Erik Abel of Animal Farm and Focused Noise kept notes on his journey to SXSW last week. It's a bit of a bumpy ride...
Wednesday, March 17th
After a sleepless night, we boarded a 6:15 am plane to Austin, overflowing with members of Portland's Hip-Hop community, including Serge Severe, Mic Crenshaw, Cool Nutz, Fury from Animal Farm, DJ Fatboy, Double 00, and myself. We stopped at our hotel and redecorated the room, which was a necessity in order to fit six grown men into a 380 square foot "suite." Ah, the rock star life! Next, we caught the shuttle to a crowded 6th Street to partake in the festivities. Since it was St. Patty's day, I initiated an Irish Car Bombs-only drinking rule, which I then immediately broke with a couple Bloody Marys. Functioning on zero sleep and a few too many drinks, we hit Touché for the Taxidermy Records/ Focused Noise showcase, with a full lineup of some of the best Hip-Hop acts the Northwest has to offer. We were joined by Animal Farm's Hanif Wondir, who made the trip from the Bay Area, and DJ Wels who enjoyed the real-life Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
experience in order to get to Austin. The venue was so tiny that you had to walk single file to get through the place. Still, the place was packed the entire night, and the crowd was very responsive.
Thursday, March 18th
Upon our arrival at Momo's for our afternoon showcase, we encountered the strangest sound man of all time. After only a two sentence conversation, he began throwing punches at the air in a rage and doing air shotgun blasts. Then, as the show began, the sound man started sprinting around the venue at full speed in an attempt to gauge the sound. His insanity actually made him one of the best sound people we've ever worked with. During the show, we also encountered iCON the Mic King, who we couldn't avoid seeing no matter where we went (along with Homeboy Sandman) for the rest of the trip. iCON decided that it was a good idea to tell a room full of hipsters how much he hated hipsters and basically cleared the room right before we took the stage. Great thinking. JFK from Grayskul also reminded me what a beast on the mic he is. In the evening, we walked around and I quickly came to the realization that mascots were the most popular people in Austin. Even weirdos with homemade costumes comprised of old dish towels provoked pictures from everyone in the streets. Another thing we realized during our experience was that everyone is officially a rapper. Serge Severe probably explained this the best with a simple statement, proclaiming "Hey... He raps, too!"
Friday, March 19th (Afternoon)
With three shows scheduled for the day, we got an early start...which somehow wasn't early enough. After our boy Randolph McTools brought us a pair of turntables, we piled into a shuttle van with a young driver who was overeager to get us to Texas Rock Fest. He rushed us to the outdoor stage, and we arrived just in time to set up and play our early afternoon show. Following our act was a Seattle-based band, whose name I can't remember. They seemed like nice guys, but we had to jet when one of them started singing with a British accent.
Next was the Hip-Hop Howl Showcase, which we appropriately renamed "Hip-Hop Hell". It was chalk full of over thirty hip-hop acts, most of which were carbon copies of the worst popular Hip-Hop/ R&B artists on the radio. Even the decent acts were overpowered by an atrocious sound system. Luckily, we got to follow an act whose claim to fame was a track called "Young and Ignorant." I'm sure you can imagine where I'm going with this, but I won't get into too many details, except to say that he ended his set laying on a filthy floor singing about how he was young and ignorant. I don't know how we followed that brilliant imagery, but we were quickly onto our evening show at a venue on 6th Street called Darwin's Pub.
Friday, March 19th (Evening)
The show at Darwin's Pub ended up easily being our best show of the week. The venue was crowded and the audience was extremely responsive. My highlight was when I announced that we had to bring someone to the stage, intending for Mic Crenshaw to make his way up. Before I could finish my introduction, a heavy set guy started walking up the stairs to approach the stage. I said "You're not the person I'm looking for," only to be ignored. He spent the last 20 minutes of our set standing in the back corner of the stage like he was a security guard ready to pounce on any overzealous fan. Peace to Nightclubber Lang, Jern Eye, D.R.E.S. tha Beatnick, and many others who came to show their support. Feeling revitalized, we made the two-mile trek to check out the Duck Down Showcase. After playing so many shows for so many years, I rarely enjoy a show strictly from a fan's perspective, and this was a great opportunity for us to appreciate a number of the artists who influenced us in our younger days, including Black Moon, Smif N Wesson, and an incredible performance by Pharoahe Monch.
Saturday, March 20th/ Sunday, March 21st
Serge and I met Wels and Crenshaw at the Beat Society Showcase, which was a dope display of some of the better up-and-coming producers in the game, including Marco Polo, The Are, Babu, Oddissee, and Kev Brown. I also had the honor of meeting Pharoahe Monch, which was easily one of the highlights of my Hip-Hop career to this point. Next, we checked out the Audible Treats showcase with One Be Lo, Tanya Morgan, and more, before venturing back to the hotel to pack for our 6:15 AM return flight. Again functioning on zero sleep, we stumbled into the airport, which was a who's who of drunk and hungover music industry big wigs. I set my sights on Dru Ha, the Owner of Duck Down, and approached him in his ticket line, which he couldn't have been any less excited about. Still, sometimes you only get one shot to meet people and you have to take it, even if it means bothering someone who is exhausted at 5 am. After running into a bunch of our Seattle colleagues and Dan from Square Peg Concerts, it was onto Portland. There's no place like home!