FROM LEFT: With Formula One driver and former World Grand Prix champion Jenson Button at our cover party; with Freddy Fletcher of Arlyn Studios and ACL Live at our party celebrating “The List” at Hotel Ella.
Nothing has paralleled Austin's growth like the breathless expansion and maturation of South by Southwest since its beginnings 28 years ago. As an editor and writer, I’ve covered this three-part fest for more than a decade and have seen firsthand not only how it’s evolved, but how it continues to respond to and handle that growth in innovative ways each year. Austin is doing the same.
Nowhere has SXSW’s growth been more obvious than with Interactive. It still attracts leaders in technology and innovation, but visionaries in fields from entertainment and sports to food, fashion, and health have extended its reach into more mainstream areas. How have the fest and its leader since the beginning, Hugh Forrest, responded to this evolution? He has created sub-tracks and given some of these areas their own mini spin-off conferences, making it easier for attendees to navigate the hundreds of options available on any given day. Writer Tom Foster, who has attended many SXSW Interactive conferences and was intrigued by how this massive and powerful event comes together, talked to Forrest about what to expect this year. I’m sure we’ll feel the effects of this conference all year long.
I’ll be out there again, of course. One of my favorite parts of SXSW is meeting people from around the world (usually as we’re standing in a line, which I’ve gotten very good at over the years). I’m always fascinated by the many reasons people have for attending Austin’s version of March Madness. Sometimes they’ll go into their professional spiel and talk about their film projects, start-ups, or music dreams. But, more often than not, they’ll end up admitting they just wanted an excuse to come here. It never fails to make me feel proud to call Austin home.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARY MILLER (BUTTON); DAVID BRENDAN HALL (FLETCHER)