My love for TV intros has been previously documented, but recently I realized a love for both the imagery and scores (especially the scores) of American president shows. Maybe I’m feeling extra patriotic because we’re in an election year.
The West Wing isbeloved by many. Including me. The show’s writing is unbelievable. And Martin Sheen is the best president ever. And how did Josh Malina go from acting on a show this good to the shit that is Scandal? But I’m getting off track here.
W. G. Snuffy Walden composed the music for many TV shows, including The Wonder Years, thirtysomething, Felicity, My So-Called Life, Friday Night Lights, Roswell, and many, many more. But The West Wing is his most famous and won him an Emmy.
The Kennedys features a magnificent solo trumpet that paves the way for swelling strings and takes a turn toward darkness. It’s hopeful, then sad. Much like the story of the Kennedys. I believe that the opening would have made a stronger visual impact with just the swirling flag and credits, nothing else. But it still makes a powerful statement.
Composer Sean Callery also did Homeland, 24, Medium, Elementary, Bones, and lots more. Another prolific, talented TV composer.
I think my favorite of the three openings is House of Cards. The score is sinister, mysterious, and compelling. The time lapse footage of DC is all shadows and light, hinting at the evil that lurks within the city and the government.
I am drawn to this music and find myself listening to it semi-regularly. It’s my favorite part of the show, along with the styling of Robin Wright Penn. I’m not the only who loves it, as there are several articles about the song and composer Jeff Beal. This piece on Slate talks about how the music evolved between the first and second season.
Beal also wrote music for The Newsroom, GCB, Monk, Ugly Betty, Rome, and Carnivàle, among many others.
So you can’t shell out for a pricey badge, nor will your job pay for you to attend SXSW 2015. Does that mean you have to miss out on the fun? Hell no! Each year the unofficial events get as much, if not more, press than the official programming. There’s no reason why you can’t join in on the fun!
First, if you haven’t participated in South by Southwest before (or just need a refresher) you can check out my survival guide. Whether you are in it for the swag, the free noms and drinks, parties, networking, etc, you’ll want to be prepared for long days, crazy nights, and sensory overload.
Here are my picks for free events and parties at SXSW this year. This is not a comprehensive list, not even close. Don’t forget that you can tap RSVPster to do the legwork for you. Note that RSVPing does not guarantee you’ll get in to anything, so show up early to the events you really care about.
Startup Crawl. Austin’s finest pre-conference (March 12) kickoff is a night of startup hopping downtown. It’s free and you can hit as many offices as you like, most of whom have free booze, casual eats, and kickass DJs. Those of us who live in Austin get to do this twice a year, but the excitement of the spring crawl can’t be beat.
The BIG BASHH. Another regular local event, the Big Ass Social Happy Hour is how many of us network, blow off steam, and just enjoy Austin’s fun professional scene. The big BASHH, the one that leads into SXSW is the best of the year. It’s buzzing with energy and those who travel in for the conference know that’s the best place to get a real taste of Austin with the locals. (March 12)
Umbelmania. Local tech company Umbel will pack the Moody Theater with interactive attendees (and the general public) with live performance by Spoon and (my personal favorite DJ) DJ Chicken George. RSVP and do your best to get there early as badge-holders will get priority access. (March 13)
Gigya Grill. Those seeking refuge and some satiation can stop by El Sol y La Luna for complimentary breakfast, lunch, or happy hour, 10-6. More than just some free noms, Gigya offers networking opportunities and panels. (March 13-15)
Spotify House. Five days of music and fun, plan on waiting in line to get in. But waiting in line is part of SXSW, so embrace it and make friends with the people around you. (March 15-20)
Do512 Family Picnic. For family-friendly fun, head out of the crazy zone to Midway Park for music, food trucks, face painting, magic shows, and more. It’ll be crowded, so bring the kiddies closer to 2:00 and hope they can stay awake till 8. (March 17)
