a day (or two) in the life of a first-time sxsw attendee | sxsw 2022

a day (or two) in the life of a first-time sxsw attendee | sxsw 2022

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!

welcome to your digital afterlife: upload creator greg daniels in conversation with amy webb” and the future beyond | sxsw 2022

welcome to your digital afterlife: upload creator greg daniels in conversation with amy webb” and the future beyond | sxsw 2022

SXSW 2022 was all types of greatness. The entirety of the festival was focused on the future. While many panels and installations chose to speak about driving the near-future in ways that align with heart-centered outlooks, there were plenty of post-apocalyptic discussions and even more about technology and digital progression in the more distant future.

One of the first panels we enjoyed was “Welcome to Your Digital Afterlife: Upload Creator Greg Daniels in conversation with Amy Webb.” This panel took place on opening day, Friday, March 11th. If you are not familiar with Greg Daniels and his incredible career track, here’s a quick rundown. Greg is a screenwriter, television producer, and director. A big portion of his work centers on creating storylines for episodes about the future. His writing credits include The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, The Office, Parks & Recreation, King of the Hill, and more. (But did we need more? His credits are insane!) He is the genius responsible for the flash-forward episodes in many of your favorite television shows and sitcoms. (Think: “Lisa’s Wedding” and the finale of Parks & Rec. ) He co-created Space Force with Steve Carell, which almost entirely focuses on the future of space tech and travel.

Daniels has always employed a reporter’s eye when creating his storylines and characters. This is a trait he has passed down to other writers on his projects and proteges over the years. Learning about the past to correctly identify the future. Allowing himself to observe people in their natural habitats – Texas, when researching King of the Hill, for example – has given him space to breathe authenticity into his characters and storylines. Perhaps this is why so many of his episodes ended up predicting the future when looking back years later.

When asked about what inspires his work, Daniels initially pointed out The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He expanded by explaining: “I also worked with Jim Brooks [one of the Mary Tyler Moore Show creators] on the Simpsons. So to me, he is a great icon on a very humanistic way to get characters where you don’t look down on them or treat them poorly. I like that style and that’s the style I write in.”

future panel

The focus of this panel was on Greg Daniels’ creation of the science fiction comedy series Upload. The premise doesn’t stray far from concepts discussed in many of his previous television works, and many other futuristic ideas pop culture has explored over the last few decades. In 2033 – the not-so-distant future – humans have the capability of uploading their consciousness into an afterlife of their choosing. The series 2 premiere was released on March 11th, the day of the panel, so focusing on it was a given.

As to Daniels’ idea of what the future may actually hold? His take is that, regardless of how it all unfolds, he sees pseudonymity in it. (He also admitted to having just learned the term during a panel the morning of March 11th. What a win!) “Your avatar develops a reputation that you have to live with.”

Amy admitted, quite quickly, that she is terrified by this idea. “My unit of measure is going to be quantified by some type of algorithmic scoring system,” she responded, trailing off a bit. When considering it as a reality as opposed to a train of thought induced by what we believe the future should be, it really is quite alarming. However, addressing our fears of the future can actually also prepare us to plan for what we WANT our future to look like, instead of what we think it will ultimately be (if science has its way).

Check out more of our SXSW 2022 coverage here. (We will be rolling out coverage for weeks to come!)

tony & the kiki stuns with music video for “extra express” alongside announcement for glittery ep light it up

tony & the kiki stuns with music video for “extra express” alongside announcement for glittery ep light it up

The world very largely feels like it’s falling apart at this time. During moments of darkness, we search for the light. We crave creativity. We rely on authenticity. And – while it can often feel overwhelming to seek the good – artists are ready to provide us hope, beauty, and escape. This feels especially true with the captivating glam rock project Tony & The Kiki, which just released the lead single and music video for their upcoming EP. Fronted by the talented and charismatic Anthony Alfaro, Tony & The Kiki truly captures your attention with a vibrant individuality and keeps you going with a message of inclusivity.

