Even though she's a self-described pothead, the combination of pop provocateur Lady Gaga and a brand like Doritos for a mega-bash at SXSW was a bit of a headscratcher. Nevertheless, the ARTPOP singer unleashed a decidedly non-corporate show that was equal parts bawdy and bizarre.
The performance, set at the 2,000-capacity outdoor venue Stubb’s BBQ on Thursday night, got started with a bang: a striking woman took the stage and began fellate-eating sausages. Then there was Gaga herself, clad in a black bra and fishnet stockings, and sporting long, blond dreadlock extensions, being rolled out hog-tied to a spit by her backup dancers, who proceeded to baste her with BBQ brushes like a glammed-up pig while she sang “Aura.”
Green lasers and smoke shot out at the crowd. But before you could utter the city’s unofficial motto, “Keep Austin Weird,” well, things got pretty weird.
Gaga brought her friend Millie Brown out onstage. Brown, who appeared in the pop star’s music video for “Exorcist Interlude,” is a “vomit painter” who consumes colored milk before sticking her fingers down her throat and vomiting the contents onto a blank white canvas. On this night, she assisted the singer on “Swine” and went full-Exorcist—guzzling down a bottle of green liquid before regurgitating all over Gaga as the tentacle-haired artist, doused in the green liquid, hammered away on the drums. If that weren’t enough, the pair, both now covered in the green stuff, manned a mechanical pig and, ball-gag in mouth, played a keyboard as the pig bucked the liquid-stained pair around.
The 27-year-old was in her element at the bash, spraying cans of Lone Star beer at the crowd and emptying a few water bottles. And she brought the musical hits, too, including an amped-up version of “Bad Romance,” where she was joined by Austin fiddle player Ruby Jane, and got behind the piano for a tender rendition of her melancholic ballad, “Dope.”
But the highlight of the night occurred two-thirds of the way into the show. Gaga’s musical venue of choice, Stubb’s, is located just a stone’s throw from the tragic incident that occurred in the early hours Thursday morning when an allegedly inebriated man barreled a stolen silver Toyota Prius into a crowd of 20-plus people outside The Mohawk, leaving 23 injured and two dead. Stubb’s is on 8th St. and Red River, and the incident occurred between 9th and 10th Streets and Red River. They have been closed down since the horrifying episode.
Gaga paused the rowdy proceedings to honor the victims, and deliver this speech:
I really just want to dedicate this song to the tragedy of last night, because we’re all just wandering the earth trying to find each other. We all just want to have a good time and suck every bit of love we can out of life, and it’s so short sometimes and it’s so unfair. And sometimes things happen, I know, it’s like, we just go, ‘What’s happening in the world, and why is it happening?’ So I think we should take this one moment where we’re having this good time and we just do that thing where we put our phones away and just look at each other right now in this moment. Because when you leave the earth, nobody’s gonna give a fuck about what you tweeted. Nobody’s gonna care what picture you posted or what you caught. They’re not gonna care aobut how famous I was. They’re going to care about what you leave here on this earth, your footprint. They’re going to care about whose lives you saved, the people that you touched. They’re gonna care about that one person you told that one little inspirational thing to, and they look back at you and knew they weren’t alone. So be that for each other right now, and when you leave tonight, go home, grab your guitar, grab your piano, and grab your pen and paper, and don’t give up.
Don’t let the machine and don’t let technology take you into a place where you don’t belong. Stay right here on this earth, we need you. We need you to have crazy thoughts in your head. We need you to have fucked up dreams. And we need you to fight for them every single day. Don’t not do it because you don’t think it’ll ever happen. Don’t think it can’t happen because it can. I promise you. It’s happening to me right now. So just wander the earth and spread all the compassion and love you can with every song you write, every film you make, and every bit of art you leave. Just fucking do it and you’ll be happy, I promise.
The pop star, fittingly, received her fair share of applause.