There are 40 blocks closed in downtown Austin due to various construction and cable-laying projects. When the Empire State Building was built in New York City, the city closed no blocks. Also, news on the upcoming SXSW festival and the Texas Film Hall of Fame.
It's too easy to blame the politicians. There is the unexpected growth of the city coupled with the recent telecommunications act, which means whoever wants to rip up the city streets gets to do it. The oddest thing is to hear the pro-growthers blame the environmentalists/Smart Growthers for the debacle. The problem is the enormous growth to the whole area that has worn out the traditional infrastructure. Still, the lack of coordination and the devastating pattern of street closures does seem to be lacking any controlling thought. Supposedly they closed a street near the Convention Center that wasn't supposed to be closed because some big construction truck mistakenly parked in the middle of it. Here we are, facing SXSW, the whole idea of which is to give lots of people access to a wealth of entertainment. We've got the folks and the entertainment -- the access is very much in question.
With SXSW Week just around the corner, this Interactive issue kicks off our SXSW coverage. The SXSW Interactive Conference begins March 9 at the Austin Convention Center (as will SXSW Film). Our coverage, beginning on p. 50 and edited by Sarah Hepola (who does any work for which I'm still given credit) and Erica Barnett, suggests the range of ideas and personalities that SXSW Interactive will plunge into next week. (There is also a special eight-page supplement in this issue with info on all the SXSW Week events.)
SXSW Film has really come together over the last few days. Panelists include Jim Jarmusch, Allison Anders, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, producer Amy Robinson, Penelope Spheeris, Chris Smith, Ron Mann, John Sloss, Tim McCanlies, and faithful Chronicle reader (and indie legend) John Pierson. The Film Festival is the strongest ever. Check the schedule grid and annotations in this issue.
The SXSW Music Conference and Festival lineups are equally strong. (Ray Davies as keynote speaker. Is there any more to be said?) The only thing that concerns me about the SXSW Music Festival schedule is that I recognize so many of the acts, which I'm pretty sure is not a good thing.
The Austin Music Awards, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Chronicle's Music Poll, officially kicks off the SXSW Music Festival on Wednesday, March 14. There will be shows at 30 other clubs that night as part of SXSW Music. The awards show lineup features Slaid Cleaves, Vallejo, the Gourds, an Eighties survivor jam with a scary number of old friends, Lucinda Williams, and a blues jam featuring James Cotton, Jimmie Vaughan, and Lou Ann Barton. MC Paul Ray will be joined by Monks' Night Out to help fill up the dead spaces. Congrats to awards show organizer Margaret Moser for a knockout lineup.
A non-SXSW event of note is the very first Texas Film Hall of Fame ceremony at Austin Studios at the old Mueller Airport. The event, emceed by Turk Pipkin, will honor Sissy Spacek (presented by Rip Torn), Robert Benton (presented by Anne Rapp), Bill Wittliff (presented by Barbara Morgan), Liz Smith (presented by the honorable Ann Richards), and Mike Simpson, who will be given the Warren Skaaren Lifetime Achievement Award by Quentin Tarantino. All honorees and presenters are expected to be in attendance. Asleep at the Wheel will provide the music. Sponsor tables (including dinner, drinks, and VIP access) are available from the Austin Film Society (322-0145). General admission tickets (good for the show only) are available exclusively from Waterloo Records (AFS members, $20; non-AFS members, $25).
Next week is the SXSW Film issue, which includes a 12-page SXSW Week supplement. The Austin Music Awards/SXSW Music super-issue will be published the week of March 16, with an extra-wide early distribution the evening of Wednesday, March 14 (awards show night). The next day, the weekly will finish being distributed with the first of our four dailies. This year we will publish dailies on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (March 15-18) to be distributed all over downtown Austin.