“Extra Express” is an anthem for the ages. With an energy that can get anyone up on their feet, the track boasts fantastic, wide-ranging vocals, and enough edge to really breathe new life into your day. The video is entrancing, depicting Alfaro with a backdrop of bright, flashy colors and images as a call to authenticity oozes from every facet of production. We’re big fans of the fashion, big fans of the energy, and insanely fond of this video.

We were lucky enough to ask Alfaro a few questions during release week.

Do you think where you’re from has any bearing on how you create?

Oh absolutely! Queens, New York is unlike anywhere else in the world. A stone’s throw from my childhood home is the most diverse section of THE PLANET. The most varied collection of cultures, races, languages, ethnicities, and nationalities in one single area. I pride myself on being an eclectic artist. While yes, rock and roll is my mother tongue I draw inspiration from all genres, mediums, and cultures, and I’d like to think that comes through in the work. My mom is a real-life disco queen and salsera and my dad is an incredible DJ who would mix Grandmaster Flash with Zeppelin back before mashups like that were en vogue. This kind of variety and culture clash is in my blood, my voice, and therefore my artistry.

I’m so glad you’re bringing flare back to rock. Big look, big voice, big vibes. What has been your favorite part of the journey creating this EP?

Ay Gracias, mami! Yeah I think the second we abandoned the crippling responsibility of being “cool” things really started to crystalize and get exciting for all of us. We’re an honest to goddess pack of weirdos and mystics…and instead of trying to be trendy and sexy for the masses we’re leaning into our queer, diverse, funky energy. Frankly, that’s been deeply liberating and joyous. LONG LIVE THE FREAKS! And F*** BEING COOL! Cool is boring and sterile… the absolute antithesis of what rock n’ roll is. Ain’t nobody got time for that no more! 

What was it like recording at the storied Dreamland? Did you draw inspiration from Woodstock at all, or were you pretty sure of the direction it was all going in beforehand?

Well …we were on a tight and ambitious schedule so we had to arrive ready to slay the house down boots, mamá. On the other hand, Woodstock and that good chill hippie energy has always been a source of inspiration for us… the peace & love & vibes of it all. So I’d say we had a clear plan of attack but left some room for the delicious brand of magic that is so abundant up at Dreamland. Using their varied, vintage instruments (toy piano, guiro, Moog Synth etc.) and their mystical acoustics as yummy layers to add into our cauldron. Once we got the crux of what we needed we definitely got to play around and experiment. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced as an artist. A true playground. Or in our case …a witch’s potion lab (cackles in Spanglish) 

The message in the song “Extra Express” is so important, and it is such an anthemic blessing right now. Was there a moment that triggered you into writing it specifically? 

Thank you for saying that, mi amor, we think so too!
A specific moment? No, mama. Our whole gay lives led up to the creation of this song. People like myself and my bandmates Max Vernon and Rodney Bush have been out here and queer for years and feel a great sense of responsibility for the legendary children that have and will come after us. They need something to listen to and be like “oh, yeah…that’s mine, that’s for me” This song is for them first and foremost. 

The music video for “Extra Express” is like a kaleidoscope. Where did the vision come from?

The Extra Express has always been like a psychedelic, queer, rock n’ roll cousin of The Magic School Bus and in this case I’m Miss Frizzle (LOL) and the listeners are my class of students. We wanted to evoke the vibes of Dorothy landing in OZ or Alice plopping down into Wonderland. We set out to create a portal into the land of THE KIKI, with all of its vibrant queer magic and electric, colorful vibes.  An invitation and a welcoming. 

What a FANTASTIC reference, especially for millennials. (I am SO pleased!) What do you hope fans glean from your music, in general?

I want our fans to be invigorated and vibrationally lifted by our music. We want to provide an antidote to all the heaviness that can come with living life in the 2020s… a warm sparkling hug; a fabulous coven, welcome to anyone who needs a good Kiki. Er’body is welcome here, mi vida… we are raising the vibes and getting asses shaking! Come thru!

Do you have anything else to share with your new bevy of fans?

Yes! I’d like to say “Hola Mi Kiki, Welcome… we see you, we’re here for you, we honor you, and we love you… f*** the haters and do you bb! Life is meant to be LIVED! Fasten your seatbelt cause it’s time for lift off… the new age is now! Vamos!”

