It’s time once more for the annual bacchanal of bands, movies, driven business professionals, and frantic semi-professionals racing around downtown Austin, known as South By Southwest. This year, The A.V. Club is running a liveblog throughout the duration of the event. We’ll be covering Interactive, Music, Film, Sports, and more for all 10 days. Check back often, as we’ll be updating regularly.
Day 10 - Saturday, March 19
Rumors had been flying all week as to who The Fader Fort’s special guest would be on Saturday night, but no one knew for sure until Drake appeared on stage. As Spin reports, he played the hits while also hyping the hugely anticipated Views From The 6, which should be coming any week now. Due in part to flying solo, and not doing a great job of checking Twitter, any rumors of Drake’s appearance were lost on me. And by the time he was on stage, I was already making my way to the opposite end of downtown Austin.
The last show I caught this year at SXSW came courtesy of Chicago’s Mick Jenkins. Though he’s yet to release a proper debut album—The Healing Component is expected this year—he’s built a name for himself as one of Chicago’s most engaging young talents thanks to his complementary releases, The Waters and Waves. In his brisk set at Austin Music Hall, Jenkins’ knack for smooth, weighty wordplay was on full display, as he put together a set that showcases the best tracks from his early releases. While Jenkins often gets compared to his Chicago peers, Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa, Jenkins’ style feels very much his own, as he focuses on poetic verses that yearn for spiritual healing. He may not have been the biggest name playing Saturday night—at least not yet—but it felt appropriate to have Jenkins serve as my official SXSW sign-off. Plus, his anthemic reminder to “Drink more water” is probably the best piece of advice I heard all weekend. [David Anthony]
While a day of SXSW still remains, there’s already an air of finality settling across the festival. While earlier in the week the streets were littered with people rushing from one place to another, by Saturday afternoon the pace had slowed dramatically. The first sign that people weren’t going as hard is when I checked out South By’s official record fair across the street from my hotel. Unlike my adventures of hitting actual record stores earlier in the week, this event was far from fruitful. Only a handful of vendors were there, and the selection was just as paltry. It wasn’t just underwhelming, it seemed to set the tone for the day’s events.
From there, I made my way over to Brooklyn Vegan day show, which featured some of my festival favorites as well as bands I hadn’t been able to catch yet. Le1f drew a sizable crowd, putting on sweat-drenched performance on Cheer Up Charlies outdoor stage, drawing plenty of fans and casual observers to his midday set. Unfortunately, Julien Baker didn’t fare as well on the venue’s outdoor stage. Her set was barely audible over the sound bleed from other shows happening nearby, as well as the din of attendees talking throughout. Though she handled it like a true professional, it was a disappointing—yet not totally unexpected—turn for an artist who works best in front of a reverent, respectful crowd. Into It. Over It. followed, and the band faired much better than Baker due to the band being able to drown out almost any conversation. Playing some of the best songs from its excellent new album, Standards, the band was still lively, even on its sixth consecutive day at SXSW. [David Anthony]
Day Nine - Friday, March 18
While plenty of artists are grinding hard this week at SXSW, few have hit it as hard as Vince Staples. He already grabbed headlines this week when he called out Spotify while playing at the Spotify House, but his set at the Marriott was the type of star-making performance that’s he’s becoming known for. Less than an hour after he finished a set at Spin’s party at Stubb’s, he was on stage in the Marriott’s ballroom and working the crowd into a frenzy. From the second he hit stage he called for the crowd to jump, and the weight of all that excitement caused the Marriott’s fourth floor to shake wildly. A few songs in, chunks from the chandelier above the stage began dropping, and a full-on mosh pit broke out—the first one I witnessed in all my days in Austin. Between songs Staples joked with the crowd, telling them that even though it was a corporate gig they should “break shit” if they felt so inclined. Though his set was technically supposed to end by the time he hit stage, Staples reveled in the chaos, and even though he had every right to phone it in, it was as riotous of a performance as I’d seen this week. [David Anthony]
SXSW snags a few notable film premieres every year, and none loomed larger this year than Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, the first Pee-wee Herman film in nearly 30 years. The journey to the Paramount Theater in Austin was a long one; creator Paul Reubens had paired up with executive producer Judd Apatow and writer Paul Rust years ago, only to have several studios turn down the project. Netflix eventually signed on, continuing its tradition of breathing new life into shows or ideas that were otherwise done.
A huge crowd, along with the cast of the film (which includes Joe Manganiello, Alia Shawkat, Stephanie Beatriz, among others), greeted Reubens rapturously before the film and cheered even louder when it concluded. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is the kind of big, fun film best enjoyed with an enthusiastic audience, which is the one drawback of Netflix distribution. Some of the film’s charms may not land as solidly in the quiet confines of viewers’ houses, but at the Paramount, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday was batting 1,000. [Kyle Ryan]
My main event at this year’s SXSW was moderating a panel with NOFX, whose three-plus decades of existence are chronicled in the new band memoir, NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub And Other Stories (out next month). Considering the book’s title, cartoonish cover, and NOFX’s well-earned reputation as inveterate smartasses, people can be forgiven for thinking The Hepatitis Bathtub is just a punk-rock version of The Dirt; but that illusion gets shattered within the first 15 pages, when guitarist Eric Melvin discusses, for the first time, being molested as a child. While the book has plenty of goofy fun, it’s also far darker than anyone would reasonably expect.
