My SXSW buddy got sick and is heading back to Calgary. That was bad news as we'd been having a great time, but hope he's feeling better.
Luckily, James and I are both in to the same music and both have music passes. The Fader Fort party turned out to be a four day event that you needed to RSVP for. After standing in line for an hour to get wristbands we found out we were not on the list despite our expensive sxsw badges. Dejected, we headed to the Canadian BBQ and saw our first act (the entertaining Radio Radio) and at free food and drank free beer. It was there that we met our first local saviour of the day - Elisa. She told us 3 key things: - our badges get us to skip the line for 2 venues per day - check do512.com for local events & schedules - Fader Fort RSVPs get a 'plus 1' so just work the line to get in. James and I immediately got our skip the line passes for 2 venues so we could see an 11.00 show (One Time Only) and a 12.00 show (Spoon) back to back. That worked out well although I wasn't really happy with either performance. Spoon was a let down. After getting our priority tickets we went back to the Fader line. I met a great group of people that had an extra plus-1 so spent the hour in line with them. They were a blast. We stuck around Fader Fort to see a couple of acts. We Were Promised Jetpacks & Freelance Whales were quite good. Free Energy was also decent. They were giving out cassette tapes & many people were confused by them. James and I then met up with Scott so he could say his farewells before heading back to Fader Fort to catch the 'surprise act'. Turned out to be Nas and Damien Marley and they were fantasic. I also met up with one of the girls we were in line with and ended up hanging out with her for a bit. She has a marketing background but now does a ton of travel so we had a lot to talk about. We will be hanging out more today but she doesn't have a pass so will only be able to get in to events that are open to the public. Next year I think I'll skip the music pass because there is enough music you can catch for free. Another local lesson learned. Great news of the day is that Muse just got added to the lineup on the weekend and that MGMT is in town too - no event announced yet though.
Considering the busy first week, I've actually done a good job of pacing myself so far. I've hung out with a bunch of married guys for the most part, so aside from the obligatory trip to the peelers which may or may not include a hillbilly knife fight, the wildest it has gotten is sitting around a bar drinking heavily and discussing ubiquitous platforms every second night and recuperating and discussing twitter backchannels on the in-betweens. Although there were a somewhat surprising number of very attractive women at SXSWi (i = interactive), nobody else in the group was single or in to networking in general, so most of the people that I met in the evening festivities were associates of the people I was with. That was fine though, as I met a bunch of great people.
(A side note on the attractive women... I figured out later it is likely due to the rise in social media and the need for communications people in the online space - probably going to be your hot chick over the socially awkward uber-nerd) So Tuesday is considered an "off-day" as it is the last day of the Interactive conference and the film panels (although films from the film festival portion of SXSW will continue to be shown until Sat). Scott and I started out slowly, and had pretty much taken it easy the night before - we checked out the Microsoft/Carsonified party but left around midnight still fairly sober. We went to a couple of great panels - one on dashboard design and the other on Canvas (the JS/HTML5 library that may replace Flash). Both panels were applicable to Game Plan Systems and provided some valuable insights. Interesting that a guy from the Canvas panel was heavily promoting flot, a Canvas graph-plotting library (graphs being integral to dashboard design). Then we went to check out our first film - The People vs. George Lucas. If you are a Star Wars fan or fascinated with either nerdery or sub-culture dynamics then it is a great film. I like all three, so I found it to be highly enjoyable. So when we got out of the movie and it was still raining fairly heavily and most of the people with Interactive had left it seemed like it would be an early night. Today (Wednesday) the music kicks off with the Levi's party at Fader Fort, which we found out is one of the parties to go to... there is always a surprise guest and this year the rumors to fill that slot include Metric, MGMT, Gorillaz, and Black Eyed Peas. I was anticipating a night of rest and preparation. The evening took a somewhat surprising turn. First I should explain that our hotel is a decent ways from the action, so we have a shuttle service that takes us to, and from, our hotel. It's a massive pain in the ass, but the shuttle drivers are usually great so it's often a pleasant ride. Last night, after a nice steak dinner at the hotel, we got ready to head back downtown to meet up with some departing friends for a drink or two. Enter Robert Johnson - the extremely overtly gay shuttle driver. We were waiting for the shuttle with James, our new friend from Great Britain, and when the shuttle came rushing in to the hotel with 4 excited honks of the horn James' face immediately dropped. "Oh fuck", he says. Turns out that Robert Johnson had taken a liking to our young skinny friend on a previous trip. Robert jumped out of the shuttle and immediately latches on to James - "Hey honey!". Scott and I immediately hopped in to the back seat so James would have to sit up front - which he did with dread. Then a group of about 6 women came in to the