Category Archives: SXSW

LESSONS FROM SXSW: ARE YOU TAKING A RISK?

/// KENDI FROM KENDIEVERYDAY AT TEXAS STYLE COUNCIL

My final post in our little “Lessons from SXSW” series was inspired by the keynote speaker of the Texas Style Council Conference last Sunday, Kendi from Kendi Everyday.

But first, a confession.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Texas Style Council Conference, since I am not, after all, a style blogger.  I’ve done exactly one style post on my blog, and it took so long to set up my camera … take my picture … come back inside and pick out the two out of a thousand that actually looked good, that I quickly decided: “eh, guess I won’t be outfit posting after all.”  BUT I have enormous respect for style bloggers, and even though the means with which we express ourselves creatively are different, I’ve always felt a sense of connection to the community.  I moderated the “Think Local, Go National” panel with Camille Styles (my panel spouse), Matt Swinney, Charmie Stryker, and Jessie Artigue on Sunday, and got there a little early so I could find Indiana (the organizer), hug her, meet some folks, etc.  And you know what?  I was incredibly inspired!  So many entrepreneurial women in one place, who effectively turned their blogs into businesses, and were straight-up networking ninjas. Because let’s face it: Style bloggers got the freaking memo about collaboration.  I, solitary sandbox player only child that I am, am still learning how to be a better collaborator on this blog.

But enough about meeeee … onto Kendi.

Kendi’s style blog is one of the few that I read on a regular basis, because girlfriend is so quippy and funny.  Her keynote speech was just as witty, but also peppered with some truly moving bits of wisdom that laid the foundation for her newly-opened boutique, Bloom.  She talked about playing “store” as a little kid, by tearing off bits of paper and sticking them to the clothes in her closet, then making her mom come “shop.”  Don’t you want to hug this person?  I did.  (No, really.  I hugged her.  In the auditorium aisle.  Which could have been awkward were it not for the fact that Kendi is just so darn gracious.)

Anyway, there were so many gems in Kendi’s speech that I wrote down, but here is the one that’s stuck with me all this week:

“Are you taking a risk?”

Kendi took a giant one by quitting her day job, deciding to focus only on her blog (and eventually her boutique).  She said (and I might be misquoting a bit), “I learned that when I jump, I will land on my feet.”  Here’s the reason that resonated with me so much.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to do something a little nuts.  As my friends and I were launching AETV, I really wanted to learn about broadcast journalism from behind the camera.  So I approached our local NPR affiliate, KUT, and asked if I could intern there.  Yes, I am almost 30.  Yes, I still have my day job.  But!  I’ve been an obsessive NPR dork for most of my adult life, have always wanted to intern there, and figured it was now or never.  When KUT’s news director said yes, I could intern, I nearly cartwheeled out of the office.

Stay hungry, stay foolish

Word up, Steve Jobs. Kendi also referenced this quote in her speech, and 30-year-old interning me had to chuckle a bit.  Because it is a little foolish!  To intern and to keep your day job.  But whatever.  Sappy as it sounds, I get a little buzz each time I walk through the doors at KUT.  I reported, produced, and edited my very first piece this week, which will go on the air today!  So does Bruce Springsteen, who’s giving a SXSW keynote that’s being streamed on KUT … but he’s not too much competition, right?  Right guys??

/// Ruby

Here’s a photo I took while out in the area where the story takes place.  This woman’s name is Ruby, and she lives near 12th and Chicon in east Austin.  My story is about a pilot workforce program the city is launching targeted at residents in that area, to give them job, resume, and entrepreneurial training.  It’s a rough part of town, and law enforcement has only been a temporary solution, so now the city wants to see if 12th Street can put people to work and make it part of a more organic, long-term solution for cleaning it up.

Anyway, Ruby and I had a little chat while I was out there taking pictures, and she asked me if I was from MTV.  She also asked how my parents came up with my crazy name.  I’m taking both as compliments.

UPDATE: Yay!  My story is archived online.  Here it is.

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LESSONS FROM SXSW: GO ONLINE TO GET OFFLINE.