That meant the quartet—Melvin, frontman Fat Mike Burkett, guitarist Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta, and drummer Erik “Smelly” Sandin—had plenty to talk about during our panel. As with the book, I don’t think anyone who came to the panel expected it to get so heavy so quickly, but also like the book, there were a lot of laughs too. The book is an engrossing read, and with a new album coming out this summer, this looks like a big year for one of punk’s longest-running bands. [Kyle Ryan]
Though it’s easy to make fun of SXSW for the omnipresence of brands and their glossy sheen, but I’ve mostly missed that during my time here. That is, until I headed to the Marriott (where Marah saw Ryan Adams a couple days back) and was treated to a lavish experience. After gorging on all the free food I could—try the carrot cake, it’s a must—I was able to catch BJ The Chicago Kid make the overly spacious ballroom feel intimate. BJ is a charming performer, going as far as jumping in the crowd and letting fans sing parts of “Church” in place of him. If anything, it proved this gussied-up version of things can still be pretty fun if you’re willing to focus your attention on what’s actually worth seeing. [David Anthony]
Alex G has always made records for himself and no one else. When he first started dropping albums on Bandcamp there was little fanfare. But, as time went on, people began discovering the treasures hidden inside these one-man dream-pop recordings. Now with a full band, Alex G did an admirable job of recreating the effects-drenched songs from his records, but the band still played as if it was in a bedroom. With his back often turned to the crowd when he wasn’t singing, Giannascoli was fairly disengaged, and his drummer even let out a sizable yawn during the bridge of “Bug.” Perhaps they were all just tired from the late night secret show that saw Giannascoli and Girlpool’s Harmony Tividad playing Blink-182 covers until the wee hours of the morning, but Alex G looked just as fatigued as the crowd that turned up early to today’s Brooklyn Vegan showcase. [David Anthony]
I returned to Dirty Dog—where I saw P.O.D. and Kyle saw Lord Dying—to take in the Run For Cover Records showcase. Though I’d been there before, this was my first time noticing just how trashy the bar actually was, with a stripper pole near the entrance, kegs repurposed into urinals in the men’s bathroom, and weird, softcore porn playing on TVs during parts of the show. Trashy setting aside, the three bands I caught at the Run For Cover Records showcase all found ways to supersede their surroundings. Chicago’s Lifted Bells is one of the few math-rock bands that adheres to pop conventions, and it’s what allows it to be an incredibly technical band that’s still fun to watch. Vocalist Bob Nanna, of mid-’90s emo great Braid, is a truly physical performer when he’s untethered from his guitar, as he whips the microphone across stage and climbs most everything in sight. Backed by a band that can translate knotty, arpeggiated riffs into huge hooks, the band made a good impression on the small crowd that showed up early.
Where Lifted Bells’ guitarists Matt Frank and Matt Jordan are constantly somersaulting over one another, Self Defense’s three guitarists somehow feel like they’re all playing the same harmonious chord in minimally altered ways. As is customary, the band played mostly new and unreleased material, all of which took on an ambient, borderline post-rock bent. Vocalist Patrick Kindlon kept the band anchored, going on hilarious rants between songs and flailing on stage like a man possessed.
Pinegrove’s latest record, Cardinal, is my favorite record so far this year, and its live set last night was everything I hoped it would be. Running though a the bulk of Cardinal, as well as a couple older tracks, the band elicited a huge crowd response, with kids jumping around and singing along with vigor. Juxtaposed against subtitled, softcore porn, band leader Evan Stephens Hall made a crack about how they try to offer wholesome entertainment but are subverted at every turn. Pinegrove was easily my Thursday night highlight, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to try and catch them a couple more times before I leave Austin.
Once Pinegrove wrapped up I made my way over to The Velveeta Room—no relation to Kraft’s processed cheese product—to catch the tail end of the Don Giovanni Records showcase. The tiny bar, which normally specializes in comedy, was packed tight for Katie Crutchfield’s solo Waxahatchee set, and it was as raw a performance as Julien Baker’s the night before. Crutchfield made mention of her guitar going missing at some point during SXSW, and though she told the crowd she was having “a bad night” she pressed on, though it only added to the emotional weight of songs that are already heavy with them.
Worriers closed the night with a bang, ripping though a smattering of its very best pop-punk songs as Thursday night turned to Friday morning. The room shifted from somber to celebratory as Lauren Denitzio sang about pointed topics such as the stifling nature of the gender binary (“They / Them / Theirs”) and the necessity of keeping a watchful eye on those in positions of power (“Yes All Cops”), uniting the room through Worriers’ best protest songs. [David Anthony]
Day Eight - Thursday, March 17
Few bands are as effortlessly fun as PWR BTTM. Clad in fabulous dresses and covered in glitter, the New York two-piece ripped through hit after hit from last year’s Ugly Cherries. Couple that with the hilarious back and forth between songs, and PWR BTTM played one of the few sets that was empowering but full of belly laughs, too. [David Anthony]
After realizing I wouldn’t make it into Pitchfork’s day party to catch Mick Jenkins I decamped to Cheer Up Charlie’s to take in a set by Texas natives Radioactivity. As a huge fan of The Marked Men and all its related projects, Radioactivity was a solid substitute for Chicago hip-hop.Just as the heat was kicking up, Radioactivity hit the stage and put on an equally blazing set, rarely letting more than a second or two to pass before jumping into another song. Though I’m bummed I missed Jenkins, getting to hear “World Of Pleasure” more than made up for it. [David Anthony]
With South By’s gaming expo underway, I had the chance to meet up with a couple of the folks working on the new Kickstarter-funded game Loud On Planet X. The game splits the difference between Rock Band and Plants Vs. Zombies, as players pick a band and song (choices include artists such as Fucked Up, Metric, and Metz) and have to tap along to the beat, earning assorted weapons along the way. Though it first appears like a simple rhythm-based game, after a couple levels I was hooked. It wisely doesn’t attempt to recreate the experience of playing music, instead opting to make the entire thing a madcap fight against a plethora of otherworldly creatures. [David Anthony]
Day Seven - Wednesday, March 16
I spent the end of 2015 doing one thing and one thing only: Yelling about how much I loved Julien Baker’s debut album, Sprained Ankle. Since then, I’ve seen Baker perform once, and it was such a visceral experience that, after she finished, I had to leave the room and go sit down (I know—how melodramatic of me). It’s why, when I learned Baker would be playing at a Presbyterian church during SXSW, I looked forward to that show more than anything else on the schedule.
After showing up early enough to catch the tail end of Car Seat Headrest—along with all of Eleanor Friedberger’s set that followed—I nabbed a spot in the third row from the front, and I was ready to be shaken by Baker’s songs once more. I’d by lying if I said it hit as hard as the first time, but perhaps it helped that I was already seated this time around. She played a pair of new songs—both of which were great—but the highlight of the night was “Rejoice,” the song that sees her openly wrestling with her faith and what it means to believe in God. Given the fact that Baker was performing to a packed house while standing in front of a giant wooden cross, the moment couldn’t have played better if it had been scripted. After closing with “Something,” my favorite song of last year, the crowd rose to its feet and gave her a standing ovation. It was the only performance I saw that warranted such a reaction, but that’s because there’s only one Julien Baker. [David Anthony]
A good metal show is a nice palate cleanser at SXSW, where fussy post-whatever can grow tiresome after a few days. The MetalSucks showcase is always a haven for head-banging longhairs, a feeling somehow enhanced by the “douchey suburban sports bar” vibe of the Dirty Dog (the place David saw P.O.D. last night). On stage when I arrived were 2014 Year In Band Names honorees Lord Dying, though I sadly missed my favorite song of theirs, “Suckling At The Teat Of A She-Beast.” The Portland band plays straightforward, metal-up-your-ass rock, effectively blowing out any cobwebs that’d formed in my ears during other, more subdued sets. [Kyle Ryan]
Whenever I have a chance to see Des Ark I take it. The band’s always been a force live, but with last year’s Everything Dies it finally crafted a batch of songs that matched the intensity of its live show.
