Flashback to March 2020: SXSW was abruptly cancelled just a few days before the conference was scheduled to begin. This was our first indication that the COVID-19 pandemic was a serious problem. Like most people, Bill and I had no idea how much our lives would change in the coming year.
Fast-forward to March 2021: Austin’s Stage 4 restrictions prohibited large gatherings, so SXSW pivoted to a five-day online event. Bill and I had deferred our 2020 passes to 2022, allowing us to attend this year, too. The online format had some advantages: less exhausting; no long lines; fewer decisions to make; watch on demand (mostly); pause and rewind capabilities. We also liked watching the movies from home. SXSW Film had an excellent selection of documentaries this year.
It’s time to write a little more about South by Southwest 2019 now that I’ve recovered. This year’s conference was unusual because the dates did not line up with spring break week for the University of Texas. (Most local schools also follow the UT calendar.) As a result, I heard there was a shortage of SXSW volunteers and that Austin traffic was terrible. I don’t know the official SXSW attendance numbers, but the music venues were definitely less crowded.
Saturday was my last day at SXSW 2019. Bill and I started our morning with cinnamon rolls from Upper Crust Bakery, thoughtfully delivered to downtown Royal Blue Grocery stores. (Yes, this treat alone can make for a Happy SXSW.) On Saturday, I watched one more excellent documentary, visited the Flatstock poster show, and fit in as much music as possible. A few SXSW events continue into Sunday, such as Gaming and the Music Closing Party. Bill always goes to the Sunday BBQ and softball tournament, but nine days of SXSW are enough for me!
Temperatures were cooler on Friday, so I tried to stay indoors as much as possible. In the morning, I saw an excellent documentary, The River and the Wall, at The Paramount. I stayed at the Austin Convention Center in the afternoon, visiting the Day Stages and SXSW Gaming. My low-key evening was spent listening to featured Yamaha guitarists at Central Presbyterian.
Bill and I officially shifted to SXSW Music time on Thursday: late nights accompanied by sleeping in the next morning. I saw one movie (another documentary), enjoyed yet-another tasty, free lunch, and listened to some great musicians.
Goodbye, SXSW Interactive. Hello, SXSW Music. No Film for me today. Instead, I listened a talk by David Byrne, enjoyed an outdoor lunch on a sunny spring day, visited some of recently-turned-over venues on Rainey Street, and heard lots of great music.
My Monday SXSW schedule included three movies, numerous pop-up venues, and several hours at the Trade Show. The weather was cooler (low 60s) and cloudy. I felt a little guilty for attending just one Interactive session, but three movies consume lots of hours!
Today’s sessions all started later due to the overnight DST time change. I saw two excellent movies—which take up more time, of course—so I only attended two Interactive sessions and took a quick look at the Trade Show. I’ll spend more time there tomorrow.