SXSW 2014 No. 1: BBQ Crash Course, Google +, Fast Company and more
SXSW 1.1: Now that’s a Texas welcome. In Brush Square, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., those SXSW visitors with any sense — and, oh, a taste for meat — dropped into the Barbecue Crash Course. Under the trees waited a miniature version of the beloved Texas Monthly BBQ Fest — this one all SXSW — with booths serving brisket, links and other delectibles from Black’s, Louie Mueller, Snow’s, Opie’s and other meat purveyors. A band played. A gentle wind and cold drinks cooled down the spicy treats. I spoke at length with Andrea Lemon and Scott Walker who work for HootSuite in Vancouver, B.C., along with Nadia Safi, associated with Whirlpool in Michigan. They were pleased but also a bit flumoxed by Austin, a Sun Belt city that sprawls over the hills and plains, but also one with lively pockets of density. Walker informed me that some in Vancouver opposed the wider sidewalks, bike lanes and mass transit options that allow 500,000 to live comfortably in downtown Vancouver, all the while decreasing vehicular traffic. (Good to know that we’re not the only place with hard-to-please citizens.)
SXSW 1.2: A fresh cultural link. So far, Google + has not broken out as a social media and identity service. Yet the digital giant hasn’t given up. It is deftly targeting the Hispanic market with events such as the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce reception today at Max’s Wine Dive. It was put together on the Austin end by Vicky Hernandez Sepulveda. Among this tireless woman’s many ventures is “Chica About Town,” a lively blog that covers our local social culture from a Latina point of view. I also spent time with Mark Madrid, the new president and CEO of the Chamber. Originally from the Panhandle, he comes to Austin’s business group from the much larger Houston Chamber. The light cuisine and drinks matched the time and occasion. DJ James Longworth provided the propulsive music for more conversations — he’s also a chef and caterer! (Love to see partnerships like this one.)
SXSW 1.3: Hanging with some fast company. One guest described Fast Company magazine as a sort of Harvard Business Review for the hip West Coast. From the looks of the tech types who took advantage of the magazine’s hospitality at Cedar Door, it attracts a sleek, savvy readership. The Cure aptly drooped from the speakers above. This retreat was set up for fairly fast, but filling food and drink, not at buffet tables, but from the waitstaff. “If you want a taco rigtht away, they have them at the Pepsi tent,” I overheard the hostess tell a guest. The whole Convention District looks like Pop Up City today. The transformation of the landscape resembles a little amusement park. Although the tech — and film — attendees often seemed in somewhat of a hurry, once in these sponsored retreats, they settled down to eat, drink, chat and — of course — catch up on emails and social media.