After a Fashion
Style X happened, and the throng is still wearing T-shirts and sneakers
A MUSING Was this the largest South by Southwest ever? Sure felt like it. Traffic was nightmarish, of course. The weather was all right – a bit overcast and windy, but in contrast with last year, it was a dream. I attended the Perez Hilton party in 2010 wearing fur in the rain. This year, I wore a breezy white samba outfit – you never know what to expect. It certainly seemed like there were a million SXSW badges decorating the necks of those on the street, which means there were billions on the street with no badges. Indeed, it's a sign how SXSW has grown, and in turn how many non-SXSW folks and companies have glommed on to SXSW. A good thing? Maybe, maybe not, but the city was electric with energy provided by all those who made this mammoth Conference and Festival happen.
AND THE WINNER IS The Austin Music Awards boasted a packed house to hear music important to Austin. The lovely Sahara Smith was a multiple winner and opened the show with the soothing elixir of her sweet voice and enchanting songs. Jegar Erickson performed onstage, playing harmonica as his father Roky Erickson sang "You're Gonna Miss Me" with the Meat Puppets. Roky gleefully arrived at the Austin Music Hall for his performance in Chris English's Haunted ATX hearse limo, fitting considering one of his biggest hits of the Eighties was "I Walked With a Zombie." In a surprise appearance, Kelly Willis presented her husband, Bruce Robison, with the Hall of Fame award he won last year but was too shy to attend and receive. Jazzman Ephraim Owens opened the Wagoneers' stunning and magical reunion set with a gorgeous trumpet solo and crooning songs that mesmerized the crowd. Friday Night Lights' lovely Dana Wheeler-Nicholson presented the Octopus Project's Best Experimental award to fellow actor Wiley Wiggins, who accepted on the absent band's behalf. ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons presented Musician of the Year and Best Roots Rock awards to Erickson before dashing off to Jimmie Vaughan's birthday party. The awards girls looked gorgeous, of course, thank to Gracie Silvas of Bella Salon, Brandi Cowley of Propaganda Hair Group, and Felicity Fromholz of Citylife Studio. Mike's Formal Wear made the men of the Music Awards look just as dashing, while Goodie Two Shoes made them sparkle and shine. The ever wonderful Shirley Watson pulled off the impossible – making the words "psychedelic" and "flowers" work together, and the Art Institute of Austin provided wardrobe services as well as A/V production.
SX STYLE The Style X exhibition was a totally new aspect to SXSW. When I first heard about it, my question was: Will it fly or will it die? Yes, there were plenty of T-shirt and sneaker manufacturers, and though those are not a part of my daily ensemble, I was far outnumbered by the throngs of T-shirt and sneaker-wearing hoards that attended. Above and beyond what we expected to see, we also saw a few true stand-out exhibitors: Helm Boots, designed by Austin's own Joshua Bingaman, were some of the most stylish and high-quality items to be seen at any exhibition; Proxy Apparel with its perfect-for-SXSW women's styles; and Tortoise & Blonde from NY, which chose to launch its incredibly stylish and beautiful eyewear line here at SXSW. Many of the exhibitors seem new at exhibiting. Some set themselves up as if it were a typical trade show – bringing in a few samples and taking orders. Other vendors brought lots of merchandise to sell on the spot. My feeling is that selling directly to the attendees worked out best, and maybe that's the direction that should be emphasized next year. Style X's launchpad may very well blast off into a must-attend event.
LET 'EM EAT CAKE Well, I'm remiss in giving you all the info about the fabulous annual Art Erotica event that the Octopus Club is putting on to raise money for the Paul Kirby Emergency Fund. Art Erotica stimulates and excites the mind with a dazzling array of erotic (and other) art, both static and on display or live and in the flesh. In any case, this fundraiser is one of the best-produced events in town, a well-attended, wild-as-it-can-be fundraiser that should be on every annual calendar. Saturday, March 26, 8:30pm-12:30am at the Seaholm Power Plant. For further info and tickets, visit www.octopusclub.org.