Every year during college, Spring Break coincided with SXSW, which mostly took place a few miles down the road in the heart of downtown Austin. Every year of college, I went to it.
It’s a shame that a lot of people only understand Austin through the lens of SXSW, when it becomes more or less a trendier Times Square. If you haven’t been, everything in the city is sponsored by a multinational conglomerate or something owned by a multinational conglomerate that’s hiding beneath a thin subbrand that gives it a patina of authenticity.
If Times Square is capitalism vomiting on itself, SXSW is capitalism vomiting on a paint canvas and calling it art.
My freshman year, I had become engrossed by Odd Future, a group of LA teenagers, who had blended horrorcore, skate culture, and hip-hop into a warped, subversive, and captivating project, of stuff that would be absolutely unacceptable by our current standards. It probably shouldn’t have been acceptable at the time.
They seemed so far away. They had only played a handful of tiny shows and weren’t touring. They had only put out a few mixtapes, one as a collective and a few others individually. I must have watched this one not even two-minute long clip of them playing at The Echo in LA dozens of times to try to get a glimpse of what they were doing. The raw energy of it felt like something I had to see.
I got my chance later that year at SXSW. The show I saw them at, The Mess With Texas Festival, a large outdoor set that capstoned their tour around smaller Austin venues at the festival, was better than anything in that clip from The Echo.
Odd Future fans had coalesced at the stage Big Freedia was playing on, where they were supposed to play next. After her set, the crowd waited for 30 or so minutes, before word rippled through the crowd that Odd Future was actually playing on the adjacent stage, separated by a dirt path, porta potties and a chain link fence.
The fans ripped down the chain link fence, jumped on top of and pushed down porta potties to make it to the front. The rest of the show was just as chaotic. The entire mostly male front section of the crowd by the stage would have been a moshpit if everyone hadn’t been packed in so tightly. If I wanted to breathe air that wasn’t damp and warm, I had to stick my mouth straight up. It got worse when the show started. A perpetual train of bodies rolled over and by us as people crowd surfed. The crowd swirled and moved slowly like a moshpit, in slow motion, but with just as much force.
My friend John was one of the bodies floating by, I shouted out his name, and excitedly, he grabbed my hand and had the crowd set him down. With his help, I foisted myself ontop of the crowd as everyone’s outstretched hands ferried me to the stage. Unlike most shows, there was no barrier between the crowd and stage, which meant that the hands ended, I was standing directly on stage, face to face with Tyler, The Creator. After poring over blogs and videos for months, my self imposed Odd Future cultural training of the obscene and crude kicked in and I yelled “Fuck Tyler,” flipped him off and did a stage dive back into the crowd.
The hands ferried me back to John, who grabbed my hand and pulled me down grinning. The rest of the show was a slog. I remember at one point, I felt a sharp thud on my shoulder. Pissed and tired, I looked up, and Odd Future member Hodgy Beats was trying to get his balance and stand up on top of the crowd after his stage dive off the 15 or 20 ft. speakers. As he adjusted he stepped on my face, which I proudly recounted to all my friends after. “Hodgy Beats stepped on MY face.”
The white shirt I had been wearing, had turned so brown from the dust that none of my friends believed that was its original color. Proud of this, I held off washing it for an embarrassingly long amount of time.
I clearly liked Odd Future so much that I would try anything they cosigned, which is how I found out about Badbadnotgood, a group that made their name by making jazz covers of rap songs, including Odd Futures, which lead to Tyler putting them on.
I don’t think that kind of thing would work now, but it was good enough for 2011. They’ve grown beyond just covers. Check it out below.
IV - 50 minutes, Apple
III - 48 minutes, Apple
Badbadnotgood Odd Future Covers - 40 minutes, YouTube