Raucous reunion: Death From Above 1979 at SXSW
- March 20, 2011 11:42 PM |
- By Arts Online
A crew from CBC Radio 3 travelled down to Texas to cover the 2011 edition of South by Southwest. Lana Gay has been one of the R3 team on the SXSW beat offering reports about the musical goings-on down in Austin.
Death From Above 1979's first reunion show took place SXSW at 1am Sunday morning behind The Beauty Bar in Austin, Texas. The secret show was hinted at earlier in a video and news quickly spread online through social media.
The makeshift venue consisted of a fenced-in portion of The Beauty Bar's backyard area, covered by a standard, white, festival tent. The entrance to the space was through the back alley. The capacity: 200 people.
I arrived two-and-a-half hours before the show was set to start and the venue was already at capacity, with only badge holders allowed entry when it was possible. The lineup for those with festival wristbands was about 100 people and the queue was growing by the second. There was little to no chance these people would get in. Over the next few hours, hundreds of people filled the back alley and prepared to watch the show through the fence.
A view of the fans through the fence. (Lana Gay/CBC)
The show began on a good vibe: fans were excited and dancing on both sides of the fence. I was standing by the front barricade watching the band and was only aware there was a problem when bassist Jesse F. Keeler addressed the crowd: "Hey guys, if you break down the fence, they're going to have to stop the show. Please don't break down the fence. It's not a sound barrier."
One song later, the fence was down. Only a few people rushed in. Many just stood still, watching as security took charge. When the band was informed, Keeler's band mate Sebastien Grainger told the crowd: "Alright, they're going to try and shut this s--- down, but we're going to keep on playing. How you guys doing? Welcome, welcome to the party."
Even with this apparent open invite from the band, within 60 seconds the fence was back up. Keeler shared his appreciation: "The fence is back. Good for everyone, we can keep playing. Thank you."
By this point, I had one eye on the band and another on the fence. Like many, I got close to the gaping space when the fence came down. I shot photos and took video -- so many of us did. It was scary, but after no one rushed the stage I felt somewhat relieved. To me, it seemed that the fans outside wanted to be there, wanted to be cooperative, wanted to dance around and just experience DFA1979's first show since 2005.
The security at The Beauty Bar also did a great job of securing the fence and holding it up. From what I saw, they were trying to accommodate fans both inside and outside of the venue.
Things seemed to be going well, the band resumed playing and everyone started dancing. Then, the riot police showed up on horseback. They sideswiped the crowd and used pepper spray on some fans. The band stopped playing and the fans outside the fence were given 10 minutes to clear the alley. If they didn't leave, the police threatened to cancel the show.
So what does a band do onstage for 10 minutes while they're not allowed to play? Well, they bought time by sharing jokes and chatting about hockey, Guns N' Roses and calling one's mom.
'Was I scared? Yes. Did I think the fans, the band and security staff handle it well? Absolutely'
After the band got the green light to play, they started quickly and promised to get to the well-loved track Romantic Rights -- which they did, from what my hazy brain remembers, along with three more songs. Though the alley was supposed to have been cleared, fans came back quickly and lined the fence again.
When the show ended, people filed out and exchanged stories. I talked to a guy who had been hit by some pepper spray, his eyes still puffy and red.
I truly hope there were no serious injuries. In the end, I know things could have been a lot worse, and I think it's important to give the fans some credit. When things like this happen, music fans are seen as rabid beasts.
In this case, I saw some hooligans, but they were greatly outnumbered by hundreds of people who simply wanted to see their favourite band play their first show in years.
Was I scared? Yes. Did I think the fans, the band and security staff handle it well? Absolutely. Do I blame the cops for showing up? No. I understand why they were called. If a hoard of fans did rush the stage, crushing hundreds of people into a small, fenced-in space, the police presence would have definitely been needed.
In the end, it was really a great show and incredibly memorable for obvious reasons. After more than five years, hearing my favourite album performed live by the band I never thought would reunite -- well, nothing compares to that feeling. It explains why hundreds of people would flock to an alley and push up against a fence just to get a glimpse.
Video, photos and more on the incident here.
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