SXSW 2012 was another crazy (and crazy memorable) festival.
As @discographies, the anonymous tweeter who covered the festival for Rolling Stone, put it, by St. Patrick’s Day, the vibe on Austin’s Sixth Street was “like the third act of a Michael Bay movie.” Case in point: an unofficial show featuring rapper A$AP Rocky saw the conference end with headlines that said “brawl” and “mayhem,” though promoter James Moody of Transmission Entertainment told the Austin American-Statesman, “These things happen after people drink for seven days and we handled them appropriately.”
So yes, some people at SXSW drink for seven days, but they also see bands and movies, network, discuss ideas and the future of technology, purchase Internet access from homeless people, and wait in lines longer than the ones at Franklin BBQ for food that’s likely not as delicious (though perhaps Rachael Ray’s Sloppy Turkey Suiza Sliders were three-hours good).
As with all events, there were a few stand-out moments to be noted and remembered:
The Nerds Shall Inherit the Festival
As Omar Gallaga of the Austin American Statesman reported the interactive portion of SXSW had record-breaking attendance with 24,569 registrants.
So while there may be more people on the streets for music, the digital/media/software part of SXSW is now king, something interactive director Hugh Forrest noted when he introduced a talk featuring former Vice President Al Gore and technology entrepreneur Sean Parker. Recalling interactive’s struggles even in the year 2000, Forrest said he told himelf, “Oh well, geeks just can’t compete with movie stars and rock stars. There’s no way we can do that.”
It appears they can: Gore and Parker’s talk took place in a much larger convention center room than Bruce Springsteen’s music keynote speech.
Where There’s Money, Media, and People, There are Stars
John C. Reilly opened for Jack White and played a set of country songs; Creed Bratton of The Office and former member of the Grass Roots, played a showcase Saturday night, opening for Donovan; Bill Murray helped Austin’s Tia Carrera load their gear; Carson Daly played drums with heavy garage band Thee Oh Sees; and most importantly, Matthew McConaughey got the bongos out of storage and joined English goth-metal rockers the Cult at Auditorium Shores (though, he kept his clothes on this time).
Barbecue Confidential with Anthony Bourdain
The author and No Reservations host came to SXSW to shoot an Austin episode of the show, and naturally, he didn’t miss out on the barbecue:
The indescribable awesomeness that is Franklin Barbecueyfrog.com/oe32462689j
— Anthony Bourdain (@NoReservations) March 13, 2012
Breakfast at John Muelleryfrog.com/odiajboj
— Anthony Bourdain (@NoReservations) March 18, 2012
All Publicity (Even Ridiculous Publicity) is Good Publicity
People like to complain that SXSW has become too commercialized, but here’s the thing: every time somebody gripes about a sponsor (especially in Twitter or in a blog post), they’re mentioning the sponsor’s name.
So take a bow, Doritos. Not only were the Taco Bell Doritos Taco Locos disgustingly ubiquitious at the Hype Hotel, one of the more sought-after day and night show venues (for the record, the smell of Taco Bell does not make guitars sound better), but Doritos also built a giant stage in the shape of a vending machine to promote its new product, Doritos Jacked.
Hope for Hip-Hop at SXSW
Arguably, Bruce Springsteen wasn’t SXSW’s biggest show on Thursday, as Lil Wayne also performed the same night at the Austin Music Hall. To the extent that it was the year of anything at SXSW, you could make the case for hip-hop and longtime SXSW veteran Jon Pareles of the New York Times did:
Hip-hop, once a small fraction of SXSW, reached its tipping point this year. Its superstars — Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross — converged on SXSW, and two major rappers, 50 Cent and Nas, each gave a concert performing an old album in its entirety. Hip-hop showcases for newer figures like Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky and Big K.R.I.T drew full houses.