Its set at Sidewinder showed the band in peak form, and with a few more shows still to come during the course of the festival, if I’m lucky, this won’t be the last time I get to see the mighty Des Ark this week. [David Anthony]
Ryan Adams is a pretty funny dude. Taking a cue from Vince Staples, he spent a good portion of his onstage banter at the Marriott party actually poking fun at Marriott—or at least at the people in the Marriott and Universal VIP section. Calling them out for chatting through his songs, Adams referred to the corporate drones as “Megaforce USA,” joking that they must all have just been killing time before they could go see DRI. Add that to Adams’ comments about how “at least 40 percent” of the audience actually cared what he’s doing, and it made for a refreshingly self-deprecating set. [Marah Eakin]
With a new record, True Sadness, out in June, The Avett Brothers decided to stop at SXSW for just two shows. The one I caught tonight was at the JW Marriott (promoting the Marriott Rewards program), and while seeing any band—let alone an arena band—in a hotel ballroom can be awkward, the Avetts pulled it off, filling the bland, cavernous space with both music and personality.
While a good portion of the set list was off its new record—including the stomping, bass-driven single “Ain’t No Man”—the North Carolinians pulled out a few classic chestnuts as well, like the crowd-pleasing “Murder In The City.” It was a charming down-home show from the family band, and one that left the fairly small (for the Avetts) crowd wanting more. [Marah Eakin]
Like a modern version of The Jesus Lizard, Big Ups are gleefully antagonistic. The band’s songs are deliberately obtuse, as they lock into a groove only to quickly shift direction toward the austere. Couple this with vocalist Joe Galarraga’s pained facial expressions and wild body contortions, and it’s like watching a young, unhinged Jim Carrey front a post-hardcore band. Despite the reasons Big Ups could put someone off, the live show proved that, given a little time, the group can win an audience over. The band’s a well-oiled machine, hitting those strange tempo and time changes with ease, and after a couple songs the crowd was head-bobbing in unison with the band’s strange riffs. Big Ups may not be easily digestible but, if you stick with them, they’re incredibly rewarding. [David Anthony]
It’s hard to not be inspired watching Downtown Boys. Last year’s Full Communism was packed full of potent statements, but the group’s live show takes it to another level.
Ripping through its songs like a hardcore band, only with saxophone blasts mixed in, vocalist Victoria Ruiz commanded the stage, using her between-song banter to offer deeper insight into the harsh societal factors (institutional racism, wage disparity, and legislation of women’s bodies, just to name a few) that the band regularly tackles in song. Before the band’s manic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark,” Ruiz explained that, for Downtown Boys, darkness isn’t a negative attribute. Instead, it’s what pushes people to create their own light. By the set’s end, Downtown Boys made the crowd feel united in the goal of not just building a better punk scene but also a better world. Really, it’s what all good punk bands should do. [David Anthony]
Marah has checked out for the rest of the week, so it’s on me and David to continue the Great A.V. Club Tour Of SXSW Activations. Rarely do these kinds of things line up with something you need, but I have a 3-year-old who needs a new bed, and lo and behold, Casper Mattresses stopped its “nap tour” in Austin. The podcast sponsor, which apparently also makes mattresses, has a truck with little sleeping pods for napping. (Each one even had a red phone to listen to bedtime stories.) Offering beds in the middle of SXSW—complete with little privacy curtains to shut out the world—is begging for all manner of bodily fluids to be spilled upon your product, but Casper is a trusting bunch, I guess. Me, not so much. But it was a nice respite in the middle of the day. [Kyle Ryan]
I’d been wanting to see the new HBO documentary Beware The Slenderman since I got to South By, both because I’ve followed the case it documents and because I’m interested in true-crime reporting. I finally caught it today, at its last Austin screening, and I wasn’t disappointed. The film, directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky, is deeply sad and incredibly well done, with Brodsky getting unprecedented access to the families of both of the accused teens. It’s remarkable how much they opened up, and the film really gives viewers a better sense of how something as seemingly senseless as the Slenderman-inspired stabbing could take place. The film should be on HBO later this year, and I’d recommend anyone with even a passing interest in the case—or with kids of their own—check it out. [Marah Eakin]
After spending a night among rap-rock royalty, I decided to start the morning on a more relaxed note. After a quick breakfast I opted to hit up a few of Austin’s record stores: Waterloo, Encore, and End Of An Ear. While each one had its merits, the one that struck me most—and took the most of my money—was End Of An Ear. It’s got a great selection of new releases across genres, but its used section was what made it worth the trip for me. While I doubt I’ll make it that far south again while I’m in Austin—even with the great in-stores End Of An Ear has planned during the fest—I was happy I got to spend some time away from the commotion of downtown. Plus, I scored a Grief 7-inch at a relatively cheap price, so that only made things better. [David Anthony]
For the 30th incarnation of SXSW, the festival scored a couple of huge guests: the sitting president and first lady. Barack Obama opened SXSW Interactive, and Michelle Obama anchored a keynote for her Let Girls Learn initiative, flanked by a few co-panelists who would be SXSW headliners themselves: Queen Latifah (who served as moderator), Missy Elliott, and Diane Warren, along with actor and activist Sophia Bush. Let Girls Learn partners with the Peace Corps to provide educational opportunities to girls in parts of the world where they’re not encouraged—and in some cases actively and/or violently discouraged—from pursuing an education. The organization estimates that 62 million girls worldwide who could or should be in school are not. “For me, 62 million girls to not get an education, that’s personal,” Obama said toward the beginning of the keynote, which was preceded by a quick performance by Chloe and Halle Baily, the young performers who anchor the new Let Girls Learn anthem “This Is For My Girls.”