Also follow us on IG and TikTok @tonyandthekiki and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more funky glam rock brujería heading your way. xo

Video Credits: Wardrobe by Max Vernon, David Quinn, Anthony Alfaro Makeup by Max Vernon Hair by Anthony Alfaro Choreography by Anthony Alfaro
Song Credits: Track Produced by Max Vernon Track Mixed by Lloyd Kikoler Track Mastered by Ryan Smith of Sterling Sound

x. ari displays both romance and self-awareness in gorgeous new release “stranger to saviour”

x. ari displays both romance and self-awareness in gorgeous new release “stranger to saviour”

As we celebrate PRIDE throughout June, we revel in the vulnerability that sparks new relationships, new collaborations, and new art. With light-as-a-feather vocals, artist and mental health advocate X. Ari details the experience of discovering her sexuality in her new track “Stranger to Saviour.” Explains the artist of the single:

‘Stranger to Saviour’ is about how I fell in love with a woman after a lifetime of dating men. The lyrics tell a playful, exploratory, honest, and emotional story about my experience with this big life change and how my new romance, with my first ever girlfriend, Anja, has changed me forever. Love is a powerful healer. I am so grateful for my awakening and for my willingness to be fluid so I was able to attract true love. It’s dedicated to Anja whom I love & adore – we ‘started as strangers, now you’re my saviour.’

In true anthem fashion, the instrumentals explode into a gorgeous cacophony of bass-heavy sound multiple times during the introspective song. Equal parts hopeless romantic and openly self-aware, “Stranger to Saviour” will no doubt become an anthem for many. So listen now, open your heart, and feel into your own story by checking out the track below!

Keep up with X. Ari here.

laces teams up with butch walker for lyrical stunner “almost happy”

laces teams up with butch walker for lyrical stunner “almost happy”

June 24th brings us the latest release from Head Bitch Music artist LACES, “Almost Happy” featuring storied musician Butch Walker. The song is both thoughtful in its lyrics and dreamy feeling in its melody.

LACES’ voice quality at the beginning of “Almost Happy” is reminiscent of Belinda Carlisle singing “I Get Weak.” As appealing as her voice is, the lyrics are what drew me in, beginning with the very first line – “I’m just young enough to be a little numb and dumb.” The song tells a story of learning, with the ultimate lesson being “almost happy.” Throughout, you can feel the lessons: “I get more jaded every day”; “Roll with the punches, isn’t that what they say”; and “I’ll make more headway in this game.” Each one delivered with LACES’ strength and range, punctuated with guitars by Butch Walker.

Says LACES of the track:

‘Almost Happy’ feels like my honest truth. To me happiness has never been a destination, I only ever wanted to be content and okay. It’s a conversation that discusses where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. It’s laced with sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, while also standing firm in belief and self-love.

LACES has been a chameleon thus far in her career – previous releases include the haunting “Moved” and “Someday Is Not Tonight.” She has also made a name for herself in commercial circles writing and producing music for cartoons and other artists, under her legal name of Jessica Vaughn. Her goal for mastering several creative avenues was strategic: 

I wanted to make sure I had enough eggs in different baskets to change this industry from within––and to be respected as a businesswoman. I realized that my experience as a woman had been shaped by a lot of people making decisions for me. While I think it’s important to be collaborative and to ask for help, you never want to be in a position where you don’t have power or agency over your career or yourself.

You will want to add “Almost Happy” to your playlist – and really, anything else by LACES.

may it be, an evening star| may 2021

may it be, an evening star| may 2021

The outside world is getting more vivid, as more people get vaccinated and the days get longer, summer quickly approaching. Take this time to get outside, get grounded, and love on yourself a little bit. But in the in-between, feel free to play our May soundtrack in the background of whateverthehell you’re spending your time on and with these days. We promise you’ll find some gems to add to your personal collection, and there might be some fun ones built-in for your next vacation playlist! 🙂

ley line talk sxsw appearance, beatles influence, and upcoming album

ley line talk sxsw appearance, beatles influence, and upcoming album

Four piece Texas-based collaborative Ley Line is more than just your run-of-the-mill inspiring, “fempowered” project. These particularly soulful songstresses will be entertaining at the Black Fret SXSW on March 17, dazzling the audience with their multilingual folk music. If you get a chance to spend some time with their music, we highly recommend it.

