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Wrap up: South By Superlatives

By Lee Moran / Managing Editor / @leetxs

For all the complaining I did about how slim my options were, I actually got the chance to see quite a few bands this week, including two of the massive SXSW headliners. Here are the groups I saw, in approximately the order I saw them:

  • Twin Falls
  • Diego Garcia
  • Mike Scott
  • Diamond Rings
  • The Enemy
  • The Sheepdogs
  • Fitz and the Tantrums
  • City and Colour
  • Tegan and Sara
  • Divine Fits
  • Jim James
  • The Flaming Lips
  • Foxes
  • Kerli
  • Angel Haze
  • Stooshe
  • Charli XCX
  • Capital Cities
  • Wynter Gordon
  • Lissie
  • Paloma Faith
  • Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
  • Brooke Candy
  • Fall Out Boy

I had never even heard of a vast majority of these prior to the day I saw them, and there were a lot of surprises. But like always, I had my opinions, and here they are.

Hope Springs Eternal: Twin Falls

The decision to go to a church for a live music showcase during SXSW was one borne from desperation and frustration, not any particular desire to see the groups playing there. But at the peak of our under-21 rage, we happened to walk into the beginning of Twin Falls’ set and recognized their singer as Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional. Suzie Zeldin, their mandolinist and backing vocalist, was nice enough to sit down on stage with me for an interview afterward, which strongly re-energized our hopes for SXSW. I’ll be writing a full story on them in this week’s issue.

Most Pleasant Surprise: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and trumpet guy

I am the epitome of square classic rock white guy. Most hip-hop actively repulses me, and though I enjoyed Thrift Shop for its catchiness and comedic value, prior to Perez Hilton’s One Night in Austin showcase I had written off Macklemore as a gimmicky one-hit wonder I was obligated to watch just to say I did. But then he made his entrance. He and Ryan Lewis are extremely coordinated onstage, and their guy with the trumpet made the whole show, following Macklemore around with a crash cymbal and ripping on the trumpet at will. The performance was upbeat but emotionally charged, rotating in a new guest singer for every song. Will I buy more Macklemore music? Probably not. But I enjoyed the hell out of his show. And he threw a rag at me.

Runner-up: The Sheepdogs

I didn’t know what to expect from what appeared to be an entire band of Jesus impersonators, but I liked it. These guys are keeping classic rock alive.

Biggest disappointment: The Flaming Lips

Austin the photo guy declared me dead to him after my last blog post, but I really can’t reiterate strongly enough how incredibly bland the Flaming Lips were at Auditorium Shores. Maybe it was the hype that did them in for me. Maybe they were just having a bad night. I hope so. Jim James was cool though.

Best visual effects: Tegan and Sara

For the entire Express Rocks showcase, two giant gray cubes hung above the stage. What I thought was just an odd decoration choice became the centerpiece of Tegan and Sara’s lightshow. They had those cubes glowing, spinning, and pulsing with light the entire time. It was awesome, and didn’t overpower the band the way The Flaming Lips’ over-the-top effects did.

Best Guitar Solo: Eric Sullivan of Lissie

The bluesy finisher to Lissie’s set was lengthy, tightly integrated with the rest of the music, and had just enough improv sprinkled in to keep it fresh. Delicious.

Worst overall: Brooke Candy

What the hell, Perez Hilton? This waste of everyone’s time took up a twenty-minute window between Macklemore and Fall Out Boy. Obviously any set wedged between names like that is going to have a hard time, but this was literally just a stripper shouting vulgarities at people.

Best overall: Fall Out Boy

This is not lip service to my inner ninth grader. His musical tastes are not  too far removed from my current ones, and he wasn’t freaking out about seeing Fall Out Boy from the front row - though Taylor’s was, loudly. No, Fall Out Boy occasionally pops up on my Pandora stations, but I wouldn’t have called myself a fan before this show. I do now. I got my hopes up when I saw the roadies setting up cordless guitars, and the band took full advantage, spinning around and running on stage and interacting with each other and putting on a show. There was a definite feeling of reunion in it, which lent another layer of showmanship to the set. They only had time for five songs, which meant they had to play only their most popular tunes, which meant they only played the songs I had heard before, then stopped. Fine by me. They owned it.

