As a native Austinite, I’ve long bragged about my access to this city’s gold mine of live music, cold beer, and endless entertainment options. However, there comes a time in every person’s life when he has to lay down his sword and admit he’s been bested. South by Southwest, I’m no match for you alone. That’s why it’s important to band together and come up with a plan of action that’ll give everyone the best chance to hit this entertainment marathon head-on.
During the past several decades, the 10-day music, film and innovation festival has swelled to epic proportions, drawing thousands of people from every corner of the globe. Once again, it’ll act as the industry Mecca for bands, performers, directors, athletes, celebrities, scholars, and experts chasing opportunity. In the spirit of keeping Austin you-know-what and staying true to our roots of southern hospitality, here’s my best crack at setting the table for a SXSW experience that’s as engaging as it is diverse.
Interactive (March 11-15)
SXSW Interactive is all about getting up to speed on the cutting edge in technology, sociology, politics, culture, health, fitness and much more. Past speakers have included rappers (50 Cent, Ice Cube, P. Diddy), economists (Paul Krugman), and enemies of the state (Edward Snowden). This year’s panel discussions include:
Old Sports, New Life: Outdoor Culture in Cities
Friday, March 11 / 2:00PM-3:00PM / Four Seasons
Want to finally put all those flannels to use? Look no further. Old Sports takes a look at mainstream America’s renewed romance with Mother Nature and why outdoor activity is flourishing more than ever in cityscapes. Featuring speakers from a variety of new media outlets and wilderness retailers, this will be sure to challenge your traditional view of sports culture and give you a leg up on escaping the concrete jungle.
Do Great Athletes Have To Be Good People?
Saturday, March 12 / 3:30PM-4:30PM / Four Seasons Ballroom AB
Katie Nolan (Select Sports Group), Kevin Demoff (COO of the newly anointed Los Angeles Rams), and Erik Burkhardt (NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel’s agent) sit down and discuss how the new age of media and coverage of athletes’ off-the-field-actions has altered our expectations of our biggest sports stars. Or has it? This session should be especially juicy given recent news that Manziel—better known by the moniker ‘Johnny Football’ and for his wild partying—has become the latest NFL player involved in a domestic abuse incident.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ERICK DROST
SXgood Stories: Cities + Health
Tuesday, March 15 / 12:00PM-1:00PM / Palm Door on Sixth
Finally! An excuse to be on Sixth Street on a Tuesday. Listen in as academics and executive directors of several renowned philanthropic organizations explore the connection between public health and urban planning—a relevant issue given Austin is one of America’s fastest-growing cities. The main discussion topic will address how a city’s urban design affects the likelihood of obesity, addiction and other related conditions among its residents.
Film (March 11-20)
Less talking, more watching. Although Interactive’s speaker series and Music’s secret shows typically steal the spotlight during conversations among eager festival goers, SXSW’s film segment is actually its longest spanning—and for good reason. We know that Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some is premiering at the festival, so I’ll save you some time and introduce a few lesser-known flicks that may pique your interest:
A Stray (Narrative Feature)
Directed by Musa Syeed
Though national newscasts often mention Minneapolis’ large Somali refugee community, little has been done artistically to document it. A Stray opens up this world to mainstream audiences like never before during its journey with Adan, a young Somali man who is faced with the daily challenges of refugee life in the U.S. With familial, social, and religious issues swirling around him, Adan takes refuge in his newfound kinship with a stray dog as he tries to piece it all together.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SXSW
Don’t Think Twice (Dramatic Comedy)
Directed by Mike Birbiglia
Ever had that moment when you realize your friend’s just a little bit better than you at something? Now imagine if that something was your dream job. Follow along as Keegan-Michael Key (of Comedy Central’s Key and Peele) stars in this film about a floundering improv group that’s dealt a deathblow when it simultaneously loses its home theater and best troupe member.
Transpecos (Narrative Feature)
Directed by Greg Kwedar
Though we often forget it, Austin is only 225 miles from the Mexican border. See if you can keep up as Flores, Davis, and Hobbs—three Border Patrol agents manning a makeshift checkpoint in the middle of nowhere—embark on a journey into the darkest pits of the ongoing U.S.-Mexico border conflicts.
SXsports: Where Film and Interactive Meet in the Middle (March 11—13)
Interested in film AND interactive features? Say no more. This three-day, sport-centered segment features speaker series and film screenings from the likes of:
-NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
-UFC Fighter Ronda Rousey
-New York Giants Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
-The world premiere of Everybody Wants Some (mentioned above)
Music (March 15—20)
No offense to the Interactive and Film segments of the festival, but when you think of SXSW, you think of music. Seemingly every bar, restaurant and house in the downtown area is fair game for a concert—many of which aren’t announced until the days leading up to the festival, if not the day of. With free shows and secret headliners abounding, the biggest challenge here is deciding which concerts to go to. Here are a few up-and-comers you should keep an eye out for:
Loyle Carner (South London)
With a smooth, low-key delivery and a simple production style, Carner’s mellow approach to hip-hop allows him to seamlessly explore substantive topics similar to a young J. Cole.
Caveman (New York, NY)
Wednesday 3/16 @ The Sidewinder Outsider
Caveman is riding high after compiling Otero War, their most complex album since forming back in 2010. With a newfound blend of smooth indie pop and a more daring sound, they’ve far surpassed their previous flashy dance tunes and now boast legitimate staying power in the pop music scene.
The Wet Secrets (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
Saturday 3/19 @ Swan Dive
Horn section? Check. Conga drums? Check. Awesome marching band uniforms? CHECK. Draped in velvet and dripping with swagger, these bass-heavy disco rockers can turn any audience of shoe gazers into a dance party.