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Posted: 3:35 a.m. Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fire Marshal cuts short Chance the Rapper's SXSW headline show at Red 7 

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SXSW Music Day One
Chance The Rapper performs at Red 7 Patio at SXSW on Tuesday March 11, 2014.

By Deborah Sengupta Stith

On Tuesday night, the city of Chicago hosted an eclectic lineup showcasing a diverse spectrum of talent on Red 7 Patio. By 10:45 p.m. the club was at capacity and it was clear that most of the crowd wasn't going anywhere. They were staking out spots for the headline set by Chance the Rapper, the 20-year-old hip-hop artist who shot to stardom last year with the online release of his free mixtape "Acid Rap." The Tuesday showcase is the only official South By Southwest appearance on the schedule for the rapper.

By the time he took the stage at 1 a.m., following a dance party throwdown hosted by mashup master The Hood Internet that concluded with a conglomeration of Chicago emcees coming together to destroy a track, the club was buzzing with energy.  As the intro hook from "Acid Rap" dropped the crowd exploded. Dressed in overalls, a white t-shirt and an L.A. Dodgers cap, Chance commanded the room. His is a different sphere of hip-hop, where minotaurs battle metaphors in stream of consciousness flows and swagger comes as an afterthought. He sings with a whiny croon. His dance moves are jittery and manic. But his delivery carries the weight of his well-crafted messages incredibly well. It all works so much better than it seems like it should. 

Two songs into the set he asked if the crowd wanted "an intimate coffeeshop show, or a turnt up live show." When his fans opted for the latter he whipped them into a frenzy. The vibe in the room was great. Chance was wrecking shop. It had all the makings of an epic set. Then 19 minutes in, right after he dropped an uplifting rendition of "Everybody's Something" the weird little love song to humanity that feels like an antidote to youthful angst, Chance and his crew left the stage. An announcement was made that the Fire Marshal's Office was shutting the show down. 

There was confusion in the room. A good portion of the crowd seemed to believe it was some sort of a stunt. They chanted "Chance, Chance, Chance." 

Another announcement came repeating the news that the Fire Marshal's Office had said that the show could not continue. This prompted the crowd to chant a slew of expletives. Then they chanted "We won't go." Then they chanted "Chance, Chance, Chance" again. As SXSW staffers scurried back and forth across the stage trying to figure out how to handle the situation it became clear that the show was actually being shut down.

Another announcement said that if everyone in the club cleared out 200 people would be allowed to re-enter. This was not taken kindly. "Will we get a refund?" shouted one angry fan who claimed to have paid $15 and sat through four hours of music to hear Chance the Rapper. Finally after a few more minutes of confusion six Austin Police Department officers entered the club through the indoor portion of the venue and moved forward into the crowd that willingly began to disperse.

Outside the club many of the patrons simply left in a huff, while SXSW volunteers and staffers lined up fans who were trying to get back in into three groups, wristbands, badges and express pass holders. It was 1:30 a.m. and staffers were clear that regardless of when people were let back in that the 2 a.m. curfew would remain, but many fans were willing to give it a shot.  The volunteers were well-organized and the crowd was cooperative but after about ten minutes a decision was made to cancel the show entirely. As the lines of hopeful fans reluctantly left a few volunteers came running out to try to catch everyone who was ejected before they had a chance to close their tabs. 

Volunteers working the door confirmed that the show was shut down because the club was over capacity, but they were not able to provide the allowed occupany for the club. 

Deborah Sengupta Stith

About Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith is a music writer for the Austin American-Statesman.

Connect with Deborah Sengupta Stith on:Twitter

Send Deborah Sengupta Stith an email.

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