We are lucky enough to have nabbed them for an Instagram takeover before their performance on Wednesday, so check in to our account starting around noon. Until then, here are some inspired words from the ladies themselves.

What was the first song or album that you remember hearing, and does that work of art have any influence on how you approach your music today?

Kate: “Blackbird” by the Beatles! The Beatles are a huge inspiration for us. They are songwriters and artists who wanted to explore different genres and embraced spirituality through their music. Also, their camaraderie and playfulness really resonates with how we move through the world of music together.

If you could perform three of your songs live for our audience right now, what would they be?

We would play “Senseless Way” because it reflects the challenges of this moment so perfectly and offers a lot of hope. “Oxum” is another of our favorites, it’s joyful and celebratory and everyone deserves to feel that. But it’s also an important reminder about how precious fresh water is and reminds us to continue to cultivate a relationship with our natural world. We also would play “We Saw Blue” because it’s the origin story of our band- it’s the title track off our latest album and the name of our upcoming Visual Album coming to you on May 14th.

Clearly, nothing compares to a live, in-person show, but these livestreams have fed the energy a lot of audiophiles and fans throughout the pandemic. What have you loved about performing digitally?

Maddy: It’s actually been really humbling to be present with the music and each other. We always loved playing house concerts and even got our start playing in yoga studios where the audience was completely silent. It reminds us of that intimacy and to have trust that the music is landing exactly where it needs to be.

Any thoughts on the digital SXSW experience this year?

Lydia: We’re really excited to be able to interact with the audience and new fans. It’s pretty special to get to experience our performance alongside the audience and SXSW has made a really awesome digital platform to be able to interact directly with the audience in the moment!

If you could order carryout from any place within 10 minutes of your home right now, where would you go tonight?

Fish tacos from Veracruz (in Webberville) every time.

There are so many amazing places to go when you want to get inspired. Where are you headed to next?

Emilie: Travel is a huge part of our inspiration, especially water. So we hope to get to the beach as soon as possible but until then you can find us singing by the river at Barton Springs.

What has been your favorite way to stay grounded during the pandemic?

Kate: Giving gratitude for the simple things, having a roof over our heads and food on the table. It grounds me to remember how much I have in just having my basic needs met during this time.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Subscribe to our Youtube channel to learn more about us, we’ve got a podcast, break down videos of our songs and live performances!

black grapefruit, “waist”

black grapefruit, “waist”

Experimental pop and R&B alchemists Black Grapefruit have reanimated their 2019 song “Waist” from their dance-inspired EP of the same name. The duo released a pertinent video and compelling remix that offer fresh takes on the track.

Produced by Not 97, the video features footage from fans, friends, and family dancing to “Waist” from the comfort of their homes. Ironically, the video was put together way before the coronavirus-induced mandate to stay home was in effect. The sense of community present in the video has only gotten more relevant. Black Grapefruit mentioned that this video is a “reminder that we can share energy regardless of distance, and that we are all more connected than we sometimes realize.” It’s something to keep in mind as we all brave the isolating effects of seclusion. There are several cameos in the video as well, such as Emmy-nominated actor Zazie Beetz and model and co-host of MTV’s Catfish Kamie Crawford.

The song itself is quite chill but is also infused with a danceable energy, adding another dimension to the song’s relevance. Black Grapefruit explains the place of “Waist” in light of recent events by saying that “humans have been dancing through pain and turmoil since long before recorded music. With full respect for the moment, this is our creative offering. It’s made from ceremonial, positive intention. We can only hope that its movement somehow supports our collective and continued fight towards justice and healing.” Overall the track has a good continuous flow, but anticipation is created by the few pauses that are thrown in to keep the listener on their toes. The remix takes these pauses further, breaking up the melody into fragments and weaving them together into a fractured tapestry. Despite this, there are still tons of beats to attach dance moves to, preserving the rhythmic essence of the original track.