We had decided that going 'downtown', at lunchtime, during the beginning part of the week would not necessarily yield any benefit, I had entered a contest for a 'meet and greet' at one of the radio station, and we had planned to attend, rather than see what was 'on offer' at the festival. However, I was not picked (much to the amazement of my colleagues, who seem to think that the radio stations' administrators see my name, and say, "Oh, yes, give it to her!",) and we chose to do the 'usual' thing and set off towards the SXSW event.
Parking was, as usual at a premium, but we managed to find a meter two blocks down and about four blocks across from Sixth Street, which we knew had been closed to traffic. Our main objective was to go to the Convention Center, see if we could score a prize from the insurance company's stand, and then find something different in which to partake!
We did not win at the insurance stand, but we did have a 'mimento' keyring made, courtesy of Mazda, who were sponsors of the event. Things did not seem as manic as usual, and we wondered if the festival was either undersold, or if it was more widely spread, to take the excess congestion away from Sixth Street. However, it was only Monday, and the music 'bit' had not yet started.
Approaching our 'old office' area, we saw that there were tents erected towards the end of the road, which were usually put up towards the end of the week. We assumed that badges were needed and were about to turn back when we were invited into one of the buildings. "Lunch is on the right side, and you can sit on the deck', we were told. As I walked in, I saw something that caused me to regress back to being twelve, the age at which my daughter tells everyone I am stuck. They had a 'virtual reality' headset! Unfortunately, the machinery needed to be tweaked, and was not ready for the public, or at least this member of the public, but I was assured they would be there for the rest of the day, and tomorrow! I accepted their response, as well as a paper plate containing an array of roasted vegetables with berries! We took our veggies, together with a platter of cheese, fruit, bread, crackers and pickled items to the deck. "Tacos?", was the next question. "Why not!" was the exclamation! As we sat and watched the stream that flowed between the building in which we were seated, and the future venue of the latest hot band, we ate our lunch and listened to music from the surrounding arenas. It was far enough away not to be offensive, but near enough to be entertaining.
Our walk back was uphill, but we criss-crossed along the blocks so as to even out the inclines, got into the car, and drove back to the office. We had managed to gain a t-shirt, a keyring, a book, and some other odd pieces of memorabilia that would go into the 'Do you have' bag!
Virtual reality beckoned on Tuesday, but we had another stop to make. We had failed to take advantage of the 'pop-up' M&M shop on Congress Avenue. In fact, we had failed quite miserably this year in finding all the 'oddment' venues, but we were limited in time, and had to focus on what was important! The long familiar tubes adorned the walls, and two representatives were handing out mixed bags of the candy. Although we could only choose two of the four varieties to have in our specially created bags, most of the surrounding tables had jars of sweets, with bags in which to put them, and along with these, we could help ourselves to popcorn and brownies, whilst the people behind the counter served sodas and coffee. I sent my niece a picture, as she is quite partial to M&M's, and she responded in the modern day vernacular, announcing her envy, with a text of 'Well jel!! Loaded down with enough special goodies, we left and made our way to Sixth Street.
The virtual reality headset was sitting atop an armchair. "Is it working?" I asked, with a mixture of hesitation and excitement. The young man looked past me at Samantha, and then realised it was the white haired lady with the 'gamblers' hat that had posed the question. "Yes. Have you done this before?" he said with more than an ounce of doubt. When I told him of my first, and thus far best experience, painting the inside of a happy meal box, his demeanour changed, and he saw me in a slightly (although not much more than an ounce) different light. Most are impressed, and visibly a little envious of my experience, and this young man was no exception. He explained the controls to me, and left me to paint to my hearts content. I was practising with the brushes for quite some time, before he told me that there was a point to this exercise! They were promoting 'green energy', and he asked how I could promote this in my painting. I chose a 'grass' brush, and wrote, "Keep it Green", and then, just to make things a little more exciting, threw stars and snowflakes all over my 'sign', just because. "Um, would you mind....someone else would like to use the equipment". Everything inside me screamed, "No! Go away! I am playing", but I graciously succumbed, and said, "Of course not!" I thanked the young man for the opportunity, and he managed to take the headset and controls from me, with a good hard tug, as my hands refused to comply with my brain, and would not let go!
He had apparently asked Samantha if she would like to take part in the exercise, but she had indicated she was not interested. She had told the nice young man that I was her mother, and totally (yes totally) obsessed (yes, she was quite emphatic about this) with the concept of virtual reality!
