I first learned of South by Southwest, SxSW, or as the locals say, "Here for SouthBy?" when Stevie Ray Vaughan was shredding his guitar and my soul back in the 1980's. As far as I knew until the summer of 2013 SxSW was a music festival, "just" a music festival. Little did I know that 25 years later I'd get to represent Intel at a sister function called SxSW Interactive 2014. The e vent has grown to include many overlapping events in Austin in March as well as a number that occur in other cities throughout the country. This particular set of events included an educators track, music, film, and the interactive I attended. My primary objective in attending SxSW Interactive was to learn about companies and products that target the media creators and I am happy with what I learned.
First, I learned about Austin and I was very comfortable there. The weather provided variety including thunderstorms, 70 degree sunshine and fair amount of wind. I found great coffee, BBQ, and of course some signature Tex-Mex (spicy!). Public transportation was effective and provided in a number of ways. I used the $2/day pass to get from my motel to downtown and while in town I rented and checked out bicycles as well as took advantage of a pedicart to make it to the bus on time. I saw so many Cars-2-Go smart cars I thought they were reproducing nearby. The people of Austin from police officers and barristas to homeless beggars at the bus stop were all interesting and kind.
After I learned to get around Austin I found the Austin Convention Center and the SxSW Interactive Trade Show floor. Lots of people, lots of pretty neat innovations including a cool upright furniture company called Focal. They were on the opposite side of the floor from the Price is Right wheel and since there was such a line there I never really learned what it was they were offering besides a free spin on the wheel - maybe it was a bicycle if you hit the magic $1.00? Speaking of not getting it, the poor guys manning the Adobe booth couldn't attract much of a crowd even though they too had a nice corner spot on the floor. My buddy Tripp in the booth figured they just didn't bring enough blinking lights - they had some very smart people there showing off the Adobe video tools - I liked it. Lots of applications I need to study up on as well including an Augmented Reality application for demonstrating under-water oil rig equipment, interactive training tools for music and classrooms, and many more whose cards I'm still using to find their websites and connect. One of the wowzer things plucked my hardware guy at heart and a lover of recorded music strings - a turntable that cuts AND plays a vinyl LP at the same time! How cool is that?
There were oh so many people at the event and I never felt up to the Disneyland-like lines to watch Edward Snowden speak via Tele-conference or Justin Beiber or even Chelsea Clinton speak on managing her father's foundation. The picture below is of the crowd leaving one of those events. The lines would snake around the inside of the building for 90 minutes or more before each one of the big names. Heck, you had to win a lottery to get a chance to stand in line so you could get a pass to stand in line to hear what Lady Gaga had to say - not her show later, not sure how that worked. However, I did manage a couple of celebrity brushes that included actors Stephen Culp (JAG, West Wing, Desperate Housewives - the guy I met at the Spout Software booth on my first day) and Simon Helberg (Big Bang Theory). I did notice a whole different kind of weirdo begin to arrive as the Interactive event wound down and the Music Festival began.
Most of us spent more than our share of time recharging the portables as these folks demonstrate lining the walls of the halls.
Nights in Austin - here's where the intersection of the Interactive and Music festival is MAGIC! After the day's events ended if I wasn't invited to a venue by somebody walking around the convention center - I got breakfast one morning from Samsung at their Blogger's cafe and dinner later in the week from a recruiting party held by Farmer's insurance I just walked around and listed to incredible street musicians until I heard a set I liked being played outside a club. That was until my last day and I won a lottery to go see Gary Clark Jr. & Janelle Monae. I had heard Clark on Portland radio station KINK and couldn't believe my luck - think a cross between Stevie Ray Vaughan & Robert Cray - guitar magician! Turned out Janelle was the headliner and amazing in her own right, but the public transit system forced me to leave her set after the 3rd song. This was the show that held a moment of silence for the victims of the traffic incident the night before. It was a great way to close out my week on a high note after pretty much nothing but high notes. This is the first time since the 80's I got to use my "real" camera at a show as an amateur - and I am happy!
Thanks Austin, Thanks Intel, Until we meet again SouthBy!
Averaged more than 11 miles per day walking, longest day was 14.7 miles according to my Fitbit
Useful free WiFi was hard to find outside of the convention center
Jimmy John's makes an affordable road meal
Slept for 2 days after I got home - well, I wanted to