I am pleased to report that a number of predictions I had regarding my first day of South by Southwest proved to be absolutely true, the first being that my first day at SXSW would be a total emotional overload. I saw several of my favorite current artists in a time span of about three hours, dancing without any regard for my energy capacity or physical well-being.
My second assumption-turned-reality was that staying in one venue for several hours proved to be significantly more rewarding then bopping from showcase to showcase. I stayed for the entirety of the Teklife vs. Naafi showcase, and got to take in every single one of the special moments that would have otherwise been glazed over had I only stuck around for a performance or two. During DJ Taye’s set, I had the privilege of witnessing several people vogue at 80 beats per minute, which resulted in a dance style that was somehow more vicious and tantalizing than typical vogue routines found at lower tempos.
Had I deemed myself satisfied at that show and left, I would have missed DJ Spinn rally the crowd together to chant “F*ck Donald Trump” in unison for a solid two minutes, followed by Taso asking if the crowd was “feeling the burn,” which was clearly an ambiguous question given his constant puffing of a joint throughout Teklife’s appearance in the booth.
But the most important thing that I learned, which I never could have anticipated, was the magic of witnessing a South by moment among a mere handful of people, after all those who arrived for the hype had already left to seek tantalizing rumors and parties. Baauer’s album release show was well-attended, and while his performance was commendable, the real gem of the showcase was UNiiQU3, who performed for a crowd of the seven people who proceeded to wild out into the wee hours of the night.
Intimate crowds yield intimate performances, and UNiiQU3 seized this opportunity by making her way into the audience, where she and her dancers proceeded to transform a massive gentrified warehouse space into an intimate environment that I think could only be rivaled by the New Jersey clubs she grew up and thrived in. “Y’all, I’m lit, but lit doesn’t mean you have to be drunk; I’m on fire right now,” she told the remaining partiers, who were all wrapped in an equal state of lit-ness.
It was a night that paved the way for how I’ll be treating the rest of my SXSW experience. Never shall I fall wait in a two-hour line for a hyped showcase, never shall I disregard an artist I want to see for one with more clout. From here on out I’ll be following my instincts, because they’ve already gotten me too far to be ignored.