By Ramon Ramirez
Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 11, 2014
Kanye West and Jay-Z are deft marketing conference crashers. But their fans act like they’ve been here before.
The first two guys in line for free wristbands to a Wednesday night hip-hop concert at the Austin Music Hall were, what else, social media savvy SXSW volunteers.
The pair had been enjoying libations at Firehouse around midnight when they decided to forfeit sleep. They camped outside the Samsung Galaxy Experience at 2nd and Trinity around 2 a.m.
“You guys more excited for Jay-Z or Kanye West?”
“I’m excited for Jay-Z and Kanye together.”
By 6:30 a.m. when I arrived with my little brother’s Samsung Galaxy (and little brother), the line wrapped up Second Street and back down San Jacinto toward Cesar Chavez. By 8 a.m. local authorities cut off the line as it wrapped back at Cesar Chavez and Trinity— once they counted more than “five, six hundred bodies.”
“Make a left, you can’t miss the long-ass line,” said one of many half-asleep patrons (on his Samsung).
It was a sleepy but comfortable and decidedly modern proposition for fans of the world’s most famous rappers. Bring a huddled mass of plus-ones, camp out in balmy downtown, make coffee runs, and let the branded content come to you in line (we got boxed water, cookies).
Event organizers ran a calm ship and even looked the other way when folks cut in with friends or didn’t have a Milk Music compatible Samsung phone. It was an even more calm, diverse line: People of all shades exchanged Twitter handles, broke news like a game of telephone, and held places when someone needed to feed the meter.
The most stressful moment occurred when an area man out for a jog with his dog realized what was happening, surveyed the field, realized time was of the essence, and got in line.
The calm is not insignificant: In 2009, Kanye turned the now infamously awesome and star-packed Fader Fort into must-see programming for, specifically, A-list rappers. In 2011, Jay-Z and Kanye caused after hours mutiny with a poorly coordinated Vevo madhouse (too many RSVP texts went out, almost surely a bonehead intern cut and paste error). In 2012, Jay Z buttoned up with an Interactive-hosted American Express concert at the Moody. Now the pair is back with an eye toward performing for locals as well as badge elites (some tickets to the show also will be available to SXSW registrants via lottery draw). Fans responded, but with a familiar ease that made procuring tickets a seasoned, errand of an act.