Young Thug worth the wait as first Sound on Sound wraps with a rain-soaked Sunday

Sound On Sound Festival attendees evacuate the fairground on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. (Dave Creaney/American-Statesman)
Sound On Sound Festival attendees evacuate the fairground on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. (Dave Creaney/American-Statesman)

The Sound on Sound festival finally got Young Thug to the stage Sunday night.

Four and a half hours after his rain-soaked time slot, the Atlanta rapper closed the punk-spirited music weekend with a breakneck 40 minutes of soaring — commercially booming — Atlanta rap music beginning around 12:30 a.m. As lightning forced sudden Sherwood Forest evacuations earlier, and high-profile performers like Washington, D.C., rapper Wale canceled amid travel issues, organizers finished the chaotic Sunday with a major-league coup.

Sure, we lost a lot of good music fans out there.

Yet Young Thug onstage seemed pleased by the thin leftover herd of believers in McDade, Texas, who had previously stuck with the Dragon’s Lair stage and enjoyed essential, willing, quarter-filled performances from iconic post-rockers Explosions In the Sky, delightfully brash indie fuzz rock from Aussie songwriter Courtney Barnett, and a reunion set from turn-of-the-century emo legends Thursday.

By 7:30 p.m. the rain cleared and the lingering acts resumed amid logistical delays. (Bob Mould, Big Freedia, STRFKR among the biggest names who performed late.) Only ‘90s Austin noise rockers Cherubs braved the downpour and performed during it.

RELIVE THE WEEKEND: THE MAGIC OF SOS IN 10 GIFS

Wearing bling, shades, grey sweatpants and a denim jacket, Young Thug performed a live rundown of his abundant back catalog that was so robust — gems from “Slime Season 3,” 2014’s best rap single “Lifestyle”— that the 25-year-old rapper born Jeffery Williams enjoyed the luxury of ignoring most of his breakthrough new album. A young man in a taco costume danced with purpose, mosh pits and crowd-surfers sprung to life, two ceremonial piñatas were torn to pieces and flung in the air.

“I want to come down with y’all,” Thugger said, confused but apparently inspired to join the fun. “How do I get down?”

Young Thug performs late Sunday night after sets were reshuffled because of a rain delay at Sound on Sound Fest in McDade. (Photo contributed by Harrison Yeager)
Young Thug performs late Sunday night after sets were reshuffled because of a rain delay at Sound on Sound Fest in McDade. (Photo contributed by Harrison Yeager)

Festival staffers told Austin360 that the lighting scrims — essentially giant drapes adorning the main stage — soaked with water and drowned out speakers. They were hurriedly broken down while Geoff Rickly, Thursday’s singer, watched smartphone weather radar backstage and considered scrapping his band’s reunion appearance altogether.

Forty minutes after the rescheduled evening timeslot, Thursday made it to the Dragon’s Lair stage  —but with an optimistic explanation from Rickly: “Everything is f**king broken. Everybody still really wants to play. It’s going to sound like absolute s**t, but who f**king cares?”

Staffers got the band’s PA fixed three songs in, after their compromise to only “play the old songs that never sounded good,” as Rickly put it.

In the forest, vendors gamely continued selling Indian food and brisket. Vodka sponsors reportedly gave away free ponchos. Shuttle service resumed after the delay. Programming updates came via onstage messengers and rampant social media interaction with fans from Sound on Sound’s Twitter account.

“Man this really is a magical place,” STRFKR singer Joshua Hodges commented about the Renaissance-tinged forest, as his dance band pulsed along complete with five backup dancers dressed like astronauts.

A few minutes later across the park, Courtney Barnett brushed off breaking a guitar pedal onstage, before thanking “everybody working and volunteering,” and riffing “Happy Birthday” to an audience member who pointed out the occasion.

The night’s most thematically resonant band — big sky instrumentalists Explosions In the Sky — rearranged clouds with walloping waves of sound. Most famous for inspiring the “Friday Night Lights” score, gleeful attendees pantomimed football during “Your Hand In Mine.”

“It really means a lot that you stick around,” singer Munaf Rayani said at the end.

Sound On Sound Fest rain evacuation turns into beer run

Sometimes, it rains more than expected, and Sound on Sound Festival organizers are forced to evacuate patrons on Sunday. Old Potato Road reportedly floods, and charter shuttles apparently pull into Walmart parking lots to wait until further notice.