All of the panelists are involved with Let Girls Learn (Warren wrote “This Is For My Girls,” which features Elliott and a host of others), and considering the names on stage, the keynote was unsurprisingly overstuffed. Latifah gave them all a generous amount of time to talk, but when Michelle Obama is on stage, Bush talking about using her 30th birthday as a prompt to help build a school in Guatemala can’t help but fall a little flat. When the room is hanging on every word out of the first lady’s mouth, give the people what they want.
Obama was poised and personable as ever, switching between speech-worthy soundbites (“The change that happens, happens on the ground. It happens from the bottom up. In particular, young people find their power, find their voice, and they use it every single day”) and off-the-cuff anecdotes, like listening to Stevie Wonder at her grandfather’s apartment on the South Side of Chicago.
The biggest response came toward the end, when Latifah mentioned how people kept telling her the same two questions to ask FLOTUS: What will she miss the most about being first lady? And would she ever run for president? Unsurprisingly, the room full of Obama fans—even here in the capital of Texas, the reddest of the red—erupted, though Obama was quick to shoot down the idea. Why? Well, because why would you ever want to go through all that shit again? But more important, she said, was focusing on her two daughters, who have also had enough of this shit. What will she miss? All the great things she gets to do, not that Michelle Obama is going to want for opportunities: “We’re not through yet. You know, there’s a lifetime after the White House. So we’ll keep pushing.”
Now: Where’s the secret Missy Elliott/Queen Latifah show tonight? [Kyle Ryan]
Sometimes working as press gets you the hookup, and then other times this is your view of the stage.
Well, I’ll be able to hear Michelle Obama really well. [Kyle Ryan]
It takes a lot to get SXSW attendees out of bed early, much less arrive more than 2 hours before an event actually starts. But here we all are, awaiting the chance to see Michelle Obama… oh, and Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah. [Kyle Ryan]
Day Six - Tuesday, March 15
Taking my personal mantra of, “fuck it, I’m here” to its logical extreme, I finished my first night at SXSW watching P.O.D. play in a dingy little bar on 6th street. Even in its heyday, I wasn’t a P.O.D. fan, so this late night trip was one of morbid curiosity instead of anything resembling misplaced nostalgia. Would it be a greatest hits set? Would the band play a bunch of songs from their record that came out last August? The answer to both those questions was yes, though I wouldn’t have known to ask the latter if not for hastily going on Wikipedia to figure out what the band had been up to lately. Though I’d not go as far as saying P.O.D.’s music is at all worthwhile, it certainly knows how to put on a show, and that’s what really mattered. The band played the shithole bar as if it were an amphitheater, and the crowd that turned up met the band with a reaction befitting of a far bigger stage. It was a weird situation to find myself in, but that’s exactly why I went in the first place. It’s not a type of music—or a type of music fan—that I see with any regularity. Getting to see that P.O.D. still has diehard fans (seriously), and is still adept at writing songs best suited to the soundtracks of racing video games, I’d say the trip was worth my time. At least from an anthropological perspective. [David Anthony]
I’m quick to admit that Hinds’ recordings hadn’t done much for me. But, given that the four-piece from Madrid was playing a show I was already at I figured it couldn’t hurt to stick around and see if I was swayed. It took a couple songs but, once it hit, I was all-in. Whatever I thought was lacking on the band’s recordings was fully realized live, and after a couple songs I was hooked. Hinds’ set played like classic Motown singles run through a garage-rock filter, and each song not only worked to convert me, they made me feel foolish for having not heard what had clearly been there all along. [David Anthony]
Hey, I saw Iggy Pop! Like on stage, not just on the street. (I did see James Caan on the street the other night, which is about as close as you can get to seeing Iggy Pop.) I mentioned in my first post of this year that Public Enemy was the only Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees I was likely to see, but Pop (with The Stooges) also made the cut a while back. It was the perfect venue: a taping of Austin City Limits, the venerated TV show, which moved from a studio on the UT campus a few years back to luxurious digs downtown. Iggy is on tour with his new BFF Josh Homme playing guitar; the two are also responsible for the upcoming (this Friday) Post Pop Depression, which Pop is billing as his last-ever album. Iggy still has his snakelike charms and childlike grin, even as it’s clear that his longtime limp is getting a little harder to work with onstage. That didn’t stop him from removing his black suit jacket after just two blazing songs (“Lust For Life” and “Sister Midnight”) and spending the rest of his two-hour set shirtless. He also spent a ton of time down in the audience, which should make for interesting TV once this thing airs. I’m not the hugest fan—more of greatest-hits guy—but it was great to see a legend still loving what he does. Especially when he stops between songs to say things like, “Just because I say ‘fuck’ a lot doesn’t mean you have to!” and then hands the mic to the front row so that they can just yell “fuck,” too.
I also happened upon an art installation (sorta) that I had read about: Simon Heijdens’ “Silent Room.” It’s basically a sealed container box that has been engineered to be perfectly silent. Not mostly silent. Not kinda quiet. But completely without any outside sound. It’s billed a “rare, completely unmediated state,” and while it didn’t exactly blow my mind, it was pretty cool—every sound your body makes is heightened when there is zero outside stimulus. I wish they were letting people stay inside for more than a minute, because I could see it getting unnerving, and supposedly nobody has stayed in it for longer than 45 minutes. [Josh Modell]
I decided to catch some comedy tonight, and thus went for Nate Bargatze’s live show. The Nashville-based comedian brought all the hits, from jokes about Kmart to bits about time travel that he’s brought to late night before, but he won over everyone from familiar fans to casual “I heard this guy is funny” line people. I loved him. A+. [Marah Eakin]
After a guided tour of Austin courtesy of the one and only Josh Modell, I headed to Hype Hotel to catch Diet Cig.
