AUSTIN, TEXAS -- It didn't go exactly as planned, but in a way Chance the Rapper's truncated set in the early hours of Wednesday morning affirmed the message that a legion of Chicago heavy hitters tried to impart at the South by Southwest Interactive and Music conferences.
After only 18 minutes at the club Red7, Chance was booted off the stage by the Austin fire marshal because the club was deemed over capacity. A police officer explained that there were at least 350 people in the club, which has official capacity of 300.
It was a disappointment for the fans, who chanted their displeasure before dispersing, but if nothing else it demonstrated that Chicago's got game; there was no hotter ticket Tuesday than Chance's performance.
The South Side rapper, born Chancellor Bennett 20 years ago, is one of the rising stars in hip-hop after releasing an acclaimed 2013 mix tape, "Acid Rap." He was in the midst of putting a punctuation point on a six-hour evening of Chicago music with his musical collaborator, keyboardist Peter Cottontale. The evening also included winning sets by teenage singer-songwriter Bonzie, veteran rockers the Autumn Defense, and the production team of the Hood Internet, which staged an all-star jam of Chicago hip-hop with Hologram Kizzie (a k a Psalm One), Show You Suck and Prob Cause.
The showcase helped amplify the message that was delivered to Austin and to the thousands of entrepreneurs and technology-sector executives at the conference by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Michelle Boone and a team of business executives and government officials. They presented Chicago's cultural diversity as an incentive for new businesses to move to the city and crete jobs.
At the Chicago showcase, several key members of the city's music scene were willing to play along with Emanuel's strategy. "It's long overdue," said musician and CIMM Fest cofounder Josh Chicoine. "Yeah, he's going after these tech companies, but the idea is to try to build platforms so that (creative) people can do good (stuff). That's what I try to do."
Hideout co-owner Tim Tuten said Emanuel "understands the economic value of the music scene. We haven't had that from a mayor before."
Dylan Rice, director of the city's music office, said part of the Austin visit was about learning and observing how South by Southwest works. He said Chicago wants to do its own mini version of South by Southwest in the spring of 2015, integrating music, film and fashion in a multi-day festival at the Cultural Center. The Austin trip "couldn't have gone better," he said. "We want to bring business to Chicago, we want bands to record there, we want our artists' music to be licensed."
It starts by building demand. Judging by the size of the over-abundant crowd that came to see Chance the Rapper, that's already happening.
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