Lady Gaga at SXSW

18 Mar

I love musicians who have paid their dues, played the crap gigs to get to the good ones, are masters at their instrument, write their own songs, and push the limits of their genre. This is why I like a lot of singer-songwriters in many genres. This is why I love Lady Gaga.

There is a huge internet uh…storm…about this whole thing, which I’ll address later, but first I’m going to blog about my own experience with it. So…yes, Doritos brought Gaga to SXSW. To get into Stubb’s, a 2200 capacity venue (or dirt pit, as it were), you could do a few things:

– get your badge scanned at the conference and write a note on a postcard about how you did something bold (which I am pretty certain they immediately threw away)
– Tweet or Instagram about doing something bold
– attend one of many events downtown that Doritos ran called “Bold Missions” involving lame things like getting a weird hair cut or dancing in public

I love me some Gaga but I wasn’t going to get a haircut. Also, while going through this whole week, I am still not sure how “BOLD” relates to Doritos. Is there a new “Doritos Bold” flavor out or something? Anyway, luckily scanning my badge was enough to get me an email the night before that I was indeed headed to the show. We had to pick up wristbands at the convention center starting at 2 PM, so I was in line at 2 and got mine. Then I sauntered up to Stubb’s to see what was going on at about 3 PM. Several things happened:

– I heard Gaga sound-checking “Gypsy” and I got REALLY EXCITED
– I saw that there was already a line of about 30 people
– I figured “Why not?” and got in line. It was going to be a long wait.

Doors were not until 7:30, and I was glad I brought a book. Interestingly, I hardly had to do any recreational reading on the sidewalk because the group around me quickly made line friends and we spent the time chatting about our festival experience, Gaga, and life in general. For some it was their first Gaga show, for some it was old hat (it was going to be my third). Finally they opened the gates at 7:30 and we rushed in to be crunched up together some more and stand for another 2 hours.

I seriously do not have this kind of patience for just about anything. I hate concession lines, grocery store lines, sitting in traffic…I hate it. However, I was so jazzed about this show it didn’t bug me. My feet were tired but after a week of hustling around downtown anyway I guess I just went with it. Also, I just really love her music.

Two opening acts: The Dirty Pearls and Lady Starlight, both from Gaga’s club days in New York. They were good, but as the tone of the crowd grew more impatient, it was clear we weren’t here for openers. A Doritos logo was projected over our heads onto a screen but that’s about all I saw from the chip people.

Finally, a woman comes out to center stage, eating barbeque pretty…suggestively. She takes a bite of a rib and throws it into the crowd. She sits on a chair. A whole bottle of sauce is used. It takes about 10 minutes, the crowd back-and-forthing between “I WANT A RIB!” (because we had been standing for 7 hours) and “GAGA!” The Gaga chants got louder and more intense and finally the curtain dropped and out rolled Lady Gaga on a…spit. She was the meat we had all been chanting for. She launched into “Aura” while untying herself from the rotisserie and it was on.

It was a pretty hardcore rock and roll show, really. Before I get into the most publicized spectacle of the evening, I want to point out that Gaga is REALLY good live. She plays piano like a boss, her voice sounded great, and she had this weird intense look the whole time that would have made me run away were it directed straight at me. She brought it.

Then there was the thing everyone is talking about…the vomit performance artist. As Gaga introduced her friend Millie Brown to help her on the song “Swine” – which she said was about violation and selling yourself, and as Millie walked out with a liter of green liquid and started chugging it, I thought…”This will not end well.” I will admit, I did not see the initial um…upchuck. Too many people in the way and it was toward the back of the stage. Then Gaga and Millie got on a giant mechanical swine-slash-piano (of course) and she started chugging a black goo. Then it happened, and the black goo was all over Gaga’s shirt. While this was registering my mouth dropped open and stayed that way through the whole song. “Did that just really happen? I am shocked. I have never been at a show like this before. My mind is reeling. I kind of like the feeling of being confused at a pop concert. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?” And then it was over and they hugged it out on the swine and the show went on. I knew it was shocking and I knew it was some trippy performance art, but honestly the thought of “THAT WAS SO OFFENSIVE” did not cross my mind once. I mean, I am KIND of a prude, but I’ve seen a lot of stuff go down in the world and I had never seen that.

The rest of the show went on pretty normally comparatively – we got a countrified “Bad Romance” and a killer version of “Applause” and then she ended with “Gypsy” and some thoughtful words about the week at SXSW – its triumphs and tragedies. She told us to go home and pick up our guitars and write something, not post selfies on the internet. She reminded us that no one will care what we tweeted when we’re gone, but they will care about the people we helped and the connections we made. It was good stuff.

She did not try to sell us chips once.

The thing that was interesting about the “Swine” performance is that I kept thinking about it all the way home. I didn’t just leave with some warm fuzzy “that was fun” feeling and move on. I didn’t actually think it was something that would cause an internet stampede the next morning, but there it went. All I knew was that my mind was blown and not because of the performance art although that was definitely part of it. It was just a really great show by one of my favorite artists in a venue with a capacity of the kind that she hasn’t fit into in years. One of the biggest pop stars in the world played at Stubb’s and I was there…and I’m glad for it.

1 Response to Lady Gaga at SXSW



April 29th, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Thanks for blogging about this, she is certainly an interesting artist!

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