by Eric Tullis
Today is David Hackney’s birthday. David, who passed away from lung cancer in 2000, was the lead guitarist for the 1970’s all-black punk-band, Death, compromised of David and his two brothers Bobby and Dannis Hackney, back when the concept of an all-black punk band from the Motown-stained streets of Detroit was a cultural and musical anomaly. Long story short—the band-name “Death” didn’t sit well with major labels that would have otherwise signed the group and possibly led them to worldwide notoriety. Today, however, during a SXSW interview panel discussion about Death’s recent resurgence, Bobby Hackney sits next to his brother Dannis and guitarist Bobbie Duncan (David Hackney’s replacement) in a meeting room on the fourth floor of the Austin Convention Center and recalls the day that he and his brothers anxiously attended a David Bowie concert in Detroit, where unbeknown to everyone, Bowie would be debuting his Young Americans album.
“He came out dressed like Al Green.” said Hackney. As disheveled as everyone else in attendance that night, the three punk musicians, who had previously worshiped David Bowie’s rock-n-roll image, left the venue wearing blank stares. David Hackney looked at his brother, Bobby, and said, “Disco has taken over.” In retrospect, Bobby believes that this incident marked the beginning of what he likes to call the “disco tsunami." For the next 30 years, Death would be virtually forgotten and the master tapes of their recordings would remain stashed-away in Bobby’s Burlington, Vt., attic. Now here we are, three decades later, at SXSW, listening to two brothers share the legendary story of their great rock band, Death. Later that night, they performed at Mohawk Patio and played their coveted music—the same music that their brother, David, once told them that world would come looking for someday.
The Austin Record Convention was also being held at the Austin Convention Center, conveniently located across the street from this afternoon’s BEAT SOCIETY showcase at Submerge. Producers Marco Polo, DJ Babu, the Are, Kev Brown, Oddisee and special guest Khrysis showcased their finest beats in a three-round sound-off. Though the event wasn’t a competition, Houston’s The Are prevailed in true, home-court spirit, maybe prompting some of the other guys to walk across the street to do the necessary crate-digging for some samples to chop-up and to match the Are’s botanic, head-nod suites.
Then there were a couple of quality emcees, like Fashawn and his fellow Californian, Evidence who I stayed at Emo’s Lounge for after realizing that Yelawolf wasn’t going to show up as according to schedule. I tried to make a point to catch one of his shows since I remember someone at SXSW telling me that Yelawolf climbed up on a roof during one of this week’s gigs. However, I did see Yelawolf in-passing a few times this week and I do know that he has a foot long ponytail. That type of person is more than capable of climbing on a roof.
The three DJs I saw during Red Bull’s THRE3 STYLE Showcase (J. Rocc, Juan MacLean, and even DJ Jazzy Jeff) weren’t nearly as successful at getting me to do my wild Don Lemon dance as Dances With White Girls and dance-remix specialist, Bird Peterson were. For 10 minutes, I danced in front of Peterson’s stage thinking I was watching Nick Catchdubs spin, since that’s who I came to see and who the schedule said would be spinning next. Sorry, I had never seen neither guy’s face before. Fortunately, discovering Bird Peterson became another one of my great surprises at SXSW. Fuck Nick Catchdubs. He didn’t show up when he was supposed, so now I have two new DJ’s to replace his ass.
At Beauty Bar, my Don Lemon dance was paired with the joy of nearly getting tackled on the dance floor by wasted University of Texas chicks, all acting like the sight and smell of dry-ice vapor stimulated them beyond control. Peterson is a floor operator who beams contagious rays of light on to the dance floor, much like Dam-Funk, who’s brand of “sunshine funk” equally illuminated his environment at Mohawk Lounge. Dam-Funk reminds me of someone who was kicked out of the church choir for fornicating in the pews and then became the funk demigod that he is today. Following Dam-Funk's short set, Death would take the stage, but I left and ended my night at Maggie Mae’s, for Spanish language crash-course with Chilean rapper and “hip-hop’s underground reina,” Anita Tijoux. A few key people such as Davey D, Invincible and Platinum Pied Piper’s, Waajeed personally recommended that I check out Tijoux’s show. Invincible, however, never mentioned to me that Tijoux would win me over with her tranquil, disciplined flow, reminiscent of Ladybug Mecca’s demeanor as the sweet-voiced lioness of Digable Planets. Tijoux would eventually invite Invincible on stage to perform their track, "Sube", from Tijoux’s 1977 LP. Now usually, it’s a challenge for anyone to match Invincible’s drilling rhyme-style with veteran-like ease, but Tijoux crouched down and let her Spanish words do the work of war. Tijoux made both my night and her first impression to a U.S. crowd extremely unforgettable.