There's a huge list of major music festivals around the world that continually draw name bands and even larger audiences of musicphiles who need to hit at least one big fest before they die. Think Coachella, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and even our own Detroit Electronic Music Festival. Most of said fests host the up-to-the-moment touring bands and buzzed up-and-comers. Austin, Texas' huge South by Southwest Music Conference (March 15-20) showcases thousands of the great, the good, the bad and the ugly. And, for the past handful of years, rock 'n' roll bands from Detroit have kicked Austin's ass and gained more followers and respect because of it.
Bands such as the Sights, the Hard Lessons, Thunderbirds Are Now!, the Paybacks, the Dirtbombs, and countless others have showed wide-eyed SXSW music heads why Detroit's Rock City.
Last year, Ilana Weaver (aka Invincible), threw a couple of key showcases in Austin that highlighted the crème de la crème of Detroit hip hop such as the "DXSW" event and The Revival: SXSW Women in Hip Hop showcase that ended up being, in the opinion of many, two of the best received shows in Austin, regardless of genre.
This year, another kind-hearted Detroit promoter who's developed a reputation as a doer rather than a talker, Shannon DeVries, is organizing a Michigan hip-hop music showcase in Texas with an interesting twist. DeVries, who's also called Six Two (it's her stature), works as Live Nation rep by day and manages rapper Ro Spit in her spare time, and is also a huge supporter of Detroit's hip-hop community.
She can remember being thoroughly impressed with Invincible's showcases last year but also daunted by the amount of work that went into making sure the Detroit artists were represented well.
"I was at the show that Invincible did in Austin last year, and I really enjoyed it," DeVries says. "I told her that I want to be a part of it next year, but because [Invincible] decided to be more of an artist this year, she's not organizing a Detroit show. She had so much on her plate last year. ... I was kind of intimidated to take on the role in her absence this year, but I realize it's important to the Michigan hip-hop acts to have a showcase to play, so I'm doing it."
Thus DeVries has assembled a local show set for this Friday called Coney's and Cuervo that'll feature the same 15 artists who will, eight days later, rock the Michigan music showcase at Mi Casa Cantina in the heart of Austin.
This could be the first time that a dual hip-hop showcase starring Michigan artists has taken place in two cities based on one event.
"It's a chance for the people who can't get to Austin this year to see what we're going down there to do," says emcee and clothing store owner Ro Spit. "But it's also a fundraiser. There are costs that go into putting on a show like this out of state. It's hard enough to put on a show in your own back yard, let alone thousands of miles away."
"I did get some local sponsors," DeVries adds, "but I didn't want it to turn into someone else's name being sponsored all over it. I wanted to keep control of the event in Texas. So, yeah, we're doing the Michigan event for the fans and artists who can't make it this year to come and support us, but it's also to raise money."
But is such an undertaking worth it?
"This is bigger than us as individuals," Spit says. "It's bigger than Black Milk or whoever else. It's for those cats that are a little bit younger in Michigan that are just building a name. We're trying to make it easier for them to go down to SXSW and get shows in the future. So we have to look strong."
One of the youngsters headed for a SXSW debut is 19-year-old rap phenom, FowL. He's the rapper recently crowned the Red Bull EmSee Champion by none other than Eminem. He dropped a solid mixtape, Live From the D, earlier this year, and has eaten alive a hundred different rappers in various battles. His timing is perfect.
So what does FowL have to say about it?
"I've never really been out of state like this before," he says. "This is definitely the farthest that hip-hop has taken me. I know I'm repping for Detroit, but that's just a part of it. No matter what city I'm in, every time I grab the microphone I just try as hard as I can to make people realize I'm one of the coldest rappers out there."
Flint's Jon Connor is another buzzed-up Mitten artist who's headed to Austin (first time in Texas), where he's doing a handful of gigs. Dude's gotten props from various heavyweights, such as Scarface and Busta Rhymes, despite what's mostly a national Internet buzz. Austin's a chance for Connor to connect with the fans in real time.
"I'm anxious, I'm excited to get in front of all those folks who know my music and show them what I can do," Connor says. "As an artist, this is my Super Bowl, this is my Wrestlemania. I'm ready for it ... let's go show the rest of the world how talented we are. For us to come together and go to an away game and rep for the home team, that's an honor."
Coney's and Cuervo happens Friday, March 11, at The Shelter (431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-MELT) $10, $25 VIP. Danny Brown, Ro Spit, Invincible, Finale, Jon Connor, MarvWon, FowL, Quest MCody, Cold Men Young, J Young the General, Red Pill, PL, DRG, Young Scolla, Pato, and DJ Soko will all perform.