Snoop Dogg, Estelle, Alex Chilton Tribute Bring SXSW to a Close
South by Southwest drew to a close on a rare rainy, frigid Saturday (March 20) in Austin, Tx.
The late Alex Chilton was memorialized by colleagues, friends and admirers on Saturday at South By Southewest -- with words and, most importantly, with music.
Following a warmly reverent and nostalgic afternoon panel at the Austin Convention Center -- with Big Star co-founders Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel, latter-day members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, original producer John Frye and others -- Big Star's scheduled showcase at Antone's was turned into a kind of musical wake for Chilton, with numerous guests taking turns during the 80-minute show.
But around town, the crowds braved the cold temperatures to squeeze one last day of music out of the festival.
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Over at the Billboard Bungalow, Diane Birch kicked off the night, warming up for the high energy hip-hop rock mindmeld of Street Sweeper Social Club. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and The Coup's Boots Riley played a tight set of both originals and covers, putting their own signature metal spin on M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" and L.L. Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out."
Estelle, the U.K. soul singer that topped the charts with "American Boy" proved that she doesn't need Kanye West to make an impact: she debuted songs from her new album, due in September, including the soon-to-be-released single "Back to Love Again" and a bouncy club track called "Freak." Philadelphia rap duo Chiggy Bang and Baltimore's Rye Rye delivered energetic sets to close out the evening.
Karen Elson, the British fashion model who's married to Jack White, previewed songs from her forthcoming debut solo album, "The Ghost Who Walks," during two special shows Saturday. Following a private party at Austin's French Legation Museum, she played a six-song, half-hour set upstairs in the hot dog restaurant Frank, for a roomful of fans who had picked up free tickets offered at one of White's Third Man Records temporary "pop-up" stores. The red-haired singer-songwriter and guitarist was in a warm and self-deprecating mood, displaying a rich and powerful voice that's perviously been heard backing Robert Plant and Cat Power and also with New York political cabaret The Citizens Band.
Backed by three musicians, including Patti Smith's son Jackson on guitar, Elson started with the accordion driven "Stolen Roses" and presented a set steeped in the madrigal British folk tradition, with gentle and intricate arrangements and vivid, occasionally narrative lyrics. Other songs at the recital included "Lunesa," "100 Years From Now," "The Birds They Circle," "Garden" and "The Ghost Who Walks' " title track, a rootsy murder ballad whose title she said was inspired by a nickname when she was a child, because of her pale complexion and slender build.
Saturday's heavy morning rains delayed but did not dampen TV cooking queen Rachael Ray's third annual Feedback party, held this year at Stubb's BBQ and for the first time open to the public. It was cold enough that She & Him's Zooey Deschenal complained that she couldn't show her "very nice outfit" that was covered by an overcoat. But that didn't stop attendees from standing in long lines to sample the four recipes Ray created for the event or from taking in sets by 18 acts, including Jakob Dylan & Three Legs, Street Sweeper Social Club, Dr. Dog, Bob Schneider, Justin Townes Earle, a typically rowdy Andrew W. K. and buzzed-about hard rock upstarts J Roddy Walston & the Business. The Cringe, featuring Ray's husband John Cusimano, also performed while Matthew McConaughey introduced reggae singer Mishka, who records for the Austin-based actor's j.k. livin' label.
A bit of chaos reigned at Perez Hilton's annual One Night in Austin party, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Outside the Whitley, a highly accessible downtown venue, those who couldn't get in grew rowdy and spent the night tweeting hateful messages, while those who made it inside drank, ate gourmet cupcakes and grooved to the performers.
Macy Gray got the night going with covers of Arcade Fire's "Wake Up," Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" and a bit of Deee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart" as well as her own "Sexual Revolution," "I Try" and the set-closing "Beauty in the World," which she said was personally requested by Hilton. Snoop Dogg had the crowd bouncing to a selection of his hits, while a late-running Estelle, backed by a particularly tight band, gave the crowd "One Love." Courtney Love, who had chided Hilton earlier in the week about demanding her to play only "hits" for him, started Hole's set with a rendering of Big Star's "Thirteen" in memory of the late Alex Chilton before lighting into the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For the Devil" and the rest of the group's set.
Others on the bill included upstarts Mike Posner, VV Brown, Alphabeat, Agnes and Marina & the Diamonds, with Hilton front and center for the latter's set. Though the celebrity blogger told the crowd early in the night that he doesn't care what people think of him, later on he apologized to those who didn't get inside and promised a larger venue for his 2011 affair.
Hundreds gathered at an outdoor space on 4th and Colorado after word spread on Saturday that Mos Def would be the surprise headliner for the Red Bull Thre3 Style DJ challenge event. About a third of the crowd didn't hold out for the rapper's set, but those who remained when he arrived shortly after midnight were more than ready to move with his soulful style of hip-hop.
In a fedora and kimono-like wrap, Mos Def played songs including first solo single "Universal Magnetic" and the theme from "Black Dynamite," while his DJs were projected on jumbotrons on either side of the stage. He also did an audience roll call by birth year -- when it appeared that the youngest audience member was born in 1992, he said "Oh, '92. Do the right thing '92. You got your whole life ahead of you."
(Additional reporting by Evie Nagy and David J. Prince)