Friday, March 27, 2009

Saturday Night at SXSW

The Knux at Vice

Janelle Monae at Vice

Janelle Monae at Vice

The Knux at Vice

Asher Roth at Vice

So I finally looked at a SXSW schedule on Saturday evening. What did I come up with? A hip-hop showcase at a club called Vice.

Readers should know by now that I'm not an avid hip-hop fan. Records typically have to crossover for me to really pay attenion. Which leads us to the first artist of the night, Asher Roth.

I'd never heard of Asher Roth before. Apparently he's a middle to upper middle class white fella from Pennsylvania who got lots of attention by sampling Weezer. As I walked in, I got really nervous. Out of all the choices at SXSW this is what I chose? Bummer. Special guests The Cool Kids came on stage for a couple of tracks and that made it somewhat interesting.

Next up was the Knux. If it wasn't for Jeff Weiss, I wouldn't know who the hell the Knux was either. Knowing very little about them, I was a tad fearful they were going to be some fairly bland backpack rap act. Thankfully they were not. Apparently there's a growing trend in hip-hop to have musicians on stage. I have my suspicions that the keyboard player wasn't doing much, but he looked cool. It was a high energy performance and infinitely better than Asher Roth. Very fun to see live. Things were looking up.

The artist I'd heard the most about was Janelle Monae. I read somewhere a while back that she's originally from Kansas City, so I took an interest in her. (I still hadn't brought myself to listen to her stuff, but I was curious.) She wasn't what I expected at all. She's a tiny, slighly Grace Jones looking, spitfire of energy. Her band of musicians includes a guitar player who modeled his look after Andre 3000 in the "Hey Ya" video. Her music had a lot of range. She effortlessly moved from manic, "Hey Ya" style hip-hop-meets-rock to an emotional version of the standard, "Smile" (popularized by Nat King Cole). She ended her set by leaping into the crowd and crowd surfing all the way to the back of the house. No surprise that No Doubt has tapped her to open their reunion tour.

A very fitting and positive way to end SXSW 2009.

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