Monday March 16
When you think about the impact D.C. has on the nation, it’s easy to overlook the District’s influence on the worlds of technology, film, and music. However, D.C. made an impressive showing, with over 30 performers and speakers at this year’s annual SXSW festival. The festival began with the interactive portion, which meant that our lack of ‘Twitter’ experience labeled us as outcasts for the first few days. The first person we met was a fellow Washingtonian, American University professor Patricia Aufderheide. She led a panel titled “From Script to Screen” which chronicles the process of filmmaking from the conception of an idea to its big screen debut.
After the panel we found our way to the Thirsty Nickel, a downtown Austin bar where Impact Film Fund was throwing a party with Indie Go Go to celebrate the collaboration of film and interactive media; a pertinent theme throughout the festival. Web gurus such as Tubemogul.com creators Mark Rotblat and Steve Garfield gathered together for complimentary drinks and the chance to network with those in their field. The quaint venue provided an appropriate Texan ambiance with wooden floors, pool tables, and a small wooden stage, which was used during a performance by Avi Wisnia.
Next, we headed over to the “SXSW Interactive Film Fusion Party” at the Red Eye Fly. This party was swarming with people clamoring for the free alcohol, food and cupcakes (red velvet, imagine the hype). Here, we met one of the people behind SXSW’s Marketing & PR, John Rodriguez. He told us that one of the best things about the festival was the creative breeding ground it creates, bringing the best minds from across the country to a place they can inspire and shape the future of music and technology. For example, Twitter caught its big break at SXSW.
Following a few margaritas and cupcakes, prerequisites for a Seth Rogen comedy, we decide to skip the premiere of “Observe and Report” (after glimpsing the man himself) and proceed straight to the Premiere Party at Emo’s with Timothy Hutton and Paul Rudd. After a full first day of observing and reporting, we decided to call it a night.
Tuesday March 17
Waking up to 75 degrees of sunshine made the thought of watching films inside seem quite preposterous but the documentary “We Live in Public,” a film about technology and the intrusion of privacy, was far too relevant to the theme of the festival to be missed. Even Joseph Gordon Levitt (500 Days of Summer), stepped inside to take a sneak peek. After this heavy note we stepped outside for refreshments in the Sierra Mist registrant’s lounge, where we spotted VJ from VH1’s America’s Smartest Model and NSYNC member, Chris Kirkpatrick.
We decided to take advantage of our press passes by checking out the highly anticipated Spike Lee premiere of “Passing Strange.” Unfortunately, not even Spike Lee, sitting a few rows ahead of us, could keep us in our seats for this musical. We couldn’t resist “passing” on this “strange” capture of what must have been a brilliant-when-live Broadway play.
From the Paramount Theater, we made our way to the SXSW Film and Interactive Closing/ Music Opening @ Maggie Mae’s. Here we met film producer Richard Parry, who convinced us to go see his documentary, “Blood Trail,” which would be closing the following day.
Wednesday March 18
“Every Summer” U.S Royalty Clip
The musical portion of the festival started for us at Friends bar for “The DC Does TX Party.” We were excited to be sharing this experience as a united group of displaced Washingtonians. Performers included US Royalty, Deleted Scenes, Middle Distance Runner, Carol Bui, and These United States.
We were able to scurry back over to the convention center just in time to catch Parry’s “Blood Trail,” as promised. His documentary follows the life and work of war journalist, Robert King. “Blood Trail”, along with other films shown at SXSW, such as “Wavy Gravy,” will be traveling to DC for this summer’s SILVERDOCS festival.
Thursday March 19
At this point in the week, we sought rest from the sounds bombarding our senses, by escaping to Barton Springs, a local natural spring where we soaked up some much needed Texan sun. The silence didn’t last long, but we kept the harmonious vibes flowing that night when we ventured over to Buffalo Billiards to see DC’s own Benjy Ferree perform a set that showcased his talent and set him apart from the overabundance of jam bands present at SXSW. His show was short, yet enough to give us a hankering for more Ferree.
Friday March 20
On the hottest day of the event we hiked over to the Mohawk, a double stage venue where DC Indie-rock band, These United States, performed to a packed audience. Their rock and roll sound, with a blues/folk twist successfully entertained a mixed crowd.
Next stop was Beauty Bar for the “West Rocks Party” which featured an eclectic group of performers. The line-up included D.C. indie boys, US Royalty, British rock kids, and the outrageous Juliette Lewis. The night ended with a surprise performance by Metallica, that we caught in passing.
Saturday March 21
Our favorite show space was downtown at Waterloo Records, a record store that hosted the Sssuckers, a band from Brooklyn, NY. This five member Indie-rock band stopped in DC on their way down to SXSW, where they performed at Gold Leaf Studios; the home recording space for DC favorites, US Royalty, F-F-Fever and Exactly. Their unique sound is creating buzz everywhere they go and is already influencing DC local bands.
Sunday, March 2
We finished the week in true Rock & Roll style. Our journey home began with the Hermit Thrushes, in a former retirement and funeral home bus. Our first stop was Dallas, where we watched the Hermits perform in an artsy novelty house, an excellent backdrop for the eclectic group of bands. They ranged from heavy metal to folk rock. We then climbed aboard the Invisible Hand van, a group of kind-hearted and talented Virginia boys, with whom we stopped in Tennessee to catch a performance of their alternative pop rock sounds.
Our experience at SXSW reminded us what we love about DC; we are a melting pot of styles, influence, and talent. Austin provides a brilliant stage for showcasing, technology, film, and music but DC provides a breeding ground to encourage and support these industries.