cab and the energy level picked up. The girls loved Robert and totally egged him on. With Give Me Your Love by Mariah Carey blaring in the background, Robert proclaimed "Keep your hands off the boys bitches they're mine!" - and we were on our way downtown. The 10 minute shuttle ride set the tone for the evening. Everything that came out of Robert's mouth was highly offensive and punctuated with "Bitches!", pretty hilarious stuff. We ended up going to a Media Temple party for the closing of the interactive conference. I use MT for the Calgary Film Festival web site so was happy to drink their free beverages. They also had a great lineup of bands, the headliner was We Are Scientists (one of the bands I am currently enjoying and on my list of bands to see here). A friend of mine from Calgary, Mikael, was about to take off but We Are Scientists was great so he decided to stick around. Their music was really good, but they had a really good stage presence and were highly entertaining. The bass player (who was talented at his craft) was also somewhat of a comedian, and the lead singer seemed to find him particularly hilarious. The banter between songs was probably the best part of the show, and I managed to catch the last exchange of the evening - not their best bit, but you get the idea. Video above. After the set, we left the bar. Mikael was extremely drunk but flying home in the early morning so went back to the hotel, and Scott had previously left so I ended up hanging out with this Australian girl I met while leaving the bar. She was a social media expert starting her travels the US for 3-4 months. She is going to San Francisco after SXSW and is basically starting what I just finished with NY/Spain, I am jealous. Anyways - we ended up bar hopping along the Austin strip... a lot different experience than hanging out with a bunch of married dudes. Was a fun night and a great kick-off to the music festival. I think it will be substantially different than the interactive portion of the festival. Now that my hangover has subsided I must get myself to the Fader Fort party and get my St. Patrick's Day on.
Waiting for some friends to show up in Austin. It's 10.30am but a beautiful day already, so I'm going to go sit by the pool. I'll be here for 11 more days and then back in Calgary for at least a couple of months.
As previously mentioned, I had a great meeting for Game Plan Systems on Tuesday. I was also able to stop in and chat with my client the Calgary International Film Festival. Aside from those 2 projects, I'm not too sure how much I want to get back involved with web marketing. It's not that I don't love the industry, but the hard part is that from a service provider standpoint it is a real grind. Sites like Clients from Hell illustrate the lack of respect for people in our industry. We don't sell anything tangible - we sell ideas, pretty pictures and lines of code - and I can understand where clients are coming from when dealing with us. I'm as guilty as anyone - when dealing with contractors I am bound by the limits of my budget and although I always try to be as fair as possible, often it is hard to justify paying as much as is asked for when there is such a variance in the outcome. So my number one goal is still to make Game Plan's hockey training and coaching software successful. Over the next couple of months there is a lot I can do in Calgary to continue towards that objective. Beyond that, I'm wondering about the best place for me to be. New York was light years ahead of Calgary in fostering web entrepreneurship and my understanding is that San Francisco is even better. However, this is not possible due to visa restrictions - I will need some other work until Game Plan is self-sufficient and I can't do that in the US without a visa. Toronto has a hotter hockey market and is on the East coast (which makes it closer to the important markets of NY, Boston and Montreal). Vancouver has a hotter interactive market than Calgary and is closer to Seattle and SF. Calgary has been home for a long time and it is a good hockey market and there is promise on the interactive front but I also have this Mashable article about the time-honored location, location, location in the back of my mind. So now I'm going to put that in my brain-hole, take my orange book and sit by the pool for 3 hours. Sunburns await.
After a whirlwind day in Calgary yesterday, meeting up with several friends, some pho at Co Do, a productive meeting for Game Plan, sliders at Loungeburger, and a chance to do some laundry and drop off 2 of my big suitcases - I didn't end up getting much sleep last night. Which matched my lack of sleep the night before in Toronto. And the night before in Brooklyn.
I'm now sitting in Austin, without my luggage (which didn't make the connection) and an inability to take out my contacts which are really bugging me. I'm exhausted but also pretty pumped about SXSW and trying to figure out what I'll do the first few days. I came across the video above and now am really having trouble getting to sleep.
My last 5 Fridays were spent in the following cities: NYC; AGP; GRX; CDZ; BCN My next 5 Fridays will (likely) be spent in the following: AGP; NYC; AUS; AUS; YYCI have yet to book the flight home from Austin. There's only one thing I have to discuss with someone which could derail an early trip home, but now that my mind is set on it, I am looking forward to having a Keith's at BTF, being in town for the playoffs & playoff pools, Phil's on Sundays, pho, having a place to go to work, and obviously seeing friends & family. Aside from the above, what I really want is to be going back to NY. I'll have to figure out how to make that happen on a more permanent basis. Maybe in a year or two or five.