Last week, at the very last minute, I booked a flight to Austin for a 24-hour whirlwind trip to SXSW, the annual music, film and interactive conference. One of my client's, Dr. Martens, was co-hosting a music event there with Filter, and since I've always wanted to go, figured this was as good a time as any.
Because I work in advertising, SXSW has become a cliché, a boondoggle, a badge of honor (literally, as an actual SXSW badge will set you or your company back between $650 and $1,595.) It's an excuse to ditch work to attend social media panels and wait in long lines to listen to bands you've never heard of. It had "Jumped the Shark", or as I'd read numerous times, was so crowded and hyper-commercialized it had become "Burning Man for hipsters with jobs." If this was all true, I needed to find out for myself.
I divide my short, unruly hair into ten tiny ponytails, which can withstand the rigors of travel while keeping its cool. Lacing up my spiked 1460 Docs in the dark, I feel that same "getting ready for a show" rush of excitement from long-ago yet familiar nights of the 80s and 90s, even though it's 6:30 in the morning and my back hurts. My husband sleepily says "bye" to "his rocker chick." More like his "off her rocker" chick in reading glasses, who is about to fly to Texas for 14 hours to hear 8 bands with no idea of where I'd sleep, or if I would sleep at all.
I certainly wouldn't get sleep on the plane out: a small commuter the likes that terrify me, so easily tossed around in the sky. I forget my fear when the lone flight attendant tells me I look like Bjork. He motions up with his eyes -- oh right, my hair, the ten tiny pony tails -- and I smile. I bet he says that to all the middle-aged girls.
I land in one piece. After listening to some bands at the Dr. Martens/Filter event, I head over to 6th Street, the main drag and home to most music venues. I am overwhelmed by the brew of corporate branding, barbeque and beats. The heat makes me weary.
I seek refuge in the convention center to check-out the "Flatstock" display of works from the world's top gig poster artists. It was awesome. And much more my speed. That speed being slow.
In the end, after more music (including an epic set by !!! - that is not a typo) I hitch a ride to crash on the couch of my client's rental to snag a few hours of sleep before I head home.
Had SXSW Jumped the Shark? Did I care? I can tell you this: next year, I'm going to do it proper by booking well ahead of time and to catch some of the many films, venues and presentations that I know I would love.
Screw the fact that I'm easily twice as old as most revelers on 6th street. I've rocked hard, and will continue to rock hard. Bjork hair, boots and all.
1: Safety Pin earrings, Tom Binns, Shopbop.com. 2: Marabou feather clutch, AnnTaylor.com. 3: Acne Zone Music shirt, Farfetch.com. 4: Bjorg brush ring, Hlorenzo.com. 5: Topshop Jamie Moto black jeans, Nordstrom.com. 6: Dr. Martens spike books, Dr. Martens.com.