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Our SXSW 2013 coverage continues with a detailed report from that FADER Fort show that brought us Future, T.I., and of course, Usher + Sinkane + The Afghan Whigs. Jump in:

Disclosure @ FADER Fort (FADER), 6:00PM

Onstage, the two brothers in Disclosure don’t look like much — two near-identical pale scrunched-up British guys in plain T-shirts, hunched behind banks of electronics. And even though they sang and played a few instruments (bass, percussion), all the extra juice in their live show didn’t quite convince me that they should be a live act rather than just DJs. But their songs — the massive-hit AlunaGeorge collab “White Noise” chief among them — are furiously propulsive, insanely catchy pieces of work, and they did a nice job firing up a largely unfamiliar crowd. The duo’s bloopy basslines and fleet-footed drums revive the glitzy glide of 2-step garage without coming across as retro necromancy, and their melodies simply float. When they finally do get around to releasing that debut album, it’ll be a monster. — Tom

Trae & T.I. @ FADER Fort (FADER), 6:30PM

SXSW draws people from all around the globe and effectively, for a few days, turns Texas’s state capital into some sort of alternate dimension. But every once in a while, something happens to remind you that you’re still in Texas. That’s what happened when Trae, a longtime Houston underground rap hero, emerged for an unannounced performance, rapping in slippery gravelly double-time over foggy, emotive, bottom-heavy beats. Trae brought a few street-rap peers like Yo Gotti and Problem to the stage, and he also led the crowd in huge, cathartic singalongs of his depressive rap classics like “No Help” and “Swang.” And when the crowd was already at a fever pitch, T.I., Trae’s newly minted label boss, strolled out to center stage, and the place came unglued. T.I. wasn’t onstage for long, but the songs he did — especially the anthemic “What You Know,” with Pharrell on hypeman duties — sent the assembled crowd into giddy euphoria. — Tom

Future @ FADER Fort (FADER), 6:30PM

Future is, right now, the reigning king of rap and R&B radio, which meant he’s one of very few people on the planet who could’ve walked onstage after T.I. without ending the crowd’s euphoric wave. And as weird and soothing as Future’s Auto-Tune gargling might sound on record, when you see him live, it starts to dawn that all of his songs are anthems. “Same Damn Time,” of course, was mighty, but love songs like “Turn Out The Lights” and “Neva End” were just as huge and forceful, and even mixtape tracks and random collaborations incited massive Fugazi-style scream-alongs. He performed for something like 45 minutes and barely sang a note that hasn’t been in heavy rotation in the past year, doing it all with a calm, poised energy that’s come to him as his star has risen. He now carries himself like a star, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching a newly minted star, a person completely owning his cultural moment, determinedly pointing out to you why he matters. — Tom

