What’s the Minnesota presence like at South by Southwest this year? On Thursday afternoon, when three of the scene’s more prominent contenders in Austin this week played day parties, it felt like this:
THE CHALICE (Hydrive Shows/Crowdnoize party at Karma Lounge): “I’m gonna count every one of you [mofos] and be like, ‘No. 16, where you at?!’” So threatened Lizzo at the start of her hip-hop trio’s noontime set, which actually started over an hour late because of production issues. Even with the extra time to fill up, the venue was still devoid of more than a few dozen bodies. Lizzo did her part to ensure the people who did show up also made their presence known. She and cohorts Sophia Eris and Claire De Lune took that idea a few steps farther and walked off the stage into the crowd repeatedly during the set, in which each took turn a solo joint – Lizzo’s Lazerbeak collaboration “Batches n’ Cookies” leading the pack – between their rowdy group jams such as “Push It.” Lizzo’s Houston background also served them well when they introduced their White Castle-inspired song – she had to explain it knowing Texas is devoid of the original sliders palace.
THE 4ONTHEFLOOR (The Midgetmen’s Texas Jumpstart at the Sidebar): You know didn’t miss the start of the band you came to see when you run into the singer in line for the men’s room on your way in. You also know there’s a good turnout when there’s actually a line at the men’s room. Both scenarios applied at the 4onthefloor’s first of three gigs in town, this one hosted by an Austin band with a good following at one of the cooler and cozier bars off Red River and 7th streets. Frontman Gabriel Douglas soon made his way to the venue’s outdoor stage, where he and the other three Floormen performed under a high, blaring sun that added some sweet sweat value to the proceedings. The M. Ward cover “Magic Trick” had folks singing along, and the new single “King of the Jungle” had them joining in on the stomping rhythms.
DESSA (Nice-N-Clean Car Wash and Detail parking lot party): “We’re gonna have as good a time as we can at a car wash at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.” This wasn’t a fake car wash set up by Scion and Pandora as some kind of hipster promotional opportunity, in keeping with the norm for SXSW day parties nowadays. It was a real car wash deep in the Latino neighborhood on Austin’s East Side. Clearly a take-what-you-can-get gig -- which drew a mix of SXSW attendees and locals --the Doomtree rap songstress took it in stride and had a lot of fun with it.
While her band played it straight on stage, she stalked around the parking lot, getting eye-to-eye with fans. At one point, she even interrupted a couple guys working a basketball hoop, stopping to shoot a ball with one hand while holding a microphone in the other (looks as if Dessa’s prospects at a Lynx game will be restricted to half-time). On the serious end, she played a couple of the new songs from her upcoming album, about which her manager Doug Lefrak no-bull explained after the show how it could raise Dessa’s national prospects. Lefrak or somebody on Dessa’s team should have first negotiated a free wash of their well-worn tour van off this particular gig.
See our full coverage from the fest at www.startribune.com/sxsw.