South by Southwest (SXSW) began 30 years ago in Austin Texas, as a small music conference aimed at garnering attention for local bands. It is now a city-wide music, film and tech conference that attracts over one hundred thousand people each year.
The first five days of the conference are called ‘Interactive’, where IT leaders give us look into the future. Virtual reality (VR) was definitely the big topic, and the opening keynote was Barack Obama himself.
Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to be picked out of the draw to attend that one, but I did spend the next nine incredible days learning about the latest tech trends, the current state of the music industry, and catching some of the hottest acts (both new and old) from around the globe. Here’s a little taste of my SXSW ’16.
Tech legend Bob Metcalfe (right), inventor of the Ethernet, being mobbed by my buddy Andrew Findlay...
Samsung Gear VR
Willie Nelson at Spotify House
Aussie actor Joel Edgerton (right)
Austin Food Trucks - 'Ramen Noodle Burger'
Questlove (music guru, bandleader and drummer for The Roots / Tonight Show), doing a random (and wonderful) lunchtime DJ set in an Austin restaurant.
3D printed sculpture by Isaac Budmen of the world’s first government recognised cyborg, Neil Harbison. Neil is able to hear colour through an integrated antenna. Born seeing only grayscale, Neil developed this technology over a decade and can now sense colour as sound. Neil's sculpture is a life-size bust with the very same enhancements. During the 6 month exhibition Neil's actual head will be wirelessly connected to the sculpture. That means when colours are held up to the sculpture's embedded antenna, Neil can hear those colours in his head from wherever he is on the planet.
Iggy Pop performing at Austin City Limits Live, with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age on guitar and Matt Helders from Arctic Monkeys on drums. A major SXSW highlight, Iggy and the band were in red hot form, shirt off in the second song and crowdsurfing.
Tony Visconti - Legendary record producer (Bowie, T-Rex, Morrissey). Tony knew he wanted to make records when he was just five years old, after wondering where the echo effect on records came from. As part of the keynote, Tony read his short story about a possible dystopian future for the record business, with a monopolistic record company that releases one single a week from one pop star who is drawn from a lottery. His critique of the record business is that it's too formulaic, the quality is missing.
Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale (with the hair).
Mark Mothersbaugh - DEVO frontman, composer for Wes Anderson films, and visual artist. At the age of seven, Mark knew he wanted to be an artist when his art teacher said he drew trees better than she did. DEVO was an art group that formed immediately after the Kent State shootings in 1970, a comment that society that was 'DEVO'lving, not evolving. He's interested in the 90% of the brain we don't use.
Nate Mendel from the Foo Fighters (far left) and a panel discuss the blurry lines between art and commerce. When songs or artists are associated with brands, is it 'selling out' or a good career move? The answer from the panel? "It all depends..."
Mai Nimani - Pakistan
Downtown Austin in the midst of SXSW.
'The Wanderer' and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, Dion (centre) is sounding great, releasing records and touring.
Danish sensation Lukas Graham (singer of the hit ‘7 Years) has a break from playing arenas to perform for a few hundred in Youtube’s venue at SXSW.
UK band 'The Heavy' playing their hit ‘How You Like Me Now?'
SongDivision's own James 'Roto' Rotondi (left) being the guitar wizard with his band 'Hundred Hounds'.
One of my SXSW highlights, Houston 3-piece 'Khruangbin'. Described as Thai Funk and Surf Soul...
Texan icons 'Asleep At The Wheel', with SongDivision's Dave Sanger on drums.
Wolfmother, playing the hits and sounding great.
No, it’s not Wolfmother again, it’s Ron Gallo.
Stonefield - band of sisters performing at the Aussie BBQ.
The Gooch Palms - brining insanity and mullets back into punk rock.
'Hired Guns' - a panel with some of the world’s top session players, including Kenny Aronoff, Liberty DeVitto and Ray Parker Jr (who's written and played on a ton more hits that just Ghostbusters!)
Legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff (right) - I first saw him play with John 'Cougar' Mellencamp in 1988. He's since worked with everyone from Avril Lavigne to Stevie Wonder.