SXSW 2018: Mary’s Monday roundup of country houses and the SXSW Conference Trade Show – 12th March 2018

By on Monday, 19th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo courtesy of Jennifer Sinski / Fox Sports House

Once you’ve attended the SXSW Conference and Festivals once, you get into this mindset that you’re going to try and go to as much as possible, but you also know that the best laid plans often change and may be entirely out of your control. This year, I wanted TGTF to make an even better effort to see more of the conference and visit more of the houses sponsored by our country friends across the oceans.

Arriving earlier than scheduled into Austin on Monday morning, I was able to get badged up quickly and pop my head in for drinks and food in the House of Scandinavia sponsored by airline SAS. Instead of serving those famous Swedish meatballs, they had sat on tortilla chips gluten-free, oat-based meatless treats, reflecting the global trend towards sustainable food sourced ethically. The House, located for the week at Café Blue just steps from the Austin Convention Center, made for an easy pop-in if one was inclined to do so. Monday was Super Finland Day: did you know that Finland ranked #1 as the happiest country to live in 2018? Not so happily, bad timing meant I arrived between musical acts, ultimately missing Tuomo & Markus who we had opened our SXSW 2017 coverage with.

Fox Sports House at SXSW 2018 - courtesy Jennifer Sinski / Fox Sports House

A bit further out on Colorado Street was the Fox Sports House. The focus of their programming was to promote the upcoming World Cup in Russia. On offer were free country-themed tacos made to order and beer, while fantasy football and airbrushed temporary tattoos also were a big draw for mainly orange badge Interactive attendees who had already been in town for a few days. After you’ve done this for a few years, you can easily spot those moving slowly with bags under their eyes who look worse for wear and who are the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed having just landed.

Later in the day, I queued for a good 30 minutes in an attempt to get in as press to the food and wine pairing hosted by celebrity chef Curtis Stone at G’Day USA‘s Australia House at Lucille, only to be turned away after it had reached capacity. After occupying the much more central location of Brush Square Park for years, the Land Down Under hedged their bets for 2018 to move all of their festivities, including the perennially popular Aussie BBQ, down to Rainey Street. Bringing to Austin the ever winsome Stone and actor Hugh Jackman (there to discuss his Laughing Man Foundation that supports coffee growers) meant huge crowds wanted to visit Australia House early on in the week. You have to wonder if this ultimately translated to Australia House being a victim of its own perceived success. Having been turned away once, I can’t have been the only person to consider that given Lucille’s small size, I was unlikely to get into the place all week, so would it be worth the time queueing?

My unexpected early arrival also meant that I could step into the Trade Show for a wander. As in past years, some impressive local startups were showcasing their wares, including Sock Club, who create custom-made socks for companies and events. I wonder how many Subway employees wear their green, company-branded socks proudly. Many booths had a focus on VR and robots. I was surprised to see so many country booths having VR units on hand for anyone to stop by. While I never waited to see what was on those headsets, the fact that nearly everyone had them made for the odd feeling that everyone had them only because it was the thing to do this year. Is it symptomatic of society’s shorter attention spans? Country booths have tended to be less about welcoming conference attendees than in past years, which I found disappointing. A lot of these booths are designed to create business and attract tourism, and countries have spent loads of money sending people out to an international expo. Maybe everyone was tired by Monday and wasn’t in the mood to network? Far better were the actual houses away from the convention center, like the aforementioned House of Scandinavia.

A large crowd watched on wide-eyed as a giant orange robot was being controlled by a much smaller, normal human-sized woman manipulating a pouch-y horizontal arm. A Japanese booth had a robot creating plastic nigiri sushi from teeny tiny pieces of colored plastic, the same kind of precise technology you’d expect used in making things like microprocessors. Nearby, a Korean booth boomed with the sound of techno, as the electronic face of a panda bear alternated between moods as songs progressed. I’m all for the future of technology and advancement making our lives better. Flashy stuff like this without an obvious ground-breaking application doesn’t excite me. I must be getting old!

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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