So Tuesday was all about pacing. Wednesday was caffeine. Thursday…I guess you could say I got lazy, but really, I was perfectly content to stay at one venue for almost the entire day. The MTVU Woodie Awards were Thursday and they had set up a killer party with tons of great bands, tasty treats and then of course, the actual awards in between. MTVU had such a great set up for Thursday, that I had to remind myself that there were thousands of other things going on and that I should at least make some effort to break away and explore — so I did in a small dose, but I keep coming back to the Woodies. I think I made the right decision because not only were the announced acts at the Woodies great, but a lot of the performers brought out surprise guests. The biggest surprise was T.I. joining Travi$ $cott, but I also loved seeing Macklemore’s posse of friends join him for various songs. So do I regret not “getting out more”? Not in the slightest.
My Woodies experience kicked off with Australia’s Atlas Genius. I liked them, but sadly, with so many other acts performing at SXSW, their performance just didn’t stand out enough for me. It was generic rock. Similar in instrumental sound, but a little more stand out in vocals was the UK’s Alt-J. Half the time I have no idea what these guys are saying with their unique way of slurring the lyrics together, but I tend not to care — their songs are still fun. However, I think their performance would have been more hypnotizing had they not been playing in the middle of the day. They’re a bit better suited for dark clubs where they can use some laser lights to accent some of their musical swells.
The next performer, I knew nothing about, but the rising Houston rap star Travi$ $cott has friends in high places and he wanted to be sure that everybody walked away remembering his set. After a few songs with just him and his producer he invited back out a fellow rapper that had performed earlier, Trinidad Jame$ (I have no idea why everyone insists on replacing S with $). But the surprises didn’t stop there – T.I. also came out and the three bounced around the stage slamming rhymes back and forth and high five-ing the audience. But the crowd didn’t want to just stop there. On the last number, fans stormed the stage and the rappers took it all in stride, helping pull more people up with him so that it all erupted into a big dance party.
This seemed like a good time to take a little break from the Woodie Awards and music in general. Instead, I set off on a special adventure courtesy of my mobile phone. I happened to be one of the lucky ones in Austin with a Samsung Galaxy device with NFC technology. That enabled me to go on a special scavenger hunt. I tapped my phone against special Samsung posters and unlocked specials all over town, which got me things like free pizza, free cupcakes, coconut water and more. It was fun and a great way to spread brand awareness, but there was an even bigger goal with the scavenging. You see, if you unlocked all of the specials, that would reveal a grand prize surprise. This surprise was actually one of the worst kept secrets of SXSW; Samsung had booked Prince for their closing day party and unlocking the specials guaranteed you passes to see Prince. So yeah, the chance to see a living legend meant taking a break from attending shows for a brief time on Thursday was practically a necessity…picking up a free cupcake in the interim was just bonus.
Before returning the Woodies, I adventured to see an act that was set to explode. Icona Pop. This bubbly duo’s “I Love It,” has quickly become ubiquitous after first getting played on TV shows such as HBO’s Girls. Good news is that this act is worth the hype. They had everyone moving and jumping to their other equally upbeat, anthem tunes. They were one of the few acts I saw that had the audience request an encore and though it is out of the norm for SXSW’s bands to get encores, they got to deliver.
I also adventured to the Fader Fort to catch Solange. Though she’s Beyonce’s sister, their music couldn’t be any more different. Solange tends more toward an R&B, indie rock sound. She’s less about the twerking than she is the bluesy soft shoe type of sway with the microphone as her dance partner. She’s also incredibly charming and down-to-earth (though that could also be true of Beyonce, I just haven’t seen her live to ever verify that).
Finally, I returned the MTVU Woodie Awards to end out my Thursday night. I got to catch an act that had blown me away when I had only just learned about them the night before: Twenty One Pilots. Once again, these guys were on fire and had the crowd amped up. I’m not quite sure how to classify them — sometimes they’re pop, sometimes they’re rap, but I do know that they are performers through and through. I don’t know if I would have loved them as much as I did if I had heard their recordings first (though I do appreciate that their songs are positive and have good messages). Live is the way to experience them. Hands down.
Big buzz act Macklemore & Ryan Lewis closed out my night. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t looking forward to these guys. At this point in time, I had heard “Thrift Shop” on the radio one too many times and was a little burnt out. My plan was to catch one or two songs and bail. But once they came out and started performing, I was hooked. My opinion of them did a complete turnaround. I stayed for the whole set as each song just got better and better. I also couldn’t wait to see who they would bring out next. One of their guests, Mary Lambert, who sings on “Same Love” almost stole the show with her powerful vocals and emotional delivery. I can’t wait to see more from Mary. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ended up being a fun, energetic way to end out the night and they left me eagerly anticipating Friday at SXSW.