AUSTIN, TEXAS —
The annual South by Southwest Festival
is reaching its climax this weekend in Austin, Texas, where tens of thousands of participants and visitors are in the streets with thousands of local people who have just come for the party. This is a three-part event that combines serious business and constant entertainment.
South by Southwest is known for its exuberance and its mingling of business and pleasure.
While the music blares from several nearby venues, a delegation from Chile holds an event to bring together interactive media and computer program designers with investors.
The organizer of one event is Horacio Melo of Start Up Chile, a Chilean government program. “This is a good opportunity to find more investors and different players who play a role in start-up assistance," he said.
South by Southwest started in 1987 as a local music festival that drew around 700 people. It now attracts thousands from around the world for interactive media discussions, film screenings and, of course, music.
One of the locals who has participated since the beginning is entertainment lawyer Stephen Easley “An entire city is almost not big enough anymore to hold South by Southwest, it has become so huge and sprawling," he said. “As it has broadened, its impact on popular culture has become almost immeasurable.”
South by Southwest has become the biggest event of its kind in the world. This is where many films now get their first boost and many musical groups find agents, producers and record deals.
Groups from Asia, Europe and Africa play here.
But you can also hear a lot of Texas music.
Popular Austin-based singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves attended South By Southwest in 1990 and decided right then to leave his home in Maine and become a Texas singer. "That is exactly what I came to Austin for is to work with great musicians and studios and fellow songwriters," he said.
Over the ten days of the festival, there are hundreds of official festival concerts, but Cleaves says many visitors prefer the events outside the festival zone. “If you do not want to do the main part of the festival, you know, the entire town turns into a festival. I am doing seven or eight showcases this week, not a single official one, they are all sort of unofficial," he said.
For musicians like Slaid Cleaves, Austin is a great place to play, whether there is a festival or not.