AUSTIN, Texas — It wasn’t exactly arctic cold, but it was close. At least by South by Southwest standards.
Usually a haven for hipsters in their skin-baring finest, on Saturday, SXSW got downright chilly, with temperatures dipping into the 40s and winds howling in from the Texas plains. It didn’t really dampen spirits all that much, but it was certainly weird to see Sixth Street transformed into a parka parade.
Yet, the weather was a rather apt metaphor for the closing night of SXSW 2010, because it just seemed unnatural (even though, you know, it was nature and all). And the same could be said about Saturday night’s two biggest events: [news id="1634373"]a tribute concert for the late Alex Chilton[/news], whose death on Wednesday sent a pall through a festival primarily known for good times, and Perez Hilton’s third-annual One Night in Austin party, which, with its VIP lists, sponsored lounges and DayGlo sensibilities was basically the polar opposite of everything SXSW stood for once upon a time.
The Chilton tribute took place at gritty Austin blues hall Antone’s, and while that was winding down, Perez Hilton’s annual soiree was just beginning to heat up. Say what you will about the gossip maven (and there’s definitely plenty to say), over the past two years, his SXSW shindig has spotlighted some artists that have gone on to great success — Katy Perry springs to mind — and he definitely knows how to throw a party.
The 2010 version was held in a sprawling warehouse something-or-other called the Whitley and was filled with all of the things that make SXSW purists cringe: a booming sound system, dueling DJs, branded everything (cupcakes, caffeinated beverages, cocktails) and plenty of neon. The bill managed to split the difference, heavy on buzzed-about acts on the undercard — Alphabeat, Marina and the Diamonds, VV Brown — yet also fronted with big names like Snoop Dogg and Hole.
The crowd, which began lining up outside the Whitley some five hours before the party kicked off, was mostly into the big acts, Snoop in particular. The rapper took the stage after midnight (and after Hilton had introduced him as “somebody you usually don’t see at South by Southwest”) and went buck wild, feeding off the energy and playing nothing but the hits … though, he probably could’ve worn something other than an Oklahoma City Thunder jersey.
So, we got “The Next Episode,” “Gin and Juice,” “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “What’s My Name?” It was prime-time, silly-and-stoned Snoop (which probably explained his cover of House of Pain’s “Jump Around”), which is exactly what everyone in attendance wanted. It was a solid choice by Mr. Hilton.
The wild card was, of course, Hole. After all, their shows on Friday were, to put it charitably, a little rough. And you cannot predict what Courtney Love will do when she steps onstage. But on this night, she was on her best behavior, cutting out the snotty banter and just playing songs people know (“Miss World,” “Pretty on the Inside,” even new single “Skinny Little Bitch”). Much like the wintery winds howling outside, it seemed downright unnatural.
She even opened with a tribute to Chilton, playing Big Star’s “Thirteen” while partygoers looked on in befuddlement. And yet, that too was strangely fitting, especially given the circumstances and the surroundings. Global warming, tribute shows, Perez Hilton … it’s all the same, really. Especially at SXSW.