I was rewarded with Chinese noodle soup, and humus with vegetables and, the (now) staple diet of cheese, fruit, bread, crackers and pickled items, and a rather interesting presentation from a young Englishman, on how he had developed a form of powerless (as in plugged in) energy. Completely satisfied, having been fed, educated, and allowed to play, we left the arena, and headed in a northwesterly direction to try and win a prize from the insurance company stand. Once again, we were not the winners, and we drowned our sorrows by having another key ring made at the Mazda stand. We managed to score a t-shirt, and some other odd pieces of memorabilia that would go into the 'Do you have' bag!
By Wednesday, I was feeling quite mellow, as the usual intake of contraband had started to make its way through my senses, without me actually having control over the matter. I have to breathe! Admittedly, I could wear a mask, and hope that the fumes fail to intoxicate me, but I think of all these preventative methods all to late! The music part of the festival had started, albeit slowly, and the interactive part was over. Lunch was not on the menu anywhere, and we hovered for a while. However, Pandora, the radio station, had a whole area set up, and apparently had been there for a few days. They were going to take down the stands on Friday, so we had today and Thursday to visit. We were rather disappointed that our 'spidey senses' had not taken us to this place before, as we were given a t-shirt, water bottle and a battery charger, together with a tote bag. Feeling a modicum of disappointment, but realising that we have enough t-shirts and water bottles to keep a small community clothed and well equipped for a decade already, (previous years goodies included,) we made our way to the Convention Center where we did not win a prize, but grabbed another keyring!
Parking was not so easy on Thursday, and we found a space in zone 4, which although was cheaper, was much further away. Six blocks up and many more blocks over, we walked to Sixth Street, and once again visited the Pandora arena. Today, they were giving away socks, instead of t-shirts. I have a use for socks! We took our water bottle, and then our battery charger, and received our nice tote bag. "Water bottle?" said the lady at the stand. "We have one", we replied. "Here", she said, putting a couple into our bags. She did not want to have to take them back to wherever she was going!
On our way back to the Convention Center, we were invited into a bar, for a music extravaganza. We were not quite sure what the extravaganza was, and must have missed it, as we walked from the front of the bar to the back, seeing nothing. However, on our way out, we were stopped by a nice young man (who didn't look like he was old enough to actually be in the bar) who told us to 'help yourselves', to battery chargers, hats, earbuds, and other items on the table, which advertised the studio that 'gave birth' to the music extravaganza! We did not like to be rude! Exiting the building, we walked down to the 'Canada Sound', and went past the fences into a large grassy knoll. Being ushered over to the barbecue sandwiches, we heard a guitar strum, and realised we were just in time for the show. The food was delicious. Unfortunately, the lead vocalist, (I dare not use the word singer, as I am not sure as to the legality under the Trades Description Act,) appeared to be very cross! He was screaming! There is no other way to describe his 'performance'. I did wonder, at first, whether someone was being attacked, or if we were near a hospital that had run out of anesthetic, and the surgeons were performing operations without it. Yes, it was that bad! About three youngsters were bopping near the front, but the rest of the crowd were standing looking in confusion. Was this the band, or a grown man throwing a temper tantrum. His face was so red, I was prone to think the latter. The screeching finished, and he thanked the crowd (although I am not sure anyone showed appreciation) and then started again. The second 'performance' was much the same as the first, and we exited to not win a prize at the insurance stand, and pick up a third keyring!
As we walked back to the car, we were invited into the same bar, from the point where we had exited, for a music extravaganza. We were still not quite sure what the extravaganza was, and must have missed it, again, as we walked from the back of the bar to the front, seeing nothing. However, on our way out, again, we were stopped by a group of young men, who apparently were an 'act' at the festival and were (not purposely) blocking the exit. They were told to 'help yourselves', to battery chargers, hats, earbuds, and other items on the table, and we were also beckoned to be included! It would have been rude to say "No thanks", so we did! More things for the 'Do you have' bag.
I sent my sister a message asking if she was in need of a battery charger, and she announced that she thought hers had died, and David, her partner, had also asked if I had any 'spare'. I told her that I would bring them home. She questioned, "and one for me?" I sent a picture of the two chargers I had been given, and affirmed, "Twins!" She was most grateful!
Our final weekday downtown gained very little for the "Do you have" bag. It was St. Patrick's Day, so we did receive some green beads, t-shirts and koozies, along with some sun glasses, another keyring (this time we had one each made for Samantha's friends) and a small bag of gum, (we did not win the prize at the insurance stand). We also received a unique poster from the Bud Light guys! I do so like unique memorabilia. The 'Canada Sound' area were not providing lunch, and the music was starting a little too late for us to 'hang around'. We returned to the office in record time!
