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An Open Letter to The Illmore

Lets be real. The majority of the people that bought tickets to The Last Illmore are people that go to SXSW. When you can pay your way into the most exclusive party of the year the crowd won't be the same. It just sets a different standard. As for me, the only reason I even come to South By to attend the Illmore. Since its inception I have done some crazy shit for their scavenger hunts. I live for the mystery, trying to sneak in when passes fall through because this is the one party I'm guaranteed to have a good fucking time. This year I hacked into the Illmore site to find the link to purchase tickets. I don't even know how to hack. I know enough code to create site, but once you start telling me about jquery and bootstrap I start to lose interest and my eyes glaze over a little bit. I worked with a friend to dig even deeper into the site until he found the url. Needless to say when it comes to the Illmore I’m all about it. After that link was disabled I made sure my Twitter notifications were on. When that link went live on Twitter I was driving back to my office, but I quickly pulled over on the side of the road to purchase a three-day pass for my friend. She got the chance to go for the first time last year and was hooked. Hands down the Illmore makes SXSW. I’ve met some of the coolest people, made amazing connections, seen artists up close and personal as opposed to standing six feet back and being blocked by security and a fence. The memories that were made (fitting 5 people in a Smart Car, joining BaeWatch and submitting my "application," cutting the excess strips off of my friends wristbands and then taping them together so that I had a "wristband") trying to get in the Illmore is part of the experience.Waking up in the morning and recapping the crazy shit that happened last night with my friends is definitely something that I'll never forget.

I can respect that things go wrong and that as an event gets larger it’s harder and harder to keep it going. While this is true for the majority of events at South By it's especially true for the Illmore since they push so many limits in terms of permits, licensing and what is and isn’t legal according to the city of Austin. And I can respect that this year Illroots and ScoreMore wanted to do it on their own. The hype surrounding the Illmore this year was unprecedented. An article in Billboard magazine and a shout out via the New York Times can do that for you. So many people were talking about the Illmore that I was really worried about my chances of getting in, but as a vet I had faith that somehow something would work out. When I realized that there weren't really going to be any insane scavenger hunts I was surprised, but since I’ve had the opportunity to go for so many years I had no qualms with paying my dues after so many years of greatness. Anytime I get asked about the Illmore I tell people the lineup is always a secret and it’s always dope. The fact that ScoreMore and Illroots historically throw the sickest parties of the year for FREE still amazes me. 

After the damage done to the house during Kendrick Lamar’s legendary set in 2013 I can only fathom how much the repairs for that cost, and can totally understand why the Illmore started to move from house parties towards venues. The founders of ScoreMore, Sascha Guttfreund and Claire Bogle are 25 or 26 I believe, and so back then they may have been 22 or 23. I never thought about it then, but when I look back now I can’t imagine getting so much recognition for throwing the craziest party of the year but being stuck with the bill.

I can also respect that the Illmore has always been an event for artists to escape. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of that by a friend sneaking me in or meeting some people that are all about the p. So I know what to expect. Some nights you get in some nights you don’t. I’ll never forget. In 2015 I met a girl who knew a guy making copies of the artist bands for his friends. That’s how amazing this party is. Once you go to the Illmore once you’ll do whatever you can to go back.

For the last Illmore I thought they would go back to their roots. Host one crazy house party that would be the talk of the town and literally bring Austin to its knees. When people tell me they go to South By I always ask if they’ve ever been to the Illmore. Everyone is always surprised to hear about the best party of SXSW that they’ve never even heard of. When I tell them some of the stories and things I’ve experienced their eyes fill with amazement and they quickly want to know how they too can be a part of this exclusive party. 

So this year I went in expecting to rage. I’m a diehard Illmore fan to my core. This is something I look forward to every year. So it was pretty hard to hear the DJ repeating songs in between sets, having to pay for drinks that have been historically free, and devastating to have drinks cut off at 2 am like they were last year. But I also understand that when a party is being watched by everyone it’s hard to set that previous after-hours expectation when things are above board and compliant with TABC regulations.

If you don’t understand the history of the Illmore you should really do some research before being so hard on them. The Illmore has never been a formal ticketed concert. It started as a house party for the friends and family of artists. It was THE place to party with the bonus of not having a million media cameras in your face or a bunch of people you don’t know trying to snap a picture with you. ScoreMore upped the ante and turned it into an fullfledged event by partnering with sponsors and showcasing raw talent.

