If I’d only come to Texas for yesterday it would have been worth it.
The day before I was struggling to find value as I moved from one snake oil salesman to the next in the perpetually expanding circus that is the SXSW Interactive festival. If I was here to document capitalisation models of the mega conference and how to expand to encompass a city, I would have not only been much happier.. I would have been given a panel to talk about it.
The free alcohol fuelled hedonistic nights leave a bitter taste in your mouth when you wake up to the news in the ‘real’ world. This is something quite a few on the ground here are having trouble dealing with.
There is beauty here though, there are wonderful connections and there is a sub-culture that fights to survive.
The Frey Cafe is one of these places. It’s in it’s 11th year and I feel shitty mentioning it. I won’t link to it and I’m not going to go into detail about how important I feel it was last night for those people in that space to be experiencing one of SXSW’s best kept secrets. Unbranded, hardly advertised and untouched since it’s origins, it’s real storytelling at it’s finest.
I think Ewan Spence mentioned it in passing to me in 2008 but last night he told me I was going. By the time we left barbecue we were at, we had a small group heading to the Red Eyed Fly. I am sure all of those people will thank Ewan for being the catalyst for an amazing night.
I already feel like I’ve said too much. Put this amazing night at the end of an amazing day, where I remembered the cliche that the value lies outside of the panels and talks..
..and even outside of the entire conference itself.
And I have to wonder if the conference mechanism is in fact broken at all. After all it has brought us all here. Some are learning inside. Some are learning outside. Perhaps it’s just another flabby business model landing heavily in a living breathing city with a soul, where the streets hide the corners the people meet. An attempt to escape the invasion they are a part of. To share, to tell stories and to connect in a deeper way than the exchange of business cards.
I want every conference organiser to come here and take a good look. Seek out the sub-culture. Try if you can to measure the immense value and work as hard as you can to emmulate it. Even if you only get the chance to plant the seed before it’s paved over. You would have done something great.
There is only just room for all of this. The hidden is becoming pushed further underground. As it goes under, everything that’s wonderful about it is crystalized.
Find these treasures while they glisten.. before they are crushed.