I still wish I had gotten an Interactive pass, but that wouldn’t have gotten me front-row spots for Fall Out Boy, Macklemore, the Sheepdogs, or any of the other nice surprises SXSW Music had. Everything worked out, and I’m exhausted but pleased with the experience, at least at the end.

Filed under sxsw music

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A show not even a (plastic) baby could save

By Lee Moran / Managing Editor / @leetxs

SXSW is coming to a close, and the big names have begun to emerge. Headlining a free show at Auditorium Shores last night was The Flaming Lips, after opening sets from Divine Fits and Jim James.

I’ve heard a lot about the Flaming Lips. Austin the photo editor is something of a Flaming Lips connoisseur, having chased them down to all 8 of their record-breaking shows in the space of 24 hours last summer. I know they’re known for their shows, and my expectations were high, as were those of the thousands of others who showed up to watch.

I was disappointed.

Wayne Coyne, their bearded frontman, fumbled with a pile of tubing hooked up to himself and a plastic baby strapped to his chest for nearly five minutes before actually playing anything, ruining whatever illusion or mystery he was going for with it. He was honest, pointing out “I have too much shit” as he set up his gratuitously bizarre set. Unfortunately that ended up being more honest than he intended.

This particular show was an exhibition of their upcoming album, The Terror, which evidently consists entirely of unintelligible crooning over slow synthesizer chords. Most disappointing was the fact that not a single member of the band ever moved during the show. Not once. If not for the flashing blue and red light show going on on top of the band, the entire set would have had less stage presence than a pit orchestra at a musical. The mesh behind Coyne with the psychedelic eyeball imagery projected on it was cool, sure, but it lent nothing to the music and proved to be just a gimmick.

I can appreciate stage effects; I’ve seen Van Halen and Iron Maiden twice each, and both use lasers, pyrotechnics, and strobe lights to their full effect, as well as, in Maiden’s case, giant animatronic zombie robots. But these bands both do things on stage other than stand there and play their instruments. There was zero energy in the Flaming Lips’ performance, and even the strobe lights began to feel lazy after a while. The whole show was incredibly full of itself, as if strapping a plastic baby to a singer was the most deeply artistic thing possible and any further effort put into the performance would be superfluous.

Was it a bad show? I don’t know. The band held it together fine, and there were no obvious musical screwups. But it wasn’t entertaining. Crowd reaction was mixed, and from what I’m reading online I’m not the only press blogger who feels this way. I don’t know if the record crowd at Auditorium Shores got what they came for, but they most certainly got what they paid for. 

Filed under sxsw flaming lips

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Keynote: Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal

The closing keynote speaker at South By Southwest Interactive described his talk as one about “comics, creativity, crowdfunding and poop jokes.”

I’d say that was a pretty accurate description. Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, had a packed room at the Austin Convention Center laughing throughout his keynote address. Inman has used The Oatmeal as a platform for observing the evolution of words like “douchebag” in today’s vernacular and explaining how your cat may be plotting to kill you. Inman also headed two successful crowdfunding campaigns in 2012, one of which turned a nuisance lawsuit on its head by raising money for charity instead of paying damages to a rival website.

Before touching on his crowdfunding campaigns, Inman spoke about how he gets his inspiration.

“I’m not a cartoonist. I’m a stand-up comedian whose stage is the Web,” Inman said. “I write comics where I tell truths, anecdotes and observations.”

Inman finds inspiration in funny anecdotes in his life and works them into comics about things everyone can relate to. He doesn’t use the traditional panel format, and often draws his characters in an unattractive, almost adolescent way (stay tuned for an example).

“I like the character of The Oatmeal to be thought of as this bloated alcoholic who comes out at night,” Inman said.

Inman said he used to try to harness and control inspiration, but that didn’t work.

“Inspiration is like food poisoning, it sprays out of you when you don’t need it,” Inman said.

This was one of many lines that got laughs from the crowd. Inman’s jokes, no matter how immature they may be at times, work because he doesn’t try too hard — he draws inspiration from life that everyone can relate to.

