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South By Southwest Day 1: Macklemore & Lewis and Motown

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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AUSTIN, Texas – “South By – welcome to the heist!”

So said Seattle rapper Macklemore at the beginning of his set with partner Ryan Lewis on Tuesday, March 12, the opening night of the South By Southwest Music + Media Conference. And the roar of approval during the Warner Sound showcase at the Belmont indicated that particular bunch of attendees knew exactly what he was talking about.

Those who come to SXSW certainly feel like they’re getting away with something – six days with thousands of musical choices, high-profile speakers and panelists, parties, usually good weather and great food. Yes, it’s work for many of those who make the trip – but nobody’s complaining too much.

Riding the success of their 2012 debut album “The Heist,” Macklemore & Lewis are one of the star attractions at this year’s SXSW, and the duo and its collective of guest singers and rappers – including Talib Kweli on “Victory Lap” – delivered on the expectations with an energetic half-hour of songs from the album, including “Thrift Shop,” “Same Love” and “Can’t Hold Us.” Macklemore (real name ??) scaled the barricade in front of the stage to sing some of the latter while held aloft by the crowd, while Lewis ping-ponged between the state and the security pit for some more personal moments with the duo’s fans.

The real up-close-and-personal performer of the night, however, was New York rapper Action Bronson. The burly, bearded, WWE-like MC picked up a fan from Washington D.C. early in his set, holding him over his shoulders as he rapped, then finished by walking through the crowd and up the stairs to the VIP deck, where he sat on a couch and spit his lines with other members of his crew populated the stage.

The two capped a diverse bill at the Belmont that also included Midwest-style rap of Chicago’s Rockie Fresh, the buoyant electro froth of Sweden’s Icona Pop and the breathy atl.rock of Blondfire from Los Angeles.

A whole different musical experience – a genuine Texas encounter – occurred earlier in the night at Stubb’s barbeque restaurant, where songwriting legend Billy Joe Shaver played a 40-minute show for BMI’s Howdy Texas party. Shaver’s 11-song set included favorites such as “Heart of Texas,” “Honky Tonk Heroes,” “Ride Me Down Easy,” “Live Forever” and “What She Did Last Night,” while the 73-year-old Shaver peppered the show with tales about his heritage and his health – including the fact that screws in his shoulder prevent him from performing as much as he’d like.

A little bit of Motown, meanwhile, -- a remix of the Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” -- welcomed attendees to the Fader + Converse Fort, one SXSW’s most popular annual installations. Fans waited in long lines to get into the site on Tuesday night, a private party sponsored by Dell to bridge the closing of SXSW’s Interactive conference and the beginning of the Music festival, where they ate free Philly cheesesteaks and listened to the bands Delorean and Matt & Kim.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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