There was a brief time when we thought we would get caught in a hailstorm, destroying our car windows and our hopes of seeing 2 Chainz ridin’ round and getting it at Fader Fort. At the TuneIn Showcase at Easy Tiger, there was a much more potent force: a combination of Antwon, Health, and Show Me The Body.
After a delayed start because of weather, Antwon, now residing in LA, got into “Sittin in Hell,” revving up the crowd with his colorful yet detachedly cool tales of sexual prowess. He’s like a more sensitive Kool Keith, complete with an array of underground producers that shift between the grime and the dreamy, often intersecting. “Dying in the P**sy” was the height of his set, with the crowd joining in on his carnal descent by loudly singing the song’s chorus. The set ended — or ascended, really — with a dance party. “Better Off Alone” seems like a cheesy pick, but everyone put aside their ironic distance and became one with Antwon in grooving. Then Antwon threw his mic in the crowd and put on Jagged Edge’s “Where The Party At,” a triumphant mic drop if there ever was one. More people got on stage, and he became lost in the front of the crowd. Suddenly, the show was both about him and not about him at all. It ended with “Big Pimpin,” because it’s Texas and it had to end with some UGK.
Health survived the glut of blog-rock bands of the late 2000s and came out stronger than ever before. They began as a drum-driven minimalist rock unit, noted for recording their debut album at LA punk venue The Smell. They’re still drum driven, but their sound is much bigger, aiming for hugeness while not exactly conforming to huge rock principles. They may have pioneered arena noise, huge and blissful while remanning discordant. And seriously, those drums, how busy they were while maintaining bombast! Health used to live in the shadow of Crystal Castles’ remix of “Crimewave” eclipsing the popularity of the original; CC are a shadow of their former selves without Alice Glass (coincidentally, they played at Stubb’s earlier in the night) and Health are on the rise.
Are you lacking electric banjo-driven noise-punk in your life? New York’s Show Me The Body are the band you need. Electric banjo in a punk context is tinny, kind of a like an aluminum guitar with a less pronounced edge. Julian Cashwan Pratt, who also sings, uses it to make an uneven, clanky racket, not to be some cheeky version of a folk punk. He would lunge himself into the crowd without warning; photographers were looking nervously at him thinking they’re next. His actions synced with the band’s jerky grooves. At the end of their set, he rolled around and threw the mic down onto the Easy Tiger stone floor, but not before reminding the crowd of who they were one last time. See, you can be confrontational and informative! Bassist Harlan Steed is Cliff Burton reincarnated as a Providence art-punk, creating layered and propulsive rhythms that gave weight to Pratt’s screeching banjo. He had a gnarly smiling metal pose too, right down to a cream-colored Rickenbacker bass he wielded. Whereas Antwon brought in rap-loving punks and Health had a more normal crowd, SMTB brought something else entirely to the front. Two dudes repping the “Gwinna Gang” were moshing with each other, and one girls red, flowing hippie pants belied her aggressive dance movies, taking center stage at one point. It wasn’t just the short-haired white kids trying to imitate skinhead fashions you usually see at punk shows. SMTB reinforced punk’s brashness by giving it a new face (They are playing Fader Fort today, if you’re curious, or you want to subject yourself to them again.)
In some ways, this was a throwback to the last time Antwon was at SXSW in 2013, where he played the Chaos in Tejas showcase that smashed together him, Big Freedia, Iron Lung, Merchandise, Parquet Courts, and Power Trip. Yes, that actually happened, and that wide range made it one of the most memorable showcases in the last few years. It’s not as though SXSW doesn’t try to mix things up — after all, Rae Sremmurd and Kacey Musgraves played side by side at Fader Fort on Thursday — it just doesn’t always work. This showcase, like the Chaos showcase, was special because it united disparate-sounding performers under a banner of underground attitude. You don’t always get that at the big parties, and most of the time, the cool kids don’t really know how to have a blast. This was a celebration of freakiness and earnestness.