Inman said he often looks to science and nature to draw comedic inspiration. He once again had the audience laughing while talking animatedly about the Mantis shrimp and inventor Nikola Tesla. Things are funnier if you focus on topics that are likeable and compelling, Inman said.

“I’m always asked how to get more likes on Facebook and other bullshit social media metrics that people use,” Inman said. “Write about things that make you angry, sad or you think are funny. Don’t put (effort) into begging for tweets and likes.”

Inman’s comics are funny, so funny that FunnyJunk.com was posting them and removing the attribution. Inman blogged about it and later received a later stating that he either needed to pay FunnyJunk $20,000 in damages or be sued in federal court. Inman comically annotated the letter with his plan for getting back at FunnyJunk’s lawyer, Charles Carreon.

Inman planned to raise the requisite $20,000, take a photo of the money and send it to Carreon along with an illustration of his mother “seducing a Kodiak bear.” Inman then planned to donate one half of the money to the National Wildlife Federation and the other half to the American Cancer Society. Thus, “Operation Bearlove Good, Cancer Bad” was born. 

image

The illustration in question. Courtesy of The Oatmeal (please don’t sue us).

Long story short, Inman said Carreon sued him anyway, as well as the National Wildlife Federation and American Cancer Society. This elevated Carreon to a “level 60 villain” in the Internet’s eyes, Carreon said.

Inman said his joke in no way “backfired” as the media claimed.

“It fired perfectly straight, hit the asshole in the head, blood came out of the back of his head, turned into money and landed in the hands of a bunch of grizzly bears who needed it,” Inman said.

Operation Bearlove Good, Cancer Bad ended up raising about $220,000, and was a warm-up round for “Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum.” Inman aimed to purchase the land on which Tesla’s laboratory stood to build a museum in his honor. Inman succeeded, and raised nearly $1.4 million.

So who do you give credit to for the two campaigns’ success? The Oatmeal? Crowdfunding as a model? Inman said he thinks the success came from enabling people to pay for things they couldn’t before.

“These campaigns weren’t about perks or products, they were about righting a wrong,” Inman said.

Inman attributed his success to Tesla and the hackers, hobbyists and geeks of the world for wanting to make the world a better place.  

By Caitlin Clark
News Editor 

Filed under SXSW SXSW Interactive Matthew Inman The Oatmeal crowdfunding comedy

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Using Your Online Network to Get a Job #IRL

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor / @CaitlinMClark

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told to be professional on social networking sites because future employers could be looking at my profiles, I’d have… a lot of nickels. However, professors and mentors hardly ever tell students how they can use social networking to help them get a job.

Luckily for you, I went to an awesome panel called “Using Your Online Network to Get a Job #IRL” at SXSW Interactive a few days ago, and I’m nice enough to share what I learned.

The panel was led by Jocelyn Lai and Justin Gignac, who offered two unique positions about the importance of peoples’ social media presences. Lai is a talent acquisitions manager in Austin who uses social networks as a tool to recruit and connect with people. Gignac is a freelance art director who founded a real-time network that connects freelance creatives with agencies and companies looking to hire them.

Gignac said the job searching and hiring process both used to be very passive. People would scour newspapers for job openings, fill out an application and wait for an interview. The Internet changed everything. In the meantime, people forgot about their personal brands and voices.

“Before Twitter and social networking, the Internet was about anonymity,” Gignac said. “Over the past few years it has become that you need to be known for your ideas and work. Own your own brand.”

Owning your brand means you need to have good digital real estate, Gignac said. This means owning “yourname.com” (in my case, caitlinclark.com) and having a consistent name across the Internet so you can be searchable. I’m @CaitlinMClark on Twitter, so I guess that means I’m screwed. But that’s okay! I can still redeem myself if I make a LinkedIn account, according to Gignac’s advice. If you don’t have a LinkedIn, you don’t exist, he said.

Gignac said job hunters have to “keep up on their online game.” This means posting your most recent work, keeping your job history recent and posting profile pictures to all of your social networking sites.

“Build your cred,” Gignac said. “Your brand is so much more than the job you do. Put your passions out there.”

