Day 1 SXSW - Good Times (But Do You Have A Card?)
The skyline of Austin rises before me. The beer is cold, the weather is also. I sit outside a bad hotel room, looking straight at the Thunderpussy (our rental car). I have one night of SXSW under my belt. Mixed results.
The first thing that strikes me...what would this have been like a few years ago, when the festival wasn't a junket for try-hard ad dicks? All night, the first question asked is 'Who do you work for?'. BUSINESS CARD: who cares. Turns out Jack Morton is a winner, and everyone wants to know where they can apply: a plus. People blank me when I tell them I'm just here for fun with friends. But the work we've done in China is known to some extent, and people seem impressed. But then reality quickly sets in.
Who you are doesn't matter...who do you work for again? What have you seen? Do you know XXXX? Who do you know? HOW CAN YOU HELP MY CAREER? Seriously, this festival is slimed with a thich varnish of wank. But it's not all bad.
Our first port of call was on Rainey Street. We spotted a bar we liked, and headed over, only getting permission to enter once the doortard established that I worked for some company they knew slightly. No matter, good times followed, and for the next 4 hours, we drank, ate streetcart food and salted caramel icecream (HOLY SHIT) and played Jenga and Ping Pong to our hearts content at a number of different locals. Solid times were had, but they were far removed from the normal SXSW vibe I'd expected...we could have had this experience in any cool city.
Then came the FLUSH. People talking shop...see previous. WHO CARES? Aren't we meant to be talking about big ideas, new things and exciting prospects? Isn't this where big things are bred, midwifed and birthed? Seemingly not, as i absorbed (and discarded) peoples bios, nonsense and career ambitions (HIGHLIGHT: "I don't know what I want to do, but my dad works for Warner Music and said I'd be able to get a job in advertising here.") Seriously, I'm sure the conference is good, but I get the impression this is now a hive for people who want to be seen here, and people who can smell stupid money. And dickheads. There are HEAPS of dickheads.
Lesson's learnt? Stay in Rainey: at least people let you have fun with your mates, and wholeheartedly get involved. Head into the Downtown area at your peril: it's spin, and lots of it. Everybody wants a lead, and everyone can talk shit. It's a feeding frenzy, and god help you if you don't want to be involved. Remember that year you went to that festival and had an amazing time? This feels like the year after that. When it became 'cool', and the dickbags arrived.
Sure, it's only day one. But a weird and unexpected fog of pretention hangs over southern Texas. Let's hope it fades into the heat of tomorrow.
UPDATE: the rest of the time in Austin was AWESOMESAUCE. Recommended.