SXSW: Rhymesayers showcase, the Hold Steady, and two churches

Categories: SXSW
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6th Street photo by Ben Clark

Day Two of South by Southwest has wound down, and the fatigue is starting to set in. On the Mischke show yesterday, we were talking about South by Southwest as an experience, and it occurred to me that people who have never attended the festival might not understand the magnitude and overwhelming intensity of the festival. At any given moment, on any given street corner, there are at least a handful of bands audible, and the sounds are coming from every direction. The main streets of downtown Austin are blocked off and filled with musicians and music lovers, and everyone is on a mission to get to their next show. Unlike other large-scale festivals like Coachella or Lollapalooza, which take place on separate grounds, SXSW encompasses the entire city of Austin; every bar, every restaurant, every street corner, every inhabitable space becomes a platform for a band who just wants to be heard.

It's especially interesting for me to see how the bands from Minnesota are stacking up against the flood of competition, so I was excited to head over to the Habana Bar this evening to check out the Rhymesayers showcase. I showed up as I Self Divine was still playing, and by the time newly-signed MC Abstract Rude was wrapping up his set the outdoor patio had filled to capacity.

Eyedea & Abilities played a phenomenal set, debuting tracks off of their forthcoming album, which Eyedea promised would be released later this year. At one point, Eyedea asked the crowd how many people had heard of his group, and the majority of the crowd in front of the stage raised their hands and cheered. "Oh my god, we've hit the big time," Eyedea exclaimed with a smirk, before inviting up-and-coming local rapper Kristoff Krane to join him for a song.

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P.O.S. photo by Ben Clark

The main spotlight was shone onto P.O.S., whose fans overflowed onto the street behind the venue and clamored at the gates to catch a glimpse of the rapper in action. A significant portion of the audience seemed familiar with his songs, even those off of his brand new album, and fans who were locked out of the show waved their arms through the fence behind the stage and mouthed along with every word. There were plenty of other Minnesotans in the audience as well; Sonia Grover and Nate Kranz from First Avenue, Jim McGuinn and Melanie Walker from the Current, and local rappers Dessa, Sims, Cecil Otter, Toki Wright, and Omaur Bliss were all in attendance (along with Brother Ali, of course, who performed after P.O.S.).

Earlier in the day, I was treated to an amazingly sweaty and energetic set by the Hold Steady at Red 7. There's nothing new to report on the Hold Steady front, their set was exactly as energizing and uplifting as I expected, but it was nice to jump up and down to something familiar. I was curious to see how the overstimulated SXSW crowd would react to the Hold Steady, but it seemed like the sold-out crowd was just as enthused as at any of their other shows -- there were even a couple of crowd surfers bobbing across the top of the audience.

Before and after the evening's Rhymesayers showcase, I got the chance to see two shows in two separate area churches. Lovey-dovey folk duo KaiserCartel performed an intimate set at St. David's Church, while troubadour Elvis Perkins invited a horn section to join him for a late-night set at Central Presbyterian. Judging by the stellar new material debuted at both shows, new releases by both groups will be hotly anticipated.

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