SXSW09 Review: Afro-punk Showcase on 3/19/09

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That first full day in Austin got away from me.  Between my panel, Quincy's keynote, doing a bit of hanging out, the day flew.  Add to that the fact that it was nearly impossible to get a cab to Austin Music Hall, and you can pretty much guess that I missed some the Afro-punk showcase.  I was particularly bummed since I missed all of The London Souls and only caught a song-and-a-half from Whole Wheat Bread.  What I can say is that WWB has a sense of humor.  Lead vocalist Aaron Abraham playfully rapped about wanting to find a much older woman who could fix his credit.  Nice.

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Janelle Monae never disappoints.  She gave her usual high-energy show.    And when she takes a break and does the ballad "Smile" with her guitarist Kellindo, it's a simple moment in the show that effectively reminds everyone that she's got a serious voice.  Now, on the downside, she gave her usual high-energy show.  I'd love to know when part 2 of the Chase Suite will be released so that she can start working some new material into the show.  That said, I think the current songs wear well.

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Dallas Austin?  What can I say about the Dallas Austin Experience?  Unfortunately, I wasn't impressed.  The five video screens he had onstage were just overkill.  I would've scrimped on the video screens and paid for a live drummer, because most of the beats didn't bounce.  Folks were respectful.  But I looked around at the audience, and everyone was waiting for something exciting to happen, and it never did.  The problem, as far as I can see, is that Dallas has been a producer, and he still needs to learn how to perform, how to own the stage.  And what was with the space mask?  Funny, but people who'd seen him perform on other occasions swear he's dope.  I didn't get it that night, but I am looking forward to his performance getting better.

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I guess my biggest disappointment was Big Boi.  As a hip hop show, his performance was great, and the full-capacity crowd that had it's collective hands in the air was a testament to that.  My problem was that I expecting "Big Boi with a live band".  True, he had a guitarist and a bass player with him, but his DJ set the foundation and sonically took the lead.  I mean, I really couldn't hear the musicians.  One thing was clear: Big Boi and Outkast have and incredible catalog.  It would be thrilling to see him reimagine those songs with a live band.  I think he would've had so much fun.  Come to think of it: There's probably a market for classes for rappers who want to transition to live bands.  Rule #1 has to be leave the DJ at home.  Why? Because the DJ is a crutch.  In the context of the Afro-punk, I would've liked to have seen more of a nod to live instrumentation, and less reliance on the standard tools of hip hop.  While he blew a chance to pull his songs apart and reconstruct them, I certainly hope he'll continue to explore this.  We might end up with something exciting like when LL did Unplugged.

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  • grala

    Looks like all four to six of the black people there (who were not on stage) had a great time.

    AfroPunk! LOL!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ubastiff ubastiff

    One of the most racist films I have ever seen. The film lacks proper research, the cast of interviews (except for a few) are UN-credible. The film maker was completely biased, when he could have been enlightening. To suggest that a race “created” punk rock (and then give the proof he suggested) is just sick. To suggest a “class” created punk rock is more believable.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ubastiff ubastiff

    Part 2) Some of the interviews however, were heart felt. I will say the structure form of the film was not bad (editing etc.) TO try to give yourself a name especially in Punk (when he contributed nothing to the foundation of punk) and build street credit by using race as the catalyst is sad and should be seen for what it really is.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robfields Rob Fields

    @ubastiff. I suggest you watch the film again, as you seem to have missed the point. Spooner is not suggesting that race created punk. He was merely shining a light on blacks in the scene.