sxsw in review: y'all go home now
Overall, SXSW was okay this year. It wasn't great, but it was fine, I guess. It's always fun to enjoy live music with your friends, and the atmosphere surrounding SXSW is like nothing else. I saw five great films, the best of which were Audience of One and Fall from Grace. At least two of the films, Election Day and The Devil Came on Horseback, will be great to use in classes if and when they get distributors.
The music lineup was disappointing this year. Usually there are dozens of bands I'm dying to see. This year, not so much. I'm not sure why that was. The best show I saw was Steve Earle, no question. I also enjoyed seeing the Watson Twins, Charlie Louvin, and the Pipettes. The most bizarre was that Japanese experimental post-punk band Yolz in the Sky.
And then there are the things you hear about too late to get to and will thus regret not having seen. (Not that I regret this, but PhSquared saw a band called Electric Apricot last night. Apparently it's a project that mocks jam bands - they have a song called "Hey, Are You Going to Burning Man?" How funny is that?!?).
Beyond missing bands, which is my fault, the growth of SXSW leads to a series of inevitable logistical difficulties that arise when you try to cram 20,000 people into a 10 square block area. Here are my gripes about SXSW 2007:
- Overcrowding. Every year, there are noticably more people trying to get into the showcases, and it's getting to be a bit of a mess. 20,000 participants seems to be beyond the point of critical mass.
- Bad volunteer staff. Volunteers should have a minimum level of training, and should understand that it is not their job to inform patrons that they won't be getting in. The staff at the Parish on Thursday night did a terrible job on this count and many others. Please, SXSW, train your volunteers better!
- Bad door management. People working the door should know what they're doing and be able to do it efficiently. Mohawk was the worst offender on this point, leaving a couple hundred fans outside on the street while the venue sat half empty.
- My church's terrible new parking policy. I am really upset about something I learned about on Thursday night, when an incredibly rude parking attendant informed me that unless I was going into the church, I would have to pay $10 to park there for two hours. My church is downtown, and as such, we have a contract with a parking company to sell access to our lot during the day and at night. When you join the church, you get a permit to park there. I've always used this as a selling point to my friends - free parking downtown is a great reason to join. Apparently, while I was gone last year, someone decided that church members should have to pay for parking at night when there's not a church activity going on. I think this is a terrible policy and would be interested to know whose idea it was and whether there was a non-financial justification for it.
- The impossibly cool people who think they're better than everyone else. Austin is such a laid-back city. You can go to some of the nicest restaurants in town in jeans and flip flops and no one will blink an eye. When all these outsiders show up and start acting like they should be treated differently because they're somebody, it throws off the live-and-let-live balance we love. Get out of here. And take your white three piece suit in the middle of the day and your four-inch platform heels with you.
Thus concludes Texas in Africa's coverage of SXSW 2007. Unless I can get my Steve Earle video to upload.