/// MY PICTURES FROM THIS WEEK: Sign at San Jose Hotel, flowers on the east side, a ginormous chard leaf we got from Greenling, veggie sausage decadence at Easy Tiger

There’s this thing that happens to me when I’ve been on the computer too long.  It looks a little like this.

Which is probably why I felt such a sense of kindred spirit with Andrew Wager, former editor-in-chief of ReadyMade Magazine, who spoke on our panel last Friday.  This is Part 2 of the three part “Lessons from SXSW” series I’m doing this week, and what he said really stuck with me:

“Go online to get offline.”

He was making a larger point about building community, but this little gem has been echoing in my head for days.

Do you ever feel like you have to shake off all that weird, computer energy when you’ve been sitting in front of a screen for too long?  I do.  I can feel myself becoming part machine and I don’t like it.

Lucky for me, I married a man who is endearingly offline.  This was our conversation last week:

ME: Blah blah, Citysearch, blah blah-

ROSS: Wait. Is Citysearch an Austin website?

I shook my head and I laughed and I laughed.  No, silly!  Citysearch was one of the first dot coms ever!  It’s like Yelp!  Citysearch is EVERY city!

After I had calmed down from that, our friend Jason came over and mentioned something about QR codes.

ROSS: QR codes … ? (look of genuine befuddlement)

That was when I had to just walk over to where he was sitting and hug him.  As he tried to explain through my laughter, Ross “gets up, feeds the cat, goes out to his studio, plays music with kids, and that’s kind of my day.”  He’s not tweeting or pinning or checking in or becoming the mayor of anything.  Ok ok, sometimes he “likes.”  And he definitely emails.  But that’s about it.

Point being?  Ross is one of the most balanced people I know.  He spends very little time online.  When he does, he reads his email as well as the BBC.  When those activities are finished in the morning, he indeed goes out to the studio and plays music all day long, either with kids, his bands, or by himself.

Ross is also an extremely creative person.  And you know something?  I have noticed that with some of my favorite bloggers, too.  They may have a large online presence, but they themselves surf very selectively.  They spend as much time offline as they can, to get inspiration, to listen to music, to putz around in the kitchen.  Our panel on Friday was about lifestyle media, and one of the reasons I think the field has grown so quickly over the past few years is that life, palpable, scent-filled, gooey life, may becoming a treat for people.  The longer we spend online, the more offline life begins to feel like the real novelty.

How do you build community?

This is always such a personal question, for every blogger, but it’s the question Andrew was really gesturing at with that piece of wisdom above.  The subtext of his go-online-to-get-offline thing was, how do you encourage people to step away from their computers, and go enjoy life?  It’s a matter worth pondering.

These past few months have been a whirlwind for me personally, so much so that I’ve been forgetting to tote around Danger Kate (my camera) places.  No more!   Especially with this ridiculously gorgeous weather.  Tomorrow night, I’ll get a pretty fabulous photo opp: Ross and Jason’s band, The Lennings, are PERFORMING AT THE SXSWi AWARDS!  It’s like the Oscars for the Internet.  This year, it will be hosted by Jenny Slate from SNL and the inventor of Marcel the Shell, which I think we can all agree is the cutest Internet character ever.

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LESSONS FROM SXSW: DO THE THING YOU ARE GOOD AT.

/// One of my life idols, Wayne Coyne, doing the thing he is good at.  IMAGE COURTESY: Beth Forester.

This is going to be Part 1 of a three-part post I do this week on SXSW.  That’s right: A series!  We’re gonna serialize all over the place, y’all.

Lessons from SXSW

In all seriousness (series-ness … heh), I came up with the idea to write these “Lessons from SXSW” while driving around in my car yesterday, because the conference felt particularly refreshing for me this year.  While I certainly don’t speak for all bloggers everywhere, it feels like blogging itself is at the age where its children have grown up.  We’ve matured, we have better perspective, and those of us who do this seem to be expanding our dreams beyond: “I want a big HUGE blog.”

Rather, we realize that bigness is only one goal (and if it’s yours, more power to you), but the longer you blog, you discover skills you didn’t know you had.  And those can shed light on other personal goals that had been lying there all along, in stealth mode.

