The criticism directed each year at South by Southwest checks off now-familiar laments. It’s too big. It’s too corporate. It’s too expensive. It used to be cool and accessible. It used to be about the music, man.
And yet, “South by” (as it is regrettably referred to by everybody, including us) turns 30 this year and is thriving. The broad format helped it survive. By providing an adaptable canvas for brands, art, technology, and politics to be recombined as the times demanded, SXSW never got pigeonholed as one thing.
What other live event, save for maybe San Diego’s Comic-Con, could bring Wu-Tang Clan, Buzz Aldrin, Nick Offerman, Cecile Richards, Jake Tapper, and James Comey all to the same place?
2017 brings welcome changes to the “tech bro” vibe that can creep into the conference. Brand-building events like Create & Cultivate’s pop-up this Sunday provide an interesting alternative. The organization aims to foster a “movement for women looking to create & cultivate the career of their dreams.” Create & Cultivate is bringing in heavy hitters from all sorts of hip brands, including Kristen Bell as the keynote.
The Onion and sister publication The A.V. Club are taking advantage of that sweet, sweet GoDaddy sponsorship money to put on Just Another Manic Monday, a “SXSW-adjacent party” on March 13th. Two stages of electro-pop, interesting people, and The Onion’s sensibilities will all be on display.
700 pounds of marshmallows. 3,000 candy bars. A whole lotta graham crackers. The S’mores Tasting Party on March 12th will show no mercy when it comes to s’mores. Bakespace regularly organizes something fun (and free) at SXSW, and like similar Techmunch events taking place throughout the year, food bloggers, techies, and content creators will be on hand for an afternoon snack.
When not crowding into the Southbites Trailer Park for lunch, or swinging by Los Pollos Hermanos, most visitors searching for the holy grail of fanboy food will aim for the Double R Diner from Twin Peaks. Is it a marketing ploy for the show’s resurrection? Yes. Are the hours limited and is entry not guaranteed, even with an RSVP? Most certainly. As spectacle goes, though, it will definitely be fun to take in some free coffee, cherry pie, and doughnuts, then reflect on how the avant-garde eventually becomes normcore.
Tumblr is hosting a Planned Parenthood fundraiser called “Never Going Back” on Sunday, March 12th with special guests Sleigh Bells. The event is free and open to everyone, but when you RSVP there’s a link to donate. The fundraiser’s location, Mohawk, is a really interesting split-level music venue that’s worth checking out (FYI: Mohawk also the location of Just Another Manic Monday).
There are so many sessions to choose from, it is nearly impossible to go to all of the ones that look interesting. There are a few on the interactive schedule that stood out:
- How Wounded Warriors Are Transforming Biotech
- Baking Inclusivity and Accessibility Into Software
- Augmented Reality and Urban Revitalization
- How Tech is Shaping the Future of Entertainment
- Beyond Fintech: Blockchain for Every Industry
- The Future of Experience Design
- Get a Warrant: The 4th Amendment and Digital Data
- Design Sprints: Solving Design/UX Problems Fast
- Creating Space for Making in the Workplace
- AI: Actually Still Terrible
- Voice: The Invisible UI Nobody Speaks About
You can try to get into the new Star Trek: Deep Space Nine documentary, or the Terrence Malick/Ryan Gosling/Rooney Mara Austin music scene movie (good luck), or maybe the kickstarted Bill Nye: Science Guy premiere. Or, take a look at some of film entries from Australia and New Zealand, like the documentaries on barbecue, Kim Dotcom, and music legend Bill Frisell. Plus there’s the biopic on the tallest-in-height and shortest-in-tenure of the Bonds, George Lazenby.
There’s also a surprising and welcome number of animal-themed films this year. We’re especially interested in Paa Joe & The Lion, a documentary about “the greatest living fantasy coffin maker in Ghana.” Paa Joe’s creations, and motivations, are fantastic.
Pitchfork’s music lineup, March 16-17 at the French Legation Museum, looks very impressive (and is free and open to the public each day). Beach Slang, Julie Byrne, Kweku Collins, Girlpool, and a dozen other bands are on the roster, including hometown heroes S U R V I V E.
Take a look at this great article from Curbed about how SXSW changed the trajectory of Austin’s growth and development. Author Alissa Walker charts the festival’s impact on the city in ways that are just being examined, writing: “The phenomenon that transforms Austin for 10 days every March continues to metastasize, expanding into different neighborhoods, influencing city policy, and seemingly infiltrating every barbecue joint in the region. The festival may be temporary, but for three decades it’s been shaping the future of Austin.”
Take a look at Tech.co’s piece on 10 Startups Launching New Products at SXSW.