Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SXSW Tuesday: The hunt for free things

Ringing ears and roaming the Tech Interactive.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 12:16 PM

My ears were ringing (and still are; getting kind of nervous about it) from Thee Oh Sees when I woke up Tuesday afternoon morning, and so I elected to participate in the tech — Interactive, they call it — portion of the festival. I combined that objective with finding free things to put on or in my body.

In a large conference room at the Sheraton hotel, I attended a talk called "Audience-Centric Media: Wants and Needs in News." There were five panelists, about 500 chairs, and maybe 50 people in attendance. It was the final hours of the final day of Interactive, so perhaps it was understandable that people seemed to be going through the motions. Personally, I was enthralled by what the speakers had to say about How We Deliver Content Today, but I am a journalist who is afraid that my entire industry is on the verge of completely evaporating, so it's nice to listen to positive theories to the contrary.

I bailed toward the end because I wanted to be back for another talk at the Sheraton at 5 p.m. and needed to eat something before. I have a coveted Platinum badge that, as I understand it, is the best SXSW badge available, at least officially. (No doubt Springsteen and Sean Parker are rolling around with a pass that grants them considerably more access.) The Platinum gets me into a lot of places, and I had a lead on some free nosh at something called the Planet Quebec VIP Kick-Off Reception at some bar on Sixth Street. I walked over, wormed my way in, and found some turkey-and-salami sandwiches, and some hummus and bread. I parked myself at a ledge near the back and shoved it all down my throat. A lot of people were speaking French, or Quebec French. I don't know what the difference is. I used my free beer ticket for a bottled water.

Next door, there was something called the Oklahoma Buffalo Lounge. Oklahoma's OKPOP Museum and the Woody Guthrie Center and Archive were sponsoring a party celebrating the state's culture. Also, there was free food there. I nabbed a roast-beef-and-Swiss on a croissant, more hummus, and a very dense glazed doughnut. I picked up a free issue of This Land, which turned out to be a pretty impressive news magazine about Oklahoma. Good feature writing, smart design. The party seemed a good example of how SXSW can work. I came for the free shit, and I was exposed to something cool that I will remember and recommend to other people.

All carbed up, I trudged back up the hill to the Sheraton and attended "Death of Digital Downloads: MP3s the New 8-track?" The premise of the talk — there were two panelists and 15 people in the room — was that, because of the advent of cloud technology, MP3s are essentially going the way of CDs. If you can Spotify everything everywhere for $10 a month, why buy music to store on your hard drive? There was a lot of healthy dialogue in the room from intelligent people, and I think the conclusion seemed to be that there is still desire to actually own music, even if it's an MP3 that you can't touch, and that the future of digital-music consumption will be a combination of Spotify (or MOG, or whatever) and purchases from iTunes or Amazon or what-have-you. Who knows, of course, but I felt smarter after I left.

I wanted to see a film on Tuesday night, but I just couldn't figure it out. There is too much stuff going on! Instead, I wandered upon a taco truck with people standing in front of it from — here, let me get their business card —, which gave me a coupon for TWO FREE TACOS, no strings attached. The truck was called Coreanos (the tacos were vaguely Korean, I think?), and I got two El Scorcho pork tacos. I stood alone in the parking lot eating them. It was getting dark, and I had a bus to catch.

The Wolf
  • The Wolf
I ended up back at the Spider House to see a couple of more Austin acts. The Wolf did straightforward ’60s garage rock, and their best song, like many bands that play ’60s garage rock, was the one that strayed the furthest from the rigid structures of the genre. The other act I caught, a power-pop group called Bobby Jealousy, was more buoyant and ramshackle. I had seen the red-haired female singer outside before the show and made a comment about how she was basically just wearing a pair of underwear with tights over it. Onstage, the outfit made a little more sense. The rest of the band was jovial and ragtag — a British guy, a dude with his shirt off and a tribal tattoo, a nerd — and the crowd seemed to be eating it up. I was, too, but Wednesday is looking like a big day. It was time to go home and rest up.

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