Friday, March 8th, 2013

Austin Has Changed A Lot Since My Last High-Profile Appearance Here In 2012

Don't care about your drought because this rain sucks.It's awesome to be back in Austin, again. And while this certainly isn't my first appearance on a popular #SxSW panel, things do feel different this time.

When I was first invited to Austin to speak at South+Southwest, I didn't even have an iPhone. And that's not to question my role as an Early Adopter, it is just to point out that the iPhone had yet to go on the market. It was quite a long time ago! (But not so long ago that I've noticeably aged in either my interests or appearance.) Why, we didn't even have Yelp! back then. As a common joke among SxSW insiders goes, "I've been coming to Austin so long that I was here before the first time The Strokes broke up because nobody bought their new record." If any of you from The Strokes are reading this, as you might be, just know that it's all in fun.

That's what SxSW is all about, to me: fun. But it's not the kind of fun so many South by SW "n00bs" seek out. It is the kind of fun that comes from working hard and networking harder. Of course there are parties and hotel sex and goodie bags and secret concerts—those of us blessed enough to attend still remember the exclusive delight of 2006's Flaming Lips set—but all of that serves a higher purpose: the advancement of our careers and the technology or media we market at these events.

Few can forget the appearance of Twitter in 2007. And for the length of that year's SX-S.W., at least, we finally had our own personal network of connections all but unknown to those who were unable to "get to Austin" that year.

Today, South-Southwest is the biggest media-film-technology conference around, and one of the few with so many musical acts to perform for the attendees.

Austin, too, has grown up. Once the kind of backwater you would avoid if you knew better, the little town has become a city in its own right. A service sector known mostly for casual-dining chains and unhygienic BBQ joints is finally ready to deliver quality food and drink to the New Yorkers and Californians who bring so much to this sleepy Texan cowtown. Just since last year, I have noticed a real upswing on Yelp! in the Asian Fusion and vegan brunch categories. It is not exaggerating to say that back in 2006, when all of this started, there were perhaps two decent restaurants in Austin—and here I mean, obviously, "decent for the South."

In a very real sense, however, Austin is becoming more than just a Southern town with its legacy of slavery and ignorance. Through the kind of media-is-the-message synchronicity we've long championed at SouthxSouthWest, it's as if the "West" part of the festival's name has become a kind of reality. Just last night, after the Depeche Mode showcase with a very phat guest spot by "Fiddy," I found myself with a beautiful girl who had nearly the same badges as I wore. We slipped into a bar that could have been right out of a Western cowboy video game, and I joined the crowd by ordering a local favorite, the Pabst Blue Ribbon regional beer in its own can.

"This is a new thing," I said to her. She looked up from a text and said, "Sometimes I think Austin is just a theme park made for people like you."

"Like us, you mean."

Well, I do not want this to turn into an episode of the hip show "HBO Girls," so I will leave off this "twit-patch" (meaning, a dispatch from someone who has been on Twitter a long time) with the one thing we are all thinking but feel bad about saying:


I'm sorry, rain? We do not spend six grand to fly to the middle of nowhere and then have rain.

It's impossible to find a taxi, and of course they don't even have subways here. Sorry I forgot my SUV with the cow horns on the hood, but I did come here on an airplane, maybe you've heard of them in Willie Nelson songs or whatever.

Sou-SouWest is still pretty killer and the restaurants and service people have really stepped up since I began coming here, but the rain is bullshit.

Photo by pimginc.

24 Comments / Post A Comment

BWhite (#226,887)

This rules.

Drawn7979 (#242,134)

absolutely rules!

deepomega (#1,720)

It's raining in LA, too – I tried complaining to an LAPD officer but she just laughed at me. How am I supposed to wear sunglasses everywhere if it's RAINING?

Brendan O'Connor (#242,239)

@deepomega Just pretend you're living a Raymond Chandler novel. That's what I do, and I'm not even in LA.

brianvan (#149)

SEO by SEOWest

karenjeannette (#2,499)

if austin's a cowtown in the middle of nowhere that only recently got decent food, then by all means fuck off and do not ever come here.

ericdeamer (#945)

@karenjeannette You realize this was a parody of people who say stuff like that right?

karenjeannette (#2,499)

@ericdeamer maybe i've just read too many things about my town that sounded parodic but were completely serious.

BadUncle (#153)

SXSW has been so over after '96. They put in streets and porta potties.

Mike Bevil@twitter (#242,254)

Do you read your stuff out loud before you publish? You come off as such an out-of-town stereotype dick. You are exactly the type of snarky, condescending asshat that makes local Austinites dislike the tourists. Stay home next time.

jolie (#16)

May God bless and keep you, Mike Bevil.

