There was a point on the space-time continuum when SXSW was a place for undiscovered bands to breakout and for music fans to catch their future favorite acts in cramped venues selling cheap beer, before they sold their souls to LiveNation. I don’t actually know this because I’ve never been, but that’s the sense I get from people like this guy. Now it’s a corporate swamp with brands and sponsors peddling exclusivity while major acts perform “secret shows” to burnish some fascimile of roots-y connectedness to their audience.
Case in point, the Samsung sponsored top-secret concert last night by The Throne, aka Jay-Z and Kanye West, at the Austin Music Hall, capacity 4,600. Typical for these types of events, the crowd was filled with a mix of VIPs, industry types (and their plus ones), and concert winners. According to Billboard, it was “astonishing” that West and Jay Z did not mention Samsung, who was promoting its new music service Milk, onstage once. But it wasn’t astonishing at all. Samsung’s name was all over social media posts relating to the show, and that’s all that really matters. The electronics giant, fresh off the selfie shared ’round the world, was promoting their service to the people in attendance—they were broadcasting to all of us.
To Jay Z and Kanye’s credit, they performed a rabid, uninterrupted two-hour set, barrelling through hit after hit on a recreation of the rising twin cube stage set-up from their iconic Watch the Throne tour. Cycling through songs from their personal back catalogues and Throne collaboration, the two hip-hop deities remained mostly bathed in shadows—a page torn directly from West’s Big Book of How to Look Menacing—as lasers diced through their silhouettes. And if you’re wondering how many times they played N*ggas in Paris to close out their show—their tour’s trademark—the answer is 4.