Before I ‘did’ SXSW I just couldn’t really imagine how it all fit together. It seemed like an absolute minefield of cool talks, music, film and parties, and that there would never be enough time to work out where I should be at any point in time.
Yeah, that actually pretty much sums it up.
People were walking around engrossed in the app on their phone – trying to work out the best use of their time but not being able to commit. Well I was, so I assume they felt the same.
You can never see it all at SXSW
Every hour there’s seriously about 20 things to choose from. On the second day, after I couldn’t get in to Jake Gyllenhaal, or the comedy, or the party after that, I had a little breakdown at how much I’d spent on the ticket and how I couldn’t actually do anything (yeah, hungover dramatics). And then I turned a corner and in what I learnt was true SXSW style I found a free party, with coffee and pastries, and all was well again.
Yeah I missed a lot, but I saw a lot too.
I avoided the big things – Fader Fort / Rachel Ray’s Feedback / Stubbs – those things meant as much to me as I’m assuming mean to you right now. But they were the parties to be at. I went for the underdogs and found smaller parties that I didn’t have to queue for.
People talk about the queues for SXSW but I can honestly say the longest I queued for anything was about 15 minutes for my daily cocktail at the Registrants Lounge. I saw some pics on Twitter though of queues that looked like they wrapped round Austin (more hungover dramatics?).
The parties are crazy
Honestly, I had so much fun, spoke to so many interesting people and made my badge money back in the drinks that flowed. At some parties there was food too – the YouTube Music house definitely deserves a shout out for the tofu burgers, flavoured popcorn (Nutella, covered in chocolate!) and American Mule cocktails. That party was awesome. And I stood next to Lapsley while watching Muna. After standing near her while watching Powers on the Spotify Porch the day before.
Spotify House gave you four free drinks from locally made vodka (really good, Eddys) and cream sodas to mix – they had free snacks and all sorts of interactive things we didn’t bother with but the queues were enjoying. I went to the Beard Man cocktail party where loads of fit beardymen hung out and we made our way through the entire cocktail menu, and I did the same at the Cedar House taco and Moo Cards party.
Maggie Mae’s was a favourite venue for tech parties, and for me, thanks to the awesome rooftop where you could stand to watch the carnage of 6th Street below.
I’m not exaggerating, these are just a few examples of the 10 days of parties I enjoyed at SXSW. I think I found my heaven.
The daytime panels are fascinating
There were over 500 daytime talks to choose from on every subject you could want, or I could want anyway.
Some I’ll admit to leaving after a few minutes – as they were just an opportunity to show off about what they’d done rather than give any useful information – but most were fascinatingly insightful. The Kerry Washington one was probably my favourite – didn’t really know her work before but what she had to say on being in the public eye and how to cope with naysayers and trolls online was inspirational. And she was funny.
I saw Richie Hawtin talk passionately about DJing, Gary Vaynerchuk swear a lot and tell us how good he is at building businesses, Kelly Rowland talk about being in Destiny’s Child (with B!) and Amber Venz Box on how she set up RewardStyle – a way to help bloggers make money from the clothes they recommend and making her $60 mill in the process. Along with a whole load of other, fascinating talks – I went to ones on human trafficking, Buzzfeed on the future of media companies and POP Montreal on how festivals can improve their locale. It would take me ages to list them all…
Awesome venues and loving Austin
Austin is the coolest place, and SXSW is such a good way to get to see a lot of the venues in a short space of time. I’m glad that I decided to stay on a bit longer so that I can see the city when it’s not SXSW crazy as it already looks totally different with everything taken down.
Big companies, like Spotify and YouTube, pay to take over venues, paint them and put up signage and do what they want and then open them up to impress SXSWers and their competitors. Parking lots are turned into stages, yoga studios into party venues and craft shops into coffee bars. Big tents go up in the parks, roads are cordoned off and promoters are out on the streets trying to get you to go to their events or try their wares. I saw one pair get absolutely mobbed for their portable chargers. It’s crazy.
5 best moments from SXSW 2016
Meeting Richie Hawtin and getting him to do a video shoutout to my brother (big fan) and then seeing him that night at Kingdom. A 150-person capacity venue.
Realising that you could actually drink all day every day for free. FREE!
Listening to Ciaran Lavery on a boat on the Colorado River with my friend Georgina, who had come for work. His song, Shame, is beautiful.
Ending Richie Hawtin night at an all-American house party with DJs, red cups and every American film stereotype you could imagine wandering around. It was like I’d walked onto the set of American Pie, or whatever the updated version is.