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The Best and Worst Moments of SXSW 2014


(Austin PD | Getty Images)At one point, I had this hilariously ambitious plan to recap all of the most impressive performances at Austin's South by Southwest music festival as they happened. Then the realities of SXSW set in: Delayed set times, extremely late nights, and a special brand of mass exhaustion that seems to afflict everyone with ears.

This year's festival was particularly intense. The worst possible scenario came true when a drunk driver plowed into a festival crowd in the early hours of Thursday morning, leaving two dead and dozens injured. But as many have already noted, the horrific tragedy ultimately brought out the best in many a music-lover. A number of bystanders at the scene did all they could to help those in need in the wake of the accident, and a fund created to benefit the victims of the crash, SXSW Cares, raised more than 20,000 in less than 24 hours.

So that crash and the subsequent outpouring of support were the worst and best of South by Southwest 2014, respectively. But here's what else everyone else will be remembering.

BEST: When Damon Albarn performed some Gorillaz tracks with a little help from his friends.
Damon Albarn played several sets at SXSW, but the one that really had everyone talking went down at the Fader Fort, where he called on De La Soul and later Snoop Dogg, Del the Funky Homosapien, and Dan the Automator to help him out on the Gorillaz hits "Feel Good Inc" and "Clint Eastwood." Snoop was very active at this year's festival — he also hosted a "Wake and Bake" event for AirBnb.

WORST: When Tyler, the Creator encouraged people to shove their way into his set at the Scoot Inn.
Odd Future's Tyler, the Creator, who was forced to cancel a set at Mohawk after the fatal crash on Thursday, was captured on video encouraging fans waiting outside the Scoot Inn to push their way into the venue. No one was seriously hurt in the resulting melee, but someone could have been, so it's no big shocker he was eventually arrested for "inciting a riot."

BEST: MisterWives, every time.
All of the artists on our list of Artists to Watch were impressive, but New York City's MisterWives seemed to have charmed everyone by the week's end. I heard more than one artist confess that frontwoman Mandy Lee's Aretha-strength pipes make them wonder if they should even bother singing anymore. Trust that you will be hearing their single "Reflections" all over the place this year.

BEST: When Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX performed "Fancy" together live for the first time at the MTV Woodies festival.
Clueless-themed panties for the win.

WORST: When Lady Gaga stole all the headlines... with vomit.
Lady Gaga's sweaty, Austin-themed performance at Stubb's was easily the most visually impressive of the week, thanks to elaborate set pieces like a turning spit, a mechanical swine, and a custom neon BBQ sign, but it was also the sickest. Gaga invited performance artist Mille Brown to spew green all over her chest mid-performance, sparking an interesting conversation about what is and isn't art. Unfortunately, it also stole attention away from pretty much everything else happening in town, and likely confused a lot of young fans. 

BEST: When Lady Gaga admitted she didn't care about being a pop superstar anymore.
Gaga followed Thursday evening's performance with the keynote address on Friday, sitting for a question and answer session with Fuse's John Norris. Gaga, who earlier this year issued a bizarre apology to her fans for her most recent album, explained that she had no problem with corporate sponsorship as long as it didn't interfere with her art — and that artists have no choice but to engage with corporate sponsors now that record companies are out of money.

She also confirmed what we've suspected for a long while now: That she doesn't really care about her sales or financial "success." The performer explained that she'd have no problem with walking away from superstardom, as she'd be happier being a weirdo in Lower East Side bars than changing herself for the sake of her career.

Lady Gaga Gives a Keynote Address at SXSW
Musician Lady Gaga speaks at the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at the Hilton on March 14, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Getty Images)more pics »BEST: When Jared and the Mill played a special bedside performance for a fan injured in the accident.
Mason Endres, one of the music fans injured in the crash, is currently in the hospital recovering from a number of broken bones and a severed artery. But she didn't completely miss out on the SXSW festivities, thanks to the kindness of her favorite band, Jared and the Mill. The band visited Endres in the hospital, treating her to an intimate acoustic set before they left town.

BEST: Jungle. Seriously.
North Americans will have to wait a really long time for the return of mysterious London collective Jungle, who are scheduled to tour Europe for the next several months, but they're more than worth the wait if you value fun at all.


View Damon Albarn Pictures »
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