Initially, it seemed like the two-piece would get swallowed up by the giant stage and light-up SUV inside the venue, but guitarist-vocalist Alex Luciano made sure all eyes were on her. Jumping across the stage whenever she wasn’t singing, and tossing out high kicks that would put Robert Pollard to shame, Luciano put on a joyously fun performance during the band’s short set. Diet Cig pit everything jt had into its 20 minutes, as evinced by Luciano’s triumphant collapse in the middle of the stage at the set’s end. [David Anthony]
Intrepid reporter David Anthony arrived today, and he’ll be writing a lot about SXSW Music. He took a shuttle here. [Josh Modell]
I’m just now getting around to thinking about our party last night, which was Plenti of fun (get it?!). Thanks to all the bands who played; everybody was great. (Really!) Here’s a picture of Jenn Wasner (who performed in her solo guise as Flock Of Dimes) along with her “roadie” (Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso):
Wasner described South By Southwest as something like “the growth on your face, and you’re not sure if it’s a sexy mole or malignant. Tonight it feels like a sexy mole.” [Josh Modell]
Extreme full disclosure: I wasn’t a fan of Chvrches before today. I got the appeal, but they weren’t really anything I ever sought out. But after seeing them dissect “Clearest Blue” for 45 minutes at a recording of the Song Exploder podcast (which—again, full disclosure—my husband books live shows for), I think that might change. The band was charmingly frank about its process, admitting that, at times, even it thinks it’s a bit cheesy. Amid references to Underworld, Toto, and Kylie Minogue, though, the group—and specifically Lauren Mayberry—talked about the levels of darkness and pessimism that tinge its songs, something I had never heard before. Knowing what I know now—and knowing that they’re fucking hilarious in person—I think I’ll give these guys another chance. [Marah Eakin]
Scary moment right before the Song Exploder taping: A girl collapsed right as she walked in the door, undoubtedly because of today’s record-setting 92 degree heat. The sun is incredibly brutal and luckily the staff at Lustre Pearl was quick to react with water, medical attention, and cold cloths for her head and wrists. [Marah Eakin]
I’ve been having a pretty low-key Tuesday as SXSW transitions from interactive to music, just easing into shit with productive lunches and industry hangs. I’m pleased to report, however, that I saw Nardwuar, the human serviette, coming out of our hotel this morning. The Canadian journalist and rock legend had a stroke in late 2015, but he looked as sharp and spry as ever on the streets of Austin, and that’s great news. [Marah Eakin]
Right after I tweeted that, they stopped saying it. My Twitter powers are formidable. [Kyle Ryan]
Day Five - Monday, March 14
Beach Slang released one of 2015’s best albums with The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, a delirious collection of pop-infused punk that nods to founding fathers like The Replacements, Jawbreaker, and The Psychedelic Furs. The band headlined the outside stage of our party, closing it out with cathartic sing-alongs in front of a raucous crowd that broke out into periodic moshing. Frontman James Alex repeatedly professed how charmed he was by Austin and the crowd’s warm reception, beginning Beach Slang’s gauntlet of SXSW performances on a high note. If you haven’t heard The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, stop reading now and find it. [Kyle Ryan]
Guitarists who play with their instruments that high up mean business, and Kristine Leschper of Mothers doesn’t screw around. Her impressive skill was on display when the band played the next-to-last spot on the outdoor stage of our party Monday night. [Kyle Ryan]
Open Mike Eagle was already owning Barracuda with tracks off his upcoming record, Hella Personal Film Festival, and launched into “Doug Stamper (Advice Song).” Like two or three verses in, he goes and invites special guest Hannibal Buress to the stage, and shit just explodes. Buress only stayed around until the end of the song, but bis appearance not only sparked one million cell phone videos, but also the first “Oh shit, were you there?” moments of SXSW. [Marah Eakin]
Bleached needs to be a couple orders of magnitude bigger than it is, but the excellent new Welcome The Worms will hopefully rectify that. The band has hit its punk-pop stride, with hook-laden songs heavy on sharp turns of phrase. Check it out tout de suite. [Kyle Ryan]
Now Into it. Over It. is battling the afternoon sun with aplomb. Having just played a new song live for the first time ever, Evan Weiss mentioned that their new record came out on 3/11, saying “Amber is the color of our record release.” [Marah Eakin]
I’ll say this for Preacher, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s new AMC series translating Garth Ennis’ seemingly unfilmable comic series to the big screen: It doesn’t skimp on the gonzo. The first episode admirably crams a metric ton of table setting into a single hour, and if the results occasionally feel jarring, it’s at least 50 percent intentional. The story of an ass-kicking preacher, an even ass-kicking-er criminal named Tulip, and an immortal Irish vampire, Preacher commits hard to its insanity, which is really the only way they’re going to pull this off. Significant tweaks to the narrative have been made, mostly by necessity, but if the crowd watching it with me was a good indicator, the results are never less than bonkers and entertaining. It’s early going, but this show might just succeed at something long thought impossible: A live-action Preacher that’s earnestly faithful to the bonkers story. [Alex McCown]
There are tons of people at The A.V Club and Onion party, and not just for the free Plenti yogurt. Car Seat Headrest is tearing it up. [Marah Eakin]
The nice people at Sennheiser have always been kind to The A.V. Club, so, while walking the convention floor this morning, I stopped in at their booth. They’re doing some really neat stuff with virtual reality audio—VR being the hot topic of SXSW so far this year. While there have clearly been a lot of innovations in VR visuals, Sennheiser has put work into 360 degree VR audio, meaning that, when you’re in a VR experience and a TV is running in front of you, with Sennheiser’s system you can turn around and you’ll hear it as if it was playing behind you. It’s something you don’t really notice until someone points it out to you—I’ve done several VR experiences so far while I’ve been here and have mainly just noticed the visuals, but I’ve got to say, it makes a big difference. It’s called Ambeo, and it’s pretty neat technology. [Marah Eakin]
I’ve had an incredibly eventful day so far. I started things off with a biscuit breakfast with the fine people of Kickstarter, then swung by the very fancy Driskill hotel, where I picked up an Urb-e. The marketing people behind Urb-e offered them to us for a day, and I think I was the only brave soul that bit. A miniature scooter that goes 15 mph and weighs just 35 pounds, the Urb-e is a hell of a lot of fun. I’ve been scooting everywhere all morning, the Austin sun on my face and wind in my hair. It’s a little bulky if you’re going from party to party, even though it folds up pretty tight, but I can’t imagine most people use this thing for bar hopping. Taking it to work would be ideal. It goes 20 miles on a charge and attracts all sorts of attention. I have no idea how much they cost, which is probably good, since I’ve been testing its skills on things like dirt and hills, but I’m a little worried I’m going to want to own one after today. I guess my birthday is coming up. [Marah Eakin]
Day Four - Sunday, March 13
The British are coming! And they’re kidnapping me! After promising myself I would get to bed at a reasonable hour after some personal concerns involving my aged cat and a dear friend in Austin were hammered out, I let myself be talked into going to the Mashable House dance party by some expatriates from across the pond, and I’m glad I did. I keep being ordered to stop working 24 hours a day, and this was the first time I actually obeyed said orders. I’m hitting the hay at 3 am, but the party rages on outside our window, even if every local would really rather the out-of-towners took an 8-hour break. [Alex McCown]
I waited in a massive line to see Hardcore Henry (the film known for a while as simply Hardcore), and I must say that I’m impressed by how organized SXSW generally seems to be amidst the chaos. A dozen volunteers assured even those two blocks down (like me) that they’d get into the screening. And we did, in the packed, gorgeous, 1,300-seat Paramount. The movie (such as it is) probably isn’t worthy of such a lovely establishment, but the crowd was eager to eat it up. (It might’ve helped that the director, Ilya Naishuller, and star, Sharlto Copley, introduced the film.) It’s really all gimmick, a 95-minute first-person shooter that never breaks its conceit. It really is like playing Doom for an hour and a half—even the plot (such as it is) feels video game-like. I went it wanting to love it—I’m a big fan of the Crank movies—but it unsurprisingly wore out its welcome after a while. Not to play armchair director, but it might’ve been more fun (and more coherent) if there were just a few sequences from the mute protagonist’s perspective, not the whole damn thing. That said, if you’re going to see it, see it in a packed theater. [Josh Modell]
Every time I’m in Austin, somehow I get a chance to see Willie Nelson. I take it every time. He’s one of my favorite artists of all time, and he’s a living legend. So, when I heard he was playing a private party at the Spotify house tonight, I used some connections and wrangled an invite.