This brings me to Friday, when I presented on a panel called “The Future of Lifestyle Media.”  There have been several terrific recaps written about it already (here are my favorites: Fuji Files, CultureMap, Austin360), and one thing that seemed to impact all of us, including me, the moderator, was something Grace Bonney (Design*Sponge) said:

“Know what you are good at, and put those skills to use.”

Amen.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this hobby/sometimes job we call blogging, it’s that I’m really, really not good at everything.  To illustrate, let me take you to the Wayback Machine, where we can appreciate together one of Austin Eavesdropper’s old posts: The Flaming Lips, October 2010. I’ll give you a moment, to head over there right now, wait for it to load, and have a good laugh.

Welcome back.

That’s some pretty killer photography, huh?  This one is 40% back-of-someone’s-head. I knew I wasn’t that great at photography when I started Austin Eavesdropper, but I was motivated to learn.  I also found out that I’m not skilled at Google+ (proof), and guess what?  Still not motivated!  Oh well.

Through Austin Eavesdropper though, I discovered (accidentally) that I really loved making these freaking videos.  AETV.  I dig the collaboration, the fact that it’s a team effort, and talking to funny / interesting people.  All these years doing Austin Eavesdropper, I had it in my head that I was a WRITER!  I write and that is how I express myself!  But I had an emotional melt-down of sorts last summer that opened my mind, and that led to those videos, and now that suddenly feels extremely right too, in addition to the writing.

Wha? Melt-down?

Yes.  In the middle of a restaurant, much to the chagrin of my poor husband and our poorer waiter. I just sat there and sobbed in response to a very simple question, when Ross asked innocently and innocuously how my day was.

“Why do I even do what I do?” I moaned. “I’m in front of the computer all day for work, and then my hobby involves MORE computer time?  What’s up with THAT?” (Gulps wine) “I don’t like staring at the computer that long!” (More wine) “And I just-” (more wine) “just-” (more wine) don’t know if any of it’s worth it!” (Dramatic emptying of entire wine glass).

 This led to Ross asking me what I wanted to do with my life professionally.  And I told him that if I could do anything, anything at all, it would be to have a little show about Austinites.  About their stories, their art, the quirky things they do.  I felt so silly admitting it, since I didn’t exactly have, uh, broadcast experience.  But it was a dream that had started to materialize in my imagination, and I kept getting little glimpses of what that would look like … sitting around a table with a team, tossing around guest ideas; what our show would sound like, what music we would use.  I just didn’t know how to start it.
“So call Los,” Ross suggested.  “Los” is our friend Carlos, who is a film dude.  He can do anything – shoot, edit, effects, direct.  I dialed him the next day, pitched my idea, and he said yes.  Now we do AETV together with our friends.

This all came rushing back to me during the panel on Friday, when someone asked about how you build and make relationships in your community.  Grace builds community in a different way: She hosts Biz Ladies luncheons, she started doing these potlucks with other women entrepreneurs in Brooklyn.  Camille on our panel builds community by featuring other bloggers on her site, involving them in her HGTV.com shoots, and working with incredible artists on events here in town.  Andrew on our panel literally directs a company that’s all about making creative commerce relationships in your community.

And me?  I like connecting to my community by interviewing the people from it.  And also by watching them, describing them, and fleshing out their little stories here on Austin Eavesdropper.

“Make the thing you’re best at the focus of your blog,” said Grace on Friday.  Wise words.  Don’t we all secretly assume sometimes that we’re supposed to be doing everything perfectly on our blogs?  Guess what, you don’t have to.  In fact, you shouldn’t.  Find the skill you are wonderful at, put it front and center, and let the rest of the stuff create opportunities for you to collaborate.

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Lessons in Not Wetting Yourself: Interviewing rockstars.

Hello, it’s me Tolly.  Would you like to know four hard things I can do without getting nervous?

1.  Taxes
2.  Thumb wars
3.  Reverse the car out of our driveway*
4.  Make a duck call with my hand**

*Meaning: I don’t get nervous.  Everyone watching does.
**This probably doesn’t make anyone nervous.  Also it’s not hard.