Hype Hotel. The tenth year of this event promises big names paid for by big sponsors like Mazda, Taco Bell, Miller Lite, and Tito’s Vodka. Crazy crowded, plan to be packed in like a sardine any day or time that you go. (March 17-21)
Music Tech Mashup. The fifth anniversary of this event brings a really good music lineup to Empire Control Room and Garage. RSVP on the Facebook page for a chance to win VIP entry. (March 17)
Waterloo Records. The line-up is always fantastic at our favorite little local music shop. This is always the first place I recommend for those who want free access to the biggest acts. It’s a classic Austin location that we’re all so proud of and they always bring some of the magic of SX to locals who may otherwise feel left out of the festival. (March 18-21)
Pandora Discovery Den. Four days of eclectic bands means there’s something for everyone: Electronic, Hip Hop, Americana, and Rock. Head to The Gatsby 1-6 when shows are open to the public. (March 18-21)
Ray Ban\Boiler Room Official Showcase. As hip hop becomes increasingly popular at SXSW the showcases get more and more impressive. You might have a shot at getting into this one to see Ghostface Killah and plenty more great acts by applying for a ticket on their site. (March 18)
KUTX Live at the Four Seasons. Early birds flock to the Four Seasons where $10 gets you entry to four hours of live music, breakfast tacos, coffee, and granola bars. First come first served, there’s no RSVP list. (March 18-21)
Austin Party Weekend. There’s not much info about the APW party yet, but you can show up at Empire Control Room and Garage for day parties March 18-21 and you’ll be sure to have a good time. Don’t forget to RSVP.
Culture Collide. Rainey Street is normally a perfect spot for more intimate—if packed—shows and surprise artists pop up there from time to time. More than 100 bands will be on three stages. RSVP and scroll through the website to handpick your music schedule. Bonus, SouthBites Trailer Park is close by so you can sample the yummiest trucks when you get hungry.
Party in My Pants. The Live Vibe day party will take place at Little Woodrow’s March 20-21st with new bands each hour. Should you hang out all day you’ll get to taste a nice chunk of the music offerings this year.
If you want to check out even more parties and events, Austin 360 has a handy, easy-to-search database of every side party. You can also see who applied for city permits this year, both official and non-official SXSW events.
Want to tell share another event? Leave a comment with the details.
I waited two years for Pharrell Williams to release Girl. I ran to Waterloo Records and picked up a copy the day it dropped and have been listening to it nonstop in my car ever since. After giving it a listen between 100 and 200 times, I’m finally ready to talk about it. Let’s do this.
I’ve been with Pharrell through every N.E.R.D. album. I saw them when they played in Austin in 2010. I’ve been obsessed with everything The Neptunes touched and have read just about every interview. So, yeah. I’m a huge fan. (No disrespect to those of you who are just getting on board with Happy. Now go buy some old stuff.)
I should quickly note that this is a pop album, not hip-hop. So fans looking for that N.E.R.D. edge will have to look elsewhere.
The album opens with the infectious Marilyn Monroe. The initial strains are reminiscent of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills theme song. I don’t hate it. Mr. Betty says sounds like Pharrell is saying, “The diarrhea is happening yeaaaaaah!” It’s true. Anyway, it’s got a video so here you go.
The collaborative songs on the album are all strong. The chemistry between Pharrell and Justin Timberlake is great and Brand New is a likely contender for a single. (Every song on the album is radio friendly, actually.) Duet Know Who You Are with Alicia Keys is a personal favorite. The laid back vocals and upbeat soul are perfect to showcase both their voices. Gust of Wind proves that creative lightning indeed can strike twice. Like Lose Yourself to Dance or Get Lucky, his partnership with Daft Punk results in pure magic. It’s my favorite song on the album, hands down. It’s groovy, funky, and reminiscent of Jamiroquai…but with French robots. And violins.