Lai jumped in to tell everyone that she is obsessed with tacos and has a taco blog. When people meet Lai they always ask what her favorite tacos are because she has put that passion out there for people to read about.

Lai offered a really cool perspective because not only is she really cool, trendy and young, she’s also on the recruitment side of the hiring process.

Lai said there is a formula that says there is a distance of separation that’s exponentially related to frequency of communication, which is important to the recruiting process. Being in close proximity to talented people is crucial to her being able to hire them. She uses online networks and digital technology to get closer to the talent.

Lai said the job hunting/hiring process is a lot like dating.

“Make yourself available, approachable and knowledgeable,” Lai said. “Show a notion of interest. Both recruiters and candidates do it to each other, so it’s totally not creepy.”

Gignac also likened the process to dating.

“Make yourself irresistible so the right job can find you,” Gignac said. “Whatever you do, don’t be creepy, annoying or desperate. Be cool — like Fonzie.”

Filed under SXSW SXSW Interactive social networking

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Finally a proper showcase

By Lee Moran / Managing Editor / @leetxs

In case my frustration with being under 21 at a music festival that takes place primarily in bars wasn’t apparent from the last post (or you didn’t read it), here’s a refresher: it sucks. Our venue choices are effectively narrowed down to Austin Music Hall and the two churches. We hit the churches yesterday, so today we gave Austin Music Hall a try.

The place is nice. Not sure where the line started at five in the afternoon, Taylor and I just walked in - straight into City and Colour’s sound check. The adage we’ve been hearing repeatedly in preparation for SXSW, that if you look like you’re supposed to be somewhere, nobody will question you being there, held true. Really, we probably didn’t even look like we were supposed to be there; we were pretty confused about the whole thing. But for two hours before doors officially opened we sat in the mezzanine and watched the bands prepare.

Tegan and Sara were the midnight headliners, but up first was Diamond Rings, a flamboyant Canadian with a handful of backup synth players and serious fashion sense. The best I can describe his music is Depeche Mode with some boy band pep; it grew on me after a few songs but Taylor wasn’t convinced. The crowd was not large at that point, but he handled it gracefully, pointing out, honestly, “I know you’re all here for the twins up there,” pointing to the enormous Tegan and Sara portraits behind him, “But this’ll be fun too.” It was.

After that came The Enemy, a British punk band that was a British punk band and did things that are typical of a British punk band. The singing quality was well above the woefully low bar for that genre but it was ultimately lost on me in a mess of power chords and F-bombs.

The Sheepdogs took the stage afterward. According to Wikipedia, The Sheepdogs are a band that formed in the mid 70s and showed great promise as a blues/rock outfit, whose van tragically and mysteriously vanished into a wormhole on the way to a recording session with Bob Dylan only to reemerge 40 years later in Canada, its occupants still decked out in bellbottoms and ready to rock. I made all of that up. But The Sheepdogs seriously owned the place, laying down smooth blues solos and slamming drum lines in every song, throwing in a trombone overture for good measure. They were probably my favorite act of the showcase.

image

These OGs were too busy rocking out to question how I was taking photos with a telephone from my pocket.

The first band of the night I had heard of prior to the show, Fitz and the Tantrums, went on next. Something about Fitz’ face reminds me of Bill Nighy, which isn’t fair, but it happens. His saxophone player was a true gentleman who properly rocked it, and his sassy soul sister Noelle Scaggs balanced his vocals out nicely. Their kind of music, which Wikipedia describes as “neo-soul”, wasn’t my thing, but I enjoyed the show. Fitz moves around quite a bit on stage, and the saxophone player, again, knew what he was doing.

What is there to say about City and Colour, the final set before Tegan and Sara lit the place up? First off, way bluesier than I was expecting from the former vocalist of Alexisonfire. His guitarist put that Telecaster to work with dark, heavy blues-based lines, to great effect. I think at this point in the evening the circulation issues caused by standing in the same exact spot for five hours began to affect the bloodflow to my brain, because I just can’t remember much else about their set. Taylor is a fan though, and will give them a proper story in next week’s issue.

