eyes opened wide.

Skill Or Be Skilled – SXSW 2011

Autor admin | 28.03.2011 | Category Uncategorized

Last year I went to Austin, TX for the 2010 SXSW Music Festival, intent on jumping on as many stages as I could, most likely freestyling or rocking a song or two if I was lucky.  I did that, and it was good.  At this year’s festival I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to dream up, organize, and execute a 5-hour showcase known as Skill Or Be Skilled, with some assistance from my homey Prem.  Similarly, it was good.

SXSW is the mecca of musical mayhem. Whether you’re there to see a show or be a show, it’s an experience worth simply having, let alone benefitting from.  Every night feels like New Year’s Eve, and every day feels like Mardi Gras – it’s easy to get lost in the lunacy.  Fortunately for me, three days prior to my trip down there I received an offer to put together a showcase scheduled for Friday night at Empire Garage (a premiere spot) during the festival.  I immediately hit up Sir Prem, as he and I have organized showcases in the past in NYC, aptly titled Skill Or Be Skilled.  We decided to go for the glory and attempt to piece together a SXSW Showcase in a matter of days.

Hesitant to book any acts before securing proper contractual agreements, we made some tentative plans for the show on the way to the airport.  However, seeing as how we had never seen the venue, knew nothing of the sound setup, and were unsure who we knew that was in Austin, let alone who was available/interested in rocking our show.  While waiting to board I sent out a bunch of preliminary emails, just to get a feel for who was up for it.  By the time we landed in Dallas for a layover I had received essentially enough “yes”’s for our entire showcase.  But how much time did we actually have? We were warned that the cops would definitely shut down the show around midnight, but if not then we could feasibly keep going till pretty late. Our plan was to book enough artists to keep the show going until midnight, and if we were able to keep rocking after that then Prem and I would do our sets.

Upon landing in Austin I received a request from the promoter that I print and sign the necessary contract and meet up with her to make the transaction official.  Clearly our motel didn’t have a printer so I just wrote out the contract (two copies) by hand.  If you’ve ever seen my handwriting…well, yeah I’m sure this was the least official contract ever.  We spent the first night chilling backstage at the J-Live/Artifacts/DJ Premiere with our homey YC The Cynic, who was also a performer there that night.  We had a tough time locating the promoter, and it wasn’t until the next day that we actually got the paperwork all sorted out.  This, of course, occurred after accidentally winding up in the VIP section of the Fader Fort, watching acts like Danny Brown do their thing from a few feet away and indulging in complimentary drinks and such.  Contract signed, we went off to peep the venue and plan our show…which was to occur in 24 hours.

When I have a noteworthy show to organize, or even just my own set to rock, the first thing I do is try to get Sosa involved.  Sosa is my engineer, DJ, and general sound deity.  If he’s around, I feel sonically safe.  We enlisted him to DJ the first half of the Skill/Be Skilled show, as he had to run off to spin for Homeboy Sandman around 10:30.  We got the incomparable Willie Green to cover the tables for the remainder of the show.

And so it began.  Homeboy Sandman asked if we could open the show with his homey Sam-U-Ill, to which we said yes.  Following him was Eagle Nebula, Rebel Diaz and Crosby.  California legend LuckyIAM took the stage next, followed by Mo Danger, Shinobi Ninja and Willie Green.  Already a ridiculously loaded line-up, the duo We Stole The Show came on and rocked an acoustic set (out of necessity…) that segued right into the dreaded midnight deadline. With a naysayer nowhere to be found, Prem delved into his set with Willie Green backing him up live on the MPC.  The crowd had been more than enthusiastic thus far, as some had been there from the jump while others had been casually entering and exiting as the night proceeded.  Prem and Willie captivated all in attendance with a non-stop run through of the first portion of their set, as I stood in the wings prepared to join in.  As midnight came and went, and the crowd was growing instead of dissipating, I hopped on stage and ran through a few joints of my own.  Prem came back on, and with Willie improvising on the MPC we took suggestions from the crowd and busted out a 20-minute set of freestyled songs based on topics shouted out from the audience.  Before we knew it some of our homies who were in attendance, such as Loki da Trixta and Grand Phee, jumped on stage and started freestlying with us.  With that behind us, and the crowd still eager for rhymes and rhythms, we delved into an impromptu combo-set, during which Prem and I combined our material in a tag-team fashion, something we’ve never done before.  By the time we were done it was nearly 2:00 AM, and everyone from the girls dancing onstage to the gleeful soundman in the back was in a state of jovial contentment.

We packed up our gear and headed, clearly, to an underground abandoned mall party with a merry group of stowaways.  All that was discussed the next morning was how ill the night had been, and how much doper we were gonna make it next year.