The Wax Poetics showcase was easily one of my favorites of SXSW. I’m so glad that it didn’t rain, as we were pretty much in a back alley, although technically there was a patio, but most of the performances took place under a tent next to the patio. The line-up was a pretty tight one, varying from hip-hop to weird-hop, from electro pop to retro soul.
When I arrived, I ended up catching the beginning of Cities Aviv’s performance. The Modest Mouse/Depeche Mode-sampling Memphis MC clearly made his case for being a standout in the Southern hip-hop scene. When you think of deep-South rappers, you think of T.I., Too Short, 2 Chainz, and the like. Cities Aviv goes against all of that…thank GOD!!! His use of distorted and hauntingly reverbed vocals over hot-ass beats was simultaneously disturbing and refreshing. He sounded like a ghost that smokes lots of weed.
Just A Band came all the way from Nairobi, were only able to perform 3 short songs, and NOT ONE OF THEM was “Huff and Puff!!!” I, along with the rest of the crowd, was mad. Not super mad, just annoyed. I mean, their set was cool as shit, but….I’m just saying.
Next up was the DMV homie Oddisee, who in my humble opinion fucking killed it! While he’s been on his grind for a minute, as both an MC and producer, it was at SXSW that he proved why the DMV is on the rap map (make room, Wale). On top of stellar rhymes and epic beats, he also truly reps for DC and the surrounding metropolitan area like no other. His personable style of rapping makes you feel like he’s telling you stories directly to you, as if you’re having a phone conversation with him. Definitely one of my favorite hip-hop performances of the entire SXSW.
Canadian electro-pop band Nite Jewel performed, as did Australian knob-twiddler/ukelele player Jonti. Fast-forward to the incredibleness that is Adrian Younge and his band Venice Dawn. This is the outfit responsible for bringing you the Black Dynamite score. They played as if it was the last damn concert on Earth! Adrian’s genius was undeniable. He traded the self-built Selene synth-organ for the saxophone for the electric bass!!! Oh, yes he did! And with each trade-off, the passion poured effortlessly from his fingertips on down to his hips.
And to top off the evening, Alice Russell and Quantic hit the stage. What can be said about them that hasn’t already been said a million times before? Alice Russell is simply amazing, and Quantic kept it in the pocket for as long as they could (the sound guy was being a real dick, cutting off folk’s mics and whatnot). It fascinates me every time I see her that so much soul comes out of such a demure English package. I loved the way she was having fun interacting with the tent pole, trying her best not to be too salacious. The fact that it was Alice’s birthday was just the icing on the cake! If playing SXSW is not the coolest way to bring in your birthday, then I don’t know what is. Oh wait, having your audience serenade you with the Happy Birthday song is pretty cool, too!
Overall, I’d say that this showcase captured the eclectic spirit of SXSW, although not perfectly. Somebody needed to give the sound guy some lessons, because he was fucking up EVERYBODY’S sound! At the beginning of a set, the artists had to beg him to turn up the monitor. Then he rudely cut each and every performer’s set short by turning off their mics. Very annoying, but luckily the caliber of talent was high enough to overshadow the sound guy’s antics. The embers of true soul music continue to burn thanks to the marquee acts, and hip-hop has gotten a much-needed boost from Oddisee’s star-making turn. If his performance at this showcase is any indication , then I guarantee that Oddisee will be the name you see and hear a lot of in 2012.