Dubb Sicks and his accomplice Mumbles Skinny murdered their first ever official showcase. I’ve been checking these vagrants since I first came down here three years ago; and in the time since Sicks has developed iller than a fetus refusing to abort.

 

If I had a million dollars – after I hired a hit man to castrate every member of the Barenaked Ladies – I’d put it behind Dubb Sicks. America needs more MCs who can get people off their bar stools and into the crowd – even if it’s because they’re curiously horrified. 

 

Afterwards I rolled with Philly beast Icon the Mic King to the Back Alley Social Club, where I made my first big discovery of the week. New Zealand MC David Dallas – who “raises more hands than Hitler” – is someone to definitely listen for. And his girlfriend is extremely hot.

 

Queens-Jersey veteran Yak Ballz competently bulldozed through his first-ever SXSW gig alongside Kosha Dillz, who is the first-ever person to shout Chris Faraone out on stage down here. He must know that I’m an egomaniac, and that his name would be guaranteed to turn up in this post. Challah!

 

If the bouncer wouldn’t let me into the Scoot Inn – where Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek reunited as Reflection Eternal – I was fully prepared to scale the wall. And that’s before I knew the half of what would be going down.

 

To my knowledge, the Scoot was popularized in rap circles by El-P, who last year threw a raucous showcase there with Bushwick Bill and Devin the Dude. However – I can confidently say that New York radio luminary Peter Rosenberg knocked that legendary status out the box last night.

 

With a bill that featured my number one New York cat Homeboy Sandman and a grab bag of other ringers, Rosenberg’s joint popped off perfectly. The initial of two highlights – get this – was the first John Forte show in nearly a decade. The Fugees affiliate just got out of prison for his infamous liquid cocaine charge; which was ironic considering the long bathroom lines, but a blessing nonetheless.

 

Forte came out with just his voice and a guitar; in most circumstances it would have been a downer considering the SXSW energy rushing through the venue, but it was the type of crowd that appreciates intelligence. Classic line: “I give you credit for your swagger, but it’s probably his.”

 

Before Kweli took the helm, I overheard two chickenheads talking about him at the bar, and trying – unsuccessfully – to pronounce his name. There’s a skit on the Reflection Eternal disc with two girls doing that exact same thing, and these bitches sounded so much like it that for a minute I thought they were punking me. Where’s Ashton?

 

I didn’t write a single thing down during the Reflection set; I stood there with a beer in one paw and my camcorder in the other. I rapped along, dropped my jaw, and was even moved to tears. I take back every nasty thing I’ve ever written about Kweli; the performance that he spooned upon us last night was probably the deepest set I’ve seen since him and Mos Def crushed the Knitting Factory in 2002. I would say more, but it was truly beyond words; video should be up on ThePhoenix.com sometime in the next few days.

 

I cherry-topped the evening with a ten minute cab ride to the middle of Everyone-Owns-A-Gun, Texas, where Red Bull set up an oasis of sorts that they call the Moon Tower. Nothing like mainlining half-a-dozen Red Bull-vodkas from four to six in the morning.

 

Sorry to break it to ya’ Fader Fort folks, but Red Bull did you in this year. I know I used a 90210 reference yesterday, but the Bull bash was so cool that it felt like I was on a television show. And what’s better than being on a television show? I mean – that’s where all cool cues come from – right?

 

Lady Sovereign brought the headline performance. The half-pint Brit MC-stress can certainly spit – and she was in overdrive last night, kicking every mic stand in sight – but I’m not sure the crowd appreciated her. Still – with heads full of Bull – we stood attentively.

 

I almost feel badly for anyone who lacked enough sense to leave the Moon Tower before it let out; as it was I nearly had to pants someone to score a cab. Next time I roll out I’ll be stealing two cars – a Camaro for the way there, and a Hummer for the way back. Au revoir Pee-Wee.


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