Sound On Sound Festival attendees evacuate the fairground on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. (Dave Creaney/American-Statesman)
Sound On Sound Festival attendees evacuate the fairground on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. (Dave Creaney/American-Statesman)

The weekend was infectiously optimistic and curated by dreamers, but almost as soon as the third day began, it seemed like it would be cut short by nasty weather. Some of those who couldn’t take refuge in their cars were shuttled away from the mud and mayhem. That’s when the human spirit, and the soul of this crowd, shines.

Related: SOS Fest: A wedding in Sherwood Forest

According to Reddit user misstrickyjones, apparently among the displaced music fans, a cluster of five strangers went inside Walmart and bought Lone Star beer for the whole bus.

As she writes:

Rock and roll all night.

UPDATE: SOS Fest has reopened after rain evacuation

Update 5:57 p.m.: The festival may be reopened, but not before some attendees without cars in which to shelter were shuttled back to The Mohawk in downtown Austin.

(Eric Webb/American-Statesman)
(Eric Webb photos/American-Statesman)

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Displaced music fans tweeted their frustration to @SOSFestTX, which said that shuttles should be returning to McDade now:

The evacuation had at least one silver lining: a bus-bound beer run, according to one Reddit user.

Update 5:10 p.m.: SOS Fest has reopened. Festival organizers say the schedule will resume with rapper Wale who was scheduled to perform at 5:30 p.m.

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UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: Reader Rick Ford shared a few more photos from the campground at Sherwood Forest Faire, where storms have shut down the show on the third day of Sound on Sound Fest.

Courtesy of Rick Ford
Courtesy of Rick Ford
Courtesy of Rick Ford
Courtesy of Rick Ford
Fest-goers caught on the campground take shelter at one of the site's permanent structures. Courtesy of Rick Ford.
Fest-goers caught on the campground take shelter at one of the site’s permanent structures. Courtesy of Rick Ford.

UPDATE 4 p.m.: There has been some flooding in the campground at Sherwood Forest Faire. Festival representatives, say staffers are checking the campground and helping campers get back to their cars.

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Courtesy of Liz O’Brien

 

UPDATE: 3:36 p.m.: On their social media accounts, festival organizers are asking fest-goers to remain sheltered. They hope to resume the fest if and when the weather clears.

 

Fest-goers huddle on a bus after SOS Fest is evacuated. Eric Webb/American-Statesman
Fest-goers huddle on a bus after SOS Fest is evacuated. Eric Webb/American-Statesman

 

 

UPDATE 3:23 p.m.: The voice of the festival came on mid-set for comedian Ever Mainard. Before that, the tent covering the comedian at the Globe stage started to waver as the sky grew noticeable dark. Crew members came out to put sandbags on the legs of the tent. The message over the PA system said it was a full evacuation, and that people should take shelter in their cars or in the cars of others. They were told to check SOS social media for updates.

Festgoers quickly dispersed, with many taking shelter under the various wooden structures around the fairgrounds — gazebos, bars, the wall as the forest gate. Rain grew increasingly hard, turning every wooden mead hall a darker shade of brown. As festival staff made the rounds, they told all gathered that they needed to exit the park completely.

Outside the gates, festgoers made a break for their cars and the two shuttles outside, dodging growing puddles and muddy mounds and jumping over parking lot caution tape. Those unlucky enough to take the shuttle were taken back to Mohawk and told to wait until the next opportunity to come back.

EARLIER: Severe weather in the area has caused the inaugural Sound on Sound Fest in Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade, Texas to evacuate.

From the festival: Due to an approaching storm and warnings from the National Weather Service, we have decided – in consultation with appropriate agencies – to evacuate the festival grounds. Please seek shelter in cars. If you do not have a car please exit towards the shuttles. If you have a car with extra space and are able please invite others into your vehicle. Please continue to stay in your place of shelter until updated by festival staff.  Check social media  (@SOSFestTX on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook) for updates.

https://twitter.com/SOSFestTX/status/795370823674691584

SOS Fest: The magic of Sound on Sound in 10 GIFs

The first Sound on Sound festival is roaring in the Sherwood Forest. It’s one big hearty turkey leg of a festival where punk legends officiate a real-life wedding, kids of all kinds dance on a skateboard ramp, and big-on-Spotify bands like Beach House and Purity Ring totally own it as headlining entity.

