Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Midweek notes from SXSW

Today (Wednesday), the musicians arrive, SXSW Music gets under way and the real madness begins. In fact, the bands are already rolling up in their hundreds, stretching in the sun and wondering just who had the bright idea that they …

Wed, Mar 18, 2009, 03:35

   

Today (Wednesday), the musicians arrive, SXSW Music gets under way and the real madness begins. In fact, the bands are already rolling up in their hundreds, stretching in the sun and wondering just who had the bright idea that they should play 12 shows in three days.

The geeks, though, have left town. As gatherings go, SXSWi 2009 was one of the very best talking shops I’ve ever attended. There was smartness here to the power of a trillion, with fantastic brain-food, ideas, theories and notions at every turn.

What makes it such a valuable experience is that the panel ideas and themes are generated by the SXSWi community which makes it more of a conversation than a conference. There was also a wonderful feeling of positivity in the air – sure, ideas were crunched and robustly tested, but the overall vibe was can-do and not can’t-do. The fest’s rep – and a relatively cheap ticket price when compared to other tech chinwags – means audience numbers were way, way up.

One very interesting development this year was Platinum Track, a one-day session joining the dots between music, interactive and film. Really enjoyed the super-duper presentation on punk marketing from Richard Laermer (especially his views on “wimplash”), M Ward’s thoughts on a return to analog and Jeffrey Rosen talking to Google legal eagle Nicole Wong about Google’s gatekeeper role when it comes to online censorship. Tons of insights there.

I was also really glad I caught Chris Anderson’s keynote. The Long Tail and Free dude was quizzed by Guy Kawasaki about the whole nature of free and was more than able for questions on everything from how Twitter can make money to how the book industry is very like the music industry – same mis-aligned interests – and how it should start doing 360 deals with authors.

Prediction: there will be more people signed up for SXSWi than SXSW Music next year.

Hope: more and more Irish tech freaks will find their way to Austin, TX for this spring break exchange.

On the film front, The Hurt Locker, Kathryn “Point Break” Bigelow’s flick following the work of a US bomb squad in Iraq, was a fantastic, intense, high-wire thriller about men at war and what war does to men. Hugely recommended – the film which Generation Kill should have been.

I lasted about 20 minutes at Passing Strange, the new Spike Lee flick, mainly because it’s a musical and musicals, even musicals made by the man who made Do The Right Thing, are the spawn of Satan. Spike was sitting in the row across from me so I waved at him as I left. Sadly, he didn’t wave back.

Daily reports on the music to come, uhm, daily. Here’s one act I hope to see today somewhere along the road.

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