And then there was Tegan and Sara. Not just Tegan and Sara; they bring with them a swarm of backup instrumentalists who definitely get the job done. I am not a Tegan and Sara enthusiast and didn’t recognize a single one of their songs, but the vocals were with it and the accompanying light show was spectacular. Two giant cubes suspended above the stage formed the centerpiece of the special effects, getting various lights and patterns shot at them over the course of the show.

All that standing took it out of us, which says a lot about our fitness habits; two semesters of bowling did not prepare me for ordeals like this. But despite all that, it was fun. Fun is in short supply for minors at SXSW, and we took what we could get.

Filed under sxsw tegan and sara city and colour sheepdogs fitz and the tantrums

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'Zero Charisma' pits geeks against hipsters

By Hollie O’Connor / Trends Editor

Zero Charisma, directed by Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews, follows anti-hero Scott as his weekly fantasy tabletop game falls apart, as does everything else around him. 

Scott is the Dungeon Master of his Dungeons and Dragons-like game, and it is the most important thing to him in the world. He plays with his four friends, but when one of them quits to work on his failing marriage, Scott has to find a new player to fill his spot. Enter Miles, a mustache toting hipster who runs his own geek news blog. 

Miles is everything Scott isn’t— funny, cool, charismatic. Scott’s friends like Miles way more than him, and justifiably so. Scott is abrasive and borderline abusive, especially towards his best friend Wayne. 

But not only is his fantasy world in turmoil, his family life is also headed downhill. 

This movie is hard to watch sometimes because Scott just seems TOO REAL. The movie is funny, but the laughs come from Scott’s misfortune. And yet, even though he is utterly unlikeable, the audience can’t help but sympathize with Scott… it’s like I was laughing at him and then feeling guilty about it. Kind of reminds me of high school. 

Graham and Matthews had the idea for the character Scott in their heads for three years before bringing him to the screen. They used Indie Go Go to partially fund the project, which gave investors the confidence to fund the movie the rest of  the way. 

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Keynote: Julie Uhrman of OUYA

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor

Unveiling the next cutting-edge startup, app or service promising to make waves in an industry is what SXSW Interactive is all about. During her keynote address Sunday, Julie Uhrman attempted to do just that by touting OUYA, her crowd-funded gaming console built on Android that will have a limited release at the end of this month.

The conversation, moderated by Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of The Verge, covered the idea behind OUYA and its beginnings with Kickstarter, with Uhrman attempting to play down mistakes that she may have made along the way.

OUYA is a return to the traditional home-gaming approach, Uhrman said. She aims to recreate the childhood experience of playing video games with friends — hands cramping from gripping the controller too hard, sitting in front of the television for hours with the volume on max and all.

Uhrman said if you ask someone if they’re a gamer today (and they answer honestly), they’ll say yes. Almost everyone plays games like Temple Run and Angry Birds on their mobile phones and tablets. The issue, she said, is this type of gaming is a distraction, not an immersive experience.

“The question was how do you get people excited about a new gaming system?” Uhrman said. “And that’s what makes OUYA unique—anybody can build any game. It’s about enabling creators.”

Uhrman owes the start of OUYA to a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised  $1 million in a little more than eight hours. The Kickstarter collected $8.6 million with the help of about 63,000 backers by its August deadline. 

OUYA will start at $99 and run on a version of Google’s Android software. The console will have streaming capabilities, and Uhrman said she is in discussion with Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and others to offer their services once OUYA is launched.

Backers of the Kickstarter campaign will receive their consoles at the end of the month, and OUYA will hit shelves at Amazon, Gamestop, Best Buy, Target and other retailers in June.

Uhrman said she doesn’t see OUYA as an either-or decision for people who already own gaming consoles made by Sony and Nintendo. She sees OUYA as more of a device sitting between the big-name consoles and smartphones. She insists that OUYA is “going to have content that no one else is going to have.”

This is one of several vague comments and explanations Uhrman made about OUYA, which (from what I could tell) frustrated both audience members and Topolsky, the moderator.

Uhrman was tight-lipped about details of the kick-ass (her words, not mine) games OUYA will offer, and didn’t give a firm release date for June. Topolsky asked her questions about manufacturing partners and the number of consoles that have been pre-sold, but she avoided those as well. Audience members began to file out of the room as things became more and more awkward.

