In a sea of showcases that strive to be bigger and better each year during SXSW the Fader Fort stands alone. Less a showcase and more of a chaotic Coachella the Fort throws a dizzying amount of up and coming acts on stage over several days. It’s where you can watch Afghan Wigs perform with Usher or participate in a “Pop a molly Im sweating, Woo!” sing along with Trinidad James and a thousand other people. Here are some of the standouts that stayed with us as we recovered in the following days…
Solange has an ease on stage that even her famous big sister lacks. There is a ‘dancing in a mirror’ quality she gives to her performance that just comes off warm and inviting even in a festival setting. She was gracious, playful, and would pull out cute choreographed moves between her and the band. More so then any of the acts we saw at the Fort she seemed happy to be on stage and the audience returned the love in kind.
L’enfant terrible Earl Sweatshirt was not as polished as Solange but give him time. As the reigning wordsmith of aggro hip-hop collective Odd Future it appears the crowd expected nihilistic verses and stage diving (at least the bouncers did who appeared strictly for his set). Instead they got a very young but confident MC,twisting words in the hot Austin sun. Performing with Flying Lotus, aka Captain Murphy, Earl spat rhymes for around 30 minutes giving everyone a taste of his upcoming debut.
SXSW seems to be the time where rock stars like to pretend they are just like us by just putting on $900 dollar jeans and mingling with the crowd. Someone forgot to inform Laura Mvula. Dressed like a reincarnation of Nefertiti herself, she stunned the crowd with her beauty as she tore through a solid set of R&B. Violin and even a harp danced in the middle of the afternoon as she wowed the crowd with her solid voice and classic soul leanings.
On the opposite spectrum: Dressed like a field hand Mac Demarco brought his southern jangly version of pop rock by way of Montreal to the stage. Him and his similarly dressed cohorts cracked jokes and put out an image of southern hicks who just happened to be there. But the strong songwriting underneath was too smart and betrayed his ambition. When the big riffs came he had no problem throwing himself on the ground trashing out guitar solos while lost in Rock N Roll ecstasy.
Special performer Bun B came out to an extremely enthusiastic crowd. The home town hero went through a string of UGK hits and had the entire crowd rapping along and generally going nuts; this was their kind of music. In a focused set dedicated to his late partner Bun B he showed the crowd some of the roots of the ‘trap-rap’ phenomenon which currently rules the airwaves and dance floor.
Speaking of which, get used to it. While this current strain of Southern Hip-Hop has not exactly been accepted by hip-hop purists it’s looks like its here to stay (at least according to how those songs were received during DJ sets between the acts). The crowd cheered festival headliner French Montana (who currently specializes in this style of hip-hop), like a superstar when he hit the stage. He brought out Macklemore so he could perform his current number one hit, ‘Thrift Shop’ and even brought out Puff Daddy to join him on stage. Diddy blessed the crowd with a rendition of his classic ‘All About the Benjamin’s’ before sneaking off the side ending the mini-festival on a high note.