Street performers, Jimmy Cliff, and organ-rattling beats at SXSW 2012
At the globalFEST showcase the crowd was enjoying the sounds of Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang, M.A.K.U SoundSystem, and Chicha Libre. Boston's Debo Band closed the night with its take on retro Ethiopian pop music. I first caught the band a little over a year ago and since then its live act has grown by leaps and bounds. The band has been working with producer Thomas "Tommy T" Gobena of Gogol Bordello and it seems it learned a few things from the Gogol performance playbook. Keep an eye out for its release later this summer.
SATURDAY, MARCH 17
As I crossed the threshold into Empire Auto's warehouse space I was enveloped in a complete sensory overload. The room was bathed in a light that made it feel like the crowd was hanging in suspension, and dubstep producer Starkey had that crowd feeling his beats. Literally. The bass was so pounding that it rattled my organs. A few minutes later the bass cut out completely, leaving the crowd adrift as Starkey protested over the PA "Yo, I wasn't even in the red! Is anyone out there even working?"
The production manager told me that the bass was so heavy that it had knocked Starkey's laptop off his table, and they were trying to get him to take it down a notch. Yet the thing the manager was even more worried about was that Daedelus was returning to the venue later that evening. Apparently two nights before his bass was so relentless that it had blown two woofers, cracked two windows, and fried the hard drive of the computer delivering the club's visuals. Hopefully that night didn't go out with too much of a bang.
Over at the Nat Geo showcase Israeli culture-clasher Balkan Beat Box was rocking songs from its newly released album Give. One track that had particular traction was "Enemy in Economy," which details leader Tomer Yosef's experience being taken for a terrorist on an Alaska Airlines flight. The crowd couldn't get enough of the song's hook "Welcome to the USA/we hope you have a wonderful day."
Meanwhile Nigerian-German singer Nneka was inside playing her beautiful blend of politically conscious music. My SXSW experience closed out with Jimmy Cliff's set on the patio stage. By kicking things off with "You Can Get It If You Really Want" he wasted no time in giving the capacity crowd what they really wanted. As the patio tent got progressively more hazy it seemed the perfect moment to bid adieu to the festival and make my way home.