The Afghan Whigs & Usher @ FADER Fort (FADER), 7:45PM

When The FADER tweeted there would be a special guest accompanying the Afghan Whigs for their Friday headlining gig at the Fort, I very genuinely believed that it was going to be Frank Ocean. The piece of the puzzle were all there: the Afghan Whigs love Frank Ocean, having covered him and booked him for the Greg Dulli-curated ATP; the FADER loves Frank Ocean; Ocean tweeted “cali is lovely, but I miss london lowball. next flight’s to austin. I hear prince is plain.” Boom! I did it! Genius! The Whigs started off with whirly intensity, a perfect wash of their brand of heavy guitars that feel like the accompany vice, sin, and anger. Dulli is a carnal songwriter and there was a gnawing — a good one! — on the crowd via his impassioned performing. But then something strange happened. Instead of continuing on with their own tunes, they played “On The Corner” from Dulli’s other band the Twilight Singers. I suppose these kinds of things make sense in a reunion setting — you get to tool with things you missed out on the first time or incorporate your other projects into the live show, as well as cover artists who made their mark in that interim between breakup and reconciliation. The third song on the setlist fell into that category, as they covered Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes.” I knew it! Here we all were having this truly bizarre moment, Michael, Tom, and I together with our contributor buddy Chris DeVille, knowing Scott and Amrit were somewhere else in the room, and the Afghan Whigs were about to bring out Frank Ocean while we sat there worrying if Lil Wayne was about to die. It was a clusterfuck. And then Frank Ocean never came out. Conspiracy theories abound! “It’s a ruse,” I thought. “They’ll do ’Thinkin Bout You’ and bring him out then.” But then they began to play something else that was familiar — a Whigsier version of Usher’s ascendant “Climax” only to bring the singer out to finish out the cut. It felt special and moving but when they kept Usher on stage to perform “Somethin’ Hot” was when it really just became an entirely mind-bending, yet made so much sense. There’s a lot of R&B infused into what the Whigs do and did and while Usher’s output largely hinges on pop, there are elements of innovation in Usher’s music as early as My Way that would have put him on par with the likes of Jeremih and Lloyd with their blogosphere accolades. If “You Make Me Wanna” came out in 2013, it’d probably make the Internet go bonkers. The union was natural — it’s always why no one skipped a beat when they brought out Sinkane to do his song “Runnin’” — but it wasn’t until they started reworking an Usher tune to sound like it had been written by Dulli and co. that the set took on a new form. They closed out with a cover of “OMG,” flipping it from will.i.am arena anthem into thick and sexy, yearning rock. If the original is a lighthearted shout-from-the-rooftops about love, then this collaboration was the darkest pit in a lovesick stomach. We know Usher has the propensity for that kind of music — both “Climax” and “Wanna” are prime examples, in fact — and that the Afghan Whigs are the masters of making searing emotion sound sensual and trashy-chic and here we saw it materialize into one of the most entertaining things in Austin this week. So obvious, but who ever would have thought it? Watch the entire set for yourself. — Claire

Le1f @ Scoot Inn (Biz 3), 11:25PM

On his new mixtape Fly Zone, the New York rapper Le1f focused on the side of his music that animated “Wut,” the internet-hit from last year. He’s now making bangers, throwing his double-time purr all over horn-stabs and martial drum whomps. And live, he’s a total dynamo, strutting and spinning and, a couple of songs in, letting out the blonde samurai topknot on his head to reveal blonde-braid hair extensions that pretty much reached the floor. (He spent the rest of the set whipping them around wildly.) And “Wut,” it turns out, destroys even more when it’s preceded by the helicopter intro from Noreaga’s “Superthug.” — Tom

Master P with Fat Trel and Alley Boy @ Some club I forget the name of (LiveMixtapes), 1:20AM

The very idea of a Master P SXSW showcase, especially on the back of his shockingly strong Al Capone mixtape and his recent associations with street-rap monsters Fat Trel and Alley Boy, seemed too good to be true. So when I got to 404 Austin, the giant neon-bathed club on a very fratty stretch of Austin bars, I wasn’t all that surprised to find a sign on the door saying the show wasn’t happening there. It turned out, though, that it had only been moved a few blocks north, to an upstairs venue that looked like an unfinished basement, one where the bar doesn’t accept credit cards and nobody pays any attention to smoking laws. And this makeshift, slapdash venue turned out to be an amazing place to witness P’s return to all-out ecstatic goonery. P and his associates came onstage in all-black and ski masks, looking like they were ready for war. Shout out to the gigantically diesel shirtless guy who never took off his ski mask and the excessively tattooed white guy holding some kind of staff — my two favorites on P’s massive army of guys onstage behind him. And while the crowd in the venue wasn’t huge, everyone was absolutely amped and on these guys’ side; from the moment they touched the stage, there was no texting. P went back and forth, chaotically, between classic ’90s-era No Limit hits and his recent mixtape tracks, and it’s a testament to those new songs that the energy didn’t flag. And both Trel and Alley Boy are absolutely excellent live rappers, booming and precise. But the one thing that struck me the most about the show was how fun it was, both audience and performers giddily giving into these head-stomp anthems like teenagers at a basement hardcore show. — Tom

Comments (1)
  1. I’m going to a Future concert in a month, and this is really encouraging. I just hope he’s not one of those rappers who raps over recordings with their own voice, but I’m really excited.

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