Friday, March 14, 2008

SXSW '08: Day 2

[Musicfesting] "We are family!" Sister Sledge's hottest hit ran through my head last night as Doomtree brought the noise to SXSW. The Minneapolis hip-hop collective--entire crew assembled out of state for the first time ever—is the very definition of family. Watching them perform, you understand they’ve got each other’s backs. They’d throw down for each other. Die for each other. At Austin’s Marq Cocktail Lounge, they delivered beats and rhymes for each other. Fab Five Freddy (!) randomly stopped by and asked Doomtree if he could introduce them. What?! Like any self-respecting hip-hop head would turn him down!

Mike Mictlan (with Paper Tiger) then kicked things off a little after 7 p.m. with a lively set of tight tracks from his forthcoming album Hand Over Fist, trying his best to warm up the crowd—still frigid from too little liquid courage. Mictlan repeatedly encouraged his timid audience to show some love by flashing the Doomtree sign—hands spread, crossed like wings. Broken wings. Cecil Otter followed, looking all dapper in a black fedora and cuffed jeans. A smooth operator, no doubt, his flow had an enticing and unsettling effect—like you’d take him home but sleep with one eye open.

Dessa stepped up after Otter and absolutely blew away the now-ample Marq audience. Tall and striking with skills to burn, the sole female Doomtree member exercised impressive control and restraint with material that could very easily spin out of control and over the top. Her set proved that, above all else, Doomtree are survivors. They’ve clearly seen hard times and are all the stronger for it. Even though Dessa probably could have beat down any one in the crowd, she revealed past weaknesses and insecurities. She confessed a need to use the mic stand as crutch when singing (not rhyming or slamming poetry), and hopped up on the bar to sit down for an absolutely gorgeous ballad.
Sims successfully bridged the audience/performer gap by forming a circle around him in the middle of the room. Suddenly wallflowers found their groove, started to bounce and throw their hands in the air “like we don’t care anymore.” His best number was a little ditty he once wrote in 10 minutes and initially deemed sub par before friends proclaimed it solid gold. P.O.S. took Sims’ lead, reforming a circle. By now the crowd was pumped and completely stoked on Doomtree.

Since the showcase was open to the public and not well publicized (apparently added to the festival at the last minute), the majority of the crowd was made up of Austin locals who likely learned about the event on MySpace. Gotta love the Internet. Or not. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. P.O.S. started with a disclaimer: “Most of these songs are new ones” off the forthcoming album (highly anticipated follow up to 2005’s Audition) tentatively (hopefully) coming out this Fall. “So if these songs end up on YouTube tomorrow … ah, I probably won’t do anything.” But the implication was clear—leaking material is not cool, man.

P.O.S. (with Turbo Nemesis on beats) tossed in a fair share of older favorites including “Stand Up (Let’s Get Murdered),” “Paul Kersey to Jack Kimball” and “”Half-Cocked Concepts.” Staying true to his genre-bending style, P.O.S. just keeps getting faster, stronger—deftly manipulating whiplash tongue and wit. I checked out three hours into the showcase—hunger and metal called—but I can safely say Doomtree’s producers (including Lazerbeak and, I think, MK Larada) continued to blow away their diehard fans (old and new). Do yourself a favor and look them up.

I met up with SLUG queens Angela Brown and Rebecca Vernon for some metal action at Emo’s Annex. Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste made good on nearly every metal cliché, with a man dressed as a wizard—pointy hat, fake long beard, wooden staff—who occasionally came onstage with the band’s “Inebriator”—a tricked-out beer bong with a grisly skull cup—to quench worthy fans’ thirst. Another member of the band’s entourage climbed up on a raised speaker, shimmied into a plastic garbage can and threw himself onto the crowd. But the thrashing mosh pit wasn’t enough for Municipal Waste’s lead singer who demanded the crowd form a “death wall” and charge at each other from both ends. They, of course, complied. Top that off with songs about terror sharks and “beer” pressure and what else do you need? The best part about metal—besides the noise—is its exaggerated theatrics. You’ve got to love the drama.

Oakland’s High on Fire wrapped up my evening with some of the loudest shit I’ve ever heard (besides, strangely, Jeff Beck at Kingsbury Hall!). The shirt-less lead singer/guitarist summoned Luficer for killer beastly vocals that sounded otherworldly from the sidelines. Then again, perhaps I wasn’t the best judge of sound quality at the point. I left before their last song and realized too late that I should have worn earplugs. It’s not a good sign when you can still hear the band loud and clear four blocks away from the venue.

Here’s to more metal (with Salt Lake City’s Iota!) and other assorted musical shenanigans today/tonight! Stay tuned … (Jamie Gadettte)


  1. You should put together an online playlist of everything you've been enjoying. Would love to hear it.


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