Like so much else about Leon Bridges, his stage patter is a work in progress. Every few shows he gets up the confidence to say something new to the crowd, to introduce a song with something beyond a simple recitation of its title. At a recent gig at Austin’s South by Southwest music festival, the 25-year-old soul singer from Fort Worth tested out a new introduction to his song “Brown Skin Girl.” “Where are my brown-skin girls?” he asked the audience.
Snoop Dogg is a national treasure. Either you agree, or you don’t know who Snoop Dogg is. But Texas DPS trooper Billy Spears found himself in hot water for agreeing to a small favor on behalf of the rapper.
While Snoop was in Austin for SXSW, he asked Spears to pose for a picture that the rapper then shared on Instagram (with the caption “me n my deputy dogg”—oh, Snoop). Spears himself didn’t make the request, didn’t take his own photo with Snoop, and didn’t share the shot on his own social media accounts. He simply said “okay” when asked if he’d pose for a photo that Snoop’s publicist took.
South by Southwest is back to #disrupt the state capital and all of our Twitter feeds with updates about the newest brands and bands showcasing in downtown Austin. Inspired by New York Magazine’s piece about tweets from Davos, an annual political and economic conference held in the Swiss Alps, here’s a collection of tweets from folks enjoying the festival that birthed Twitter back in 2006.
Sixth Street attracts its usual crowd of rowdy visitors.
Taylor Mowrey Burge and her husband, Austin Burge, are having a baby in September. That’s an expensive proposition for anyone, but especially for people who work in the service industry. Taylor works with Coté Catering. Austin runs a coffee business that sets up shop at farmer’s markets and other events, and he does landscaping on the side—and they’re going to pay for all of their baby-related expenses with money that they make during SXSW.
“Next week, I’m going to write a check to our midwife to pay for everything up front,” Taylor says as she walks down Sixth Street to a space above El Sol Y La Luna that, for an 8-day stretch of SXSW, is the Camel Lounge. “Otherwise, we’d be setting up a payment plan.”
Rob Thomas was the king of the 2014 SXSW Film Festival: The world premiere of his hotly-anticipated, Kickstarter-fueled Veronica Mars movie was a triumph. That premiere celebrated both the enthusiasm for his much-beloved blonde female detective and the new model of film financing that Thomas pioneered—appealing directly to fans for the funding of passion projects, a method since employed by everyone from Zach Braff to Spike Lee. (See Jason Cohen’s Texas Monthly feature, “How Rob Thomas Changed The Movie Business,” for more.)
That bit of prologue is useful, in that it highlights how unexpected it is that Thomas would return triumphantly to SXSW this year with an entirely new concept. This time, he’s back on television, with a series for the CW called iZombie, which held its first public screening of the pilot on Monday afternoon, with Thomas and the full cast in tow.
As the substantial roar of SXSW Interactive and SXSW Film give way to the sustained, yowling, five-day-long, banshee-like shriek that is SXSW Music, the question, “Is SXSW 2015 a tipping point for the festival” starts to sound downright silly. Take a look at the streets of Austin, which have been packed for the past four days and will only get busier over the next five, and the question really becomes, “Does it even matter?” Kanye’s coming back, y’all—how can SXSW’s health be in question when you’ve got Kanye?
The most unlikely star at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival? Former Eagle Pass mayor Chad Foster, who was best-known for his opposition to the federal border fence. Flawlessly bilingual and beloved in both Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, Foster lies at the center of Bill and Turner Ross’s Western, a movie that’s less about immigration politics as it is a dying way of life: one centered around the cultural ideal and economic artery of shared borders. The documentary, which won a “Special Jury Award for Verite Filmmaking” at Sundance, now screens at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, as well as New Directors/New Films in New York next week.
From the moment in 1986 when the idea to hold a music conference in Austin was first broached, Roland Swenson has been a part of SXSW—initially to convince people that it wasn’t a crazy idea, and then to make it happen. In the years since, he has overseen a trajectory of growth that has included the launches of SXSW Interactive, SXSW Film, SXSW Edu, SXSW Eco, and the V2V entrepreneurial conference.
People have been making predictions about the end of SXSW for a very long time. Back in 2011, technology blog TechCrunch mocked the rush to declare that the conference had tipped past its point of relevance with the headline, “Saying ‘SXSW Is Over’ Is Over.” For SXSW co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson, those predictions go back even further.
“We’ve had twenty years of people saying that it’s over,” Swenson says. “Every year, in the five weeks leading up to SXSW, we have a meeting where we bring in all the staff—which is now about 200 people—and one of the things that I’ve been doing for the past few years is I put up a projection of a headline from the Austin American-Statesman that says, ‘SXSW: How Big Is Too Big?’ and everybody looks at it like, ‘Oh, okay,” and I tell them, ‘That’s from 1991.’”
Early October is the least SXSW-y time of the year in Austin. For one, it’s almost equidistant from both the previous festival and the next one. Meanwhile, the Austin City Limits Festival has the Texas music press focused on a different big event. And the kid-brother SXSW Eco conference that occurs this time of year? Well, while, it’s a useful meeting of minds on an important topic, it doesn’t exactly register as a cultural force.
But in Austin today, SXSW is all the news. That’s because the takeaway from a new report created by Populous, an international design and planning firm—whose other clients include the Super Bowl, the World Cup, and the Olympics—includes a headline-grabbing bullet-point on its 8th page: