SXSW 2012 Day 1: Dispatch from Austin




The annual South By Southwest festival draws musicians and music fans from all over to the Live Musical Capital of the World- that's Austin, TX- and once again Detroit was well-represented.

Detroit-related festivities kicked-off in earnest at a FADER-sponsored party with a much-hyped performance by rapper Danny Brown, taking to the stage (ironically? ...Reverently?) to Blondie's disco-rap hit "Rapture" while wearing a big pair of stark black and white cowboy boots and a cowboy-fringed track jacket. Brown's wacky antics didn't stop there, with lyrics like "blue balls like Avatar", a very graphic ode to cunnilingus, and numerous air horn samples punctuating his set and keeping the crowd electrified.

Grand Rapids punk band Ameobas' van apparently broke down in Indiana for two days on their trip down south, but that didn't keep them from playing an energetic set at The Spider House, a bar/coffeehouse/music venue by The University of Texas campus.

At the outside stage at the Mowhawk, French electro-pop act Yelle wore a dress that shimmered like a CD and bopped around onstage. In contrast, inside the venue Detroit's Rodriguez took on a more somber tone, playing a solo set while sitting down clad in all black, sunglasses, and a hat. Earlier that evening, a new documentary about his strange rise to cult fame and recent revival, Searching For Sugar Man, was screened as part of SXSW's film fest. Even stripped of the post-Motown studio flourishes that made songs like his "Sugar Man" compelling, Rodriguez captivated with his set of timeless protest songs.

Next door at Club de Ville, Matthew Dear played as part of a showcase for Ann Arbor/NYC-based electronic label Ghostly International. No "mere" electronic act, Dear hit the funeral-flower decorated stage with an entire band dressed in all black suits that featured two percussionists, a trumpet player, and guitars. The result evoked an even electro-jazzier fusion of Radiohead's Kid A. An unlikely pairing... impossibly cool.

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