SXSW: Deaths, arrests and Gaga vomit

GEORGE PALATHINGAL
Last updated 17:04 17/03/2014
Fairfax Australia

Woman vomits on Lady Gaga during a show at SXSW, but amid accusations of glamorising bulimia, has this performance art gone too far?

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After being overshadowed by a fatal car accident outside the Mohawk Club on Thursday morning, which killed two people and injured 23, the annual multimedia conference South by Southwest drew to a close last night in Austin, Texas.

The all-out celebration of music, film and, in its interactive component, "innovation, creativity and inspiration", this year's SXSW, as it is commonly known, will always be remembered for that tragedy. But there was plenty of controversy among the music programme too.

Tyler, the Creator, the MC and leader of the Odd Future collective, was arrested for inciting a riot on Saturday, when he allegedy provoked the crowd outside his Thursday show to push past security although the venue was full. He was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor riot charge with bail set at $US3500 (NZ$4100)

There had, at least, been many an entertaining show to raise spirits either side of those incidents; notably, keynote speaker Lady Gaga again pushing the boundaries of her Artpop (the name of her latest album) by letting British performance artist Millie Brown literally vomit "black (and green) goo" on her during one of SXSW's most talked-about gigs on Thursday.

This drew complaints that Gaga had glamorised eating disorders from another pop singer, Demi Lovato.

During Lady Gaga's keynote speech the following evening she revealed that her mission had been accomplished: "It was just exciting seeing people talking about performance art on the internet and debating about whether it's art or not," she said.

She also talked about corporate sponsorship in music and the idea of selling out (her show had been sponsored by corn-chip brand Doritos), as well as her place - or not - in pop music.

"I don't really fit in pop music in a way," she said "but I came in through it and I'd like to think that I've changed it in some way so that you don't have to feel like you have to fit into a mould. I didn't have to fit into a mould."

Talking of corporate sponsorship, more big names at SXSW turned up courtesy of the conference's iTunes Festival. The five-night series of shows started with British rockers Coldplay premiering material from coming album Ghost Stories, featured Seattle rockers Soundgarden playing their 1994 breakthrough album Superunknown in its entirety, and had Cuban pop superstar Pitbull debut the theme song for this year's FIFA World Cup, We Are One.

Australian country superstar Keith Urban and hip-hop game-changer Kendrick Lamar headlined the iTunes Festival's other two nights.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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