Genre exploration is the Girls bedrock and Hunter is solidly in the 80s. It’s another one of my favorites. Less successful is Lost Queen which is overly simplistic in its South African folk inspiration. Although there’s another song hidden on the track (Freq) and it’s worth the wait. It Girl closes out the album and feels the most like N.E.R.D. than any other song. Fantastic.
I’m just crazy about Girl as a body of work. A great listen in its entirety, which is rare. (For me at least. I’m a track skipper.) Not to say Pharrell doesn’t have his weak points. First…let’s get rid of that fucking hat already. The park ranger look is so over. He used to wear normal hats:
Secondly, lyrics have never been his strength and he hasn’t improved over time. As huge as Happy is, I think the lyrics could be better. What the hell is a room without a roof?
Here’s an example from Gust of Wind: When I open the window/I want to hug your/Cause you remind me of the air/yeah.
I mean, one can hug almost anything. But not air. Anyway, the lyrics aren’t ruining the songs, but they could be better.
Discopop recently alleged that Pharrell can’t write an intro and relies on the same looping technique to open each song. They even put together a playlist of intros, so you can check it out for yourself.
When I listen to this I’m just reminded of how much I love so many of his songs. I’ll leave you with one more video. Some classic N.E.R.D.
I’ve been hitting the gym a lot lately. I like to hide out in the dark bike studio and hold my own private spin class during off hours. Why do I ride on my own? Because I’ve been to enough classes to have developed my own tough routine and frankly, I want my own music. The teachers at my gym tend towards either techno or Kenny Logins. I mean…just…no.
Lately my workouts have been improved by my earbuds. Sol Republic sent me a pair of RELAYS to try out and you guys, they are fantastic. They are specifically made for working out and they don’t fall out. No matter what you do, those suckers stay in!
You can sweat like crazy, lay on the floor for crunches or stretching, or shake your head around. They’ll stay in. And the sound quality is tight, too. They retail for about $80, so these are premium in-ear headphones that will last. Also useful when you’re not working out, the three-button operation gives you control over your music, the mic, and your phone. They come with four cushions so you can customize the fit that’s best for you. (I use the second-smallest cushions.) You pull the back of your ear a bit, gently insert it until it feels comfortably secure and go about your business.
So how can you win a pair? Just leave me a comment and tell me one workout song that gets you pumped. I’ll randomly draw a name on June 4th. (Like Sol Republic and Mad Betty on Facebook for extra chances to win!)
*I received a free pair of RELAYS for review purposes, but I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.
No matter how much I try to prepare in the weeks leading up to SXSW, it’s always a scramble. Part of it is the nature of the conference and surrounding events; there’s little notice as to what’s really going on. I earnestly RSVP to everything I can in the hopes that I’ll make it into the must-do events, all the while knowing that I’ll never keep up with my overly ambitious schedule. The invites come later and later, so being flexible, yet prepared, is crucial. The day I had planned to really wander around and check out the free events surrounding Interactive, it was cold, rainy, and miserable. Craft Taste and I went to a fun party hosted by Pinterest at La Barbecue. Food and drinks were free and we checked out the Pinnebago and listened to a female punk band. We missed Grumpy Cat, the Game of Thrones exhibit, and countless other things. We walked around, saw some stuff, and went home soaking wet. The day I brought my DSLR to take the really good pictures? A total wash.
We made it into the first Kimmel taping and saw Seth Rogen and Snoop Dogg. Although we were seated way up high in the balcony, it was a fun experience and I was glad we went. I especially enjoyed Jimmy’s house band Cleto and the Cletones. Even more than the musical guest White Denim.
Later, I won tickets for the opening night of the iTunes Festival. Winning didn’t mean we got to skip the very long line, but once inside the Moody Theater we were afforded a spot close to the stage amongst a crowd equally excited to be there. But no one was as excited to be there as Imagine Dragons, whose energy and and enthusiasm were through the roof.
Coldplay was grown up and polished, putting on a flawless performance under a dazzling light show. No bullshit on stage or in the crowd. It was ideal.