BadUncle (#153)

@Mike Bevil@twitter FWIW, I think it's meant as a parody of an asshole panelist's obliviousness.

@BadUncle : "Mike Bevil" is obviously a parody of a defensive local commentator overreacting to an oblivious asshole panelist.

Or potentially a parody of an defensive local commentator obliviously overreacting to a parody of an asshole panelist.

Or some lesser being from the Elemental Plane of Parody messing with us. I'd be more clear, but my mom confiscated my D&D Fiend Folio back in the 80s.

jolie (#16)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose The best part about Mike Bevil is that Mike Bevil lives in Atlanta.

Multiphasic (#411)

Austin has rain! And meanwhile the Sierra snowpack's at like 2/3s of normal, I'm kind of curious what's going to happen to the expansive tech campus lawns in Mountain View when they all experience their first Northern California drought.

(Answer, nothing, nothing at all; Brown'll just require that Fremont stop showering.)

rexmanningtralala (#242,290)

Silly, Austin isn't a cowtown. That's Forth Worth, dear. San Angelo, too. Towns without outdated indie bands playing, so I don't think you'll be gracing them with your discerning taste, enlightened mind, and elegant manners.

You are so right about Austin being a place full of ignorance, unhygienic barbecue, and slavery legacies, though. It's a lot like that town from Two Thousand Maniacs and you're pretty sharp to have caught on. You shouldn't subject yourself to such a place ever again!

r&rkd (#1,719)

Please, never stop!

wee_ramekin (#33,118)

………………………………..Right, okay.

In other news, who's coming to GayBiGayGay?!

TheNW (#242,316)

Austin used to be a friendlier town. Back in the eighties and early nineties, lots of people visited and had so much fun they decided to move here. And they were welcomed. Austin has undergone a shift since the mid-nineties due in part to those transplants. Some assimilated, others sought to change Austin into a Sophisticated City so they and their ilk would feel more at home. As a result, Austin has one of the highest costs of living in the nation and an increasing tax burden. Change is not always good.

I used to enjoy going to SXSW events, but not anymore. Too many who attend feel that their badges give them some kind of diplomatic immunity. Many treat the locals as if we are uneducated yokels in need of something only they can provide.

To those who are attending SXSW, I say Welcome to Texas! Relax and enjoy our fair city.

To the group that insists on being rude, pushy, and selfish (the author sounds like one), go home! We are better off without your attitude and will live without your money.

r&rkd (#1,719)

They just keep coming! How do they find this post? Do they not read the comments before adding a response?

Bryan Keller (#3,804)

It was fun this year. Also, can Leap Motion unveil a teleporter today so I don't have to fly?

j_frank_doby (#242,385)

To the staffer who wrote this: please shut the fuck up. I know you mean well and you're no doubt trying very hard to sound as though you know what you're talking about and also appear hip, edgy, and informed while doing so, but you don't. Oh, I know…it's a parody. Silly me. Right? That's about as believable as talking shit to a stranger in a bar until they're ready to pummel you and then rapidly back-pedaling, insisting it's all a joke. The beauty of pulling the "it's a joke" defense out of your ass is that it gives you one final opportunity to insult the reader by implying that they're too thick to "get it" in the first place. Be that as it may, you're still an asshole, regardless of your original intent. (yes, that means you–you cackling, smug, fuck)

It is my most profound regret that Austin has become something of an asshole magnet, but being that it is one of the last boom-towns in the western hemisphere it's inevitable that shit-birds of every stripe are flocking here by the tens of thousands.

Oh, and here's a secret: bbq joints are dirty. Burning wood generates a lot of ash and soot. Moreover, as a form of sustenance it's also profoundly unhealthy. (were you previously aware of this? because it doesn't sound like it) Unlike the entirely-too-modern urban utopia you currently reside in, gluten-free, herbal enemas are not offered complements of the house when ordering large quantities of smoked meat–nor do they appear on any menu at any bbq joint anywhere in Texas. Sorry that we're a bit behind the times on this. Though we do have a (now somewhat defunct) space center here and are currently in the process of becoming a democratic-leaning state once again, if a customer should consume an unhealthy amount of meat–be it at a dining establishment or anywhere else–it is incumbent upon the consumer to to keep their bowels moving at regular intervals. It's just common sense, really. (but I digress…)

In closing, I'd like to humbly request that if you should decide to move here, thereby joining the endless cavalcade of obnoxious fools who do so–seemingly just so they can bitch about how different it is from the place they just left–please stay off the goddamn phone while you're driving, so as not to cause any more fatalities on I-35.

All the best.


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