Your Perfect Event-Music Pairings at SXSW (Plus Cats)
BY ALLISON TANENHAUS
South By Southwest is famous for being jam-packed (in a good way). It’s always filled to the brim with influencers, creators, tastemakers, entrepreneurs, and superstars—of both the current and up-and-coming variety. As one of the largest festivals on earth, it hosts a virtual cornucopia of events, panels, workshops, experiences, concerts, and spectacles to entertain and educate, particularly from a cutting-edge, city-living perspective.
This year is no different. Even though SXSW 2016 won’t feature last year’s must-see celeb (the wondrous Grumpy Cat—be still, our kitty-loving hearts), both Barack and Michelle Obama will be speaking. (Still a pretty big deal. And get your cat fix with the animated film, Trash Cat.) But that’s just the start.
To help you narrow down some top picks from a schedule that’s nothing short of mind-boggling, we’ve highlighted some cool cats—plus bands playing SXSW—to sync up with these choice Austin events that’ll help you live better, smarter, and way more innovative-r. (And if you’re a local who wants to escape the craziness? We’ve got you covered, too.)
Note that while many of these selections require a paid pass (with the musical acts, it’s a given that at least a Music Badge, Platinum Badge, Music Festival Wristband, or Artist Wristband is required), we’ve included several options that are free and open to the public, as well. (Just be sure to register for a guest pass in advance.)
So have fun, dig in, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated! Even though SX’s a global phenomenon, it is still Texas, after all.
1) BETTER LIVING THROUGH DATA AND EVIDENCE
Stats and humans may seem like polar opposites, but more and more, cata (oops, data) is being harnessed to make real and significant changes to cities—and the people who live in them. Moderator David Bornstein of the New York Times will share his wisdom about the potential of data, what challenges may block the way, and what we stand to lose if we don’t implement it effectively. When/where: March 11, 12:30–1:30 PM, JW Marriott, Salon 3-4, 110 E 2nd St. Pass needed: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge Music pairing: Moving Panoramas, a dream-gaze trio from Austin (hometown heroines!), spin thoughtful songs rich with melody, grunge, and sweet harmonies. Check out “One,” a numbers-centric tune perfect for deep diving into data’s numerous (and numerical) possibilities. Catch them live at SXSW on March 16, 11–11:40 PM, at ScratcHouse Backyard, 617 E 7th St.
2) SXSW ECO STARTUP SPEED PITCHES
Part Shark Tank, part greenhouse, this event provides a firsthand look at the promising finalists of the SXSW Eco Startup Showcase. Prepare to be inspired by the next generation of companies poised to make waves in clean tech, social impact, and the economy. (Will this include futuristic cat litter? Meowbe… Probably not, though.) When/where: March 11, 2–3 PM, Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon B, 500 E 4th St. Pass needed: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge Music pairing: Sure, it’s a slight stretch from green to Greene, but Thaddeus Anna Greene is worth the editorial license. Hailing from Cleveland, this quartet boasts a deep and satisfying groove, infusing blues riffs with heavy-hitting rock, soul, and psychedelic sensibilities. Dig into “Heart Out,” their debut single, and come back for more when they play on March 18, 10:20–11:00PM, at Cheer Up Charlie's Inside, 900 Red River St.
3) CREATING AN AGRICULTURAL OASIS IN AN URBAN SETTING
What if the distance from farm to your apartment table was a matter of city blocks—or even mere inches? In this panel led by San Antonio’s Culinaria Urban Farm—in partnership with MIT CityFARM—the speakers will reveal emerging technologies in food growth that aren’t just the (food)stuff of fantasy, but will be pioneered at Culinaria. Prepare to feast not just your brain, but your stomach, as well. (The 21+ venue—Austin’s Old School Bar—makes a mean spinach artichoke dip, plus serves local craft beer.) When/where: March 11, 3:30–4:30 PM, Old School Bar, 401 E 6th St. Pass needed: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge; 21+ Music pairing: Taryn Miller, who records under the moniker “Your Friend,” spins moody, dreamy anthems that verge on the hallucinogenic. Recorded in Brooklyn—and featuring sonic field samplings from her family farm in Winfield, Kansas—her musical approach pretty much exemplifies the urban agricultural concept. Envelope yourself in her sonic landscapes on March 16, 11–11:40 PM, at The Sidewinder Inside, 715 Red River St.
4) SILENT ROOM BY SIMON HEIJDENS
With such huge crowds—and a legendary music component—SX can get, well, loud. Take a (veering-on-the-extreme) break with a trip to Silent Room by Dutch London-based artist Simon Heijdens. The 40’ long chamber—which visitors walk through alone—blots out any sounds or visuals. It’s kind of like closing your eyes and taking a cat nap…but slightly more disconcerting. (It’s rumored that its “unbalancing” effect can’t be endured for longer than 45 minutes. Stay for a shorter spell and you’ll be A-OK—and more than ready to return to the lively urban jungle.) When/where: March 11–19, 12–10 PM, 5th and Trinity St. Pass needed: Free and open to the public with a guest pass Music pairing: Technically, we shouldn’t include a music clip here (given the event’s silence concept and all), but it seemed a shame not to highlight as many awesome SX artists as possible. So, we present Lissie, whose “Hero” references 40 acres (fitting, given the 40’ dimension of the Silent Room), as well as captures a fierce and pensive spirit. Embrace her Midwestern roots on March 17, 8:20–8:35 PM, at Maggie Mae's Rooftop, 323 E 6th St.