I took advantage of my official SXSW Guest Pass and checked out the marketplace one day. It was clearly the tail end for the vendors, but it’s one of my favorite conference expos and I lingered at the booths with live music and good swag. I’m always amazed at how grand some of the booths are. I especially love checking out the other countries’ offerings.
Perhaps the coolest event we went to was the Heartbreakers Ball. (It didn’t hurt that we were chauffeured in a stretch limo and given VIP badges.) It was our first time visiting Willie Nelson’s ranch at Luck Texas. The ranch is more of a set for an Old Western with a chapel, a jail, a saloon, and other buildings. I loved that much of the property is used to foster horses. We watched people line up for free tattoos and drinks made with Midnight Moonshine in between the rocking sets. Willie and friends took the stage at the end of the night and despite the late hour and the cold, Willie was fantastic. I don’t know if all that pot-smoking has served as a preservative, but his voice was strong and smooth, unaffected by his many years. It was quite a show.
The aftermath of the tragic drunk driving accident that killed three people left a dark cloud over Austin. The city reeled from the news and shed tears for the lives lost and the news gained international attention. There’s no denying that SX is forever changed. We will remember and reflect on this every year. Criticisms arose and people questioned whether the excess of free flowing booze is hurting the intention of the festival. It seemed that the louder criticisms were directed towards the overblown commercialism of the conference and surrounding events. It seems that the sponsors are running the show now and no one is happy about it. In the days following SX, Austin is usually enjoying a tired but happy afterglow. This year we are collectively wincing at all the badpress and trying to figure out how the hell this happened. I predict big changes for next year.
I’m proud to live in Austin. I love that for two weeks every year we become the center of the universe and celebrate artistry and intelligence. South by Southwest celebrates the future and creates history. I hope we are able to strike a better balance in the years to come, retaining the indie spirit on which the festival was built, while letting sponsors be a part of the action in a more authentic way.
For the third year in a row Willie Nelson is hosting the Heartbreaker Banquet at his private ranch in Luck, Texas. The one-day event will benefit the SIMS Foundation, which provides life-saving mental health services to Austin musicians and their families.
The exclusive eventwill take place Thursday, March 13th with two stages and 18 acts including:
The Wild Feathers
J. Roddy Walston
There will be pop-up shops. A free bar at the Midnight Moonshine Saloon. People-watching. Dancing. A surprise headliner!
So how can you get in to this invite only event? By winning tickets! I have four pairs of tickets to give away, so go ahead and enter now by doing the following.
South By is so close we can almost taste it. We are fully into RSVP season. If you didn’t use RSVPster to do the dirty work for you, you’d better be on the ball by now. Make sure to get your SXSW Guest Pass, for its inaugural year. It’s free, easy, and they let you take two.
Here are my picks:
Startup Crawl. This pre-SXSW (March 6th) event thrives on buzzing anticipation of the days ahead, but is exciting all on its own. Meet and mingle with Austin’s brightest new businesses, with drinks and bites along the way. Stop by BASHH while you’re out and about.
Spotify House. Lots of bands! Stop by anytime in the five days (March 10th-14th) to hear the diverse playlist.
House of Vans. I can only hope to score a new pair of Vans at one of these parties. The Mohawk will be rocking day, night, indoors and outdoors. (March 11th-15th) No RSVP required.
Hype Hotel has two different wristbands for day and evening events. The evening is more exclusive and the day bands are easier to procure. Sponsored by Taco Bell and Tito’s Vodka, among others, you’ll have fun no matter what time you go. (March 11th-16th)
Lagunitas CouchTrippin will be pack Cedar Street Courtyard by craft beer drinkers and fans of Shakey Graves. No badge for this party, so bring a printout or your smartphone for proof of RSVP at this small-ish venue. (March 12th, noon)
Warp x LuckyMe is a little bit of a mystery so far, but I’ve never gone wrong at the Empire Show Room. (March 12th, 6:30)
Fader Fort is the hottest free wristband during SX. Cut-throat RSVPs mean many won’t make it in, but this year seems to be a bit of a lottery system rather than first-come first served. Surprise guests always make The Fader exciting.
