SXSW 2012, Round 4: Electrolady Land, Timbaland, and the Big Easy Express
Saturday marked the convergence of South By Southwest's final rager with St. Patrick's Day...so that's another way of saying that downtown Austin's 6th Street basically turned into the sixth circle of Hell. Oh, don't get me wrong: SXSW had been a blast all week, a Spring Break-ish spree of great live music by everyone from Bruce Springsteen and Lionel Richie to Fiona Apple and Norah Jones to Santigold and Skrillex. But by the Texas musicfest's final day, I was more burnt than a Salt Lick BBQ grill. So the last thing I wanted to do was battle a bunch of green-beer-swilling rabblerousers for a spot in yet another block-long line to get into yet another overpacked 6th Street sports bar. No, Saturday called for a little relaxation, SXSW-style, and I thankfully got it, although along the way I still managed to occasionally party as hard as SXSW fixture Andrew WK.
The day started calmly enough over at the Motorola Moonshine Café, an invite-only artist-lounge hangout where industry types could escape from the chaos and dig into some proper Southern food while being plied with free swag. While tucking into a giant plate of hangover-soothing fried artichokes, I spotted Train's Pat Monahan (with his hair, he was easy to spot, although by Saturday almost everyone in Austin had bad bedhead), who was stopping by before headlining celebrity chef Rachael Ray's big annual Feedback party. Either Pat preferred the food at Moonshine over Rachael's grub (doubtful, although my artichokes were dang good), or even he couldn't get into Feedback (actually kind of plausible, considering the insanely long queue Rachael's party had before it was even noon).
My next civilized event was over at the Convention Center, where apparently actual educational panels about the music business take place between SXSW's open-bar soirees. (Who knew?) There, I got myself educated about "Soul Train," at a presentation called "A 'Soul Train' Tribute to Don Cornelius," during which NPR's Dan Charnas interviewed the late, great Don Cornelius's son Tony about the groundbreaking, barrier-breaking TV show. ("I promise I won't cry," Tony announced at the start of the panel. "[My father] was my hero.") Tony and Dan's informal, intimate chat was interspersed with vintage clips of awesome Afro'd-and-hotpants'd dancers getting their in-studio groove on to Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye, and at a South By Southwest that was filled with an unprecedented number of huge hip-hop acts (Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Nas, the Roots, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, Timbaland), this tribute to modern urban music's roots was fitting indeed. Also, it was just really nice to sit in an air-conditioned room and hear intelligent people speak in hushed NPR tones. They were using their indoor voices!
Next I dared to step back into the downtown fray to see MNDR, aka electropop goddess Amanda Warner, probably best known for singing on uberproducer Mark Ronson's "Bang Bang Bang" single alongside rap legend Q-Tip. MNDR was playing inside...a giant Doritos vending machine.