Mud, travel time, and tobacco sponsors galore notwithstanding, patrons will point to year one someday and recall the zany sights and sounds. Here are ten slabs of that unique, bold magic–in GIF form.

1) The skateboard ramp dance party, which sprang up well after midnight

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2) Big Boi brought the ATL heat to the ATX.

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3) Sherwood Forest jugglers: Always in character

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4) Anarchy Championship Wrestling

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5) Horsey coaster ride!

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6) Fantastic Austin artists. 

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7) Beach House, in the crisp night air.

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8) Philly guitarist and bedroom pop technician Alex G turned out the forest

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9) Purity Ring’s Blanton Museum-esque light art installation took forever to erect, but man was it luminous and transfixing.

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10) General frivolity and good vibes all around. 

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SOS Fest: Big Boi takes us back to Atlanta (and Outkast)

Robert Hein/For American-Statesman
Robert Hein/For American-Statesman

Atlanta rapper Big Boi hit the stage late, but he brought the hype. His tightly packed 50-minute set offered a little something for the old school players and the new school fools.

Backed by a four-piece combo of bass, drums, turntables and a backup singer, the bulk of his set was quick mixed Outkast faves. He covered the big hits, “Rosa Parks,” “Ms. Jackson,” “The Whole World,” “So Fresh So Clean” were all huge crowd pleasers. He also touched on a few deeper cuts like “Skew It On the Barbie.”

After the group’s last national tour in 2014, Big Boi’s partner in rhyme Andre 3000 made it explicitly clear that he considers himself retired from rap. So for Outkast fans craving that southern playalistic sound, Big Boi solo is as good as it’s going to get. Thankfully, Sir Lucius Left Foot is a fantastic performer. Animated, charismatic and surprisingly swift on his feet for a man who was recovering from a broken toe, Big Boi sold those half songs. The crowd ate it up, cheering wildly in the chilly night.

But Big Boi is not dwelling in the past. He peppered his set with a few numbers from his Phantogram collab project Big Grams, including the hit single “Lights On.” It was a bit odd considering Phantogram headlined the fest the night before. But the crowd didn’t seem bothered, pleased to at least see Big Boi spit his verse on the song live. The rapper promised much more Big Grams material is on the way.

One of the livest moments of the night was when Big Boi “took us back to Atlanta” for a shot of “Kryptonite,” but he effusively expressed his love for Austin, reminding us it was always “good to be in the Dirty South” (Ye Olde Dirty South, in this case?).

Overall Big Boi put in a high energy performance that didn’t disappoint. We might never see Outkast perform again but it’s good to know when we need a shot of nostalgia Daddy Fat Sacks has us covered.

SOS Fest: Beach House’s sublime sensory experience

Beach House at SOS Fest 2016. Robert Hein/For American-Statesman
Beach House at SOS Fest 2016. Robert Hein/For American-Statesman

Beach House’s dreamy atmospherics and midtempo meditations might never make the cut on anyone’s Saturday night turn up playlist, but watching them unspool their richly textured melodies into the country air on a crisp November night was divine.

A thick crowd clustered around the front of the big stage where the Baltimore electro duo (joined live by a pair of supporting musicians on drums and electronics) performed. On the outskirts of the field couples swaying to the music clung to each other for warmth. A man danced with a set of LED poi balls, glowing orbs on a string that traced circles in the air. A mother and her young daughter laid on a blanket, heads together sharing stories, creating a memory.

On albums, Beach House songs tend to drift into each other, it’s easy background music. When they perform live, the emotional urgency of the music moves to the forefront. Opening with the older cut “Wild” then seguing into “PPP” off one of last year’s two excellent releases “Depression Cherry,” swells of sound, washed over the crowd in a cathartic release.

Alex Scally (guitar) and Victoria LeGrand (vocals and keys) do not put their personalities at the center of their live performances. They spent most of their set at Sound on Sound Festival backlit, their faces shrouded by shadows and, in LeGrand’s case, a curtain of hair. Banter was minimal and largely oblique.

Which makes sense really, as Beach House’s music seems to emerge from a shadowy place, a cauldron of turbulent emotion that conjures cinematic sound. LeGrand coaxes a broad range of color out of her voice from a husky rasp to a soulful outcry. She builds tension through contrasts, her fingers weaving arpeggiated patterns on the keys while she allows her voice to move slow, caressing the melodies. Scally’s expressive guitar work underscores the drama of their soundscapes.