Photo credit: Adam Kissick for NPR
Pandora Discovery Den is back for the third year. 35 music acts will take the stage at The Gatsby (March 12th-15th.)
Red Bull Sound Select will be taking over The Belmont March 12th-15th. I had a blast watching bands at The Belmont last year and got some of my favorite swag there.
Austin Party Weekend will camp out at Empire Show Room and Garage for a few days (March 13th-15th) cramming in tons of music from noon to 2 am.
If you need to get out of the thick of it, take a breather at the classy Hotel Ella. A three-day party (March 8-10) on the front lawn will have live music and free Deep Eddy drinks.
I’ll be hitting these parties in between private events, which I always prioritize. I’ll also make an attempt to hit the free shows at Waterloo Records. And the tweet-powered giant Doritos vending machine. And stalking Lady Gaga. Maybe hitting Rachael Ray’s Feedback? (No word on that one as of posting.)
Fun Fact! I received an email stating that SXSW has 76,297 attendees and generated 859, 171 tweets. I think we can hit a million this year, don’t you? Don’t forget to use the #SXSW hashtags!
It’s never too early to start getting ready for South by Southwest. In Austin, it’s our next big season after the holidays. We mark time by it, fretting about what we need to accomplish before South By and what we don’t want to think about until after South By.
For those that haven’t attempted it yet, I want to reassure you that you can fully partake in the excitement of the conference without paying for a badge. Badges top out at about $1700 for the walk-up rate of Platinum badge, and are cheaper the earlier you buy. The cheapest it gets is for a Film badge at $500, but you have to buy it in September of the previous year. So…yeah. It’s expensive.
Fear not! There are tons of free events. Waaay too many to list here and far too many to predict in advance. The key to SXSW is to be available, be prepared, and roll with the punches. Be content to miss certain things and just enjoy the moment you’re in. For each amazing show you see, you are missing 50 more. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the hype of secret shows, which is big part of SX. But you can’t do everything, so make peace with it or you’ll drive yourself crazy. The worst thing you can do is run from place to place, trying to get in and spending more time standing in line than doing anything else. So, without further ado, here are my tips:
1. First of all, you have to get yourself where you need to be. This is the time to acquaint yourself with public transportation, ride your bike, or hitch a ride with friends because parking SUCKS.
2. For Interactive (March 13-17) you want to be downtown. This is the week of the best freebies. All the tech companies are giving out fun swag, free drinks, and throwing parties. Bars and restaurants will turn into branded lounges. Go in, get a drink, pick up a free JamBox and learn about SoundCloud or Bing or Samsung or Foursquare.
3. Have your backup email address handy for when you need to sign up for random shit. Be prepared for everyone you walk by to offer you a free app. Or branded chotchkies. Take what you want, leave the crap.
4. If celebrity sightings are your thing, scope out the theaters for premieres and bring your camera. Film takes place March 13-21.
5. Music (March 17-22) is when the city gets a little dirty. If partying is your bag, head over to 6th Street or Red River for the thickest crowds and best people watching.
6. Make sure you’ve got comfortable shoes! You’ll also want a shoulder bag (to fill with swag during Interactive) and all the crap you need to carry.
7. Obvious essentials: cash, cell phone charger, sunblock or sweatshirt (depending on the weather,) mints and chapstick. If you’re in it for the long haul, maybe stash a KIND bar or two.
8. Keep your eye out for free shows. Waterloo Records always has a full line-up. There’s a wealth of bands and parties available all over East Austin (and everywhere, really.) The key is to be aware of the most current information. How? Twitter! Here’s who I recommend following:
9. Lots of events will require an RSVP. The decision on whether to RSVP is yours, but I recommend it. (Use that backup email address!) Many places won’t have an actual guest list, but are just looking to collect your information for their databases. RSVPing does NOT guarantee you entry into parties. You will wait in line with everyone else.
