Wish I was in Austin: SXSW Coverage

March 13, 2009

Ed. Note: We're super jealous of new blog contributor Matthew Wettergreen- he's attending not one, but two of the SXSW conferences starting today in Austin, TX. He'll be spreading feelings of jealousy throughout offices in Chicago via blog updates and live-tweeting @WBEZLive for the duration of the Interactive and Music Festivals. Blog readers, say hello to Matthew: Hello, my name is Matthew Wettergreen; I'm from Chicago but currently live in Houston, TX. I'm attending SXSWi as a panelist for "Regional Whuffie Building: Attracting Innovation to Your City" The panelists are made up of community strategists and will take their experience from the coworking spaces they run‚  to provide expert advice on building community and creating a spirit of entrepreneurship. There are also several programs during SXSWi and SXSWm I'm helping to run that showcase Houston talent in music, film and interactive. SXSW can be broken down into two equal parts, the Film/Interactive and the Music portion. SXSW Film is still finding its footing but the Interactive (SXSWi) portion is thriving without being the bloated mess that SXSW Music (SXSWm) has become. For those attending the SXSWi portion of the conference, it's the best play date ever. After spending the year forming virtual relationships, SXSW cements those friendships. No matter their level of internet-famous, everyone is approachable and as excited as you are. The parties at SXSWi are night-only geek affairs, centered around Rock Band or drinks during karaoke. Interaction and learning is paramount at SXSWi, it's not about what you know or who you know but whether you are open to learning and sharing. Click through for more on what happens once the rockers show up for SXSW Music and more... Around Tuesday night, a sea change falls over Austin, when the tech set leaves and the music communities descend. The dress code goes from crisp tech shirts to threadbare band shirts, the jeans get dangerously skinny, the hair oily. Sneers replace smiles and the openness is shed for a holier than thou attitude. Day parties prevail over the programming with exclusive and private parties being hosted by Red Bull, Fader and other hipster companies. The necessity of an actual badge is debatable as many bands have shifted their focus to playing multiple times at the free or list-only day parties. SXSWm is about knowing and getting into the coolest parties, the private invites, the secret shows. It can be exhausting if you try and play along unprepared. Regardless of your interest, SXSW generates a wealth of content around itself and afterwards. SXSWi attendees return with new ideas, new perspectives and a zest for getting new products out to market. Look for recaps to include a short-list of hot tech trends and sites for 2009 and discussion of what will fade out.‚  Early adopters should use this as a crib sheet for new services to try out. Chicagoans should particularly pay attention to the Interactive portion because of the vibrant Chicago tech community including 37 Signals, Crowdspring, Threadless, Naymz, Razorfish, Songza as well as representatives from Mashable, Ars Technica, Ready Made Magazine and others. For the Chicago crowd though, the majority of SXSW attendees are there for music. Billions, Empty Bottle, Schuba's, Pitchfork, Touch and Go, Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago, The Hideout, Sound Opinions' Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot and others all are there to take the work out of discovering new bands and bringing them back to the city. SXSWm recaps will include pictures and video from shows as well as reports of buzz bands and performance reviews. Look for these tastemakers to prepare a to-do list for bands to listen to in 2009. Over the next ten days, I'll be covering the Interactive and the Music portion of SXSW for WBEZ. This coverage will include recaps of important panels and keynotes and juicy tech gossip from the night parties. During the music portion, you'll hear about the coolest parties and bands to listen to. Personally I'm looking to learn new ways to engage communities and enact societal change using a combination of online and offline methods so a portion of the recaps will include discussion of coworking, civic engagement and community building strategy. You can read the SXSW coverage here on the WBEZ blog, live via the WBEZ live account (@WBEZlive) and via my twitter account (@organ_printer) and personal blog.
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