SXSW Recap: Highlights, Lowlight and Gaylights of 10 Days in Austin
By Rae Votta
Rae Votta decamped from New York to Austin to take in 10 days of the South By Southwest Interactive, Film and Music Festival.'She scoured the city for the best, the worst, and the gayest Austin had to offer.'Here are her findings:
Best Celebrity Sighting: Over the past few years SXSW has become a hotbed for celebrities and they're always lurking.'At the CNN Grill I saw the top of Conan O'Brien's head as he headed out to the premiere of his movie, and John Oliver was back by the bathrooms emptying his pockets for some kind of photo opp.'Last year Billy Murray seemed to show up everywhere, but this time he was nowhere to be found.'However, the best sighting of the 10 days took place at the FunnyorDie/Tumblr party.'We had shuttled out to a non-downtown bowling alley and bar to schmooze with Internet elite during Interactive week and were just about to head back to the city when a mass text came through our phones -- "Don Draper is here!"'Immediately we began our search for the amazing Jon Hamm, and as my two companions loudly proclaimed "LET'S GO STALK DON DRAPER" I saw Hamm coming straight at us within hearing distance. I did the first thing I could think of -- scream "NO!" in his general direction.' He stopped right next to us to casually chat with a friend and I scurried away, face down.' Not exactly the impression I'd hoped to leave on Mr. Draper.' I'll never get a job in advertising now.
Best After-Hours Hangout: - A dear friend of mine was a sponsored blogger for HP Printers and was being housed in a pop-up trailer park right by the convention center.' By day it was the ideal place for Frisbee and free snacks, but after hours you had to know someone in the park to get inside.' When bars started closing down at 2 am, this New Yorker still had at least 2 hours of party left in her and so we went to the trailer park for late night chats and bocce ball sessions.'We ended up playing a game right next to Michal Cera (my second choice for best celebrity sighting), whose band, Mr. Heavenly, was also staying in the trailer park.'Despite talking to all the members at various points, I never got a chance to see them perform. (An honorable mention goes to the secret loft party I attended Friday night, but I can't tell you more or it won't remain a secret.)
Event I Was Most Sad To Miss: This one is a definite toss-up.'I went by the AXE Chop Shop set up during StyleX, the fashion compontent of SXSW this year, to hang out with one of my favortie breaking bands, Neon Trees.'Unfortunately, schedules were muddled and I didn't get to see them then, or at their show later that evening thanks to more scheduling conflicts.'The band is touring with My Chemical Romance this spring and that promises to be a more explosive show than anything SXSW can pull off, so I'm not too heartbroken.'My other big miss of the weekend was Panic! At The Disco's only set at Stubb's on Saturday night.'Guestlist confusion left me out on the street instead of inside hoping for them to debut some more new tracks from their just-released Vices and Virtures, which has been on repeat in my iTunes all week.'But this is SXSW, even the best laid plans are thwarted and you miss more than you actually see in the constant schedule-shuffle and group coordination.
Best Free Drink: The staple of SXSW is free booze. Every event you go to has some sort of open bar, some better than others.'This year I drank way too many blue lemonade concoctions; I'm afraid my tongue is still discolored even a week later.'My favorite free drink situation was a tie between the Gizmodo party, where I could order top shelf dirty martinis while sitting on a rooftop, or the specialty drink at CNN Grill that was a play on my favorite home drink -- white cranberry vodka and St. Germaine.'As you can guess, I like to keep it classy at SXSW.