Today, I am back in Bay and in my work clothes — some different pants, shirt tucked in, and on this occasion, a blazer to set the tone. This means, of course, I am no longer in Austin, TX, and the annual event known as South By Southwest has wrapped.
Though woefully non-descript, I use the noun “event” because I’m not quite sure what word best encapsulates SXSW. “Conference” could work, considering all of the amazing sessions by thought leaders and industry bigs, but SXSW is more than just a conference. I’ve tried “festival” on for size, but that seems somewhat too flippant, and gives no credence to the serious work and ideas being shared. In the end I think the word I settled on was “shebang”. As in, “Yep, I’m here for the whole shebang.” Okay, maybe no more descript than “event,” and certainly flippant in its own way, but at least now you understand the dilemma. Words are imperfect, after all.
The whole shebang was quite a run. 10 days, pretty evenly split amongst geeks and rockers. In looking back, I must admit that I found the Interactive portion to be more engaging than Music. Don’t get me wrong, I fully enjoyed the opportunity to take in that much music, but day after night of consuming — be it others’ music or food, alcohol, caffeine, etc. — was not nearly as stimulating as the ideas that flowed prior. In fact, SXSWm began to feel like more of a job than an enjoyment. MUST. GO. SEE. BANDS. In the end, while I saw some amazing performances with some incredible peeps, I really just ended up missing my guitar.
Interactive, on the other hand, was truly wonderful. Not that every session was great, or that those 5 days weren’t overwhelming and tiresome in and of themselves. But on the whole, the tenor of Interactive felt much more broad and transformative. And my suspicions about a stronger community at Interactive turned out to be true. During Music, I never felt that I could turn to the stranger at my side and make an obscure comment or topical joke that would resonate. I met some great folks during the music portion, but what can I say? The geeks get community right.
I’ve heard the rumblings that this was the year that Interactive “jumped the shark,” but I found the quality of the sessions on the whole to be very high, and I came away with a lot to think about and much to inform my work. In the end, I’m a jaded musician, but not a jaded technologist. At least not yet. Perhaps when the bloom is of the digital rose I will feel the same way about Interactive that I did about Music. Until that time, thank you SXSW. I think you will be seeing me again.