“I don’t have a lot of hardballs here because I want this thing to work,” Topolsky said about halfway through the talk.

Topolsky asked Uhrman if she made a mistake by not having a website for OUYA when the Kickstarter began. He insinuated that critics initially thought this was a glaring oversight for an Internet-based gaming business.

“Is OUYA a scam or not?” Topolsky asked.

This was just one of many awkward questions. For instance, Uhrman said it is important that OUYA works once it hits shelves. “Does it not work?” Topolsky asked jokingly (I think). Uhrman didn’t seem to appreciate that one.  

Filed under SXSW SXSWi Julie Uhrman OUYA gaming

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“Building Tools for Creativity” with David Karp

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor

SXSW Interactive officially ended Tuesday, but it has taken until now for me to fully recover. However, I will say that life at Texas State prepared me for most of the South By chaos.

I feel that I would not have been able to expertly push my way through hoards of people in the Austin Convention Center had I not mastered the art of walking through the Quad. Years of ignoring outstretched hands clutching flyers for shady parties (“Come on, there will be trash can punch!!!”) prepared me well when it came to turning down weird freebies and avoiding unwanted conversations (“Donate to the Kickstarter for my super-secret new startup and I’ll give you a free XXL T-shirt!!!). That being said, SXSW still wore me out. Today I’ll catch up on blogging about all of the cool panels I went to. I’ll start with this one, in which I use Tumblr to write about what the creator of Tumblr said about people who use Tumblr… how meta.

David Karp, founder and CEO of Tumblr, spoke at SXSW Interactive Sunday for a fireside chat entitled “Building Tools for Creativity.” The talk focused on the evolution of Tumblr and its role in allowing users to both create and curate content for the web.

Karp began kicking around the idea of creating Tumblr back in 2005 when the blogosphere had started to take shape and become a part of peoples’ digital identities.

“When the blogosphere started to gain momentum I was so swept up in it and wanted to be so much like the prolific people on the web,” Karp said. “I wanted an online identity I could be proud of.”

Karp said he tried other blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger, but was frustrated by the limitations imposed by them. Their formats were designed for writing and long-form editorials. Karp thought there might be other people like him who weren’t writers but wanted a space on the Internet that could represent them.

Tumblr consolidates photos, text, multimedia and other content easily into one place, which has helped the website become a tool for curation, which in itself can be a creative process. Most people aren’t necessarily painters, writers, musicians or photographers, Karp said. The people who are creative and talented are able to pass on the colors and words that we tell our stories with.

The reblogging tool, which clones a post and puts it on a users’ page, has led to a new behavior on Tumblr that changed the shape of the network, Karp said. There is now a core community of creators and a bigger web of curators slicing the content up.

Many of the big social networks today like Twitter and Facebook are built around having common social interests. Tumblr is different in that you may follow a few people you know in real life who are interesting or good curators, but in general you follow people who create things that you enjoy, Karp said. Tumblr is a place where you primarily create and make things, not share and like.

Tumblr also allows for more creativity in that it gives users a way to personalize their blogs. Facebook, for example, gives up all creativity because “we are all a vanilla profile page in a big white directory,” Karp said. Tumblr gets back to the roots of the web as an open, vast place where people can create unique things that represent them.

Karp said Tumblr is now home to an eclectic set of talented creators aspiring to make it big in different careers like art, fashion and music. However, he said Tumblr users don’t necessarily have their sights set on fame and fortune.

“It’s a community of people with stars in their eyes, not dollar signs,” Karp said. 

Filed under SXSW SXSWi Tumblr David Karp creativity blogging

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Speaking of Heaven, I went to a church today

By Lee Moran / Managing Editor

Two, in fact.

Over the past two days Taylor and I have come to find out that absolutely not one single venue will have us without the proper credentials, and I don’t mean wristbands. We’re both 20.

I could have made a fake. But instead I sought refuge in St. David’s Episcopal Church, which was billed as an official SXSW venue.

