Simple Plan headlined The Blame Canada Tour at Uptown Theater on Wednesday, May 18th, 2022. Along with Set It Off and Sum 41, they lit up the stage with their intense and joyous energy. Yes, despite the most gut-wrenching emo lyrics, these guys couldn’t help but lift the entire audience up with their stage presence.
Touring in support of their new album Harder Than It Looks, they pulled an array of crowd favorites out for our nostalgic enjoyment, as well as some great new tracks. The most relatable moment, however, happened toward the beginning of the set, when Pierre encouraged everyone to stretch before the ever-enjoyable “Jump”.
I finally got to attend my first SXSW!
Full disclosure: my daughter, Meredith, is the creator and Editor in Chief for ImperfectFifth. I have wanted to go to Austin to cover SXSW as a writer since she first went five years ago. I heard stories of all the people she had met, the music she had heard, and the movies she had seen. I was all set to go in 2020, but we all know how that ended. I ‘attended’ virtually last year, but as great as it was to see all the content, we all know it isn’t the same.
This year, though, I finally got to attend SXSW!
Once we found out that Meredith and Erin Zimmerman (also my daughter) got their press and photo badges to cover the festival, I got a link to the schedule and immediately froze. There is so much content to choose from! Even though I knew I would only be there for a short, two-day window, narrowing down the possibilities seemed daunting. Enter Google Docs. Meredith created a spreadsheet that had a tab for each day, a different color for each of us, and a column to indicate if the event was in person or VOD. She has done this each year to organize coverage. I also knew that there were two kinds of events – official and unofficial. Since I didn’t have a badge, I wasn’t eligible to attend a portion of the official events. However, I was able to attend most of the unofficial events. The upshot? During the time that I was there, we decided to attend anything that A) didn’t require a badge; and B) sounded interesting. Pressure off! Fortunately, both of them found some things that I didn’t even see in the schedule, and I love trying all the new things!
We arrived on Sunday, March 13th and got in line for the Create & Cultivate Pop Up. This was an unofficial event, so didn’t require a badge. However, we did have to pre-register, and spots filled up in the blink of an eye! There were speakers, sponsorship installations, refreshments, and an amazing swag bag! It was a ‘make a trip back to the car to drop things off before we could continue with our day’ sized bag. I subscribe to the Create & Cultivate newsletter and this event was the newsletter come to life.
In our walks to and from the car, I saw a proliferation of movie posters for Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off and the upcoming Nicholas Cage film, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Each film had already had its premiere, but I made notes (in my newly acquired notebook from my gift bag) to see both of them once they got distribution.
After walking through the Convention Center to pick up badges, we took a stroll down Rainey Street, where we had the most amazing fresh mini donuts. There were also several houses that had exhibits (we saw you CNN and “Summer In Argyle”), most open to non-badge wearers as well. The one that caught our eyes was the Peacock Playground. They had taken some of their new shows and created playground games out of them. You could shoot hoops in the “Bel Air” booth or seasaw with a “Joe vs. Carole” backdrop, among other things. Our personal favorite? You could make a music video in the “Girls 5 Eva” booth. Yes, we did and here it is! We also had drinks and snacks and would have gotten a handmade t-shirt if the t-shirt people hadn’t gone on break. It was all outside and was a great way to spend some time while we learned more about Peacock and its new content.
By now, it was time for a late lunch which we ate at the Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill. I had my first ever chicken and waffles – did not disappoint! We also used this time to map out our route for the rest of the afternoon.
The first place we headed after lunch was to the WarnerMedia House. While a lot of the activity for SXSW takes place near the convention center, there are things spread throughout downtown. The several block walk to the WarnerMedia House took us past the Porsche Unseen building. As a major sponsor, Porsche had several presentations and displays scheduled for badge holders; however, they did have an amazing car parked outside that any of us could drool over!
The WarnerMedia House had THE exhibit we had come to see. The Batman had been released on March 4, but we hadn’t gotten a chance to see it before going to Austin. This exhibit included costumes from all the main characters, as well as props from the movie. Other DC content, like Peacemaker helmets and other franchise NFTs, games, and artwork were represented as well. The highlight, though, was down the block and around the corner – the Bat Mobile from The Batman. Only a few people at a time were allowed in the garage, but we were able to walk around the car and look inside. I’m not a huge car fan, but it was a cool experience!
After the WarnerMedia House, we poked our heads into the Virtual Equality Lounge before we headed back up toward the convention center. We had RSVP’d to the Future Today Institute (FTI) 2040 House which was an installation that reflected 2040, based on future trends. When we entered, we walked through a facial reading station that texted a report to us that captured our heart rate, body temperature, mood, and social score. My heart rate and temperature were right on what was listed on my FitBit. My mood was ‘sleepy’ – not surprised! It also gave me the recommendation to eat some protein to uplift my mood. From there, we had some snacks and drinks, served the 2022 way. We did take away some 3D-printed drink mixes to use at home. I also discovered that chocolate is considered contraband in the year 2040! Even with all of the fun, we received an FTI 2022 Tech and Science Trends Report via email that covered key trends impacting 15+ topics. A very educational, informative, and fun space.
