Trappin' for Jesus and fighting fatigue at SXSW | Bleader

Trappin' for Jesus and fighting fatigue at SXSW

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Third Mans Rolling Record Store
I never thought I'd be as relieved to hear the words "Chief Keef will not be performing tonight" as I was Saturday around 8 PM. That's when some SXSW authority figure armed with a megaphone tried to deliver the news to a massive throng of people waiting to get into a cavernous warehouse that served as a venue for SXSW; the infamous young rapper had been scheduled to perform alongside acts like Death Grips, Baauer with RL Grime, and Mount Kimbie. It's not that I didn't want to see Keef—it was supposed to be his first major show since getting out of jail a couple days ago and I wanted to be there to see exactly what would happen—but after four days and three nights of wandering around Austin I ended up fatigued, sick, and kind of loopy. My mind wanted to see Keef, but the rest of my body need to find a quiet place to sit.

By the end of SXSW I'd come to terms with the reality that my set schedule wouldn't always pan out in real life. Rather than get upset as I might have at the beginning of the fest, by Saturday I was beleaguered and fatigued, and I welcomed these scheduling difficulties with a sigh of relief. Keef wasn't the first performer I'd planned to see Saturday that I wound up not getting to see, and I spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center in the hopes of catching MC Jin, a former Ruff Ryder rapper who moved to Hong Kong in the late aughts after his stateside rap career stalled out. Jin's major label debut, The Rest is History, peaked at number 54 on the Billboard charts in 2004; even though that album came out nearly a decade ago it was still a little unusual that an MC who had been on a major label was scheduled to play the Carver Museum's intimate theater. Jin didn't end up performing there—I later found out he played a larger space so far north I wouldn't have thought it was a part of SXSW—so instead I watched a few Christian musicians.

According to NPR Jin is now a born-again Christian (he recently dropped an album called Crazy Love Ridiculous Faith), so I came expecting to hear a lot of religious zealotry. And I did: one performer extolled his fellow Christians who keep their faith on days that aren't just Sunday, which was fitting given that everyone in the theater came to hear songs about Jesus on a Saturday afternoon. I heard that name praised over an acoustic guitar, I heard it dropped several times in an a cappella rap, and I heard it shouted over booming, surging trap beats.

This MC is trappin for Jesus

The trap songs were paradoxical considering the sound is rooted in what most people in the crowd would consider a sin—as Miles Raymer wrote in the fall, trap is narrowly defined as "a place where drug deals are made." Raymer also wrote that trap as a style of music has mutated in ways that don't exactly match its origins, but this felt like some "Harlem Shake" type of cultural appropriation. A couple songs I heard were littered with ear-shattering gunshots, which reminded me of the kind of dark, godless trap songs that regularly employ the sounds of firearms. Some tunes even blended trap with the maximalist-pop leanings of Kanye's recent work, which also struck me as out of step with the respective artists' religious focus; these were MCs who spoke lovingly about Jesus being the source of all their inspiration, but the sounds of rap idols bled into their music.

After it was clear that Jin wouldn't show up—the phrase "our final performer" followed by someone whose name wasn't Jin tipped me off to that—I walked east and happened upon Third Man's Rolling Record Store. The roving, yellow truck representing Jack White's label had set up for a few outdoor performances, and I caught a set from Philadelphia garage-rock trio Lantern. The band laid out a perfectly solid performance, but I had been expecting something harsher after I caught sight of their devilish-looking logo, which clearly rips on black metal's iconography.

Lantern

After I heard Keef wouldn't perform that evening I set off to find SXSWendy's, an unofficial DIY party that had initially been adjacent to a Wendy's near the festival's center. The folks behind this mini nonfest had experienced their share of failed plans—after being relocated from their original space to a grassy area just west of that Wendy's they ended up setting up in Chain Drive, a gay bar in a quiet corner of the city just south of the convention center. I wanted to spend my last night at SXSW seeing at least one thing I'd fondly remember, and I walked away from Chain Drive having caught two unexpectedly great sets from two acts. Oakland's Religious Girls rolled out jittery and hypnotic keyboard punk, while a solo pop artist named Little Ruckus yelped about love over spazzy computerized beats, hung from the ceiling for half a song, and instructed everyone in the crowd to trade one article of clothing with someone else.

Little Ruckus

Although on paper my day had been a series of failures—I didn't see both acts I planned on seeing, I spent large chunks of the day waiting in lines for food or to get into a showcase I didn't end up seeing—I felt pretty good about my SXSW experience by the time I packed it in and left. My final observations below:

Final seapunk count: 17

Oddest thing eaten: jalapeno and pineapple pizza.

Number of bottles of water purchased: Too many to count.

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