The event really was top notch. Both Wild Feathers and Okkervil River played before Willie, and there was a huge spread of food, booze, and brand-specific sundries. Still, the highlight of the night was Willie. Still spry at 82, the guitarist feverishly tore through songs like “Whiskey River” and “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die.” The crowd sang along to a good number of the tracks, and there was two-stepping going on in the back of the room. It was a lovely, perfectly Texan night, and the kind of thing that SXSW is made for. [Marah Eakin]
Conversations behind me in the line to get into the private Willie Nelson party:
1. A chat about how stressed this girl was when she had to pitch Scooter Braun, who manages Justin Bieber.
2. A talk about how rad it would be to get “faded” and paint a mural.
3. Two guys talking about their relationships: One has been with his girlfriend for a year but barely seems to care. The other doesn’t want a girlfriend because he’s “too busy working on his brand” right now.
4. And then there’s this member of the Texas Cannabis Industry Association:
Also, this party has a fucking menu:
As the A.V. Club’s resident food and restaurant nerds, Josh and I decided to spend our late afternoon taking in Insatiable, a new documentary about the late chef Homaro Cantu, who was known for molecular gastronomy. It was a touching piece of work, especially with many of Cantu’s former staffers sitting near us. Though the film was a bit rough at points, it definitely got its respect for its subject across—and made us hungry. [Marah Eakin]
Southwest meets Westeros at the Game Of Thrones event, which is relatively minimalist but nerdy fun. SXSWesteros is HBO’s promotional tool for the upcoming season, but is also refreshingly air-conditioned. You can try a sample of Iron Throne blond ale, the new tie-in beer flavor, while watching a (ridiculously) short clip from the upcoming season. (Seriously, it lasted all of 20 seconds, and required us to hand over our cell phones for security. When you play the game of thrones, you win or you lose your cell phone.) You can sit on the iron throne, get a picture holding Needle, or Photoshop yourself into the hall of mirrors. Valar McCown. [Alex McCown]
Marah and I stumbled on a party where everyone was dressed like bananas. They ran out of banana costumes before we got there, so we didn’t get to participate. Here’s a photo anyway; apparently they were trying to break a world record. [Josh Modell]
We wandered into Bangers, a barbecue and sausage place, for a party put on by Nerdist, among other things. We didn’t realize that there was a panel happening smack in the middle of the backyard, because literally zero people were listening to Sharlto Copley and company talk about the buzzing movie Hardcore Henry. ’Twas not a great setup. So we got to petting some dogs that were on the premises, and visiting an “activation” for a new CW show about zombies called Contamination. There was a lady there dressed as a doctor and using a fake British accent, and she gave us a zombie survival pouch that included Kleenex, because that’s how you fight zombies. But I’m glad we stuck around, because a small crowd gathered for a panel about Midnight Special, the great new film by Jeff Nichols, who has made three other great films, including Mud and Take Shelter. Nichols was there along with Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, and Jaeden Lieberher, who plays Shannon’s mysterious son. They did their best, even though most of the crowd was completely ignoring them. Shannon stopped the proceedings for a minute when he saw a syringe on the ground, which he picked up and proceeded to jokingly lecture on the dangers of drugs. (He put it in his pocket and said he was going to take it back to his room.) In short: Hey people eating sausage, there are a bunch of movie stars like 10 feet away from you! Also, see Midnight Special if you’re inclined toward sci-fi things. [Josh Modell]
And just like that, a day can turn shitty. During the two minutes I sat down in a comfy chair in the lobby of the Four Seasons to answer some emails, someone made off with my notebook. Which is no biggie, except that it contained all my info and notes for my interviews for the rest of the day. All of which are happening very soon and in rapid succession. Get ready for some illuminating discussions with actors and directors that consist solely of me saying, “So… seen season two of The Leftovers?” Fuck you, random person at the Four Seasons. [Alex McCown]
There’s a lot of interviews happening here (including a few you’ll be seeing on our site soon), but for sheer giddy energy, it’d be tough to beat talking with Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen, here promoting their new film The Other Half. (The film is currently seeking a distributor.) The full interview will appear in the coming weeks, but for now, please enjoy this short video of the two of them answering the second question of our 11 Questions feature, “What giant animal would you want to ride to work?” [Alex McCown]
Take5, the candy bar beloved by our own Kyle Ryan, put some thought into its “remix” branding this year. They had the novel idea of a swag exchange, in which you take the crappy free stuff you’ve received from other brands and swap it for stuff you might actually want. I didn’t have anything good to trade, but Marah was able to parlay some Transformers crap and a USB drive into a Kindle Fire, so now she extra loves Take5 candy bars! [Josh Modell]
Lured in by the prospect of both being a hologram and flying a drone, I checked out DJI’s activation Sunday morning. It lived up to the hype. I was, in fact, made into a hologram and then got to fly a cool drone. While the Phantom 4 goes up to 38 mph, there are limitations when you’re dealing with new “pilots” and a confined space, so really I just got to take it up and down and slightly back and forth inside a bungee cord cage, but I flew it, so it counts.
