Routines are forming, parking spots emerging, bearings rolling, names calling, dropping, stopping people in their tracks: today Al Gore is going to interview Sean Parker, founder of Napster. How is that possible? I just thought SXSW was basically a music festival. But actually, it’s all things happening. No festival manages to juxtapose corporate with indie culture more fruitfully than this one. To its discredit, there is simply nothing more complex than a SXSW program, at least compared to any event I’ve attended. And when you walk down Old Pecan, there’s already a music festival happening: jazz, rock, metal, blues, DJ, street performers, Hare Krishna kids pushing Bhagavad-Gita “As It Is”, it really isn’t necessary to purchase a wristband to attend the event this week, it’s simply happening everywhere!
Pushing the pavement with my feet, still buzzed from Vodka in the Palm Park registrants’ tent, cruising Old Pecan in search of a grocery store that will honor my food stamps card to no avail, for the Whole Foods is just a little out of reach, so I opt for one of the vast pizza selections that sell right to the street from their hole in the wall. It really is a major economy of food and booze, on this historic stretch of old highway. And the roads close down, much like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. If only I were more careful, I could have enjoyed free food from one of the many registrant parties happening on this block. Maybe next time, but how could you not sample at least one slice of Austin pizza? After satisfying my sinking blood sugar, it was time for the Fray Café storytelling open mic.
Finally, an opportunity to get on the mic and tell a story, something I can’t pass up. It’s one of the oldest events of SXSW that no longer officially reads on the schedule, and yet it continues annually, regardless. The program was full of strong storytellers; amateur and experienced, mixing featured speakers in with open mic sign ups. It was surprising how well received a mother talking about her children or a woman snowballs her ex in revenge, but that’s what’s great: people talking about life and being heard. A more absurd event was another installment of Comedy Bang Bang, but this time it’s an interview style podcast, again hosted by Aukerman, but this time with Reggie Watts doing the music from his Line 6 pedal. My journalism must improve, because I didn’t write down the names of the interviewees, but they were funny, playing characters, one of them was a food junkie and critic with a bizarre palette, another pretended to be Aukerman’s father-in-law, and the first one carried on that he was taking over as lead singer of Wilco.
As we type, I am missing Kevin Smith’s keynote, as well as a discussion about whether or not technology is making our lives more or less fruitful. That is how it has to be to make good on this wonderful opportunity to write about SXSW, ironically, it means missing events. So no more! I will definitely make this non-profit meet up. Tune in tomorrow when I have an audio piece to share.