Occasionally the band got a bit dancey, but most of the set, which included several songs from “Depression Cherry” and a slew of older tracks, moved at a slow pace. Until the end, when the band kicked up the strobes and built the set to a climax with an epic pulsing take on the old track “10 Mile Stereo.”

Sure, we weren’t sweating it out, but as a sensory experience, it was simply sublime.

Car Seat Headrest finds home in the dark at SOS Fest

Car Seat Headrest may very well be what it sounds like to try to get out of your own head. At Sound On Sound Fest on Saturday, the Virginia-to-Seattle band did the kind of examination that you normally need a to cough up a copay for once a week. Garage rock as mood elevator, let’s call it.

Car Seat Headrest performs at the Forest Stage at Sound On Sound Festival on November, 5 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Car Seat Headrest performs at the Forest Stage at Sound On Sound Festival on November, 5 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Drummer Andrew Katz sprayed the stage with slinky, syncopated percussion as the show opened, soon joined by haunting guitar yelps from Ethan Ives. By the time Car Seat Headrest mastermind Will Toldeo took the fore to tell stories from the back of the medicine cabinet, we had a show.

“You have no right to be depressed,” Toledo sang on “Fill In the Blank,” the prototypical Car Seat Headrest money line that’s really just a nagging ghost of self-doubt and anxiety, reappropriated as a setlist screamer to make you feel an endorphin rush. “We like playing when it gets dark,” the band reminded the fest in between songs as the night went full shadow. That’s for sure.

Car Seat Headrest performs at the Forest Stage at Sound On Sound Festival on November, 5 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Car Seat Headrest performs at the Forest Stage at Sound On Sound Festival on November, 5 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Toledo dealt master deadpan on “Unforgiving Girl” and dedicated “America” to that whole representative democracy thing that’s coming up on Nov. 8. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” true to expectations, wrought perverse romance out of self-destruction.

“Cosmic Hero” closed it out and brought together a community of overthinkers for a celebration of disengaging completely from that which might disturb your safe, sad solitude. To my left, a guy with tatts dotting his arms and a feet that hated the ground jackhammered his arm and thrashed like he was at a hardcore show. Eventually, a guy who just came down from a successful crowdsurf crossed his path and the pair, emboldened by mutual enthusiasm, ventured into the middle of the audience together. Thrashing guy finally made it up onto a platform of hands, hoisted into the sky. He raised an arm aloft with gusto, and the crowd immediately dropped him into the crush of feet and shins right as the song ended.

A little triumph in the middle of a sea of letdown. You couldn’t ask for better synchronicity at a Car Seat Headrest show.

Come one, come all to the Air Sex Championships at SOS Fest

You can keep your Longhorns and your Red Raiders. Sound On Sound Fest’s Saturday nailbiter hinged on a different kind of touchdown.

The Air Sex Championship gathered the best, the brightest, the most limber for a knock-up, drag-down fight for the copulation crown and a spot in the next stage of the competition, featuring comers from all across the country. The contest — which involves more storylines and dramatic interpretation than its name suggests — is also one of the clearest links between this first-year fest and the looming spirit of its predecessor, Fun Fun Fun Fest, which also hosted the contest. Hopefuls were ushered on-stage like pro wrestlers and given free reign to thrust, hump, yank and shudder before a panel of judges, backed by a pre-selected soundtrack. “American Idol” mixed with a porno mixed with Marcel Marceau, let’s call it.

"Grandmaster Smash" performs in the Air Sex Championships at Sound On Sound Fest on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016.
“Grandmaster Smash” performs in the Air Sex Championships at Sound On Sound Fest on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016.

This was not an hour of pantomime missionary. One female contestant came out wearing a Jon Snow-style cloak to “I’m So Excited,” proceeding to prowl across the stage and simulate two manual stimulations at once. She lost her hair tie after engaging an IKEA chair in her routine. Another contestant, a clean-cut fellow dubbed “Too Big To Fail” whom one judge likened to a boy band member, shed his clothes to “Bootylicious” before flicking his tongue wildly in a mimed, upside-down embrace. One woman in a nun costume cavorted and contorted to “Papa Don’t Preach.” Another man — “Grandmaster Smash” was his name — turned a thin-air massage session into a cavernous spelunking expedition into the female reproductive system.