And, as with the VR porn, it only took me actually experiencing the concept to fully understand why someone would want to get down with a drone. It was fun, fast, and even a little bit dangerous. Good start to a sunny Sunday. [Marah Eakin]
Sleep is slowly losing ground as I woke up this morning to head over to the Mr. Robot press junket. Things were busy, so I only had a couple of minutes with creator Sam Esmail and stars Rami Malek and Christian Slater. Rather than waste everyone’s time with some platitudes about the show, I decided to get at the important stuff. Watch the video to see what apps Rami, Christian, and Sam kill time with, what TV shows they’re obsessed with, and what person from history they’d most like to punch (excluding Hitler, because we all want to punch that guy. [Alex McCown]
Day Three - Saturday, March 12
I didn’t realize that the badge pickup closed at 6 p.m., and my flight landed at about 5:20. My later evening plans were thus thwarted (I was hoping to see some comedy and/or the “work-in-progress” screening of Key & Peele’s new movie, Keanu. (It’s sort of a loving tribute to John Wick, it seems.) Instead, I waited for a while at the Samsung activation, which clearly cost a lot of money. I was there mostly to see Public Enemy, who played essentially a greatest-hits set: “Bring The Noise,” “Fight The Power,” “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos,” “Shut Em Down,” even “He Got Game.” Chuck D and Flavor Flav—who were joined by the sometimes-absent Professor Griff, a small phalanx of S1Ws, and a live band—only nodded to the last 15 years with the title track to Man Plans God Laughs. Eventually it was time for 2 Chainz and then, after 30 minutes of truncated hits, Lil Wayne. The young crowd was definitely there for these headliners more than Public Enemy—the only Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees at this year’s SXSW, I assume. It was the first time I’ll be proved old this year, but not the last. [Josh Modell]
I spent the first part of my night watching the lovely and charming My Blind Brother, which stars Adam Scott, Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, and Zoe Kazan. I’m a bit biased because they shot a lot of the movie around where I grew up, but I liked it very much. It’s a sweet story about family and love, and both Kroll and Slate are excellent in it.
The most interesting part of the night, though, was watching Kazan masterfully shut down not one but two audience members during the post-film Q&A, first after she and Slate were asked straight away who they were wearing, and second after someone asked if the cast had experience with “handicapped people.” The speed and give-no-fucksness with which she dealt with the silly questions was beyond admirable. [Marah Eakin]
A security guard at the Samsung event just came up to me and said, “Is that an Apple phone? You have to put it away.” Joke’s on him, because now I’m watching Public Enemy and typing on my iPhone. Oh no, here he comes! [Josh Modell]
There are several surprises in Ti West’s new Western revenger, In A Valley Of Violence, none more startling than the fact that, for the first half of the film, the genre master craftsman has made an old-fashioned Hollywood crowd-pleaser. The laughs come fast and easy, and Ethan Hawke looks like he’s having a blast. But the real winner here is James Ransone, whom West has given a role almost perfectly tailored to the actor’s singular talent for playing insecure villains. It eventually pivots into earning that R rating, but the laughs don’t stop. It’s easily the director’s most boldly appealing film—also, between this and American Crime Story, John Travolta is crushing 2016. [Alex McCown]
I’d ask what I’ve missed but I know it’s St. Bernards and virtual porn and doughnuts and more. But I’m here now! [Josh Modell]
Marah and I couldn’t resist going to the Naughty America party to try out their advertised VR experience. It’s exactly what you think: first-person VR porn, only in this case, it’s a bunch of dudes sitting on a bench in the back patio of an Austin bar, surrounded by a bunch of other guys waiting for their turn. Yes, it’s an awkward way to experience it, but Ian, the Naughty America rep, was super nice, telling us about the way they developed it, and how they try to stay at the forefront of the industry. “If you’re paying for porn, it better be the best.” We both tried it, and I’m not sure which of us was more uncomfortable. I watched three scenes, two with two women and one that was Christmas-themed. Marah, how was your experience? [Alex McCown]
In one word, awkward. After being assured by you, Alex, that I didn’t want to watch the videos you saw, I was instead offered “the ladies’ perspective,” in which a very busty, heavily made up lady, um, goes to town on the wearer. There was a lot of slow caressing and near kissing, and honestly, once it really started going I had to bail. I can 100 percent see why someone would want to use this app, but in a bar, while with a co-worker? Pass. [Marah Eakin]
Mophie, this company that makes portable cell-phone chargers, is doing a pretty fun activation here at South By. Basically, you tweet them a screenshot of your low battery, and they come find you. The catch: They’re on a sweet Indian motorcycle with a St. Bernard in a sidecar. I did it, of course—how could I not? The results were endlessly satisfying. Not only did I get a free Mophie, but I also got to pet a huge, warm, and fluffy St. Bernard! Win-win. [Marah Eakin]
The Robert Rodriguez/Frank Frazzetta museum exhibit is a little off the beaten path, but well worth it for nerds curious to see Frazetta’s delightful over-the-top artwork in its most pristine form. From his classic beefcake warriors and busty women to his sketches of Danny Trejo’s weathered face, it’s a geeky treat. [Alex McCown]
Sometimes SXSW is all about what sort of dumb stuff you just happen to come across. Case in point: While I was checking out info about the Mashable House on Twitter, I saw that they were looking for contestants for a Sphero BB-8 race. Not having anything else to do early on Saturday, I volunteered, and that’s how I found myself learning to master a silly little Star Wars toy earlier today. Weirdly, I even ended up winning the whole race, which was sponsored by Amazon Launchpad, and thus now find myself the proud owner of a gently used $300 remote control BB-8. Wanna race? [Marah Eakin]
Here’s what happens when a publicist sends you an email for a comedy show with the time erroneously listed at 10:30 a.m. [Alex McCown]
Who doesn’t love to go see a comedy before they’ve had their coffee? That was apparently the thinking behind scheduling an 8 a.m. screening of Everybody Wants Some, where I was one of perhaps a dozen people in attendance. Richard Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to Dazed And Confused, the film follows around the sex-obsessed members of a college baseball team on the weekend prior to school starting. A charming melange of parties and hanging out, it takes a little longer than its predecessor did to find its feet. But once Linklater’s camera retreats into the corners of rooms and lets his gift for coaxing naturalistic performances and easy chemistry out of his ensemble cast, the movie’s ramshackle appeal becomes infectious. It’s not hard to picture this film joining the pantheon of college party films, especially with the director’s impressive Lumet-esque chops elevating the material and creating that rarest of creatures: a group of college jocks you’d actually enjoy spending time with. [Alex McCown]
