South By South West, better known by the acronym SXSW, the annual convention that brings together throngs of music lovers, film buffs, and the techno-set, hits Austin, Texas, this weekend, where tens of thousands of people will see the latest and greatest in interactive technology, live music, and movie screenings.
SXSW, which began in 1987 as a local music festival, has exploded into one of the most anticipated events of the year, with this year’s convention expecting thousands of interactive exhibitors, 2000 musical acts (SXSW 2014 boasted an all-time high of 2200 musical acts over 6 days), and at least 154 feature films, as well as 30,000+ attendees. That’s got to be a little overwhelming for your average convention goer.
So what should you check out if you’re one of the lucky ones attending SXSW that begins this coming weekend?
New to this year’s SXSW Interactive is something called SXStyle, which is dedicated to connecting the worlds of art, fashion, and culture, with technology. One of the most anticipated sessions in SXStyle is Defining the Next Generation Retail Experience, which features Sephora’s CMO Julie Bornstein discussing merchants’ exploration into digital technologies in order to create a brand new shopping experience for consumers.
The Oscar Winner for motion picture of the year, Boyhood, premiered at SXSW in 2014, so it’s no wonder that a session entitled Boyhood Post-Production: 13th Year of a 12 Year Movie is being featured this year. The panel will include the editing and finishing teams that worked on the film, who will discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly that went into making such an epic movie.
This year’s Gaming Expo looks to be the best yet, with panels, parties, and general geekdom for everyone. There’s an interactive talk with Lydia Winters, Mojang’s Brand Gatekeeper and Director of Fun, called Minecrafting The World; a special edition of The Nerdist Comics Panel, where you can learn all about the process of, and business behind, writing comic books; and of course, an absolute do-not-miss is the SXSW Cosplay Competition, where entrants show off their hard work and their home-made costumes based on movie, television, video game, book, and anime characters, and compete for awards, including the coveted Best In Show.
For technophiles, the newest technology to keep an eye out for is the iBeacon, which is basically a form of Bluetooth emitter that interacts with your phone to let you know when you’ve arrived at or leave somewhere, as well as send you “site-specific messages” in relation to where you are, such as the locations of bars, restaurants, or theaters, and even displays and check out counters in a retail setting. SXSW will be setting up 1000 iBeacons this year across 265 venues.
All Things Must Pass — Directed by Colin Hanks, IMDB describes this documentary as an exploration of “the rise and fall of Tower Records, and its legacy forged by its rebellious founder, Russ Solomon.” With rock stars like Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and Chris Cornell among it list of credits, this is going to be one rocking movie you’re not going to want to miss at SXSW 2015.
The Final Girls— Starring The Vampire Diaries‘ Nina Dobrev, and written by Joshua John Miller (who horror movie fans will remember as Homer, the vampire kid in Near Dark), this campy Horror-Comedy reminiscent of 80s slasher flicks follows a high school student grieving the loss of her mother, who happened to be a famous scream queen in the — you guessed it — 1980s, as she and her friends somehow find themselves in her mother’s most famous movie. The girls, now reunited with the mother of the movie’s world, must work together to take down the film’s killer. So. Much. Fun!
Ex Machina— Since artificial intelligence has been a hot topic at the last couple of SXSW festivals, what better way to tie it all together than a movie about it? Written and directed by Alex Garland, who’s no stranger to the sci-fi movie world, Ex Machina is about a young computer programmer that wins a trip to his mysterious and reclusive boss’ house to take part in an experiment involving a beautiful female A.I. It’s got to be better than I, Robot, right?
Stone Temple Pilots, who are set to release their first album in 9 years on May 25, return to the stage at SXSW to show the world that no amount of drug addiction, in-fighting, arrests, or breakups can keep these “Plush” rockers from rising again.
Honestly, who even knew Courtney Love was still alive? Well, she is, and she’s back with her seminal alt-rock band Hole to rock the hell out of SPIN‘s annual SXSW party at Stubb’s BBQ, for their first U.S. performance in more than a decade.
Priestess may not be well-known throughout the rest of the world, yet, but in the dive bars and small venues of their hometown of Montreal, Quebec, they are Heavy Metal royalty. They’ll be at SXSW to showcase their unique mix of thrash metal and prog-rock with their newest album, Prior to the Fire.
If you’re a fan of J-Rock (that’s Japanese Rock, for all those who may not know), do not miss all-girl rockers Chatmonchy. They make their U.S. debut at SXSW, and though they were formerly a three-piece, the fact that they’ve since become a two-girl band doesn’t take away from the emotion and power they are able to express in their tunes.
With a front man who looks like he could be the love-child of Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, Foxy Shazam, from Cincinnati, Ohio, are a mix of 70s Glitter Rock influences like T-Rex, and modern Glam bands like The Darkness, with a dash of Pop-Punk a la My Chemical Romance thrown in for good measure.
For an even larger list of must-see acts to help you sort through the enormous lineup of 2000 bands, check out SPIN‘s 50 Must-hear bands at SXSW, and download their teaser album.
Well, there you have it, a quick and easy guide to the absolute must-see things happening next weekend at SXSW. Keep your eyes peeled for unscheduled events though, like 2012’s largest footed pajama party, or perhaps another Guinness World Record will be broken, like when SXSW held the largest Astronomy lesson ever. Above all else, though, have a blast, and for heaven’s sake, as with all festivals, keep hydrated!