SXSW was once known as indie-rock spring break. It's still spring break, but it doesn't feel so indie. At least not on the first night of the 28th edition of Austin, Texas' sprawling South by Southwest festival.
Though the interactive and film streams of the festival had been going strong since last Friday, attracting everyone from Edward Snowden and Seth Rogan to Chelsea Clinton and George Takei, SXSW's original raison d'etre, music, finally erupted in full on Tuesday.
In fact, even the last major Interactive speaker was Neil Young, talking about his new high-res music player and digital store, Pono.
Lady Gaga, who will be SXSW's keynote speaker as well as performing at a small (for her) show on Thursday night, made an appearance at a packed K-Pop showcase, and stayed for a couple hours, even going to the bar to fetch her own drinks.
Perhaps she felt comfortable because, unlike her previous night's appearance at a Vice/AT&T party, she wasn't surrounded by incessant selfie-takers. Where else could Gaga have gone, anyway, where she wasn't the star attraction?
K-Pop may be a niche here in North America, Psy aside, but these acts are arena-filled back in Korea and the crowd was way more star-struck by the likes of mega pop star HyunA, EDM badasses Idiotape and Jay Park, who is basically the Korean Bieber but a way better rapper. (He even got shirtless by the end of his much-shrieked set.)
Oh, and the Canadian Bieber was still around, too, lighting up twitter as he showed up at Media Temple's SXSW Interactive closing party celebrating Def Jam's 30th anniversary, alongside Kanye and Jay-Z. The latter two are playing their own small show tonight, while Kanye will doing an even smaller solo gig on Friday. You can thank Samsung and Yahoo, respectively, for those. And Doritos for bringing in Gaga.
Oh, and iTunes for bringing in Coldplay. (In fact, the iTunes side-festival will be going all week, bringing in everyone from Kendrick Lamar and Soundgarden to, ugh, Pitbull and, yay, Willie Nelson.) Chris Martin and company made some news by playing two new songs from their upcoming album "Ghost Stories" -- "Always In My Head" and "Another's Arms."
Yep, the superstars are sucking up most of the oxygen so far, but the festival has five more days to go and plenty of time for breakouts. After all, barely anyone knew Icona Pop and Haim when they first played here last year and that worked out pretty well even with Justin Timberlake and Green Day holding court.
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