5) DESIGN FOR SMARTER PUBLIC SPACES
“Smart cities” may sound like futuristic innovations, but they’re already in play. From digital advertising and public WiFi, to sensing and mobile, location-based services, our relationships with neighborhoods and public areas are evolving before our eyes. In this panel, discover the opportunities and challenges of designing for interaction in shared public spaces, like parks, libraries, campuses, cat cafes (OK, maybe not cat cafes), and shopping centers. When/where: March 13, 3:30–4:30 PM, Austin Convention Center, Room 8ABC, 531 E 4th St. Pass creds needed: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge Music pairing: What’s prettier than a city designed to respond to citizens’ needs? Beats us. Hence, our music pick for this panel: Pretty City. Their sweet vocals cut through their heavy shoegaze instrumentals, with a propulsive rhythm that never drags. Groove-heavy and catchy as all get out, these Australians will unleash live on March 16, 11–11:40 PM, at Tellers, 607 Trinity St.
6) CHEVIES AND TESLAS AND ZIPCARS. OH MY!
Driving experiences are far more nuanced than the act of cat car ownership. At Zipcar, we know that well. That’s why we’re excited to participate in this panel, which will delve into how the automotive ecosystem is transforming the rules of consumer and customer engagement, tech, and support—and changing driving habits and assumptions along the way. Beep beep. When/where: March 15, 9:30–10:30 AM, Westin Austin Downtown, Continental 1-2, 301 E 5th St. Pass needed: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge Music pairing: Mal Blum’s unassuming poppy, indie pep is not only catchy as heck, but their song “Better Go” espouses the desire to “be anyone in another state in another place in another neighborhood”—a bit melancholy, true…but still fitting with the panel’s future-of-four-wheeled mobility topic and the travel adventures it can facilitate. Bop along on March 17, 9:40–10:10 PM, at The Velveeta Room, 521 E 6th St.
7) TECH, IMPACT INVESTING AND DRIVING SOCIAL CHANGE
When technology, philanthropy, and venture capital come together, they can forge a mighty force for good. And that’s just what the foundations, labs, and centers leading this panel are doing for underserved communities across America. Learn about (and be moved by) this intersection of talent, drive, and compassion that can propel economic opportunity in diverse communities—and in innovative ways. (We’d make a cat joke here…but we’re having too many feels.) When/where: March 15, 3:30–4:30 PM, JW Marriott, Room 303-304, 110 E 2nd St. Pass needed: Music Badge, Film Badge, Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge, Artist Wristband Music pairing: Earnest, honest, and stripped back, the Missouri-raised, Berlin-based Ian Fisher spins personal, nuanced stories through eminently hummable folk and country tracks. In “Constant Vacation,” he sings optimistically, yet cautiously, that “sometimes I just wish to death that I could start over”—a sentiment more than applicable to the second chances this panel just might foster for in-need citizens the country over. Don’t miss him on March 19, 11–11:40 PM, at Lamberts, 401 W 2nd St.
8) THE FUTURE IS NOW: CITY PLANNING USING SOCIAL VR
Blueprints are old school. (Pawprints, on the other hand, are classic.) Instead of resorting to traditional 2D renderings, the City of Minneapolis recently partnered up with the University of Minnesota’s Virtual Reality Design Lab to use VR (that’s virtual reality—aka video games you kinda live in—to the uninitiated) in its civic planning review process, walking through a proposed development with VR headsets instead of their imaginations alone. At this event, discover the potential for VR in your city—and how it could revolutionize the way we envision and shape the world around us. When/where: March 17, 2–3 PM, Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon A, 500 E 4th St. Pass needed: Music Badge, Film Badge, Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge, Artist Wristband Music pairing: Winner of the 2015 Korean Music Awards for Electronic Dance Album of the Year, HEO crosses continents (and genres) to skillfully meld languorous electronics with pulsating beats and haunting dual vocals. The trippy music video to “Luna” deftly combines the virtual with reality—fitting for this panel’s theme. Sink into their dreamy grooves on March 18, 12–12:40 AM, at The Majestic, 419-B E 6th St.
9) FLATSTOCK 53
The coveted rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic extends beyond stage appearance, and permeates everything from album covers to tour t-shirts to gig posters. Flatstock 53 celebrates the latter—and in a big way—by rounding up a gorgeous array of concert posters from around the world that feature a diverse and dizzying array of styles, colors, and techniques. (They’re made to attract attention—and express adoration—for a super-cool art form, after all.) Come for the musical appeal, and stay for the designspiration to jazz up your apartment when you return home. When/where: March 17 (2–6 PM), 18 and 19 (11 AM–6 PM), Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 4, Level 1 Pass needed: Free and open to the public with a guest pass Music pairing: Five and a half years after their first stompin’ single, “Through the Clover,” and the four Australian sisters of Stonefield have fully transitioned to full-on psych rock—and it suits them perfectly. With hypnotic layered vocals and addictive psych riffs, Stonefield embody a lifelong love of music (the oldest sister was 15 and the youngest just 7 when they started out)—just like this exhibit. Catch Stonefield on March 15, 12:05–12:40 AM, at Maggie Mae's, 323 E 6th St. Note: If you’re in ATX for tech or film (but not music), you’re in luck—in addition to the list of accepted passes for all of the other music events in this roundup, you can also snag entry to see Stonefield with a Film, Interactive, or Gold Badge.