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SXSW Day 4 Round About: Jay-Z One-Ups Kanye, Yoko Ono, Riot at DFA 1979

youtube credit: mplstv

Kanye's not-so-secret show at the defunct Austin power plant Saturday was not the shocker of SXSW's last night. The big surprise was who joined him onstage.

Big-named, show-stopping surprise acts are typical for SXSW on the last night of the festival, and since this year's gathering was the biggest, most cramped, most frenzied one so far in its 25 year history - we knew something good was gonna go down.

Starting early Thursday word on the street (and the random ticket giveaway announcements on Twitter) revealed that Kanye would end the week playing at an undisclosed location - but nobody knew Jay-Z would join in. Jay-Z's probably the only other person alive who could eclipse Kanye - presently at the crux of his own monster-hyped PR juggernaut.

youtube credit: ArcadeFireTube2

In other rumor news, Arcade Fire was in town to promote their new short film by Spike Jonze, Scenes From The Suburbs, which led to big-time Saturday show chatter, but none of which materialized. SXSW's rowdiest year yet came to a near-boiling point at the secret Death From Above 1979 show when the venue reached capacity and all that separated hungry fans from the band was a flimsy chain link fence.

Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono
photo by Wendy Gilmartin

On the quieter side, but equally secretive and mobbed, was the sublime arrival of Yoko Ono to the Elysium stage - a tiny, 500-person capacity bar on the edge of Downtown.

Yoko swept gracefully about, flashing a wink and a smile to the audience, and releasing a barrage of her trademark, guttural vocal assaults on the ecstatic crowd who grew more giddy with every wha-o-o-o-o wha-o-o-o-o-ah-ah-ah-ah-eiy eiy eiy eiy !!

Performing here as the Plastic Ono Band, Yoko, Sean Lennon (taking his Dad's spot on lead guitar and master of ceremonies), Nels Cline, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs and others put a contemporary spin on the Kraut-rock precursor "Mind Train," and "It's Been Very Hard." The 78-year-old Ono sported a fashion-appropriate cowboy hat and talked up her baby boy, Sean. "He's pretty good, huh?" she bragged to the audience.

Sean Lennon
Sean Lennon
photo by Wendy Gilmartin

Yoko ended the set with her touching Japanese lullaby "Higa Noboru" accompanied only by Sean on keyboards. For the craziest, and arguably most violent SXSW to date - and with the weight of the Japanese catastrophe on everyone's minds - the sentiment was a peaceful and warmly thoughtful send off.


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