AUSTIN, Texas — “Ya’ll motherf—ers are smiling. Ya’ll enjoyed yourself. Ain’t nobody got shot tonight.”
That was Kanye West, onstage Saturday night at the Levi’s Fader Fort, lashing out at his detractors (or, as he put it, “the motherf—ers who want to f— with” him), a large and seemingly ever-growing contingent that, on this weekend, included those who didn’t believe he should have been at South by Southwest, even if it was to host a showcase for his label, G.O.O.D. Music.
Those purists — the South By vets who remember the good old days, when bands came to Austin looking for that elusive record deal, and when every event wasn’t sponsored by a mobile device — were probably going out of their heads on Saturday, 24 hours dominated by globally successful rapper/producers, celebrity bloggers and toothsome TV chefs. It was SXSW gone Hollywood — parties by Rachael Ray and Perez Hilton, even rumored Robert Pattinson sightings — and, to be honest, West’s showcase should’ve been the least of their worries.
Because it was, in essence, just a decent 90-minute Kanye concert, albeit one bereft of sexy holograms and smoky moonscapes. His appearance was perhaps the second worst-kept secret of the entire week (Metallica’s Friday night show at Stubb’s takes top honors in that category), and hours before the G.O.O.D. showcase’s scheduled 8 p.m. start time, the line of SXSW badge-holders looking to get in stretched the entire length of the Fader Fort.
Of course, those folks would be waiting a long time. West didn’t take the stage until it was nearly 10 p.m., but when he finally did — decked out in a denim vest, dark shades on his face — he more than made up for the delay. Backed by the usual assortment of characters (a pair of DJs, a guitarist and drummer in riot gear, a female backup singer with shoulder pads like the Legion of Doom), he ripped through a few verses of “Amazing,” welcomed fans to the future and then slipped into his primary role of the evening: Emcee.
And not of the rapping variety.
Because for the next hour, ‘Ye played hypeman to a string of G.O.O.D. artists — Consequence, GLC, Big Sean — spitting a verse here or there, urging the crowd to throw their hands in the air, etc. It wasn’t the West most were expecting, and during some of the, uh, lesser moments (the Fonzworth Bentley step routine, a cringe-worthy set by British crooner Mr. Hudson), they made their displeasure known by streaming toward the exits. But then Kanye, ever the showman, would lure them back with snippets of his own tunes, like “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” or “Crack Music.”
That’s not to say there weren’t some genuinely excellent moments, though. West traded verses with up-and-comers 88 Keys (“Stay Up (Viagra)” ) and Kid Cudi (“Welcome to Heartbreak”) and shared a genuinely jaw-dropping freestyle session with Common and Eryah Badu(!). And when welcomed the entire G.O.O.D. roster onto the stage for the one-two punch of “Good Life” and “Love Lockdown,” he had the entire crowd going bananas (even if he did flub a line or two because he “got too excited”). He shouted out each member of his roster as the applause built, then moved on to the evening’s sponsors, taking special care to instruct Levi’s to “cut the check.”
Hey, at least he’s honest. And somewhere, a SXSW loyalist’s head spontaneously combusted.
But their nightmare was far from over. As if dealing with Rachael Ray’s second-annual South By soiree (sets by the Hold Steady and the Thermals, delicious themed beverages) wasn’t enough, they had put up with Perez Hilton, who was back in town for his “One Night in Austin” party.
Held in the same supermarket-turned-mega club that Jane’s Addiction destroyed on Thursday , Hilton’s party had a “Divas” theme, featuring sets by Little Boots and Ladyhawke (Lady Sovereign was a no-show, which led Hilton to call her a “c–t” live onstage), plus a surprise appearance by the Indigo Girls. Seriously.
Hilton himself wore a replica of Aretha Franklin’s inauguration hat and seemed genuinely nonplussed by the fact that his party was in direct competition with West’s.
Of course, that point proved moot when West popped in for a quick five-song performance, to the squealed delight of all in attendance.
And then, having fused their powers to become some sort of celebrified Voltron, Kanyez then set out to destroy all vestiges of this once very un-celeb event. Or usher it into the future. Depends on your point of view.
MTV News was Live & Mobile at the South by Southwest festival this week, with blogs, articles plus live and on-demand video of all the bands, gigs and BBQ!