here’s been quite the buzz that SXSW would be scaling down this year, as the city limits permits for both official and unofficial events. No Samsumg concert series, no Hype Hotel, and significantly downsized events hosted by Fader and Spotify compared to previous years. However, you would NEVER know that by the bustling crowds and long lines in and around the epicenter of SXSW (Austin Convention Center: ACC).
Of course, I started my day off by avoiding long lines and heading for an alternative badge pickup line at the Parmer Event Center, just outside downtown about 1 mile from ACC. Badge and backpack in hand, I headed into the thick of SXSW….
First stop was the Keynote Address by Senator Corey Booker. I’ve followed Corey since he first became mayor of Newark and his legendary stories of saving a citizen from a burning building and being on the ground himself knocking on doors, driving and evacuating residents himself during Hurricane Sandy. For me, this was really an audition for Corey on he measure’s up being a figurehead, because, let’s face it, he’s GOING to run for president at some point!
That said, he performed amazing! His opening remarks (about 30-45 minutes) were geared towards inspiration and a call of action to service and political activism in general, whatever your cause/belief may be. He ended it with a touching personal story about his mentor and their last words together before he passed. Some notable quotes (not verbatim) from the speech:
“What you see out in the world is a reflection of what you see in yourself.”
“Strive for Service not Celebrity, Purpose not Popularity.”
“Don’t tell me about your religion, show me how you treat people because of your religion.”
After his opening speech, he brought Malika Saada Sarr, a google executive and human rights lawyer. They had an engaging fireside chat, even taking questions from the audience, on topics from deregulation of drones, the incarceration of minorities and women, and why he so vehemently opposed Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. All in all, great session; top marks all around. I will continue to keep my eye on Corey Booker and his future in the US.
Next up, I met up with members of Austin’s domination team (#domteam), a group of young, veteran SXSW attendees from all walks of life. Some are SXSW staff, volunteers, employees of companies sponsoring SXSW events, artists, speakers, event hosts, and just plain attendees, some with badges, some wristbands, some nothing at all.
I first met the domination team at National Geographic’s event at Vulcan Gas Company. NatGeo was hosting panels, speakers, VR demos of their shows, and an open bar of drinks crafted/named after Natgeo featured shows (Mars, Startalk, etc.). Pretty good event, laid back, and easy to talk/network.
Next up, hit Spectrum Reach, formerly known as TimeWarner cable. The venue, Red Room, was difficult to find and was actually a lower level basement venue. We had to wait an hour for any food/drink/activities other than sparkling flavored water and had to endure the occasional abnoxious comments from the drunk host, who was feeling himself a bit much. However, was 5pm hit a Tequila and Vodka bar rolled out and tapas tray carrying waiters started circling the building. I stuck around as the domination team used the location to begin gathering their numbers from across the festival. I finally left the event and journeyed to Cedar Street, where the Hooch app was putting on a show with Ja Rule.
Entry was free if you downloaded the app and it also came with a single drink ticket. The domination team congregated here for a time, but it was only 8pm and everyone was positive Ja Rule wouldn’t come on until 11pm at the earliest (these veterans know the SXSW game). The domination team split up from the Hooch event, getting stamped for re-entry on their way out, and hit several other parties/events to pass the time, before returning back to the Hooch event around 11pm.
Ja Rule ended up not gracing the stage until a very late 12:30am. However, he easily work the crowd back up with his long string of pop hiphop songs. It was the perfect event to get the crowd energy going, as every single female in the house was happy to sing Ashanti’s or Jlo’s hooks when they came on, and any time the entire crowd is singing, that’s big performance points earned! Ja Rule left the stage around 1:30am.
The Domination Team parted ways with each other, though a few did hit some after hours events, but nothing noteworthy other than continued drinking at open bars.