It was a tough decision whether to venture back downtown on Saturday, as there seemed to be less activity than usual, but Edward was keen to join us on our adventure, so Dana drove us down to the Convention Center. We did not win a prize! We walked up and down Sixth Street and were plied with energy drinks. Although Samantha and I do not partake, Edward does, and we managed to pick up a fortnight's supply for him in one go! We decided to venture across the bridge to Auditorium Shores, but as there was going to be a 'big name' there later in the evening, the event was 'ticket or badgeholders' only. The people on the gate told us that they were aware that there was a provision for those with 'guest passes' but could not work out how to scan them. We were unperturbed, and decided to walk around the outskirts of the area, and just enjoy the music and the heat of the day! Although I had planned to spend no more than a couple of hours strolling the length and breadth of the Texas capital, we found that the walk across the river, and back again had taken far more time than anticipated.
Spotting something in which they wanted to participate, I joined the queue with the kids. "No big bags" was the announcement from the man checking ID's. I told the kids not to worry, as I would stand outside and wait for them to complete their tasks! As I stood to the side, four young people arrived wearing badges around their neck that had 'Artist' printed on it. The were ushered in. Another couple arrived and were also ushered in. Several more joined them. Two rather bashful looking young men came up to the front. They stood wondering what to do. Their badges indicated that they were 'artists', but they did not venture forward. "Can we go in?" asked one to the other. "Excuse me", the other said quietly to the security guard. They stood like two schoolboys waiting to see the principal! After a few minutes, I decided to intervene. It was obvious that they were not going to get anywhere with their quiet, unassuming, almost 'Peter and Gordon' manner (for those who remember Peter and Gordon!) so I took the proverbial bull by the horns. After all, I had to breathe, and whether I liked it or not, I had been breathing in a lot of unorthodox air! "Just go in. They will stop you when you get too far, and see your badges. Go on, go in!" The order was obeyed, and they tiptoed to the door, where they were indeed stopped, and then ushered in. They turned to thank me. I was rather amused! "Anyone else an artist?" I was about to ask, when the kids appeared!
Once back at the Convention Center, Edward signed up with Mazda, which would allow us to get a free ride anywhere within three miles. We had planned to go to Whole Foods, and call Dana to pick us up. The walk would have been rather gruelling as it was now getting very hot, and it was Edwards 'turn' to hold the backpack which contained all the energy drinks! The lady at the Mazda stand looked very tired. She was handing out 'hubs' which once plugged in, allowed up to four things to be charged. I asked her if she was looking forward to going home. She affirmed that she was, and appeared to be quite grateful to have someone to talk to. "Do you want a keyring?" she asked. I explained that I had four, already, but would very much like another 'hub' as I was thinking perhaps one each for Rich and Steph. She gladly obliged! We bid her farewell and went to look for the place to get the ride. The line was particularly long. The lady in front of us, wanted to go across the road. I was unsure as to whether she knew that where the place she had asked to be taken was not only within walking distance, but a stone's throw away. In fact, if she had moved a couple of inches forward and craned her neck slightly, she would have been able to see it! However, she was entitled to a ride too!
We chose not to wait, and called Dana to come and collect us. We said we were on First Street, and he suggested we walk up to Congress Avenue and wait for him. We started to walk. It was going to be a long wait, so we called him back and said we would meet him at the same place we had met him the previous Saturday. He found this rather peculiar as it was a 'long' walk, but it was preferable to standing in the heat! We weaved our way up, and over, trying to stay in the shade, and eventually stopped and waited a couple of minutes for him to appear.
As we waived 'cheerio', we commented on how things appeared to be different this year. However, we did come to the conclusion that there was more going on at the beginning of the week, than at the end, and that the 'public' venues were set up for the earlier part, thus causing less congestion once the music part started. It certainly made more sense to have the 'side show' stands at the start rather than the finish! We just did not realise, nor do enough homework to determine the fact. I did not think we had come away with any less 'swag' than usual, although Samantha disagreed. She had gained about a dozen t-shirts, where as usually she manages to score double! I was satisfied with my accrual!
I do remember SXSW being busier, but then I remember it being quieter too. It was, all in all, rather consistent, with each day being as busy as the last. There appeared to be less 'pavement' artists but more vendors. I certainly did not lack for sustenance nor presents, but I think the media may report it all differently. It was a good week, and a good weekend in which to take part before I travel home next week. My journey starts on Wednesday, when I trust I will safely travel across the pond to meet my new grandson Jamie, and also have cuddles with my elder grandson, Ollie. A present far beyond those given to be at this year's Southby! All in all, I shall be sitting down next week in a different time zone, penning ..... another story!