We Have an Issue: Wash Your Damn Hands

On SXSW, and coronavirus, and SXSW and coronavirus


Illustration by Billie Buck; cover design by Jason Stout

"Your guess is as good as mine."

That's more or less been my response whenever anyone's asked me if SXSW is going to be canceled due to concerns of coronavirus spread. As I type this, city officials have just wrapped a Wednesday morning press conference where they reassured Austinites that currently no tests have come back positive for the virus; that plans are in place; that there is no evidence that nixing SXSW or any other large gathering would make the Austin community any safer; that we all need to wash our damn hands (emphasis mine).

By the time you read this, who knows? Maybe the status has changed. Certainly every day brings news of fresh dropouts from the Fest – Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Amazon Studios have all announced they're sitting this year out – and around the world, new travel restrictions are being put in place, and the plug is being pulled on some mass gatherings.

Or maybe you're reading this three months from now, while you're boxing up your dorm room with moldering Chronicles (we make great cushioning) and remembering what an epic time you had at SXSW this year (and so much less crowded!). Like I said, your guess is as good as mine. I have no special insight.

Now's probably a good time to explain again our "special relationship" to SXSW. It was founded by some of the same people who started the Chronicle, including our owner and publisher, Nick Barbaro. The origin story I've always heard was that the founders were motivated in part to start the Fest because over spring break, club owners would lose all their business, ergo the Chronicle would lose all its ads. It's evolved a fair bit since then. SXSW is now a major economic driver for many, many local businesses, and the Chronicle benefits from that too via increased ad sales and exposure as the official print sponsor of the Conference and Festivals.

But outside of the occasional South By employee who wanders over here to play volleyball with us, and the generally warm feelings we have toward the (currently very stressed) people over there, who are kind of like distant family – third cousins, maybe, from a much wealthier branch – that's more or less the extent of our relationship – excepting of course our boss, Nick, who continues to be a co-owner of SXSW.*

Editorially, we'll keep tracking the story – of coronavirus, of SXSW, of coronavirus and SXSW – including what officials are saying (see Margaret Nicklas' report) and the latest lineup additions and subtractions (keep reading for that). It is, as they say, a developing story.


Editor’s note: This column has been updated to clarify Nick Barbaro’s continued role at SXSW.

Online This Week


Giveth, and Taketh Away: Amid the many cancellations for SXSW (pour one out for the Supernatural reunion, y'all), other big names were added this week, including Hillary Clinton, Adam Schiff, Hannibal Buress, RZA, Chris Evans, and Texas filmmaker David Lowery, who's bringing the world premiere of The Green Knight, his very trippy-looking reimagining of Arthurian legend that will almost certainly give us nightmares (but we're super excited anyway).

Hit the Road: Gerald E. McLeod – aka Captain Day Tripsrounds up 65+ events and attractions across the state worth seeing, including rodeos, wildflowers, a pinball fest in Frisco, and a folk art ode to the humble orange.

RIP Sweet BBQ: Beloved Austin barbecue purveyor Micklethwait Craft Meats announced via Instagram last week that Micklethwait Market and Grocery – the brick-and-mortar location in Downtown Smithville, 45 miles outside of Austin – had closed after a year in business.


We Have an Issue: Wash Your Damn Hands

This Week on The Austin Chronicle Show on KOOP 91.7FM

News Editor Mike Clark-Madison sums up the primary results, and Chronicle Food writer Emily Beyda discusses her debut novel, The Body Double.


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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

SXSW, election, Austin Public Health, COVID-19, coronavirus, March Events, The Green Knight, Micklethwait

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