There are many facets to South by Southwest Festival. The “convergence” is the mission and the miracle of it all. From all over the world, people crowd Austin Convention Center from all sorts of disciplines and levels of interest: gamers and tech-heads see the newest computers, graphics systems, gaming concepts, phones, and what all; entrepreneurs discover startups and network with the establishment; activists discuss internet freedom and other political happenings. The hard part is not feeling that you’re missing out when you can’t get to things. Last night, I stayed out until 3am, dancing to Electro, House, and Dubstep on the amazing 6th Ave. The nightlife is unbelievable. And when you’re here to cover the arts and parties, sometimes you wake up after noon and miss out on all of those fascinating interactive programs, starting as early as 9:30am. But if I were only a paid journalist, I could stay in a downtown hotel to roll out of bed and start enjoying the festival within the lobby, alongside my continental breakfast. Because this event is sprawled out, filling every nook of the convention center, various hotels and city parks, parking lots, bars and café’s, theaters and ballrooms, if you’re staying downtown, you never leave SXSW.
Weather has been awful. By awful I mean it has amounted to the sort of rainfall and cold you’d expect in Portland right now. Today has cleared up and I’m grateful, but yesterday some events were rained out and moved, such as And I Am Not Lying, a storytelling workshop, based in Brooklyn, NY. The awkwardness of this was the fact that it’s a burlesque show with stories and comedy that usually shows in alcohol fused venues and was supposed to be in an outdoor park with free beer, but ended up in a Hilton conference room with no booze. Was it hard to watch? Only a little, after all, these are very good performers and funny people. My ADD caught up with me, so I left, missing about forty-five minutes, attempting to catch more SXSW stuff. I obtained my free drink – they really know how to treat press – in the Registrant’s Lounge, got a nice girl’s phone number, and instead of seeing something different, I went back to my friend Kat’s place and made dinner, talked about death, racism, and police detainment with her and Maggie, another Austin comedian.
After all that, I bumbled around downtown attempting to figure out where things were. I was fortunate to be the final person seated for Pavilion, a sold out film premiere in one of Austin’s most sheik modern theaters, The Violet Crown, complete with stadium seating, cocktails, and healthy foods. This was a refreshing piece of work and a departure from today’s ADD digitally over-post-production editing that we see commonly, especially in mainstream works and hipster-fests. Tranquil with long shots, close ups on faces, bodies, long shots that last minutes, method acting, direction without script, pure character interaction, where the subject goes out of focus but the camera doesn’t follow up, offering a moment of detachment for the viewer. Shot in small towns with a very minimal story, it is more about feeling that you are part of a world which may be very uninteresting compared to the drama of life, but with the stark beauty of every shot in the film, it’s a reminder that life is just passing time, that the subtleties matter as much if not more so than the overarching ambitions, wars, politics, and self-obsession that takes over time.
After this, I bumbled again to the Comedy Bang Bang showcase, missing out on the whole show other than James Adomian. He is funny. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s smarter than the average comic with a degree in Economics and Theatre Arts, doing long form bits on the Republican primaries, including impressions of Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan. But I was honestly sad to miss Scott Aukerman’s set and Greg Proops. That’s my coverage for Day 2, now it’s time to get back on that horse.