Rumors have become as much a part of South by Southwest as live music and Lone Star beer.
Every band from MGMT to the Gorillaz to the Black Eyed Peas has been linked to the guest spot at Levi's/FADER Fort and Perez Hilton had an old Target building painted bright pink for Saturday's late night party that may or may not feature Snoop Dog.
Make no mistake, the real joy of SxSW still lies in discovering that tiny band you've never heard of in a random bar with 30 other people and then convincing yourself they'll be famous someday. But you can't talk about bands you don't know exist yet, and on nights when the SxSW anticipation gets to be too much it's difficult to not speculate on what major band you might see.
The rumor mill is a result of unofficial, corporate-sponsored parties suddenly gaining more credibility with the musical acts they are booking. In 2008 word spread that Talib Kweli was going to perform a secret show at the Red Bull Moontower Party. So a buddy and me hung around 'til 4 a.m. swilling energy drinks and vodka but he never showed up. As a result, we were so skeptical of Kanye West showing up at the Levi's/Fader Fort in 2009 that we left the party a mere 30 minutes before he went onstage. I'm not terribly upset about missing Kanye, but from eyewitness accounts, when he brought Common, Kid Cudi and Erykah Badu on stage with him the entire Fader Fort was instant VIP.
This year speculation is swirling around the Levi's/FADER Fort, Perez Hilton's Party and whether or not Red Bull's Moontower Party will return.
Fader Fort released its official lineup March 12 and shocked hipster sleuths everywhere when it was revealed that Bone Thugs-n-Harmony would play the coveted Saturday evening gig and the unannounced secret guest would appear Wednesday, March 17 from 7-7:30. The list of bands rumored to be playing is lengthy: Metric, Crystal Castles, Muse, Flaming Lips, Black Eyed Peas, MGMT and more.
Perez Hilton and SxSW clout may not seem like they would go together but with the amount of free stuff being given away and the star power on scene, people can't help but be interested. The lineup will be announced Monday, March 15. The location is yet to be revealed, but an old Target building as been repainted pink and blue -- the same color as last year's VIP badges -- so one can only assume. As far as the headliner goes, Snoop Dogg and Lady Gaga are the most credible rumors on Austin's streets.
In years past Red Bull's after party has run until 5 a.m. and is so exclusive you must have a temporary tattoo on your body in order to get in (the organizers even have tattoo affixing stations with sponges at the entrance). Last year the police shut down the party because of noise complaints and the secret special guest didn't have an opportunity to perform. This year there is no talk of the Red Bull Moontower, having a $150,000 party shut down will do that to you, but a photographer friend of mine flew into Austin to shoot something for Red Bull so it could still be out there.
Social media would be an easy culprit to blame but its practically impossible to discern whether Facebook and Twitter provide a forum for false rumors to be squelched or if it is simply a venue for rumors to run rampant. Fader Fort has even taken to its own Twitter account to deny several rumors that were being spread.
If anyone is to blame it's the sponsors of these free parties. The more people talk about it the more the brand gets mentioned and thus, the cost of sponsorship is justified.
Who is having the most fun with this whole thing? Local Austinites competing amongst themselves to see what rumors they can come up with and spread through the interwebs. "Did you hear Outkast is going to play "Da Art of Storytelling" parts 1-4 on a pedestrian bridge at sunrise!?"
With the magic of SxSW in the air anything is possible.
Follow Mark R. Collins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DoctorCollins