SXSW 2014 Pays Raucous Tribute to Lou Reed

FUSE TV - SXSW 2014 Pays Raucous Tribute to Lou Reed

Considering SXSW is ostensibly the place for up-and-coming artists to break into mainstream consciousness, it's only fitting that the fest paid tribute to Lou Reed—the man responsible for creating underground rock—at SXSW 2014.

While his widow Laurie Anderson gave the evening her blessing, she declined to participate. Instead, Reed's friends and fellow cult favorites Alejandro Escovedo and Richard Barone brought together an eclectic, impressive assortment of beloved artists, early punk pioneers and even RuPaul's Drag Race winner Sharon Needles to perform Reed's catalog. Equally cool: Blondie's drummer Clem Burke and Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye served as the backing band most of the night.

Considering Reed's pivotal time with the Velvet Underground to his risk-taking solo career, it's hard to think of an artist whose work continues to be as fresh, relevant and polarizing five decades later. It's also a tribute to Reed's stunning talent that he continues to be universally admired even if he's not personally beloved. While Garland Jeffreys—a Brooklyn artist who maintained a friendship with Reed since 1961 when they met at Syracuse—spoke of the "sweet" Lou Reed behind his image, others were more blunt.

"He wasn’t a nice guy, but he was one hell of a motherf—king songwriter," said the Fleshtones before the veteran garage rock act tore into "Real Good Time Together," an incendiary performance complete with gray-haired crowd-surfing and an audience sing-along that continued after the band stopped playing.

MC5's Wayne Kramer didn't rose-color his Lou Reed tribute either. He told the crowd that Reed made a public point to distance himself from the MC5's radical politics after the Detroit rockers shared the stage with the Velvet Underground one night. (Side note: My God, what a two-fer.)

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