SXSW Dispatch: That’s Ludacris, Silly!

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What’s the problem with having 1,780 bands performing every night on 81 stages throughout the downtown Austin area? With the barrage of nonstop music being played everywhere you turn, it’s possible to walk right by an outdoor perfomance tent where Ludacris is performing and not even know it. He could have been Jesus Christ delivering a Sermon on the Mount #2, and I would have been completely oblivious, had I not stopped and asked a SXSW volunteer, “Uhh, who is that on the mic?”

Day Three at SXSW included enough walking to justify a new pair of shoes, hot enough temperatures to justify wearing shorts, and a late-teens event volunteer washing down her ice cream cone with a can of Miller Lite and telling me, “Well that’s Ludacris, silly!”

A Ludacris show is a fun show full of exorbitant amounts of shout-outs “to the ladies.” I think he opened and closed every single song with some sort of call-and-response routine about T&A, and people loved it. “I can’t remember the last time I played in a tent, but damn if I’m not gonna have a good time here,” he told the cheering crowd.

Prior to the Ludacris performance, I spent my morning/early afternoon interviewing Nick Urata, lead singer and guitarist for DeVotchka, who spoke to me about his fascinations with romance, vintage fashion, and Dennis Kucinich. More from Urata here soon.

The most perplexing, boring part of the afternoon was attending a panel discussion with Ice Cube and DJ Pooh to talk about their website, an online streaming television and broadband social network partnership with the Microsoft Corporation. I would have fallen asleep from boredom, were it not for panel facilitator Dave Marsh’s kind of obnoxious habit of cutting off Cube and Pooh every time they tried to answer a question. Once a long line of multimedia “entrepreneurs” got in line for a microphone to ask questions (i.e., promote their own online projects), I realized this panel was all about self-promotion and I walked out.

By late afternoon, I was hanging out with folks at the Million Musician’s March. Bands played, people wore tie-dye, and one guy wore a red, white, and blue top hat and carried a sign that read: “No False Reports. Jesus. Blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus.” There were a few Ron Paul posters floating around, and I saw one young couple making out next to a mock cemetery of white, military crosses signifying the death of American soldiers in Iraq. ‘Nuff said.

On my way to see Pete Rock, Jean Grae, and Talib Kweli, I ran into The People’s Party, a jammy/jazzy band from Venice Beach, California who had traveled to Austin in a truck that sort of unfolded into a mobile stage. Turns out the truck runs on biodiesel, and the band sells only “organic” T-shirts. They also register fans to vote while on the road, and lately have been openly promoting Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy. The group’s guitarist told me, “Obama is an agent of change, and he inspires people. I love [Ron Paul’s] ideas too, but his ideas could work in like, 50 years. Right now, we need to level the playing field for poor people. Obama is about giving voice to those that don’t have voice.”

Here’s a quick synapses of the Pete Rock/Jean Grae/Talib Kweli show: Pete rock spun a bunch of hip hop classics, Jean Grae said “mother f!*ker” more times than I could count (One guy behind me even said, “This is an all-ages show, and she’s M-Fing up there. That’s not right.”), and Talib Kweli proved once again that he is leaps and bounds ahead of so many of his hip-hop contempories.

And this was just the first part of the day. More on the evening portion later…

—Gary Moskowitz

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