SXSWeek in Review: Having the World in Your Backyard

By Katie Warner
The Austin Times Staff

SXSW means something different to everyone.  For some, it is a networking conference.  For others, it’s all about the film and the music.  For others, it’s a week-long party that involves getting into as many free parties and drinking all the booze your body can handle.  Since I graduated from college, I have referred to SXSW as “adult spring break.”

But really, what is it about SXSW that is so different from any other weekend in Austin?  I think it is because for eight crazy days, all eyes are on Austin.  Those who don’t come to Austin can tune in to Satellite Radio or MTV and vicariously live through the lucky ones that actually get the opportunity to enjoy the world in Austin’s backyard.

Looking back at SXSW 2010, I think of the different ways that I experienced the world by doing little more than leaving my home.  I think of the interactive panels, which talked about how technology has made the world a smaller place.  In particular, there were two panels that resonated with me.

One was a panel entitled “The Little NGO that Could”, which discussed how individuals could post their photos from humanitarian travels on the internet to help tell a story and fundraise upon returning home.  Another panel consisted of members of NASA, who talked about how they are working with social media to help educate people around the world about the space station and other space endeavors.

The minute I stepped outside the Austin Convention Center, I was met with the sounds, sights, and smells of the world, with a lanyard of credentials as my passport to grant me access.  I was able to start one morning with an Irish Breakfast at the “Music From Ireland” showcase, followed by sushi at the Meteor Records and Luck Media party at Kenichi, and a paella dinner at the “Sounds of Spain” showcase.

I spent an evening with rappers GLC and BunB at Aces Lounge freestyle showcase while they waited two hours to go on because of technical problems with the sound boards.  While checking my email at the blogger’s lounge, I got to strike up a conversation with the director of Código music, one of the largest Latin record labels.

Everywhere I turned I was met with people from all walks of life, with experiences and stories of where they were from and what brought them to SXSW.  Some were drawn to the lustrous Levis Fader Fort to hear acts such as Greek-Welsh singer/songwriter Marina Lambrini Diamandis from Mariana and the Diamonds.

Others were set on discovering new international sounds in more intimate settings, such as Dart Music International’s showcase at Mi Casa, which featured bands such as Intimate Stranger, comprised of members from Chile and a British-Croatian lead singer and guitarist.

For each person, the SXSW experience is unique. It may include spending time with old friends and making new ones, walking marathons in a two-mile radius until you find the free cab, or getting free late night Taco Bell at the Pure Volume House party.

From good conversations as you watch the sun come up, knowing that you can count on one hand how many hours until you need to wake up and do it all over again and discovering many new songs that will soon be on repeat on your iPod, to learning what the heck this “Twitter” stuff is and seeing a film that changes the way you look at life, SXSW is the opportunity to take part in something that many cities don’t get-to have the world in your backyard for one week each year. Whether you love it or loath it, that is what makes it SXSoWonderful!

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