Indy Fest Closes With the Big Hitters

Kanye West highlights end of SXSW

Bay Area photographer Seher Sikandar chronicles the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. The nation's largest indy fest.

Days 3 and 4

Man.  Saturday was a bust and not.  A gal pal and I got rejected from the Rolling Stone showcase even though we had RSVP’ed.  There went our plan to see Ebony Bones – still need to check her out.  No fear.  We made up for it by grabbing some nummies at the Best Wurst truck.  Grease action.  Hot dogs in hand, we scurried over to the American Apparel flea market thingie for a quick peek – hipster clothing overload.  I couldn’t do it.

My next adventure ended up being this: sitting at Levi’s/Fader Fort all damn day.  Why?  Because apparently Kanye had a surprise show that started at 8 or 9 and the lines were going to be “ridiculous” and they were expecting to reach “capacity.”  And as much as I don’t care for Kanye, I knew it was going to be a sight to be seen.  So I sat on some bleachers and stared out into space, hipster-watched, and Twittered a whole frackin’ lot.  Made a couple new friends, too.

I can’t say was paying much attention to everyone that went on stage at the Fort.  Sadly I missed most those I’d care to see at the Fort by the time I got there.  But I did catch a Diplo set.  That guy plays the most eclectic/on-shrooms DJ set ever.  It started off with – wait for it – an autotune of a baby crying.  What.  Thee.  Eff. 

He also had a whirling dervish dancer chick that seemed to blaspheme the full spectrum of dance – dancehall wind, rap video girl booty bump, interpretive dance, African-esque and tribal moves, jazzercise, and the robot.  Girl was doing too much in her toilet paper dress.

Bun B was cool although I can’t say I’m all that familiar with his catalog.  He looks like he could squash me just by stepping on me though, so I’ll just, um – it was great!  But he was followed by…Jadakiss?  What?  Um.  I was on hate-mode for a good second until he started doing a bunch of old school high school radio jams he was on.  Yes, I listened to the radio then. 

Just before the Kanye show started, Dead Prez did a surprise mini-show from the DJ booth.  That was pretty fresh.  It wasn’t but a group of about 50+ people that caught on, though.  I guess the hundreds of hipsters were just busy talking about the newest ethnic scarf to appropriate.  All good, guys.

The Kanye show, however, was bananas.  So, so many people on and off stage.  Not surprisingly, they’d shut down the pit for any photographers other than Kanye’s own (snob), so I warmed up by taking a few paparazzi shots of his bald model girlfriend who apparently smokes the green pack of Marlboro’s.  You heard it here first? 

Anyway, after I got done practicing being a stalker, I decided to sacrifice my sanity and subject myself to the massive crowd.  And so, for the remaining three hours, short ol’ Seher got to fend haphazardly amongst crazy fans to get a shot.  The most awkward contorted positions.  Pain.

Kanye took guest appearances to its very own special level.  Guests included: Consequence, Common, Erykah Badu, some guy that looked like Bilal but maybe wasn’t, 88-Keys, Big Sean, Kid Cudi, some poet guy with a head-wrap that Kanye thought was “great,” and a pretty looking Euro dude that apparently Kanye did a song with or used a sample from. 

All hate aside for a second though – at hour 2.5, when all the delirium had set in, my clothes dirtied up, my sweat sweated out, and any photos I could physically get taken, I took a moment to bask in the livest of live energy that is a Kanye show.  He is a performer.  Last time I saw Kanye was when he was just starting his rap career and my college had brought him out for a concert.  Yes – back when colleges could afford Kanye.  This show handled its business in my opinion. 

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As much as I have and will continue to scoff at the thought of Kanye and his oft-absurdity, the energy from the piles of fans and that coming from the stage was really powerful.  I caught myself bobbing my head in those last twenty minutes or so.  [Awkward/embarrassed emoticon.]

My dead beat awesomeness ended out the night with a photo shoot for a friend by some random piece of industrial looking machinery.  That was rad.  Then I found shawerma at a food truck as well as peace.  Sleep felt good.

And Sunday.  Sunday wasn’t really a festival day; it was a packing and airport day.  But I just want to make one note about Sunday – Waffle House rocks!  Lawd.

SXSW was most definitely a full experience.  I’m going back next year.  Maybe I’ll be masochistic and try to do even more.  The whole thing was such a rush – warm weather, jubilant music lovers, awesome food, music from across the globe and spanning the aural spectrum booming from every doorway.  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

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