10. There are massive free events like Fader Fort which DO require an RSVP to get a wristband. (Note that as an official SXSW for the first time this year, badge-holders/wristbands will get in first, but there will still be plenty of free spots, too.) Spots for these events are limited and draw some of the bigger bands, so it’s best to confirm your spot as early as possible. Other huge stages sponsored by big companies will ask for RSVPs, and you should go ahead and get those in right away, too.
11. Confused about the RSVPs? My tactic is to just sign up for everything I hear about. You can also use an RSVP service to do the dirty work for you. RSVPster has various levels of RSVPing in a pass format starting at $30 and will save you the hassle of trying to manage all your party options.
12. Keep up with the gossip. Sometimes it’s true and you run into Jimmy Kimmel at a barbecue truck. Sometimes you get burned by wasting an entire night at the supremely boring Austin Music Awards waiting for Johnny Depp to show up…and he doesn’t.
Roll with the Punches
13. Always have a backup plan. If you don’t make it into a show, have another one lined up. Plan 2-3 activities that you could be doing at once and try to minimize running from place to place. DO take petty cabs and promo rides everywhere. Little electric golf carts sponsored by Netflix? Yes. Piggyback ride for guy dressed as Darth Vader? YES. Cram as much fun as you can into this epic ten day span, because it’ll be over before you know it and your fun memories will fade into a blur of South By’s past.
14. Don’t shy away from the big events. While it’s virtually impossible to get into the secret shows like Prince or Justin Timberlake, it does happen. Pull every string, use whatever connections you have, shamelessly promise anything to anyone. All you can do is try.
Again, you want to live in the moment and enjoy where you are. You will see lots of crazy shit. You will hear a mind-boggling amount of great music. Don’t worry about what you’re missing. Just have fun!
Here we are. At the end of 2013 already. It was quite a year, wasn’t it? Let’s do a quick review.
2013 was a year of music. We saw Pharrell and Justin Timberlake rose to the top again, as well as newcomers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus were alternately loved and hated, as our fickle tastes violently swayed. Bruno Mars had a hell of a year and I was thrilled to catch him on tour. I also caught Book of Mormon and it lived up to the hype!
In 2013 we said farewell to James Gandolfini, The Office, 30 Rock, andBreaking Bad. But we got Arrested Development back. And Orange is the New Black blew our collective mind.
Personally, I had a big year, too. I stopped freelancing and started a new job. Then I was recruited for a bigger job. (Thank you, LinkedIn!) I got a new car. I served as the Education Chair for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and organized a Photography Camp for the community. I met Fabio Viviani and contributed to his magazine. I was featured on a couple podcasts. I had a cup of coffee with a stranger and it turned into a wonderful friendship. I made lots of new friends actually. I took a break and went to Mexico. I threw myself into SXSW and fell more deeply in love with Austin.
Austin went though some changes, too, by the way. Businesses closed. Businesses opened. The city got more crowded. The traffic got worse. The pizza got better. We got a Trader Joe’s! Pop-ups and supper clubs became the rage.
Craft beer rose to a crescendo in Austin and Mr. Betty started his own blog to chronicle the beer scene and it has been wildly successful. My own blog is chugging along and continues to opens doors and satisfies my creative drive.
So what will the new year bring? Hopefully prosperity, good luck, and happiness. But also more opportunity for hard work and self betterment. I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish or at least start.
Get over my fear of Reddit. Maybe get a thicker skin in the larger sense.
Learn to code. I can’t put it off any longer.
Learn some design. It’s be nice to be able to scrap a little something together without hiring a graphic designer all the time.
Get ahead of my social media. Meaning I’ll make it more of a priority, rather than a “when I get to it” task.
Recycling this one from last year: I resolve to live healthier. Eat more raw vegetables. Get more exercise. Get more sleep. Drink more water.
Happy New Year, everyone! Do you have any resolutions you’d like to share? Leave a comment.