D.C. rapper SmCity used to curate the Indie Life concert series at U Street Music Hall, which allowed local rappers to open for nationally established MCs. These days, he and Allia (formerly known as Harmony Muzik) curate yearly Indie Life showcases at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. This year’s showcase, held at Austin’s Bat Bar, will be the third for Sm and Allia. “The goal was to get [the series] to the point where it would go nationally, to take DMV artists to a national platform,” Sm tells Arts Desk. “This year, we wanna shine light on some artists who need that push.”
In years past, prominent DMV rappers Lyriciss, XO, and Pro’Verb have performed at the SXSW showcase. This year, up-and-comers like Fly Rebel Society, Darren Hanible, and Cane will perform with headliners Twista, Freeway, Problem, and Boldy James, among many others. Allia says there are other national rappers who might perform, but they haven’t been confirmed yet.
If nothing else, the organizers hope this year’s Indie Life showcase will trump last year’s, which saw 5,000 to 10,000 people attend during its seven hours, according to Sm and Allia’s estimates. “It was a massive thing,” Sm tells Arts Desk. “We hoped for that,” Allia continues, “but we didn’t expect that much of a turnout.” This year’s showcase has received almost 2,000 RSVPs already, Allia says.
So how do the organizers secure the headlining talent? “Everybody wants to support the underdog,” Sm says. “The conversation goes differently than if Sprite was sponsoring it. The music industry has become more and more independent. People wanna see who’s next.”
If you’re going to SXSW, the Indie Life showcase is 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., March 14 at Bat Bar, 218 E. 6th St., Austin, Texas. Go here to RSVP.