Cultures Colliding at SXSW

todayMarch 17, 2022 90 2

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By Jordan Young
Rap R&B Director

SXSW has become an event for affluent millennials and older to party under the guise of networking. As I walked the streets of downtown Austin, the sight of middle-aged white men and women in business attire became a common theme. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t anticipate that SXSW would lack diversity, However, the lack of college-age kids in a city that houses Texas’s flagship institution I didn’t expect.

As I waited In line for an event hosted by SoundCloud (the Next Wav) to promote up-and-coming artists, answers to my many concerns revealed themselves through the actions of one lady. She first asked if the line was for “standard People,” after no replies due to the bougie-ness in her voice, she proceeded to cut in line because SHE had a premium pass.

Now, In her defense, if I paid over 2000 dollars for a pass, I might have the same attitude. However, the piece of plastic around that woman’s neck is the reason for the lack of diversity and youth at SXSW. Minorities and young people have been priced out of SXSW, fitting for an event in Austin. The festival holds panels such as “the growth of the cannabis industry” without any mention of the irony surrounding a room full of rich people discussing ways to profit off an industry that still places African American males in prison at a higher rate than others.

Nevertheless, once inside, I took full advantage of the free drinks from the bar as I watched a performance from Monaleo. The event did not allow many people in forcing an intimate setting, a challenge for a newer artist who didn’t have many fans in the room. However, Monaleo showed me and the audience why she deserved to headline the next wave event. The 20-year-old rapper from Houston brought energy and swag to the stage from the moment she stepped on it; she turned a crowd of industry people into fans.

Monaleo, seen wearing her signature bright pink shirt, pink glasses and blue beanie, raps on stage. Behind her is a psychedelic floral pattern. A yellow light illuminates her and the background.
Monaleo at ‘SoundCloud Next Wav’ on March 14th, 2022 at SXSW.

People who had never met before were dancing together, creating a welcoming atmosphere. My favorite moment of the day came when she played her hit single “Beating Down Yo Block” two girls jumped on stage and left no crumbs. They didn’t just rap the lyrics; they came to perform and shut the stage down. Needless to say, Monaleo isn’t going away anytime soon, and the next time I see her, it won’t be for a next wave event; she will be the wave.

The next event had live blues music which brings memories of my childhood of road trips with my grandparents to mind. We made our way through the streets of Austin and the endless incline that starts after 7th street. With tired calves and a forehead dripping with sweat, we arrived in a neighborhood with facades covered by beautiful black faces. As we continued further, the smell of BBQ wafted through the air.

Home of the Black Artist Matter mural, on 11th street, the crowd got darker and the music became louder. I now inhabited an area that differed from downtown, full of dress pants and button-downs. Unfortunately, in true Jordan fashion, I forgot to RSVP, so we didn’t get to partake in the beautiful display of black art taking place inside. However, the sore calves were worth seeing the fleeting culture by black Austinites, which is unfortunate because Austin is home to the only HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) in hill country (Huston-Tillotson University).

For generations, the city has been a safe haven for a black artist to be free; Hopefully, the community can find ways to grow and thrive under immense financial pressure due to the influx of tech companies driving up the price of real estate.

Following the blanket of culture that consumed me in East Austin, we headed back downtown on scooters to end the night in true Texas fashion. Our next stop might have you questioning my concerns about diversity in the beginning. Regardless, my ears couldn’t ignore the sound of country music echoing through sixth street. After showing our IDs, Bandera Barter and I walked the numerous stairs up to the roof. Once we entered the room, I didn’t anticipate seeing some of my KTSW colleagues, since country music isn’t really our beat, However, seeing them continued the elevation of the night, which hit its peak after an amazing performance from Mike and the Moonpies. It featured some of the best slide guitar play I’ve ever seen.

Lead singer Mike Harmeier stands in from sining, playing guitar, and wearing a cowboy hat. To the left a man plays the electric guitar. Behind them all is the drummer. To the right of the drummer is the bass player. In front and to the right is steel guitar player Zachary Moutlon. It is dark with red lights illuminating the stage.
Mike and the Moonpies on March 14th, 2022 at SXSW.

Much like Monaleos performance, many in the crowd didn’t know their music, but the energy and musicianship displayed in front of us made me and others fans after watching. That’s the beauty of SXSW and Austin in general. You can go from an event showcasing new rappers with Mike and Holly from HR to being overcome by the breathtaking black art in East Austin to partying to country music at Blind Pigs Pub.

In each space, I never had to dim my light. I could be the gay black man with painted nails in each setting, and that is what SXSW & Austin as a community represents the freedom to be yourself no matter where you are.

Featured Image by Jordan Young

Written by: ktsw899

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