Day Two - Friday, March 11
In perhaps the only truly important event of SXSW. We stopped by a Friskies event to ask Grumpy Cat for some thoughts on The A.V. Club’s top musical artists of the past year. The internet’s most famous feline has some strong opinions on today’s hottest artists. [Alex McCown]
Look, I don’t know how to say this without sounding hyperbolic or click-baity, so I’m just going to say it: the Here Active Listening ear buds from Doppler Labs blew our fucking minds. For real. We attended a concert by the band Great Caesar, and the ear buds, controlled by an iPod mini, transformed it into an amazing interactive listening performance. You could click on “Carnegie Hall,” or “stratosphere,” or turn the “flange” setting on, and suddenly the sound from the band onstage completely changed. There’s no good way to describe it, other than to say it’s completely engrossing, and utterly transformative of the live music experience. (Again, apologies, I swear this isn’t a PR flak thing.) Supposedly, every attendee at Coachella this year will receive them, so it might just be a matter of time until they’re a part of the furniture at any concert. But for now: holy hell. [Alex McCown]
Alex and I are fully in the pocket of Big Garden after about an hour at the (believe it or not) Miracle-Gro party. Fueled with Springsteen covers by Jared And The Mill, we learned about the new Gro app, available April 1. That shit’ll let us customize our Chicago porch gardens and other products, like PlantLink, will let us know when we’ve watered too little or too much. That’s a godsend for those of us with a brown thumb, and both of us agree that it’s a great example of millennial technology for the real world. Seriously—we went into this party (which was beautiful—great plants) as total cynics and left completely sold on the Gro products. [Marah Eakin]
Back to the Mr. Robot lot, just because we had time to kill and a Ferris wheel to ride. Alex insisted on getting his picture taken at the F Society desk after a little Skee-Ball. [Marah Eakin]
P.S. The view from the top of the Ferris wheel is also pretty great. What a shock that the folks behind Mr. Robot are marketing black belts. [Alex McCown]
Marah and I stopped by the hilariously named “McDonald’s Loft” (hot branding!) to experience all the cool meme references in their artworks. Really, we were there for the free sundae bar, which was awesome. But also, we got to try out the fast food behemoth’s virtual reality game. It’s essentially a paint app, where you stand in a white cube and throw colors at the walls and floor. It’s super childish and almost embarrassingly fun. Here’s video proof:
Marah also rocked it:
But I think my art was better:
In an effort to do one healthy thing while at SXSW, I signed up for a private Spin session with Peloton, a company that does online streaming courses that you can take anytime, and compete against all the other people who have ever taken that class, in real time. Little did I realize, only a fool signs up to do an exercise (Spin) he’s never done before. Here’s the high-tech but relatively innocuous-looking pod I was in for this workout, prior to the start:
And here’s the picture the trainer took of me afterwards. Lo, Odysseus, why do you order us ever onward?
Seriously, though, it was awesome, near-death exhaustion and all. I felt like I was in The Jetsons. And my online trainer was dancing to the Spice Girls the entire time, which meant I was, too. Although now I see why they have beds to collapse into next to the bikes. [Alex McCown]
I always like the little ways companies end up marketing at SXSW. For instance, HBO’s got the hotel key game on lock. [Marah Eakin]
I guess when your show is called Preacher, people unfamiliar with the source material need a way to know your series is not a big fan of God. [Alex McCown]
Day One - Thursday, March 10
Woody Allen, honoring Sony Pictures Classics co-founder Michael Barker: “Congratulations on being elected into the Texas Film Hall Of Fame; that’s like being elected Man Of The Year in Uzbekistan.”
Chandra Wilson takes the stage after a montage of her work, and immediately wins the award for person who seems most like someone you’d really enjoy being best friends with. (Sorry, Ethan Hawke, even though your speech was also very charming.) [Alex McCown]
Carol Burnett is presented with the honorary award. Almost every subsequent presenter mentions how they feel wildly lucky and embarrassed to stand on the same dais as her. Young people, take note: Burnett is unstoppable. [Alex McCown]
Jesse Plemons wins the Rising Star award: Palicki introduces him, shouting out his work in Fargo, and the entire room is completely silent for the first time all night. [Alex McCown]
Mike Judge just told a knock-knock joke about Tommy Lee Jones. He made the audience start it: “Knock knock.” “Get the hell off my property.” [Alex McCown]
The guys from Linklater’s new movie, Everybody Wants Some, are trying to start a very frat dude-esque chant; unsurprisingly, a bunch of people trying to eat at the cinema equivalent of a third-marriage wedding are not psyched to participate. [Alex McCown]
We have now entered the banquet hall. I am not making this up: Palicki and Plemons are totally bro-ing down, which is catnip for any Friday Night Lights fan. Let’s see if the wine slowly convinces me to yell, “Let’s talk about that dead body story!” FYI, the Texas Film Awards are just as easygoing as you might expect. I have made four new best friends, all of whom I don’t know, but they assure me we’ll get on famously. [Alex McCown]
I’ve just arrived at the Texas Film Awards, where me and my crappy handling of an iPhone 6 are going to try and get some pictures of folks as they walk down the red carpet. Pretty sure this makes me paparazzi, which means I should seriously rethink my life choices. Recognizable faces forthcoming. [Alex McCown]
I intentionally chose to start my SXSW journey with something uplifting, before I plunge into the madness of the pop culture behemoth taking shape. Hence, I’m at the Google “made with code” event: It’s a program that pairs with a local non-profit, Girlstart, to provide out-of-school STEM education to girls, from the very young up through high school. The girls here tonight are primarily sixth grade through junior year of high school, and are engaging in a variety of activities, from using code to design their own water bottles to playing with virtual reality via Google cardboard.
I spoke with two of the girls involved with the program. Katie, 12, has been 3-D printing her own art since she was 8. Geneva, 10, built a miniature auditorium that actually worked and ran on batteries. If you ever want to experience Death Of A Salesman in the first person, Girlstart’s badass kids will gladly show you how quickly you’ve become a relic of the past. Even my dour cynicism is no match for a room full of kids learning programming and legit enjoying it. These children will soon rule us all. [Alex McCown]