Back on the streets of downtown ATX, the second day of South By Southwest Music offered a couple of marquis events happening off the beaten path. There's a lot more to SXSW than even the neverending list of officially scheduled events would imply, and this year, the unofficial bookings are bigger than ever.
First up, we stopped by Fader magazine's annual off-the-grid SXSW installation, the Fader Fort—always a favorite among SXSW regulars. Sponsored by the Italian automaker Fiat, this year the Fort features 4 days of shows from artists like Oh Land, Raphael Saadiq, Lil B and Killer Mike. But even better than the shows themselves are the amenities. Fort '11 is truly over-the-top, boasting a complimentary wi-fi lounge, cocktails, ping-pong, Roberta's pizza apparently flown in from Bushwick, Brooklyn and even a built- in barbershop-- all in little more than a converted field. We would have loved to get our ears lowered, but we had to dine and dash to get ready for another massive unofficial gathering: the MTVU Woodie Awards.
For the first time, the annual award show honoring artists favored by the college music scene came to Austin and was broadcast live from South By. It also marked the first big hosting gig for Donald Glover of NBC's Community and the rap side-project, Childish Gambino. From the floor of the Austin Music Hall, the up-and-comer seemed a little nervous, rushing and flubbing the delivery of some of his scripted lines. A canned "freestyle" at the top of the show didn't fair much better.
The big winner of the night, which honored buzzy pop bands like Two Door Cinema Club and Matt & Kim, was the increasingly famous Wiz Khalifa, who took home the Woodie of the Year for his song "Black and Yellow." Khalifa's girlfriend, the Internet crush Amber Rose could be seen beaming from the balcony in large sunglasses and a form-fitting black and white dress.
Odd Future closed out the set performing Tyler the Creator's viral hit "Yonkers." Likely in light of the group's suddenly sky-high profile, the performance aimed for bigger theatrics, incorporating a dancing little person and people in giant animal costumes before capping things off by having over-sized faux security guards carry the members off stage. In comparison with some of the crew's truly rancorous live shows, the performance seemed forced and a little corny.
We hadn't had our fill of hip-hop, so we headed over to the Mohawk bar and lounge for the Anticon Records showcase. One of our "Artists to Watch," Big K.R.I.T. took the stage right when we arrived and launched into a full throated version of "Return of 4 Eva." He invited frequent collaborators Curren$y and Smoke DZA on stage for their songs as he performed a series of hits from his breakout 2010 street album, Krit Wuz Here. By the end of the show, things got real country. K.R.I.T. jumped into the crowd and the Texas audience enveloped him for a bow-throwing performance of his southern anthem "Country Shit."
Last up was Cyhi Da Prynce, who took a more focused and minimal approach to his set. The G.O.O.D. Music signee stood virtually alone on the stage, with no hypeman and a DJ positioned in back. He got the crowd on his side by running through a few of his tracks from the infamous "G.O.O.D. Friday" sessions and then transitioned into some solo joints from his latest mixtape Royal Flush. We couldn't tell if Cyhi's signature raspy voice seemed more scratchy in person, or if the small hours had begun to affect his vocal chords-- it was 2 am by this point. We lumbered out of the venue and headed back to the hotel room. Time to rest up for Day 3.
(Photo: Scott Gries/PictureGroup)