Top 5 Shows of SXSW '11

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Now that there's time to reflect on the mega music fest that is SXSW, it's not easy to figure out which performances were the best over the five day stretch. Most music festivals around the country take place on the weekend and thus you've got three days of incredible concerts to recollect. But at SXSW, there's a week's worth of shows to attend and once you add all of that free alcohol into the mix, things can get blurry. Still, there were a smattering of gigs around Austin that stood out well above the others. Here are the top five that kept the whole festival alive.

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Big Freedia at the Mess With Texas Party.

You can't mention the underground subgenre of sissy bounce without talking about Big Freedia. She's the "queen diva" of bounce music and orchestrates an ass-shaking extravaganza unlike anything else you've ever seen. Her show on Saturday night looked like something out of a 2 Live Crew music video from the '80s. Girls and guys were on stage with their hands on their knees shaking asses and popping coochies in every direction imaginable. We're talking stripper worthy gyrations. The stage was packed with crowd participants that wanted to bump and grind as well making this the most hilarious stage party of the whole festival. Big Freedia (pronounced Freeda) ended the set with an endearing version of the late Magnolia Shorty's "Smoking Gun" Your Da Only One" which, if you listen to the song below, will tell you exactly what the vibe of the night was like.

Odd Future at the Thrasher Party

This is the epic show that so many folks at SXSW were talking about. I was fortunate enough to get inside and caught the most punk-rock group in hip-hop rapping to a crowd of mostly punk rock skaters. This wasn't anything like the even more talked about FADER show where they performed with Diddy and Lil B. I watched part of that show and all of the above were tired by that point. That's why it was best to catch Odd Future earlier in the day at this gig as they didn't hesitate to vault off of every surface imaginable straight into the crowd and insult photographers, sound guys, and anybody else in their line of sight. Peep the video of Tyler singing "Radical" below with it's ever-friendly chorus of "kill people, burn shit, fuck school!"

Black Milk at Audible Treats Showcase

Detroiter Black Milk had the best year of his career in 2010 so it was only fitting that audiences would pack the Scoot Inn on Thursday night to watch him perform songs off of his latest project, Album of the Year. Backed by a full band and dressed in flannel, Black tore through songs off the album and showed folks where all of his ego and cockiness comes from. Dude can rap and his stage show was high energy and uptempo the entire time. A host of other Detroit artists were in attendance to support him and at certain points, I looked out from the side of the stage and the entire audience looked like they had their hands in the air.

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Richie Hawtin

Watching Windsor/Detroit techno legend Richie Hawtin on stage was probably the most unexpected experience of SXSW. He's toured all over the planet for nearly two decades yet this year was his first time performing at the festival. and he made sure that he left the best impression possible. A lot of folks in the crowd never had the opportunity to see Hawtin live until this show and once it over, the most endearing part of the night was watching Richie take photos and sign autographs for every single person that wanted one. It probably took him 30 minutes to do so but it didn't matter at all and he was just as excited as he could be to see folks in Texas that respected him.

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Dennis Coffey and Will Sessions at Wax Poetics Showcase

Just as I was becoming hip-hopped out and tired of walking for hours catching music from genre after genre, I remembered that soul and funk was mysteriously missing from my SXSW experience. It felt damn good to walk into a Dennis Coffey show and watch the guitar legend (who was dressed to the nines) playing a soul revue like it was 1975. He's a little grayer than he used to be obviously, but Coffey can play the guitar like it's an extension of his body and when someone can truly master an instrument like that, it's always fun to watch. With Detroit outfit Will Sessions behind him he played songs off of his new album for about an hour and made sure to keep everything funky. This show was another example of a gig where most of the young people in the room probably hadn't seen Dennis Coffey perform in years if ever but they knew about his reputation and lined up early to watch him work. If the songs he played in Austin are as funky on the album as they were live, Coffey is definitely an early contender for having the funkiest record of the year.


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