After a good night’s sleep, we started the day getting our hair styled at the Jonathan Van Ness salon. The JVN Come As You Are Tour had taken over a current salon in downtown Austin and was the site of the product launch of his haircare products, JVN Hair. We knew he was speaking later, but the event was sold out. Erin gave us a heads up about the pop-up and we got ourselves scheduled. Very relaxing and such a fun way to spend a half-hour.
One of the host hotels for SXSW is the JW Marriott. We had parked our car there, so explored the different panels and lounges that were available. We were able to sit in on a panel entitled “What the ‘She-cession’ Will Teach Us About Hiring”, which was a fascinating look at what hiring might look like as we head out of the pandemic. I know that it clarified some ideas I have for my own career going forward.
The second place that we discovered was the Future of Work Summit Lounge Presented by Indeed. It was located in a space close to the panel, so we stepped in to check it out and I am so glad we did! Indeed had career coaches on hand to chat with, they had a coffee/cocoa bar for a much-needed caffeine boost, and space to sit and charge your devices. They also had photographers taking headshots and tarot card readers. I thought that was an especially intuitive touch because the job search combines all the facets of your personality and life. Indeed also had a salary board where people could write where they lived, what their job is, and what they get paid, then post it. Salary transparency is vital to help people, especially women, get paid their worth.
Our next stop was closer to the convention center, but our first music stop – the SoundCloud Next Wav showcase. Although we were fifth in line when we got there, the line soon stretched around the block, and for good reason – the musical showcase presented by SoundCloud was great and the 30-minute presentation Vocals on the Go by Dub Academy was amazing. Dub Academy is a program based in Austin that helps musicians fine-tune their craft. It was super interesting to watch them create in real-time. It is clear that Soundcloud hosts showcases that people look forward to each year.
After leaving the showcase — and even though I had some amazing Mexican food and a couple of drinks there — I was in the mood for food from a food truck. Austin did not disappoint! We ate the most amazing corndogs but also had our choice of a myriad of other offerings. Our goal was to walk and eat so we could check out more things and that is exactly what we did.
After a break to grab some dinner, change clothes, and unload the car, we came back downtown, parked and walked 6th Street and some of the same areas we had walked during the day. There is a completely different vibe at night – everyone is ready to relax and really listen to some music. Walking in any direction, you could hear different genres of music emanating from venues in every direction. I was completely content to stand outside listening and people watching. We had a reservation to attend a showcase at Elysium later, so we relaxed with a few drinks at Iron Cactus before.
The showcase ran from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am at the Elysium. We found a place to sit and got to see Body Meat perform. The artist we came to see was Haru Nemuri. She is a singer/songwriter from Yokohama, Japan who has quite a fan base in the United States. The club quickly filled up when her set started at midnight. Nemuri’s fans knew all the songs, even though most were sung in Japanese. She never stopped dancing and the audience matched her energy. Such a great way to end the evening!
I went home on Tuesday morning, so didn’t get to see anything else live. I will say, though, that I have now seen Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off, since it is on streaming platforms, and thought it was a very complete documentary. The camera work was breathtaking and well worth your time to watch. Now to catch The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent!
Moderator Shilla Kim-Parker (CEO and Co-Founder of Thrilling – a marketplace for independent mom n’ pop secondhand and vintage shops across the country) led three panelists through a discussion of what makes fashion’s impact on the environment so dire and what can be done going forward.
Rachel Kibbe, founder of the advisory firm Circular Services Group, addressed the question of why we should care about fashion’s impact on the environment and why it is so problematic? “Apparel/textiles is the fastest growing waste stream in the United States. They are about 7% of our landfills now. In the last 25 years, textile waste has grown 80%, meanwhile, every other waste stream (electronics, food, organics, paper) has only grown about 25%.” In addition to these alarming statistics, she reminded us, “With globalization, it’s kind of been a race to the bottom and a huge supply chain issue – you may be growing cotton in one place, spinning and weaving it in another, dying it in another and cutting and sewing it in another. Just the shipping alone to chase cheaper and cheaper cost of production has become really problematic from an environmental and labor standpoint.”
“We’re also creating garments that aren’t re-sellable, they are disposable. How do we produce for durability, for resale, for repair?” – Rachel Kibbe
Plastics also exacerbate the problem, according to Alexis Jackson of The Nature Conservancy. She serves as the Ocean Policy and Plastics Lead for TNC’s California Oceans Program and is working on how plastics enter the environment from all sources – including the fashion industry where plastic looks like nylon, polyester, and acrylics. “Throughout the lifecycle of all these materials, when they’re being woven, designed into clothes and we’re washing and wearing them, they’re letting off these small fragments which are known as microfibers. That water that we are dying and washing these clothes with, that water can carry these microfibers into the environment”, Jackson pointed out. The microfibers then “end up in our oceans, in our food, and in our bodies”. She stated, “… just from clothes washing. And that’s not even the upstream side of what’s happening in textile mills. It’s opened our eyes that plastic comes in many shapes and forms and what can we do.” Furthermore, “we know that fibers are one of the most prolific shapes of plastic found in the environment that kind of work their way up the food chain – they’ve been found in carrots and apples. We know their impact on smaller wildlife – can impact their reproduction and their feeding behavior.”
