There you have it. Call me crazy, but my bags are packed. I’m in the Big Apple, and tomorrow I’ll ride at dawn, propelled by the 16.000 horses of an Airbus 320, towards Austin, Texas. The weirdest city in the Lone Star State.
Yes, I know, officially SXSW 2020 is cancelled. Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin declared the state of emergency, and called off the biggest event of Austin. Health officials maintained until the last moment that there was no scientific reason to do so. Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority in Austin County said on Wednesday that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW, or any other gatherings, will make the community any safer”. He repeated that statement on Friday, after the state of emergency was declared.
“There’s a lack of conclusive scientific evidence that cancelling mass gatherings will change the overall impact in spread of disease over time” Escott said.
Steve Adler adds further to the confusion, by urging people in Austin to go out, eat out, spend money at local entrepreneurs, and enjoy the live music at the unofficial events. Seriously, he did: on his twitter channel.
Hundreds of booked bands have no intention of backing off, and are still aiming to perform at the places that booked them, and that were not part of the official SXSW circuit. 5th street and 6th street are rocking the boat.
Venues switched from international stars to local talent, and are determined that the show will go on. “Keep Austin weird”, the famous city adagio at its wildest and at its best.
Thousands of SXSW Interactive attendees woke up with no SXSW to go to, but with a couple of thousands of euro in nonrefundable expenses: planes, catering, transport, hotels… Part of that tech crowd decided to go to Austin anyway, hoping for a kind of alternate festival in the best case or some days off in the worst case.
Turns out that there is plenty of activity in the weirdest city of the west: Plenty of people are organizing events in Austin just for the tech crowd that has every intention of attending SXSW. Some local tech entrepreneurs are working at holding on-invitation only events, grey events, or are turning their planned keynotes and panel discussions into podcast episodes. It looks like you might be able to attend the recording sessions if you know how to get you on the list.
I’m homing in on the #AltSXSW and #AltSXSWEDU hashtags that are rounding up registrants and speakers alike to meet up and share ideas.
I promise to be careful; I’ll wash and disinfect a-gogo. I won’t hug, I won’t kiss. I’ll smoke the heck out of the ill making little buggers in The County Line.
But nothing will keep me away from Austin in the week to come. Davy Crockett said it so well: “You may all go to hell, but I will go to Texas….”
And, as every year: I’ll keep you posted.