Sunday, March 20, 2011

LOL/OMG/SXSW Days #4-5: Justin Vernon, Diddy, Snoop, and Yoko

Robyn wraps up her time in Austin and returns home no worse for the wear (well, a little bit worse). Check out her final recap below, full of celeb sightings, good friends and amazing music.

Day...what the hell day is it? The last 48 Hours in Austin:

So, Friday and Saturday kinda blended into one big conglomerate of awesome, so I'll just roll 'em both into one post.

Friday started off with free beer and Marijuana Deathsquads for breakfast (and a sighting of Susannah Hoffs from the Bangles!) at the Gimme Noise/First Avenue day party. Even at noon, the joint was filled with friends from Minnesota, New York, Austin, and LA, which created an awesome vibe to start the day. Kudos to City Pages' Andrea Swensson and First Avenue's Sonia Grover for getting some of our best local bands together and throwing one of the most successful and fun parties of the week. On the roster was Jeremy Messersmith, Sims, Sick of Sarah, Solid Gold, and Tapes n Tapes.

Not one to stay in one spot too long, I ventured over to the convention center to check out Flatstock, a rock poster show featuring the best artists from all over exhibiting their work to the music lovers of Austin. Local contributors included Burlesque of North America and Land Land, a couple of my personal faves. They even had a Lego table, where a couple native Austin rockstars were assembling Lego dicks. This made me hungry, so I asked them what the best BBQ in Austin was and the unanimous answer was Iron Works, just around the corner. I skipped over and grabbed myself a plate full of ribs and brisket. As I sat on the patio stuffing my face, I looked over to the next table to see Fab from the Strokes - and he looked fab. I, on the other had, was covered in BBQ sauce. I hate it when that happens!

After lunch, I strolled on to the Fader Fort to see buzz bands Smith Westerns and Matt & Kim, and to check out what all the hype was over new LA rap group Odd Future. I left completely impressed. The energy, the live spectacle, and the mass hysteria they brought was a definite highlight. Odd Future is extremely antagonistic with their audience - jumping feet first into the crowd from speakers, chucking Mountain Dew bottles into the crowd...and the fans just ate that shit up. I saw several photographers in the pit get pummeled, one even left bloody. Thankfully I was safe and sound with my free vodka lemonade in the VIP section.

Instead of dinner, I decided to take in another popular new band, Yuck! at the Vice Magazine party with Bendrea. Since there was a very long line to get in, Andrea practiced her swagger at the press entrance and got us all in no prob. Yuck was pretty decent, most of their setlist sounded exactly like the Reality Bites soundtrack, and I was distracted by the giant cages hanging from the ceiling. Time to move on to the next fun thing - more rap music! Freddie Gibbs, the Cool Kids, and Das Racist were playing over at Emo's. Gibbs and the Cool Kids were rad, Das Racist, not so much. "Dad Racist" as my friend put it - kinda dorky, very undanceworthy.

Skipping ahead a couple hours, and all of a sudden its Saturday, the last day of the festival and probably the most spectacular. This truly has been a life changing experience for not only me, but my crew as well. Collectively, we had all been part of something pretty fucking special, this Minneapolis take-over of SXSW, and I think I speak for us all when I say that its an experience we'll never forget. It brought everyone closer together - there's nothing like supporting your friends as they make magic all over town, to new and old audiences. Witnessing that was clearly the best part of the festival for me.

The Last Day started off with a jaunt south of town to Austin staple brunch Magnolia Cafe with the MPLS.TV crew. Rolling up, we spotted several Broken Crow paintings on several of the buildings in the vicinity. Hometown pride swelled.

After a leisurely brunch, I headed back to Fader Fort to peep one of my most anticipated shows of the week, James Blake, who straight killed his set. This kid has the voice of an angel, and paired with the thundering dub-step bass it made for one of my favorite sets yet.

Walking back downtown, I ran into my friend Andrew Flanagan, who is one of the most kick-ass writers I know, and he convinced me that I had to see Thao & the Get Down Stay Down with him. He was right. One of the best parts of SXSW is seeing brand new bands you've never heard of and falling in love. This happened many times throughout the festival, and this was one of those times.

Without any plans or a working phone, I decided my next plan was to just follow my ears - something that has done me right all week. I could hear the luscious pop melodies of Surfer Blood nearby and decided to head in the direction of the East Side Drive In, where, of course, there was a line around the block. Lucky for me, the security guard was in desperate need of a cold beverage in the near-90 degree heat, so I offered up an ice cold water and a swig off my return for entrance. Not surprisingly, just about everyone I know was there hanging out backstage to check out such bands as the Dead Milkmen, !!!, Thee Oh Sees and Big Freedia. I couldn't have been happier. Not only did I get to see some excellent live acts I hadn't yet had the chance to see, but I got to share it with my homies.

After the sun sets on Saturday at SXSW, things start to get crazy. Secret shows are announced, Big acts appear out of thin air, all hell breaks loose. While watching my friends high school band the DeYarmond Edison reunite for a 3 song set (amid a raging rap crowd, bizarre) I looked over and spotted P. Diddy off on the sidelines bobbing his head along to the quiet, folk set. As excited as I was to be watching one of my favorite vocalists, Justin Vernon, play cover songs, I couldn't help but be distracted by those gigantic diamonds.

Now my head was spinning. I needed sushi real bad, so I headed downtown for a bite with a friend. I didn't think things could get any more surreal, but they were about to real fast. As we were leaving dinner, we noticed that a massive line had formed across the street, and saw Snoop Dogg's face on the jumbotron. Hearts beating wildly, we ran over and used my magic press pass to gain entrance just as Snoop was starting an unannounced set. This was by far the most epic, insane, and downright legendary thing I have probably ever seen. Snoop, joined by Warren G, P. Diddy, Mayer Hawthorne, and tha Dogg Pound (each sporting Nate Dogg t-shirts) played all the hits, including a cover of House of Pain's Jump Around. The energy in that room is something I will never forget. Everybody danced, sweat, passed blunts, and looked around with the same general feeling of "is this really fucking happening?"

I was wide-eyed and amped for hours afterwards, but going home to bed was not in the cards. There was another legend playing just down the street, and I was inspired.

Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, featuring Sean Lennon (who looks freakishly identical to his father), Nels Cline, Yuka Honda from Cibo Matto, and members of Deerhoof simply could not be missed. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and there was no way I was sleeping on it. Really, there are no words. Spending my evening surrounded by legends that I have grown up adoring and admiring was enough to make my heart explode. It was unbearable and brilliant. It is also worth mentioning that the show was produced by Minneapolis summer resident and ex-Babes in Toyland drummer Lori Barbero, another musician figure I grew up admiring. Overwhelming can't even being to describe this night, I had stars in my eyes for hours.

Around the corner at Side Bar, our gigantic crew of Minneapolis friends were sharing one last drink together in Austin, howling at the full moon. I don't remember much of the end of the night, and I still can't really believe it all happened. But I do know that every single person who was involved, all the laughter and smiling faces and amazing music shared, has made this an unforgettable experience.

I'm home now, finally, and I feel like the kid in Almost Famous when he arrives home from tour, writes his opus article for Rolling Stone, and then sleeps for days. That's exactly what I'm going to do now. See you next year Austin!

Read more tweets from Robyn at @LOLOMGSXSW

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