by Leor Galil
Keef was released from a two-month stint in jail Thursday, and his presence was felt beyond whatever shout-outs he received from people onstage. After all, he unintentionally threw the spotlight on other artists in his city; a select number of these rappers hit the stage in Austin, all of them performing with the intention of keeping Chicago's grip on the international rap spotlight intact in 2013. Gauging from the crowd reaction that's a distinct possibility for at least one MC—Chance the Rapper.
Chance has been promoting his forthcoming mixtape, Acid Rap, for months. He kicked that into high gear with a headlining gig at the Metro back in November—and lately it's been paying off, as his sleek videos have gotten attention from tastemaking music sites that didn't bother with last year's #10Day mixtape. He's supposed to drop Acid Rap next month, and some of the attendees seem to know his new material well enough; when he bounded onstage during the Fake Shore showcase, a couple fans posted in front of the stage screamed for him to play "Juice," which came out at the end of January. Chance did that and more—he spent his unfortunately short set gesticulating wildly, pumping his fist, stomping up and down, kicking the air, and dancing in a way Charlie Chaplin might have, if footwork had been around back then.
Spenzo had a slightly less difficult time engaging with the audience than most of the rappers on the first half of the bill for the Lawless Inc. showcase. The Fake Shore event seemed to foster an intense love and support of Chicago, even if not everyone in the crowd is a local resident or has even been there—at the Lawless showcase it looked quite difficult to even get the crowd to react or engage in anything other than apathy. Gravel-voiced rapper Vic Spencer made plenty of cracks that just seemed to go over people's heads, Broadway playfully shoved one attendee to get him to move to the music, and YP could only get a strong reaction from the crowd when he asked if anyone enjoyed smoking weed.
One MC who didn't have any trouble getting the crowd to show a hint of emotion was Chance; as soon as he hit the stage an army of iPhones popped up to capture as much of the set as possible, and suddenly people who seemed to have very little interest in being at the show were rapping along with every bar. By the time Chance started playing, Club 119 was really filling up, and even though it's an intimate venue—the stage is about a foot off the ground, if that—the energy in the room made it feel like it was one of the bigger concerts at SXSW. Considering there's so much happening at any one minute during SXSW, it's easy to feel like you're missing out on ten amazing things that aren't happening at the one place you decided to go; Chance's set at Club 119 made it feel like no other show mattered. That felt like a good note to end on—as much as I wanted to see King Louie, my body needed some rest.
Inevitably, some things distracted me on my trek back to my friend's place. This time it was the heart-wrenching sound of "The Beauty Surrounds," the new single from formerly local electronic-pop duo Houses. I quickly made a beeline for whatever tent it was they were playing in to catch the end of Houses' set, which also happened to be the band's first live performance with two additional members—a drummer and a guitarist. I've got a few additional thoughts on the day below, and be sure to keep reading our SXSW coverage on the Bleader and on Twitter.
My official seapunk count: Six.
Best personal achievement of the day: Getting the fourth and fifth best scores on Burger Time at the Elysium while waiting to see Dena.
Biggest disappointment: That SXSWendy's, an unofficial party and underground showcase that's adjacent to a Wendy's close to SXSW's main drag, is no longer right next to Wendy's. Now I don't know what to believe anymore.