Dispatches from SXSW: Day 2 – Fader Fort, Future Islands, and Waiting in Lines

Chromeo at the Fader Fort, Thu/13.

I’m pretty sure the Fader Fort is where I want to spend the rest of my youth and possibly my life. This makeshift village is probably as close to cool heaven as it gets. It’s got free music, free drinks, and people-watching galore. Did I mention it’s also got charging stations, free ice cream, and a first aid tent? You really could spend the rest of your youth and/or life here.

The Fader Fort is that illustrious castle on the hill of peak hipness. You can absorb the coolness into your skin via osmosis. For entrance into this Hearst Castle for the Snapchat crowd, you must either know somebody who knows somebody, have a pass (like I do), or get in line at the ungodly hour of no later than 12:30pm. Seriously, if you don’t get in line by at 1pm, you’re doomed to a fate of sunburns and sobriety. So get in line early, your brand depends on it.

As much I want to conduct an anthropological study on the impossibly hip 20-somethings lounging and fluttering all over the Fort, I have to force myself over to music stage.

fader fort

The first act is British crooner Sam Smith. He’s most known for his feature on Disclosure’s “Latch.” Without the Disclosure brothers at his side, Mr. Smith and his rad pompadour unleash an acoustic rendition of the dance hit, which the crowd and I found equally pleasing. As per SXSW custom, Smith busts out 20 minutes of work, packed up, and bounces to his next gig.

I go re-up on free pineapple juice and rum.

When I get back, Theophilus London is about to come on. I’ve been listening to this guy for a while and I still don’t get his deal. I feel like he’s been stuck on the come up for a while, which contradicts the very idea of being on the come up. He presents his mix of electro funk, pop, and hip-hop, all while wearing torn yellow pants, a yellow tank top, jean jacket, and that Pharrell/Arby’s hat. Towards the end of his set, he brings onstage a woman from the crowd and they do some sort of seductive dance that’s kind of novel and cool, but immediately takes a turn for the worse when London creepily starts grope-dancing with her. He almost sucks all the cool from the air, leaving everyone baffled and awkward. She goes back to the crowd and we all breathe a sigh of relief.


Theophilus London
Pineapple juice and rum time.

Collaborators Shlomo and Jeremih are up next. Shlomo warms up the crowd with a DJ set of percolating electro rhythms. I begin to worry Jeremih might not show up, but he does. The two are collaborating for an upcoming album, but their performance makes me think they should establish this as a permanent arrangement. Jeremih’s suave and soothing nu-R’nB vocals hypnotizes the crowd into a state of mindfulness. But Jeremih knows what the crowd wants to hear, they want to hear “Birthday Sex,” and you do not deny what the good people at Fader Fort want. Jeremih plays “Birthday Sex” and the audience reacts in a way that it makes seem it like they enjoy “Birthday Sex” more than actual birthday sex.

Headlining the Fader Fort is electro-funk impresarios Chromeo, aka the self-proclaimed “most successful Jewish-Muslim collaboration ever.” Even though everyone in the concert tent is shoulder to shoulder and butt to butt, we all erupt in cathartic dance when Chromeo belt out “Night by Night.” There aren’t too many acts worthy of being a headliner at the Fader Fort, but Chromeo rises to the challenge and then some. They decimate the audience with 30 straight minutes of the old hits and some new tracks from their upcoming LP, White Women. Then the clock strikes midnight on the Fort and now we all have to face the daunting reality of not being in the Fort. But wait, Chromeo comes back for an encore! Encore finishes. OK, now the Fader Fort is done.

I grab a quick dinner and speed-walk over to Congress Ave, where the entire Heart Break Kids gang are playing, but unfortunately when I get there, there’s a 100-foot line, and from what I can tell, the entire club is packed to brim. Even badge people like myself aren’t being allowed in. I give up on HBK and speed-walk across town again to the Mad Decent Garage shows. Half an hour  later I arrive, and there’s a short but extremely slow-moving line. I give up and go meet up with friends at some rave tent with no line.

Turns out, there's a real good reason there was no line. I'm subjected to blaring and soul-killing dubstep. The filthy and warbled bass jackhammers my very-being. Time to get out of there.

I wander around this part of town looking for my next show, while also being in awe of the massive herd of drunk revelers tripping flyers and empty drink cups.

I then happen upon Cheer Up Charlie’s to catch the end of indie-rockers Merchandise and then indie-poppers Future Islands. I didn’t catch enough of Merchandise to formulate an impression. At this point I’m just happy to be away from the dubstep. Future Islands come on and are the saviors I’ve been waiting for in this post-Fader Fort landscape.

future islands
Future Islands

Future Islands’ frontman Samuel T. Herring immediately grabs the crowd with a loud growl, jabbing dance moves, and pointed stares. Every band should have a Samuel T. Herring. His chaotic energy is more infectious than a breakout of pink-eye. He sneers, jumps up and down, and makes disfigured looks on his face for the entire set, and it makes for a surprisingly good complement to Future Islands’ bouncy and sunny pop. I honestly have never seen someone as turned up as this guy. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day.