SXSW: A Tale Of Two Cities

Monday night, as SXSW Interactive was beginning to wind down, Rocks Off headed to Republic Live for the HoustonTXSW meet-up. Often at SXSW one is spoiled for choice, and the abundance of options when it comes to which panels to attend, where to score free food and what bands to see can be paralyzing. Sometimes you just want to go some place comfortable, see a few familiar faces, and relax.

Members of Houston's Twitterati were gathered in the darkness at Republic Live, shades drawn for the screening of clips from films made in Houston and curated by Houston Film Commission's Alfred Cervantes. Filmmakers in the crowd were called on stage to talk about their creations. Afterwards, local bands including Hilary Sloan, Roky Moon & BOLT, and Co-Pilot performed in a kind of mini-Houston showcase.

It was a great way to revive ourselves before the big Village Voice Media Interactive Party later that night, and a good way for non-Houstonians to get a glimpse of what our city offers creatively. All it required was an RSVP, and even that was a lax policy.

Rocks Off likes this idea of location-specific showcases. We've already penciled in the France Rocks showcase, if only for the buffet of free French food, and Friday evening's traditional Japan Night will also be a benefit for the earthquake and tsunami victims.

So Tuesday we decided to stop by the Oklahoma Showcase at Friends on Sixth Street to see if we could find anyone we know from our youth there. Like the HoustonTXSW showcase, the Okie Lounge was hosted by the state's Film & Music Office. Unlike the Houston event, the doormen were pretty strict with admissions.

Rocks Off was asked for our driver's license proving us a resident of the state. We haven't has one of those since 2003. Thankfully our platinum badge did the trick, and soon we were in the door eating steak empanadas and sipping on rum and coke.

The thing about the door is kind of irking. What is the point of having a showcase if you only allow familiars inside? Isn't the idea to network and share creativity? The Oklahoma bands had yet to start playing -- a DJ was onstage instead -- and there was plenty of merch on a table in the back, including Brad Beasley's Flaming Lips-scored documentary Okie Noodling, but Houston had the right idea by showing clips of locally-made films on a background screen, even if no one was watching.

Following the Houston clip screenings, Cervantes said something that stuck in Rocks Off's head. "Before you leave today, I want you to meet somebody, talk to somebody new." Immediately afterwards, we talked to filmmaker Chance McClain, who shot an unauthorized musical prequel to Dr. Horrible in Houston called Horrible Turn.

Then on Tuesday we met two dudes from Tulsa who are frequent travelers to Houston. We exchanged contact info and compared SXSW schedules, sharing with one another the various bands we were most looking forward to. So far it's been a pretty good way to approach the chaos that is SXSW.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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Shey is an experienced blogger, social media expert and traveler. She studied journalism at Oklahoma State University before working as a full-time reporter for Houston Community Newspapers in 2005. She lived in South Korea for three years, where she worked as a freelancer.
Contact: Brittanie Shey