South by South Awesome
Austin is awesome. This is not news. But for some folks, it almost seems like it is.
SXSW, for example, is pretty much the best thing. Any event that can reasonably put Sally Field, Henry Rollins, and a flying freaking car on the same marquee in the same year is clearly doing it right.
Journey into the past
Yet, as of 2015, the year of Sally Field and Henry Rollins solving mysteries in their flying car – I may have just imagined some of that – SXSW had no permanent home. In fact, every SXSW to date has been run from multiple campuses, complicating communications and logistics in what and – I say this with love – has always been a bit of a mess.
In 2016, SXSW Interactive, the same show eventually headlined by a remote address from President Obama calling on the tech industry to lead in culture and infrastructure alike, pulled two panels on gender-based harassment, threats and the culture of online gaming after – you guessed it – harassment and threats over the panels themselves (they later held a day-long summit on the subject).
At the same show, which was understandably concerned about security, an idiot saw fit to discharge a firearm several times on a crowded street, causing perfectly understandable but poorly managed panic.
Where it’s going down
Not anymore. SXSW is getting permanent roots in Austin; anchor tenant in a 12 story building designed by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, who are pretty clearly awesome, scheduled to break ground this coming summer. Not just the offices are getting a makeover: Austin Convention Center, where the events themselves go down, is scheduled for an expansion. As the article makes clear, the Austin community is maintaining close scrutiny on the planned expansion, and there are more than a few skeptics among them.
The future of SXSW
Good. That’s what makes things work. People need to care about worker’s wages and traffic patterns and parking. SXSW has never been Monterey Pop. Johnny Cash keynoted SXSW in 1994. Hanson got signed there in the same year, and I’m hotlinking Hanson because if you were born the year after “MMMBop” got permanently etched into the millennial hindbrain, you’re 19 now. John Mayer got his contract at SXSW in 2000, and Twitter had its breakout there in 2006. They’ll probably exile me from Austin for this, but SXSW was never indie, not really. It’s more like the State of the Creative Union, the designated yearly party where we all find out who we’ll love, hate, listen to and hear about for the next 365. It needs to work. This will help.
Besides, I’m still waiting on that flying car.