SXSW and turntable.fm: ?uestlove, Diplo and A-Trak
- By Matt Braun
- Published on March 20, 2012
|?uestlove - Photo Credit: Morgan Mullin|
During his keynote speech for the 2012 SXSW Music Conference, Bruce Springsteen spoke of a digital music renaissance. The low price of storage space, the high speed of the Internet and the proliferation of music-creating devices have destroyed the barriers of entry and made it possible for an explosion of musical genres.
Rather than being a divisive force, this music coexists on our smart phones and unites us all through our shared need to listen. South by Southwest fosters this communal spirit of artistic expression and audience participation with expert panels, musical showcases and rocking parties
If you were at SXSW, you heard the buzz surrounding the turntable.fm and DoLab showcases throughout the week. During the interactive portion, they threw what was widely heralded as one of the best shows of the conference, bringing together electronic music super-producers Flying Lotus and AraabMuzik to entertain a sold-out crowd.
But I was delighted to find out I was invited to their second and even more star-studded showcase. Turntable.fm had been saving their big guns for the music portion – AraabMuzik, A-Trak, Reggie Watts, ?uestlove and Diplo. Roots, rock, reggae, electronica, comedy, soul and hip-hop all brought together in a nondescript warehouse in Austin.
|Reggie Watts - Photo Credit: Morgan Mullin|
However, this is all just part of the fun of SXSW, where agonizing over which party you will go to and the anxiety of whether or not you will get in somehow augments the experience.
With such a solid line up of headliners, the opening acts had a lot to live up to. But this is SXSW and these up-and-comers did not disappoint. The Jane Doze, a female production duo, warmed up the crowd with their pop-inspired tunes mixed with hip-hop samples.
Next was Nick Hook, who increased the energy with an electro-house set reflective of his namesake. Though relatively unknown and playing to a not-yet-filled house, these producers threw down like they topped the bill.
In a frenzy of excitement the first headliner, AraabMuzik, took the stage. Like many producers he is an unassuming guy, unrecognizable to any but the most die-hard of fans. But once he gets behind the turntables, that all changes. The man is an absolute wizard with a drum machine, and his energy and skill is unparalleled within the industry.
It’s no wonder he had a prolific career as a hip-hop producer years before he became a successful DJ. The whirlwind of drumbeats, bass lines, rap lyrics and soul samples blew through the crowd, as the set flew by in an instant.
In between headliners, Reggie Watts curated the affair with his distinct brand of comedic musicality. Watts wields his sampling machine and sharp wit like weapons on the stage. His distinctive Afro and rotund shape soften his presence and add levity to his performance. The 15-minute snippets of Mr. Watts were welcome comedy relief, but they left me craving more.
Next up was legendary producer A-Trak, of Duck Sauce fame. A-Trak is an affable character and a fantastic musician. He is friendly with fans, nice to the camera and pleasing to the ears – what’s not to like? From his Duck Sauce shenanigans (see “The Big Bad Wolf” music video) to his seriously danceable DJ sets, he is probably the most likeable DJ/producer in the scene today.
|AarabMuzik - Photo Credit: Morgan Mullin|
Instead of bringing his drum kit, ?uestlove brought the hits. He took the audience on a musical journey spanning every genre as well as the last five decades of musical history.
From “Pass The Dutchie” to “Seed 2.0” and everything in between, ?uestlove was the unlikely highlight of the evening.
Last, but certainly not least was the jet setting, Blackberry wielding, powerhouse that they call Diplo. Chalk it up to jet lag or the fact that it was probably his tenth performance of the day, but the performance wasn’t his best, although everyone really enjoyed it. And in the end, that is really all he needed to do to put the cherry on top of an already extraordinary night.
His trademark moombahton invigorated the excitable ones to continue on into the night and his promiscuity with musical genres reinforced The Boss’s message into my mind as I headed home.
After such an amazing show I felt truly blessed to live in this musical renaissance – a time when genres are mashed up, transcended and redefined while they coexist harmoniously on our phones or at a particularly good concert.