Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why am I not at SXSW?

Why am I not at SXSW?

Short answer? What's the point? Nothing gets done.* The longer answer? Well, that's a bit more complicated.

SXSW is fun, there's not doubting that. The last time I went was nine years ago and from what I've heard it just gets crazier every year. And that's awesome. But it also means it's WAY more crowded and with all the parties going on it's hard to decide where to go and this whole hierarchy or people develops and it turns into a bunch of high school cliques holding the "cool" parties everyone wants to get into so everyone ends up standing in line for hours and not really seeing anything. (And the conference itself? Pointless. The music industry is dying and SXSW is tethered to the old model beast at this point -- it's where a lot of the money comes from to support them after all -- so don't expect to actually learn anything at the panels.) So, to an old curmudgeon like me, the whole ordeal seems, at this point, not worth the bother.

However, I may be changing my mind.

It seems that last year was when the music festival reached critical mass, and folks just started to burn out. The after effect is that this year there are no real buzz parties -- well, outside Fader Fort and Stereogum, but if you don't get into those it's no huge deal -- but there are enough parties to keep everyone happy. All the attending bands are playing like seven shows in the next three days, so you have a good chance of seeing who you want. And overall people just seemed to have chilled the fuck out so far this year.

And then there's the main reason you should go to SXSW, the one I had actually forgotten about as i grew old and crotchety, and that is to see bands you've never heard of. To wander in and out of bars up and down 6th Street just sampling the HUGE range of music going on. It's truly a pleasure, and it's a pleasure I had totally forgotten about.And not that I've remembered it I'm a little bummed I'm not in Austin right now, and there's a good chance that I will be there next year.

And that's why I'm not at SXSW.

*Speaking of nothing getting done, from all I can tell zero gets done at the SXSW Interactive festival either. I'm all for going down there to see those folks face to face, but anyone that tells yu there's any grand exchange of ideas or squeezing on mindgrapes is probably just covering up a hangover.**

**Two funny things I've noticed this year about SXSWi versus SXSW music*** is a) Twitter and foursquare were fine during the interactive conference but crashed once the music kids came into town and b) the interactive crowd's idea of a "huge" or "wild" party would mostly be looked upon as failures by the music kids.

***It should be noted also that I've noticed quite a few longtime music friends also attended the interactive conference this year to see if they could glean anything new to help out their industry.

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