SXSW 2011 : Top 5 Epic Experiences

Austin, TX
Varying Venues
2011 – 03/22

SXSW is always a whirlwind of excitement, anticipation and energy. People flock from all over the world to see their favorite bands, films and interactive media projects. My favorite part of the week is the music. That’s what draws me there. Thousands of bands, playing all over the city, in hundreds of different venues. In house parties, dive bars, and huge concert halls — there is a little something for everyone. Up-and-comers, indie rockers, hip-hoppers, thrashers, dubsteppers, mainstreamers and headliners take over Austin and bring the people to the party. This music festival is like no other. Wristbands give you a chance to see your favorite band, badges give you an even better chance… heck, a press pass may even get you in the backdoor, but once the club is at capacity, all doors are closed off. If you are lucky enough to be inside the right venue at the right time, then you just may get to witness an epic performance. So, in honor of such an amazing music festival, I have listed my “Top 5 Epic Experiences of SXSW 2011.”

[5] Skrillex, MSTRKRFT and Daedelus

My SXSW 2011 experience just wouldn’t have been the same without getting my fair share of electronic music. This one was at Mohawk. I had to go around to the backdoor of the club because the venue was at capacity and they were only letting people in who were on the guestlist. I’m still not sure how I got in, but somehow after 30 mins in line, my persistence and my REDEFINE photo pass paid off! Skrillex has a huge following on in the electronic scene and he was just starting his set when I got there. The crowd by the main stage was going crazy to his glitchy, dubstep beats; it was really cool to see a young DJ that loves what he does and also happens to be really good at it. After his set, MSTRKRFT took tot the stage. They always put on a solid show, and I was glad to catch this one in particular; it turned into a real dance party on the club’s patio and the electronic duo had the crowd stage diving, fist-pumping, and head-bobbing to their hardcore dance grooves. Halfway through their set, I wandered inside the venue to catch Daedelus spinning to a smaller, more intimate crowd. His vintage Victorian fashion style and his classical music training makes him a modern day Mozart. His sharp, improvisational movements are the work of a futuristic electronic conductor, which make for a visually compelling DJ set. Seeing all three of these DJ’s in one venue was well worth the wait!


[4] The Blind Pets & The Death Set

I got a flier from my friend about the Tricky Kid Brawl For All show that was taking place inside a boxing ring at Randy Palmer’s Gym. It sounded like an amazing venue to have show! I got there just as The Blind Pets were setting up inside the boxing ring to play their set. They are a rock band from Austin and play an exciting and energetic live show. The gym was a very raw space and their straight-forward rock and grunge-influenced sound seemed to fit perfectly in the underground venue. After photographing their wild set, the next band, The Death Set, took the stage. The Aussies from Brooklyn got a little more fight than they bargained for when they entered the ring. They play no holds barred punk music and put on a crazy live performance. After their first song, they started inviting people to join them on stage inside the ring — but a few songs into their set, the fun ended. An announcement over the PA system told them to get off the stage because they were ruining the ring with their street shoes. (Apparently boxing rings are really expensive and regular shoes will tear them up.) But The Death Set kept playing and refused to tell their fans to get out of the ring, and the show was soon stopped by locals and The Death Set left the stage frustrated by the rules of the ring. Needless to say, the pumped-up crowd was a bit confused by all the chaos and the battle of the bands was far too short-lived. But a fight between bands in a boxing ring is definitely an epic experience.



[3] Big Freedia

When I stumbled into the Emo’s Annex tent on Thursday afternoon, my only agenda was to meet some friends and find a cold drink to quench my thirst. I soon realized that Big Freedia was about to perform. I had never seen her before, so I did not know what to expect. I had heard her flamboyant and unique performances were unforgettable and very entertaining; there was a buzz in the air and rumors were circulating throughout the crowd about her booty dancers who come onstage and drop it like it’s hot. I snuck around backstage and took a few candid photos of her and her crew before they took to the stage. Soon, the bass music kicked in and the show began with a bang; Big Freedia was accompanied by a DJ, a male MC dancer and two professional female booty shakers. It was nonstop bounce music, filled with a dirty south influence and a whole lot of NSFW dance moves. I was front row for the show and kept turning around to see the crowd’s awe and amazement of the performance they were witnessing on stage. Halfway through the set, Big Freedia started asking people to come onto stage and have booty-shaking dance offs. It was wild, crazy, super strange, and definitely a show that I will soon not forget. I now fully understand and appreciate bounce music for what it is!

[2] The Strokes

The Strokes played to a sold out crowd at Auditorium Shores for a sunset concert. By nightfall, the venue was at capacity and people were sitting on the lawn, hundreds of yards outside the gates, just to catch a glimpse of the stage lights and hear a distant echo from the band. I really wanted to get closer to the stage for a better view of the band. I’d never seen them play before and as much as I really wanted to get some cool photos, I wanted to hear them perform even more. The show was at capacity and hundreds of people were upset that they couldn’t get in. The crowd outside the entrance gates started chanting “USA”, over and over again, and then began charging the fence as I was walking by. In no time, I was running toward the stage, like little kid in a sea of people. The fence had come down and everyone was running, like a herd of cattle, to see The Strokes perform. There were over 6,000 people that were estimated to have stormed the gates. I flanked to the right side of the stage and made my way almost all the way to the front row, stage left. Before I knew it, I found myself in a sea of people and I realized that there was no press photo pit at this show. I couldn’t go any closer. On top of that, I had made my way right in the middle of the deaf section. There was a lady on stage dancing and doing sign language for The Strokes’ deaf fans. Everyone around me was deaf. I found myself making friends with a few of them and blocking them from others who were starting pushing and making fun of them. People were getting into altercations and screaming at each other. It was awesome… and scary. I never knew how crazy the crowd at a Strokes show could get!

[1] Death From Above 1979

I knew Death From Above 1979 were playing for the first time in over 5 years at the Beauty Bar. I also knew it would be a very difficult show to get into. I showed up just as they were taking the stage. There was a huge line in the front of the bar, so I walked around the back toward the alley to see if I could get in; people were swarming around the backdoor entrance and security was frantically fighting off the crowd. I tried to go to the front of the line and sweet talk the bouncer, but my press pass was getting me nowhere. Hence, I decided to sit back and calmly assess the situation. I waited patiently for the right opportunity, and within five minutes, people were threatening to tear down the fence and storm the stage. I started taking photos of all the mayhem and promptly made my way to the stage, all the while photographing the band, the crowd, and the madness ensuing outside in the alleyway. Hundreds of DFA1979 fans were pulling the fence down; riot police came in on horses; people were getting maced and tasseled by the cops. Cops even came out on stage and threatened to shut the whole show down, but DFA pleaded with the crowd to put the fence back up and peacefully enjoy the show from outside. The crowd did exactly as they were told and the show went on. It was an epic show and I feel very blessed to be a part of such an amazing event.

There were so many other great shows during SXSW 2011. Among the rest of the epic performances that I photographed were The Atlantic Line, Batwings Catwings, Big Freedia, Bright Eyes, Daedelus, Deerhunter, Glasser, Miss May I, Phantogram, Skrillex, The Strokes, Theophilus London, and many more. Thanks to Redefine Magazine for another amazing SXSW 2011!

Koury Angelo
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