Wild Flag at SXSW Music 2011
AUSTIN, TX — The South by Southwest Music and Media Conference hadn't even wrapped up its third day before local news outlets were already bitching about the rowdiest batch of spring-break hipsters Austin has seen in the event's 24-year history. And that was a few full hours before a reunited Death from Above 1979 sparked a near-riot at Beauty Bar that required mounted police and Tasers to subdue.
It's hard to blame Austinites if they feel their music festival is approaching Woodstock-'99 levels of drunken, angry rampage. With the now more than 200,000 revelers of the 10-day music, film, and interactive-media get-together more likely to be fans looking for free drinks and parties than the music-industry flock that previously defined SXSW's demographic, what was once Disneyland for the music biz is now closer to Epcot's Drinking Around the World, but with more beards and Pixies T-shirts. Dan Hirsch, music program director at ArtsEmerson, perfectly summed up SXSW when he mused on Facebook that it's one big "living Bosch painting."
And Boston was right in the middle of it. Our old friends Bodega Girls, profiled in these pages last week, had barely stepped foot on stage for their first show when trouble erupted — someone tried to cut their set short, so they ripped into an Off! cover, wrecked the stage, and stormed out. (We ran into them minutes later, as all of us filed into Emo's to catch — who else? — Off! and Bad Brains.) At the other end of the fest, on Saturday night the Bodegas crashed the stage during their friends Dirty Vegas's set headlining Perez Hilton's annual party. Once onstage, they started pulling fans up over the barricades to join them, "and soon we had 200, 300 people up there," recalls DV singer and Boston resident Steve Smith. Security jumped in and shut the party down, "but it was all in good fun, all in good spirits." Hilton e-mailed Smith the next day and thanked him for the memorable ending. (Go to thePhoenix.com for the video.)
The carnage report at this year's SXSW was unparalleled, and thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and Flipcams, most of it ended up on tape. The mascots for this year's mayhem were unquestionably the volatile teenage SoCal skate-rap pack Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA), who were already the most talked-about participant heading to this year's SXSW and emerged as its most memorable. By the time the Phoenix caught them at the Fader Fort by Fiat, Tyler the Creator had already apologized on Tumblr for diving off a 25-foot amp stack and breaking a fan's nose at the previous day's Thrasher party. The Fader gig turned into a Sex Pistols–esque exchange of flying sewage, with at least one woman getting smacked in the face by a thrown water bottle damn near 200 yards away from the stage. By early Sunday morning, as OFWGKTA wrapped up a festival-closing Vice afterparty in an unfinished office space, one Odd Future member jumped on a free-beer table, heckled the bartender, and promptly tripped on a foot-tall concrete construction divider, plowing face-first into the floor. The show ended moments later.