After four days of tacos, sweat, and tunes, fans were rewarded for their stamina when Drake and his Toronto-based OVO crew came out to surprise thousands at Fader Fort’s closing night at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
The 30-year-old music fest, known for discovery and (in recent years) corporate sponsors, hosts hundreds of artists, most trying to get seen by media, music industry folks, and fans for the first time. But all week, after few surprising and newsworthy moments at venues around the city, Drake’s appearance elated the crowd.
“I got nothing else to do but be here with you all in Austin,” he yelled before launching into fan favorite “Know Yourself” on Saturday night.
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Fader Fort attendees had been promised a special guest all week — last year Miley Cyrus stopped by the venue — and his set had been rumored in the weeks leading up to SXSW. But it wasn’t until he took the stage after a handful of his hometown crew members that fans got a taste of Champagne Papi.
At a fest like SXSW, where the lineup is vast, sprawling, and wholly unmanageable, a visit from a marquee name is welcome. For days, the city swells with musicians lugging drums, synths, and keyboards around town. Reporters dash from dive bar to backyard to find the Next Big Thing, and though the idea of popping into an unassuming showcase and discovering a star is exhilarating, letting go of all hype, hope, and expectations for a half hour, while Drake — a star you know can deliver on stage, you know will play at least one hit — takes over is just as thrilling.
The king of Memphis, a.k.a. “Down in the DMs” rapper Yo Gotti, had primed the crowd well for a raucous showcase as he closed out Fader Fort’s announced lineup. He ran through his cult hits, sweat like a football player, and thanked longtime fans.
But the OVO showcase openers were lackluster, and opened with a short set from new signees DVSN followed by a turn-down performance from Roy Woods. The at capacity crowd, ready for Drizzy, had been waiting for hours for the surprise and showed little love to the Canadian artists.
R&B duo Majid Jordan then heeded the chill call, but helped ready the crowd for the impending, still within reach surprise with their hit “Something About You.” And still, Partynextdoor continued the stoner vibes. Even a call to arms (“What’s good?!”) and tracks from the Ferina EP couldn’t quench the crowd’s thirst for Drake.
But then, the tent erupted as he emerged with only one way to go: up. Drake began with “Energy” and even gave Future fans a treat — their joint hit “Jumpman” — with an assist from the Atlanta rapper’s famed producer Metro Boomin, who had his own excellent set at Fader Fort earlier in the week.
Then, saying he had to give fans “something to sing along to,” he ran into “Back to Back,” the diss track aimed at Meek Mill he released last year.
“Views From the 6 coming in how many weeks I hope you enjoy that s—,” he told the crowd.
He closed out the set with “Summer 16,” before shouting out the OVO roster and announcing he’ll be back on tour in Austin, Houston, Dallas (and, we assume, a slew of other cities) post-Views From the 6 release.
While he played no new tunes and revealed nada about the forthcoming album, Drizzy gave devoted fans who braved Fader Fort’s lines and Porta Potties the most high profile set of the week, and while massive top 40 artists are not what SXSW, at its core, is really about, the star power is still fun as hell.