Music Bitches!

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.

SXSW So Far: A Blur

I've been here since the 10th, the conference started on the 12th and it is not 5pm on the 15th. I don't have much time to write this because I need to meet someone in 10 minutes, but I just finished deleting a full blog entry because I realized that I was listing things off completely out of order.

There are so many web sites and panel discussions just focused on "your first" SXSW and I can see why. The entire event is a blur & I'm only half way through (although the music part should be a lot easier to navigate).

The panels are pretty straightforward. The biggest thing is deciding which one to go to in each time slot. There are easily 20-30 seminars that you can go to each slot (every 1.5 hrs) and often you get stuck in something that seems great on paper but is a huge disappointment, and then you get out and hear that the seminar down the hall was fantastic. We stood in line to see Quentin Tarantino speak, and never got in, and there are similar missed opportunities to see a hero speak. But I also got to see some interactive 'gurus' speak... Evan Williams, Gary Vaynerchuk and John Gruber among them. The best speaker I've seen so far has been Clay Shirkey, who I might post about separately when I have some time. I also went to a great discussion about the psychology of design. I might post about that too.

Ubiquitous, community management, location, and augmented reality are the buzzwords.

I've met & hung out with founding members of some great companies (some are even local), and it is amazing how down to earth these people are.

We've gone to 1 party and avoided the dozens of others due to hour-long lineups... but we've been drinking and eating and enjoying sunny patios and crazy nightlife basically non-stop. I haven't seen a single film yet, so have to get on that.

In Austin, waiting for luggage

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.

Busy Day

Holy shit, what a crazy day. It's funny how sometimes things just fall in to place. Yesterday I was faced with coming back to Calgary this week to take care of some things at home (thereby missing Brooklyn) OR staying in Brooklyn and missing out on the things in Calgary I needed to take care of.

Luckily this morning, one of the things finalized itself.

Almost immediately afterwards I got some follow-ups in both Calgary and NY and all of the timing was able to line up nicely. So now I'm going to do both. I leave tomorrow and will be in NY from the 2nd to the 8th. Calgary on the 9th for a meeting and to drop off all the luggage I've been dragging around with me, and then on to Austin on the 10th for SXSW. The festival doesn't kick off until the 12th, so I will have a couple of days to unwind luckily.

I have a crazy travel schedule in front of me and so much work to do, but I have a ton of focus right now and am really excited. I'll definitely be feeling like George Clooney's character in Up in the Air by the end of the trip.

I'm busy...

No updates for a couple of days. Mostly because I've been working. The weather has been unbelievable in Malaga the last 2 days, but I need to get ready to come home and get ahead of the game a bit with 2 weeks in Austin for SXSW.

So just for the sake of posting something, here's my work setup at my place in Malaga (including views from out the window and on the balcony).

Yet another rainy day in Spain

I'm getting lots of work done the last few days, but I'm also getting a bit antsy. I wouldn't mind getting a chance to check out Barcelona, Morocco and Madrid. I've been looking at the 7-day forecasts around Europe and it's not good anywhere. The only place remotely close that is experiencing good weather right now is Egypt, but flights in to Cairo on short notice are in the $2,000 range - so that's a non-starter.

I had a bit of a brainwave, which was to change my return flight and come back to NY a week early. I've already considered scratching a return to NY out of my plans after checking out SXSW, and instead hitting up San Francisco and then possibly Maui. If I did that, then I would miss out on a couple of things on my to-do list for a return to NY. Namely:

  • having a caesar-making contest with some friends I met on the last night I was in NY.
  • a couple of follow ups with some contacts I made there
  • getting my luggage & selling my bed
  • going to see a couple more bands
  • go to a few more events where I can meet advertising and online marketing folks

As you can see from the above, these are high-priority activities. My biggest consideration is cost. I would be saving on my place in Spain, as I'm sure I'd get some money back on the place - however it will cost me about $260 to change my flight and I will likely need to stay in a hotel in NYC. Accommodations in NYC won't be cheap, but I think that I may want to try finding a place in Brooklyn for a change of pace. It will be way cheaper, plus any time I made it over to Brooklyn it was a great experience.

As I'm somewhat (or completely) impulsive, I suspect that the decision on this could be made as soon as tonight. This will likely mean sacrificing Morocco and/or Madrid - but I think that I'm okay with that. I can save it for another trip & come back with a friend.

Considering another festival

I'm adding speakers, films and bands to "My Schedule" on SXSW's website. I'm starting to get in to a good work mode and the exercise is partially to prepare for the interactive portion of the festival, but mostly it is helping me with the IA work I am starting for the 2010 Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF). On that note, there are a lot of things that I think that SXSW can improve on in their user experience. Much of their site is fragmented, with no real consistency between the film, interactive and music portions of the site - and it is really unclear as to how a newcomer should approach the festival.

Usability for "logged in" users (essentially: customers) was one of the biggest complaints for CIFF last year. This was something we recognized going in to the festival, and was something we couldn't help with limited resources. With that said, it is going to be a major focus for this year's festival, and we are already underway with our first component for the 2010 festival. This is by far the earliest we have ever started work on the film festival and we're hoping to make major strides this year! There are some great lessons to be learned for interacting with the SXSW site, and I'm sure I will learn even more at the event itself.

Now... with that out of the way, I can say that adding some of the bands to my schedule has really whet my appetite for more live music. In a quick first pass I've added the following:

Andrew W.K., The Antlers, Asylum Street Spankers, Attack! Attack!, Band of Skulls, Barcelona, Bear In Heaven, The Beatards, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Bowerbirds, Billy Bragg, Brasstronaut, Broken Social Scene, Caspian, Computer Club, Deer Tick, Dirty Little Rabbits, Drive-By Truckers, The Drums, Gay Witch Abortion, Geeks, Hole, Holy Fuck, Hot Panda, Japandroids, jj, Kittens Ablaze, Corb Lund, Neon Trees, Oh No Ono, The Raveonettes, The Rural Alberta Advantage, She & Him, Spoon, Stars of Track and Field, Surfer Blood, Ten Bears, This Will Destroy You, Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!, The Uglysuit, We Are Scientists, Woodhands

It's a pretty decent list, I think. It features a couple of bands I've seen (BSS, The Drums, Corb Lund, Surfer Blood), some AB connections (Woodhands, RAA, Corb Lund), some favs (BRMC, Bowerbirds, Spoon, She & Him, AWK, Band of Skulls), and some new bands I wanted to see in NY but missed out on (Antlers, Uglysuit, Oh No Ono, Bear in Heaven).

With that said, I've had my eye on Coachella ever since its lineup was released. I REALLY want to go, and it kind of fits in to my schedule. I should be ending my stay in San Fran by that time and on my way back to NY. The tickets are still on early-bird pricing and the lineup is UNREAL!! However, this is something that I don't want to hit alone. I've mentioned it to a couple of people and there is still some decision making going on. I'm wondering if I should just get a pair of passes now and sell them if I can't find someone(s) to go with me.

This trip has taught me that there are things that are way better to experience when you're on your own (as a matter of perspective, reflection or not having to compromise). And then there are things that would be way better if you had someone to share it with. Coachella would definitely fit in to the latter.

I've also been thinking about Sasquatch (May) or Bonaroo (June), but those will both be happening when I'm back in Calgary, so are less likely to happen. Maybe Sasquatch because it's within driving distance.