Would you like to know what does make me nervous?

1.  Cooking
2.  Long division
3.  Dogs that look like wolves
4.  Interviewing rockstars

SO.  When I was asked to do #4 last week at SXSW for Express Clothing, I was simultaneously thrilled / teensy bit terrified.

But I think it went ok.

The interviews were spread over three days at Cedar Door here in Austin, where Express and BMF Media Group cohosted the Express Rocks! Music Lounge.  There were over 50 bands, with Neon Trees as the headliner, and folks like Chromeo, Ellie Goulding, and The Sounds stopping by for interviews.  Express dressed me (thank God) and I got to hold a super-huge microphone!

Here are videos of my three favorite interviews: Diplo, Atomic Tom, and Asher Roth.  They are all viewable on the Express website, or more accurately, the Express Rocks portion of their website. 

I was super excited to talk to Diplo.  A long time ago, I wrote a column for The Deli called “DJ Education,” and it’s sort of like my weird closeted music secret: My brief but intense obsession with DJs.   In the DJ world, Diplo is like Michael Jackson.  Or at least Elton John.  What I’m saying is, he’s a big deal. 

Atomic Tom’s Tobias is Canadian.  Why is that pertinent?   I don’t know.  Except that every single Canadian I’ve ever met is shockingly nice.  Including Tobias.  Here’s his 60 Seconds with Tobias blog.

Asher Roth shook every crew members’ hand before the interview, and is just straight-up charming.  Can you see it here?  I ran after him post-interview and made him take an iPhone picture with me.

 Here are some more photos from Express Rocks.

Me with Miss Holly Huddleston, contributor to one of my favorite local blogs: ATX Gossip

HOW EXCITING IS THIS.  I got to meet my beloved Peelander Z!  And boy did I gush.  I told them how I went on a date once with this guy to see them, and then I thought he was basically the coolest guy ever, and then I married him, and omigod would they mind terribly signing an autograph for my then date, now husband?

Now taped to the refrigerator!

Daniel Cavazos shot these pictures of my boys: GARY! and Happy.

Chris Apollo Lynn and I making swift use of the photo booth.  I don’t know what we are trying to do here.

After this Express gig was all said and done, I can honestly say I had a blast!  Like, a ridiculously good time, and I don’t think I scared too many bands.  Wonder if I’ll get to do it again?  Express Rocks! does lounges at places like Coachella and Sundance, and while the chances of being shipped out to spots like that are probably slim … a girl can dream. 

All of my band interviews can now be found on the homepage of the Express Rocks site.  Enjoy!

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A sexily aloof reporter I never will be. (Also, Saturday’s Free SXSW Party Rec.)

I gotta say, I’m having fun with these Express Rocks interviews.
I’ve also come to the realization that, while some reporters can be cool and detached during interviews, I will never be that reporter.  I’ll ALWAYS be all up in yo’ face.  I’ll ALWAYS shove an enormous, toothy smile at you.  I don’t know how not to grin like an idiot when there’s a camera right there, y’all.  Whenever I attempt Sexy Face, it is a disaster. 
Fortunately, the bands we’ve been interviewing like to play along.  Kaskade, above, was probably my favorite one yesterday.  How cute is it that he’s a dad, too?  After he walked away I wanted to holler, “wait come back!   Let’s be friends!  I love San Francisco!!”  But, his handler whisked him away and that was that.  Sigh.
So!  I’ll be doing the Express Lounge stuff again today at Cedar Door as we wrap up SXSW, but if I weren’t committed to that, I would march across the river to this day party.  It starts at noon.

I think this line-up pretty much speaks for itself:
The Black Angels
Dennis Coffey
Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears w/special guests The Relatives
Menomena
White Denim
Bombay Bicycle Club
Young Buffalo
Dan Dyer
 
Did I ever tell you guys that Ross used to be Black Joe Lewis’ drummer? Right after he left, Black Joe completely blew up and got famous. We cry laugh about it all time.
White Denim and Dan Dyer are probably my favorite acts on that list, but here is a delightful music video from Dennis Coffey.  The Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues card-holding trick never gets old.

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