8 Final Thoughts On A SXSW Marked By Tragedy

1. During a three-day span, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Jay Z, Justin Bieber, and Coldplay were all in Austin, performing at various SXSW-related events. Naturally, there was much hand wringing about Jay and Ye bringing Watch the Throne to town, SPONSORED BY SAMSUNG, down the street from HBO’s Game of Thrones exhibit. I heard “What does South by Southwest mean anymore?” as frequently as, “Could I get hot sauce with that?” Well, it means whatever you want it to mean. If you want to see big names play in medium-sized venues, go right ahead. If you want to see tiny bands in packed dive bars, check out the Burger Records showcase. I’ve never quite understood the SXS(old Out)W complaints. Yes, there’s branding everywhere and sometimes it feels like you’re walking through a billboard convention, but there were plenty of places in the city where you didn’t have to be eye-assaulted by Taco Bell stickers on a Silicon Valley bicycle. There always are. You just have to be dedicated enough to find them.

2. That being said, if you can pull off Snoop Dogg and Perfect Pussy in the same night, hats off.

3. Speaking of Snoop, dude was everywhere this year. I’m not sure which band “won” South by Southwest 2014 the way Haim did 2013 (more on that in a second), but based on number of appearances, I’d say Snoop has already used his Quantity Award as a bong. It’s an unfair way of judging this, but there are over 14 million Google search results for “snoop sxsw 2014.” Meanwhile, “tacos sxsw 2014” only has 3.4 million, proving once and for all, Snoop is more famous than tacos, though not as delicious. But to get back to the winning thing: on Thursday, Esquire wrote, “Hype is what SXSW runs on, so let’s indulge and say Chance the Rapper is very likely to walk away from Austin as the clear champion.” You’ll find no complaints here.

4. The three chapters of SXSW are: Music, Film, and Interactive. By next year’s festival, there ought to be an unofficial fourth made official: Comedy. The roster was packed with big names: Aisha Tyler, Doug Benson, Carrie Brownstein, Bill Cosby, Fred Armisen, Dan Harmon, Scott Aukerman (who I saw record a live Comedy Bang! Bang! with the Sheriff of Nottingham), Seth Meyers, Jeffrey Tambor, Kumail Nanjiani. So, pretty much everyone on your favorite podcast. Seth Rogen was also in town, promoting his new film, Neighbors. According to Aukerman, he hooked comedy up with SXSW 11 years ago. It’s time they finally get hitched.

5. If you ever have the chance to see St. Vincent, do it.

Bob Mould, too.

And Damon Albarn (with Del the Funky Homosapien and Snoop doing “Clint Eastwood”).

(There are about a million other “smaller” bands that impressed, too, including Speedy Ortiz, Big Ups, Pins, London Grammar, Gap Dreams, ScHoolboy Q, Phantogram, Parquet Courts, and Destruction Unit, but we couldn’t get photos of all of them. Also, Bob Mould has always, and will always, kick ass.)

6. A fond reminder that of all the millions of photos taken at SXSW, this one’s the most SXSW.

7. I’m not going to say too much about what happened the morning of the 13th, because I’m just a guy who makes dick jokes; I’m in no position to make a profound statement about an unspeakable tragedy, or anything really. But I will say that what happened shouldn’t affect future SXSWs. The festival isn’t to blame, neither is the city of Austin. It’s one the fault of one pitiful excuse of a human. Too often the reaction to something terrible is nearly as dramatic as the “something” itself, and I saw people on Twitter the next day blaming SXSW for not doing enough to protect innocent bystanders — more roads should be shut down next year, fewer cars, etc. That’s nonsense. It was a freak event, and freak events happened. We shouldn’t forget what happened, and we should definitely donate, but we can’t let this one awful thing ruin something great.

8. So is SXSW worth it? For #brands, yes; for normal people, it depends. If you’re tolerant of lines and can live on energy drinks and free Subway pizzas for a week, you’re going to have a great time. There’s never not something to see, whether it’s a band, a movie, a comedy show, or a panel, and Austin is remarkably flexible when it comes to squeezing in another 50 million people, or so it seems. But for everyone who gets fidgety when they’re told it’ll be another 90 minutes before you can Taco Party Parade (my favorite fake band), eh, SXSW is still probably worth doing once, if only to EXPERIENCE it.

Just avoid the Dirty Sixth. That place is a pit.

All photos taken by Nadia Chaudhury