Thursday began a little later than anticipated, but the day was no less jam-packed than any of the others. When we finally got downtown courtesy of the SXSW shuttle, Pam and Clare picked up some food (Chi’Lantro again, if I’m not mistaken) while Ryan and I took care of some business in the convention center. On Wednesday, we all entered a raffle only eligible for badge holders to win tickets to see Lady Gaga; Ryan and I were the lucky ones who received emails that night letting us know that we had won.
Now, I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting to see Lady Gaga while I was at SXSW. But when someone hands me free tickets to a show that I know will be an outrageous experience, I’ve got to take them up on it. So, Ryan and I stood in line to pick up our wristbands for Gaga and then headed over to Flatstock, a SXSW poster show that showcases the artwork of the best poster artists in the biz. All of the posters were incredible, and I was impressed with each artist’s unique perspective and vision. Many of the posters were on sale, but we wouldn’t return to buy anything until a few days later.
Once the gang had reconvened, we headed upstairs in the convention center to the Day Stage to watch some bands perform. We got to sit (or rather, dance) front row to Real Estate, an indie-rock band with an incredibly soft, seamless sound, and the Dum Dum Girls, a rock band sporting an edgy look and feel. While most of the audience was sitting down in the auditorium, rest assured that our team was moving and grooving at the front of the room — enough to even get a shout out from the bassist of Real Estate for our energy!
After the day stage artists had finished, we headed over to the Registrants tent to chat and network with some people in the business and then walked over to meet up with our promoter Oscar from Planetary at another venue. Here, I had the chance to meet other college radio station managers and even a few other promoters! It was a great opportunity to talk to them about how they run their stations and share some of our experiences as well.
Luckily, this venue was right across the street from Stubb’s, the locally famous BBQ restaurant with an outdoor stage where Lady Gaga would be performing. When it was about time for the doors to open, Ryan and I headed over to see Lady Gaga’s openers and wait for what was about to be one of the wildest shows I predict I will ever witness. Semi-Precious Weapons and Lady Starlight, both Gaga’s old friends from New York City, opened for her in the intimate, open-air venue. Semi-Precious Weapons, a heavy rock band largely featuring high energy vocals and strong guitar riffs, was a large contrast to Lady Starlight, a one-woman show making great dance beats that had the audience moving for about an hour.
After Lady Starlight left the stage, nothing could have prepared us for what was about to come next. First, a woman (who was not Gaga, but had a strong resemblance to her) appeared on stage eating sausages in silence for upwards of ten to fifteen minutes. When the audience finally started screaming for Gaga to emerge, the first woman left the stage and Gaga appeared, wearly little clothing and straddling a BBQ spit. She hopped off and performed several songs, at which point she started introducing the theme of swine and BBQ and subsequently performed “Swine” while straddling Millie Brown, a self-proclaimed “vomit artist” who typically performs her art by throwing up dyed milk onto canvas, on a mechanical bull as she vomited black-dyed milk all over Gaga’s body. I know what you’re thinking: yes, this really happened.
Then, after Gaga continued to perform a few more songs she urged the audience to be in the present and embrace the communal sense of self we all feel as artists; immediately afterward, she brought Semi-Precious Weapons and Lady Starlight back on stage to sing a short song dedicated to them. Afterwards, she broke into “Applause” and ended her set with “Gypsy,” dedicating the song to the victims of the SXSW car crash that had happened only a block from Stubbs. She asked the audience to “take this moment to be right here…wander the earth and spread all of the love and compassion you can, and you’ll be happier, I promise.”
Alright Gaga, I’ll follow your advice – but just for you.