And refuge I got. The good Christian entrepreneurs running the place set up a makeshift “Cafe Divine” which offered probably the best prices on food in all of SXSW. (don’t bring up free food. there isn’t any. I’m under 21 and in no mood to hear about the free tacos at your open bar day party)

But the best part wasn’t the prices. Read this menu carefully.image

The Anglican Hot Dogma is my favorite but damned if Moses doesn’t pack some pretty high-quality muffins.


Also notice at the bottom that because this is Austin, even the church is peddling longnecks. Benedictine ones, even. I ordered a root beer, which failed to drown my inadequacy.

Mike Scott, the musician scheduled to perform in the sanctuary, had the manliest of thick Scottish accents, which he used to great effect as he… read some passages from his book. In it he chronicled his first  band’s humiliating defeat at the hands of a cabaret group twice their age, as well as Bob Dylan’s rejecting one of his later tunes for use in a new song. He was a pleasure to listen to, but I can’t do his accent justice with a blog post and I didn’t come to SXSW to cover book readings, so I slipped out to attempt to get into Mohawk for Baths’ performance at 1.

That was a mistake. My wristband was no match for the thousands of badge holders wrapped around the bar, and a volunteer swiftly relegated me to the sidewalk, at which “second-class citizens wristband holders can start lining up at ten, if there’s room.” There wasn’t room. Also, Iggy Pop’s van almost hit me as he made his entrance (without a badge OR wristband. worst celebrity sighting ever).

Back to church with me. This time it was the Central Presbyterian one.   What it lacked in Scottish folk rockers it made up for in Chris Carrabba, which is probably something most churches can’t say too often because it would be a lie. Taylor will blog that out later but it was the first and so far only solidly enjoyable musical experience for us at SXSW.

It looks like we’ll be spending a lot of our time in those churches over the next few days. If you need me I’ll be stone cold sober at Cafe Divine with my standard non-Benedictine root beer and friar’s fries.

Filed under sxsw music church chris carrabba twin falls

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Gates of Heaven, Gates of Hell

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor

David Carr, media columnist for the New York Times, spoke at SXSW Interactive Sunday about the newspaper’s paywall and business model during a panel Sunday.

Carr’s talk was entitled “Gates of Heaven, Gates of Hell” — Heaven being “friction-free” digital distribution of information, and Hell being the fact that no one wants to pay for content in that same digital world.

“Content has always been subsidized,” but the Internet is now the largest subsidy of all. The Internet took away the trucks and printing presses, and created the “biggest distribution machine of content you’ve ever seen.” Carr said this has created a subsidized media world.

This is how things used to work, according to Carr: People would graduate from college, get married, reproduce, go to Ikea and start to worry about the school system, so they would subscribe to a newspaper. Things are different now, he said. People “may practice the art of reproduction, but they don’t do a great deal of it.” They might not get a job, buy a house or go to Ikea. They might not need to know about the school system. So there’s one more thing they might not do — get a newspaper subscription.

Carr said the problem is that content is almost infinite, so its value will gradually creep toward zero. He said “anything that’s infinite has no compression on pricing.” Attention, on the other hand, is expensive. There is a very narrow group of people who have money and care about the news, he said.

The newspaper industry is now half the size it was in 2006, and Google alone is twice as big. Newspapers are now launching paywalls in desperation, Carr said. Newspapers like the Times-Picayune only come out a couple of times a week, and The Atlantic does advertising for Scientology. “How the hell did that happen?” Carr asked.

Carr said “you find out who your real friends are” when newspapers go behind paywalls.

However, Carr said the New York Times hasn’t “lost uniques” since the introduction of the paywall. There are 800,000 print readers and 640,000 digital readers of the paper.

“There are 640,000 people who were giving us nothing,” he said. “Now they are giving us around $200 a year.”Carr said the Times was told at first that no one would pay to view the paper’s content online, and the paywall was priced too expensively. The fact that the paywall is leaky and “you could do a workaround” to access the content was seen as “silly,” he said.

“We did that on purpose. If you’re willing to play around with our URL just to get a peek under our dress, have at it,” Carr said. “You’re eventually going to get tired and pay.”

Filed under David Carr New York Times South by Southwest Interactive SXSW newspapers journalism