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SXSW 2009, night four: Kanye West, Common, Erykah Badu & the G.O.O.D. Music Showcase

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Common and Kanye in Austin. Photo by Dorothy Hong, The FADER .

Though I generally avoid the hipster-heavy corporate-sponsored parties at SXSW--what's the point with so many extraordinary showcases as part of the music fest proper?--the closing act at the Levi's Fader Fort--a shopping mall-like venue specially constructed in an industrial no man's land on the east side of Austin and sponsored by the jeans company and the Fader magazine--was just too enticing to pass up.

This celebration of the roster of G.O.O.D. Music did indeed draw the rumored special guest, none other than... well, here's how the label's founder announced himself: "Rockin' the [South by] Southwest... Kanye West!"

Dressing down for the occasion in shades, a white T-shirt and a denim vest trumpeting G.O.O.D. ("Getting Out Our Dreams") Music in the style of the Hells Angels' logo, the Louis Vuitton Don served as the host during a relentlessly high-energy, two-hour hip-hop celebration that found him performing a generous sampling of his own songs in between hyping his up-and-coming artists, including English soul singer Mr. Hudson and rappers Consequence (from Queens, N.Y.), Kid Cudi (Cleveland), Tony Williams (West's cousin) and fellow Chicagoans Leonard "GLC" Harris and Really Doe.

Though each of these artists only performed a song or two on their own, many showed promise, and West either yielded the stage to them or played a supporting role in backing them up. But he owned the night nonetheless, whether performing older hits such as "We Major" and "Crack Music" or songs from last year's "808s & Heartbreak."

On that album, recorded in a burst of cathartic energy after the death of his mother and the end of his engagement, songs such as "Heartless," "Love Lockdown" and "Amazing" are dark, brooding and introspective. But on an outdoor stage in Texas, with no hint of his infamous ego and or the sort of diva tantrum he threw at the Bonnaroo Festival last June, West drew on the energy of the crowd, the backing voices of proteges and the powerful grooves of a live band to turn the sad songs into celebratory anthems.

Even "Pinocchio Story," a heart-wrenching freestyle on the album, became an empowering mantra onstage. "I ask you tonight: What does it feel like to live a real life," West intoned. But the joy in his delivery had already answered the question.

Taking things even higher during the final third of the set, West was joined by two more superstars: neo-soul great Erykah Badu and Chicago hip-hop legend Common, whose next album West said he is producing.

That's good news indeed, given that Common's eighth studio release "Universal Mind Control" was the biggest artistic disappointment of his career. But in the uplifting setting of this evening, paired with a joyous version of "The Light" featuring Badu on the familiar vocal chorus, even the title track of Common's 2008 stinker sounded wonderful.

How good was the G.O.O.D. music experience? Frankly, it would have been impossible to end SXSW 2009 with a better one.

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Whatever. Kanye West is such a chump, and anyone that went to see him was either way rich or a corporate sell out - including this writer. All the big name shows at SXSW are for the wealthy and privileged (ie: yuppies). I'm from Austin and huge music fan and I was locked out (along with most people who actually gave a rat's ass about the music) from Metallica, Jane's Addiction, Kanye...the list goes on. Besides, best Saturday closers were The Octopus Project at Emo's Main and Hot Leg at Emo's Annex. For anyone going to SXSW in the future, I would recommend avoiding these crappy corporate parties - all they do is take away more of the magic that SXSW once had.

re: D - $
"and anyone that went to see him was either way rich or a corporate sell out"
Actually, it was the opposite. As I (and a large number of others), were there for the FREE drinks (free SoCo/good COLD beer), and good music. Bun-B giving a crazy birthday performance, Diplo stopping, and not even being on the bill were the real cake, the Kanye, Erika, Common, Cudi medley was the frosting. Kanye clearly found something enjoyable about the night seeing as how he completely checked his massive ego at the gate, and looked to really enjoy himself. The only thing you needed to have to get in was an email address, and enough sense to click your mouse to RSVP online with. It wasn't hard, and the venue had the best sound, and FREE drinks around. The only people fitting into your stereotype of the crowd there, were the people actually BUYING the overpriced crap... and to them, they are free range, hate at will. To the rest of us looking for the best performances that money DIDN'T buy (i.e. IT WAS FREE)... this was clearly the place you wished you were at. So while simply living in Austin doesn't give you the right to go to any show you want (as you are complaining about), it sure made my drive home MUCH shorter!
eff the BS Austin, stop repeating someone elses bitter rhetoric

D, sounds like you're bitter and jealous. You said you were "locked out" of the Kanye show...meaning that you tried to get in, so you're just calling yourself "way rich" (huh? It was free to get into the show) "or a corporate sellout". I was at the Kanye and Metallica shows--both purely by accident. I didn't even realize that they were going to be playing since they were not officially announced, and honestly, I didn't really care either. I went to the venues where the shows were held to see other bands, and ended up just staying. Despite D's comments, all of us Austinites are definitely not angry, bitter people.

Shows were free for anyone competent enough to rsvp online and then wait to pick up a wristband at the venue. One could prevent being "locked out" if you showed a bit of gumption and planned ahead... like the other thousands of people who enjoyed the free booze (big shout out to Budweiser and Soco) and the incredible weather all week at the Fader Fort. Kanye killed it. Bun-b killed it. Jadakiss... mediocre at best. Regardless, those who were lucky enough to attend had a great time not giving a rat's ass about music and not dealing with stuck up music snob pricks with an oversized dose of entitlement and an eagerness to insult large groups of people on a whim. well played, sir... well played.

There's always a few whiners who complain about not getting to see all the "big names" during SXSW. As an Austinite and music fan, I can state with authority that if you didn't see a ton of great music during the festival, it's nobody's fault but yours.

Over 2000 bands, hundreds of free parties, free drinks, free food, free cds, free tshirts, countless other promotional giveaways, and you're bitching? You get no sympathy from me, chief.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on March 22, 2009 12:48 AM.

SXSW 2009: Neil Young's archives, finally here and absolutely amazing was the previous entry in this blog.

Final "Big Six" Lollapalooza headliners: Tool and the Killers is the next entry in this blog.

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