When all was said and done, the judges selected their final three: the crawler, the spelunker and “Percival Von Humpston,” a lithe young man who had woven a vivid tale of a sex swing through grand flourishes and curled lips to Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of “And I Am Telling You.” The final lightning round song, “Close Your Eyes and Count To F***” by SOS Fest artists Run the Jewels, was a surprise to all edging for the winner’s spot. The top trio each took their own approach, a whirling, fleshy dervish of calisthenics, twerking and high camp. But it was Percival who got lucky, showered with the most audience applause and subsequently showered with the most of something else.

Air Sex Championships, for all their weirdness, actually seem to fit a little better at a festival set in an Olde English forest encampment an hour outside of town.

Sound on Sound: The Dead Milkmen honor Prince, before delivering their hits

Dead Milkmen perform at the Dragon Lair's stage at Sound On Sound Festival on November, 5 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Dead Milkmen perform at the Dragon Lair’s stage at Sound On Sound Festival on November, 5 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

By Andy O’Connor, special to the American-Statesman

There had to be a Prince tribute some time during Sound on Sound, but who thought it would be the Dead Milkmen to usher it in? The Philly comedic punks played a version of “Little Red Corvette” that was fairly straight-ahead in sound, but still oozed with their brand of silliness. Guitarist and vocalist Joe Genaro sang with the apprehension of a confused kid, not the sex god that Prince was, spoofing the rather thin vehicular metaphors in the process. Still, it was endearing in a year of profound musical loss. Prince was as much about letting your freak free as much as any hardcore band, maybe more so.

Of course, they then transitioned into “Bitchin’ Camero,” one of their most popular songs. The Milkmen delivered a faithful set that was yet another example of how fest producers Margin Walker Presents puts a premium on college punk nostalgia. They delivered the hits, and with their pop core, that’s a smart plan. “Tacoland” extolled the virtues of the San Antonio club, and as Sound of Sound is a fest born of exile, it almost felt like a jab at Austin, too. Let’s just hope they had time to go Veracruz All Natural, and not just Torchy’s.

Weirdly enough, the greatest hint of vitality was when lead singer and keyboardist Rodney Linderman stumped heavily for punk-industrial duo Youth Code, even sporting their shirt as a sign of commitment. (Youth Code play The Keep stage at 4 p.m. Sunday, and, for those who can make it, at 2 a.m Saturday at the Mohawk.) Maybe it’s not the greatest look to have more passion for someone else’s band than your own. Give them some credit, though — they knew to pass the torch. A lot of punks still have trouble with that, much as they had trouble back in the day accepting that “Dirty Mind” was also a like-minded celebration of erasing norms and celebrating unity.

Update: This post has been updated to clarify what the song “Tacoland” is about.

SOS Fest: Sights and scenes from Sound on Sound

Most people made the hourlong journey east of Austin to Sound on Sound Fest for the bands, no doubt, including Saturday night highlights such as Big Boi, Beach House and Dillinger Escape Plan. But if you wandered the grounds of Sherwood Forest, all sorts of oddities greeted you.

Jousting was one of the most touted activities in pre-fest promotion, but without spears and horses, naturally. (Imagine the release waiver.) Near the front of the fairground entrance, festgoers lined up to don giant bubble suits and slam into each other. Further back, tucked in a corner behind the midsize Forest Stage, was a stable where opponents bicycled at each other and dueled with styrofoam noodles. Wearing hot dog hats. Of course.

Step right up: Traffic was light at the SOS Fest tomato-throwing station on Saturday afternoon, but we saw one guy get clobbered. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman
Step right up: Traffic was light at the SOS Fest tomato-throwing station on Saturday afternoon, but we saw one guy get clobbered. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Nearby was a small theater space with boxes of rotting tomatoes, ripe and ready to be thrown at anyone willing to go behind the fence and poke their head out of a small hole. We caught a couple of close calls on video, just after one had landed square on the poor sap’s noggin. Oh, to have gotten the camera rolling five seconds earlier!

Perhaps the most heartwarming moment we found while strolling the grounds was in the VIP area, where local couple Adrian and Celeste Quesada — he a renowned musician and producer, she an omnipresent event presenter — were celebrating their daughter’s 11-year-old birthday. It’s a family tradition, Adrian explained later, noting that the early-November birthday had meant celebrations in the past at SOS predecessor Fun Fun Fun Fest.

Come for the music, but stay for all the funny little things you can do at a Renaissance-themed fest. Almost everywhere you look in Sherwood Forest, some little sideshow is going on.