Panelist Devin Gilmartin has created a platform for small emerging brands from around the world called The Canvas. Most clothing brands don’t have access to the vast physical spaces that an H&M, for example, might have. In addition, most malls or shopping areas have empty retail spaces and this is where The Canvas comes in – they reach out to landlords and ask them to revenue share with the emerging brands. Each small brand also comes in on the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. In this way, Gilmartin “believes that small brands can help break through the fast fashion barrier.”
The question then becomes, what kind of policy responses have been made to the fashion industry? Although this is a global issue, there is not one global answer. According to Kibbe, “I’ll focus mainly on waste policy because that’s my area of focus and I think I can speak to it best. In France, they have banned the destruction of unsold goods. In Holland, the policy on deck for I believe 2023, where brands would be responsible for paying for the collection of used clothing which is really interesting to me because that’s been a focus in my career – trying to get brands to support the waste management of our used clothing. I know in Scotland, I think they have a similar bill on deck to France that would ban the destruction of unsold clothing. You’re seeing different policies globally mainly coming out of Europe focusing on waste. In Boston, in Massachusetts, they are outlawing textiles to landfills.” In New York, she referred to a bill that is going through the process of public response now that would require any company doing business in New York with revenues over $100 million to disclose their environmental impact maps, about 40-50% of their supply chains, make science based target commitments and track those commitments. When asked, she also said that her dream bill would include a production cap on fashion companies.
“What does that look like to build an innovation contest that allows us to think more creatively about getting the technology on the market or thinking about redesigning clothing the things that we need to get the markets there, and the end goal is that capture component.” – Alexis Jackson
Jackson also believes policy is essential, but it might not be applicable because of the global nature of fashion and how each local and regional area is so different. Her suggestion was a more streamlined approach, like “let’s get policies in place to put filter in washing machines. The policy doesn’t have to be perfect.” Jackson is an advocate of setting goals and letting innovation get there since some of the technology is already on the market, including in the manufacturing space.
When asked what we can do as individuals, Gilmartin had one very concrete suggestion, “From a shopping perspective, I think we need to move away from shopping with the fast fashion giants, I think there are more and more alternatives, yours (Thrilling) being one of them, I think the resale platforms for the issues they’re still figuring out are amazing and growing very quickly and will probably start taking a market share from the bigger companies.” Jackson had a couple of ideas about care of garments: “The first is wash your clothes less often which is not always the most popular solution. Colder loads, shorter loads. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, buying a front loading washing machine. And then you can think about buying a filter to include on your hose capturing some of these microfibers.”
When asked which companies are close to getting it right, Kibbe responded, “Everybody wants to know where to shop and who to shop from. The thing is, I don’t have a great answer because it’s always buy used.” Gilmartin did have a couple of suggestions:
“On the production side, footwear is a huge contributor to these issues and there’s a company based in Germany called Zellerfeld. They are building 3D printing boxes basically where you can scan your foot with an app and in ten minutes, have a perfectly printed pair of shoes custom to your foot. They’re building these amazing printing farms, they’re going to be in the US soon, but when you’re done with that footwear, you’ll be able to send it back to them. They’ll shred it up and create an entirely brand new piece of shoe from your previous shoes. You basically subscribe to their service one time and you’re wearing that same shoe for the rest of your life. I think this is an amazing physical material fashion innovation.
On the media side, there’s a New York-based editorial agency called Monad Agency. I think a lot of the issues when it comes to sustainable fashion is it needs to be aesthetically appealing, it needs to be desirable and Monad is creating great content around sustainable fashion. They’re working with small brands and giving them Vogue-level content production and I think that’s kind of what we need on the media side. More focus and larger reach for the small brands.”
“It will really take all of us working together to solve the problem.” – Alexis Jackson
On March 18th at 1 pm, Isla De Caras took the International Day Stage by storm. In celebration of SXSW 2022, the Argentinian-based outfit brought their special blend of psych-rock to America, and we absolutely reveled in it. (If you need a track to set a particularly blissful mood, look into their music catalog. You will not regret it.)
TEKE::TEKE is absolutely phenomenal live. Hands down, their performance on the International Day Stage at SXSW 2022 was one of our absolute favorites. Their unique genre-bending sound, vibrant style, and enticing energy brought dozens of new listeners into the tent, dancing from the beginning of the first song. We definitely had perma grins on our faces, and were thrilled when they did a takeover on our Instagram during their stint in Austin.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to experience them yet, check them out on our official soundtrack. And peep the photos below for a hint of their vibrance.
It was between panels on Friday, March 18th, that we had the unique pleasure of meeting self-proclaimed “indie americana disco mama” Van Plating. She had taken over our Instagram account earlier in the week, and had done a phenomenal job connecting with our community. An incredible songstress and performer, she showed up outside of the convention center with a brand new hat that she acquired in Austin, and a gorgeous skirt that coincidentally coordinated with the mural we had planned to photograph her in front of.
It’s called kismet, ever heard of it?