Tuesday was the South by Southwest shift change at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport: out with the madly texting geeks; in with the guitar-toting musicians.
Even though South by Southwest Interactive didn't really end until Tuesday night, enough conferees were at the airport early Tuesday, along with college students heading off on spring break, that security lines stretched across the airport lobby, and some unhappy souls were tweeting about missing their planes.
The 6 a.m. lines were the worst, according to airport spokesman Jim Halbrook. One line was 65 minutes long at that point. By 7 a.m., the wait was down to 45 minutes, and by 8 a.m., there was hardly anyone in line.
"This is so much easier than Boston Logan," departing SXSW Interactive attendee Eric Korsh said at 8:15 a.m., pointing to the empty corral by the scanning machines. "That open space you see happening there? That wouldn't be happening at Logan." Korsh, who works for an advertising agency, said he was heading home with some new ideas after his fourth SXSW.
As he spoke, the first few guitars of the day were making their way out of the airport on the backs of SXSW Music attendees. By noon, there was a flood of musicians, fans and industry people in baggage claim.
SXSW Film folks were arriving and departing, too. Proof came in the form of a woman storming out of baggage claim proclaiming, "She'll never work in this town again." (It was unclear who "she" was and which town the irate woman was talking about.) An airport photo of Willem Dafoe, captured on the phone of a fellow passenger as the actor stood trapped in a security line, was getting retweets throughout the day.
Most airport tweets Tuesday, though — and live talk, too, for that matter — tended to center on lines: badge lines, security lines and taxi lines. Passengers texted and tweeted warnings to the hordes who planned to leave Interactive this morning: Get to the airport two hours before your flight, especially if the flight's an early one.
Getting to the airport, however, officially became a problem early Tuesday afternoon. Passengers said hotel cab lines were seriously deep downtown. Matt Maloney, co-founder of GrubHub.com, tweeted, "2 hour cab line, concierge laughed at me when I asked how to get to the airport so I bribed a shuttle driver to squeeze me in."
The exasperation of those departing Austin, though, wafted unnoticed over the heads of the smiling arrivals, many of whom were taking pictures of the "Welcome to Austin" sign as they descended the escalator into baggage claim.
"I guess they're just so thrilled to be here," Halbrook mused.
Among the thrilled on Tuesday afternoon were Sai Blount and Greg Beshers of New York, who'd just flown in — she with NPR Music, he to play bass for Rhett Miller.
"This is my sixth time" at SXSW, Blount said. "I come to Austin in the offseason, too. I like the vibe, the respect for individuality. And the food. We're driving directly to the Salt Lick."
Well, enjoy it, SXSW music folks. On Sunday, you'll be the ones hunting for cabs and waiting in security lines.
Contact Helen Anders at 912-2590