On the second-to-last night in Austin — in a swelled Dirty Dog bar full of sweaty bottoms — Travis McCoy of hip-pop powerhouse Gym Class Heroes told the crowd that Bad Rabbits were the most important act to see in Austin. The gesture was barbecue sauce on the band’s buzz brisket; the night before, they smashed after-hours on the outdoor Music Gym patio, where hundreds of partygoers queued around the block, and in some cases scaled gates for a chance to join the orgy. Two University of Texas co-eds (one of whom was wearing a Bad Rabbits T-shirt) told me that, at one point, a “deranged skater kid” plunged off a one-story roof into a crowd of open arms. That story couldn’t be verified — and probably didn’t happen — but by that point it didn’t matter. Across town in the UT dorms, word had already proliferated that the Rabbits inspired kids to sacrifice their ankles and jump into the action.
The guys rode their rep through the very end of SXSW, with two shows on the final day. They may be cocky — Dua opened their last set by saying, “We are Bad Rabbits, and we are fucking fantastic” — but their youthful swagger was no apparent turn-off. Hooks like “Get off my dick” only got more heads reaching for the low-hanging ceiling fans during their encore gig at Plush, where I met a bartender from a venue they rocked two days earlier (who “would have died” if she didn’t catch them again), and overheard members of another band brag that they played with them earlier this year.
At SXSW, whether hype is substantiated or not, it’s as powerful a tool as any. During the Phoenix photo session on Sixth Street, the Rabbits were hardly under the impression that every rubbernecker was a fan, yet they still capitalized. When one woman asked Dua to pose with her daughter, he joked: “Do you even know who we are?” At which point Salim leaned in with a Notorious B.I.G. line that perhaps best summarizes how buzz works when you’re in the Austin groove: “Well, if you don’t know,” he said, smiling for her camera, “now ya know.”
Chris Faraone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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