But the Illmore has been so much more than just a party. It’s also been the place where artists meet up and create amazing things. I’ll never forget that Skrillex and Diplo both performed at the Illmore, and they went on to create Jack U. Ramon Ramirez of Daily Dot reported that Chance the Rapper met producer Nate Fox at the Illmore which led to them creating Acid Rap. The Illmore is the one event that brings artists together again. A musician I was dating told me that SXSW used to be the place where artists came together to make shit happen, or get in touch with artists they may not have access to, but now the entire festival is dedicated to fans as opposed to musicians. And he hates it. He'd rather stay in LA than deal with "the bullshit" of SXSW.

We'll never know how hard it is to put on events like this, what artists or venues fell through or what kind of restrictions the city is placing on the organizers. I’d really like to apologize to The Cool Kids. You guys are amazing at what you do and it’s unfortunate that people's expectations were skewed. I think people were more upset at the event and were feeling let down as opposed to actually being upset with you. It didn't help that some guy was onstage yelling at everyone talking shit on Twitter before you guys came out. As the event came to a close the rumor mill had already been spinning. Unfortunately, rumors are a little too powerful and the whole thing just got really out of hand. People started saying that Drake was going to show up, there was even a girl that working the event that told my friend Drake was going to be there, so I think people had that messed up expectation. But I’d like you to remember that the majority of people at the venue had never been to the Illmore prior. Fear of missing out runs so high that it brings the people that complain about the event back to the event they are complaining about. It’s so unfortunate but it’s my opinion the crowd had a skewed expectation of what the Illmore really is and expected an organized SXSW concert. I think that frustration combined with the increasing sobriety lead to a series of unfortunate events of people being disrespectful by booing and chanting "fuck this shit." And again, I’d like to apologize. No artist deserves to feel that kind of negativity.

Tory Lanez, thank you for being so high energy and fucking amazing. I have mad respect for you man. I will never know what it’s like to have to go on stage and try to turn a frustrated crowd around, but you really did an exceptional job getting everyone excited about the last night. One for the books I’m sure. 

I’m a social media expert. Seriously. That's my day job. I live for the content creation and I know how to work the system. When the Illmore tweeted out two VIP bands at a Raising Canes location I rushed to the car with my friends and we raced across town to pick them up. We tweeted a video of us with the wristbands and they responded. In social media it's all about that exposure and I knew it would be good for other people to see the bands had been picked up so they would stop driving out to the location. 

I’m just going to dive in here and say that I was surprised when I was blocked by Illroots for saying I was disappointed. I didn’t even mention anyone in my Tweet, but was singled out for expressing my genuine feelings. When I wrote I was disappointed it was because of the things I mentioned above and broken promises referred to the guy tweeting my friend about the "water bottles" he was bringing us that never showed. Maybe he was a troll and not a part of the Illmore but it was still a let down. And then the trolls started going in on me. Which was so crazy. I've never seen people get so nasty before. I tried to embed the orginal tweet but it has since been removed. When the original tweet went out I took a screenshot to show the friend that originally introduced me to the Illmore. We both couldn't believe how petty this whole thing had gotten. 

And I totally get that social media can be vicious. People can say whatever they want with no repercussions, and many times people have complete anonymity on Twitter because their accounts don't have a real photo or name. I just want to say I’ve been where you are. Where people are talking shit and mentioning you to the point that it's excessive and really fucking depressing. People feel that they are talking to a brand or a company and forget that it’s usually one person or a small team running a social media account. I get responding the way you did. You were frustrated or angry and had probably seen a lot of negativity already. My tweet was the one that pushed you over the edge. I know first hand that reading a lot of negative comments and not having the time or the energy to respond to them all can really get you down and it's unfortunate that so much negativity surrounded an event that is usually nothing but good vibes. 

So like I said before I am a die-hard fan, and I was disappointed because I’m nostalgic. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun, dance my ass off or make new memories with some really dope people. I did all of those things and more, but yes I was disappointed. And to be fair I don’t know your side of the story, so at the time I was not considering that things could have gone wrong or something could have fallen through. I convinced a lot of my friends to come out (only one had gone with me to the Illmore before) and so for people who had heard my stories of previous Illmore filled with mystery, clues and a scavenger hunt they were disappointed that this Illmore wasn’t like the ones before. And yes I completely understand that things change and there were/are factors that I may not ever know about, but I thought it was bizarre that I was blocked for “being negative” because I said I was disappointed when there were people actually calling the Illmore “trash” or a “waste of money.”


And while this post may never be read by anyone at all I’m hoping that this open letter will be a chance to clear the air, and give everyone a fresh start. A more formal written article about the last Illmore probably would have still resonated with readers, but I think a blog post makes my words feel more personal so I can be more direct. So yes, this open letter can definitely be seen as a narrative of a whiny millennial who is upset that “things have changed” but I really hope it’s the chance to open a healthy dialogue between Illroots, ScoreMore and the real fans of the Illmore.

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