In 2022, to my shock (and slight embarrassment), my lovely work colleagues voted me as ‘Employee of The Year’ the prize was a trip to the incredible SXSW 2023 Festival in Austin, Texas. I couldn’t believe it.
To show my gratitude, I knew I had to go in feet-first and make this a trip of a lifetime, so I’ve condensed 72 insane hours down into my ‘Top 5 Moments from SXSW 2023’.
Before I divulge though, I better explain in a nutshell what the event is all about.
What is SXSW?
South by Southwest, colloquially referred to as South By, is an annual conglomeration of film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March all over downtown Austin. Everywhere you look in the city there is a venue established by a world-renowned brand to host all kinds of activities and experiences, from Slack to Dolby, Showtime to Paramount Plus. They were all at the festival this year.
Okay now you’re onboard, here we go…
As a lifelong Porsche lover, I always knew this would take top spot.
Outside the Porsche X Collaborations Unseen House was like being transported to Universal Studios. Two 20ft Transformers took center stage as a nod to the upcoming Rise of The Beasts film, where the iconic Porsche Carrera 911 RS 3.8 will be making an appearance as the newest autobot, Mirage.
Meanwhile, inside the house were outrageous collabs with the likes of Daniel Arsham, Vexx and Chris Labrooy. Vexx’s classic doodle-style art adorned the new Porsche Vision GT, while Chris Labrooy’s take on the 911 Carrera 4S saw a giant inflatable white swan bursting through the windscreen and wheel arches.
Streaming platform, Roku, took the option of an immersive experience to the extreme and ran with it, transporting visitors down an Alice In Wonderland style rabbit hole.
Set across 5 purple-drenched floors, we got a glimpse into a selection of their hero shows and upcoming new launches. We were greeted at the door by the Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts and instructed to drink a vial of purple liquid which was supposedly grape juice and lemonade (did not love), which then transported us to a room full of rain before heading up to the Roku City salon which treated us to face gems, glue-in purple extensions and temporary tattoos.
As an ode to their upcoming original TV show, Meet Me in Paris, we checked into our Parisian hotel and crossed the Pont des Arts and dedicated our love lock to SHARE, before heading up to the Best Buy X Roku living room to watch some of the shows.
It was hard not to love this experience with the amount of effort their team had put into each room; with actors and actresses performing on point to each room, themed sweet treats & drinks and much more.
Featured Session: Building a Sustainable Economy in the Metaverse
I’m sure I won’t be alone in saying the impending Metaverse is somewhat hard to get my head around entirely. Trying to imagine a world where we shop, communicate, play etc in an entirely new VR world, not to mention start building marketing plans around, feels like something in the distant future. Wrong.
This session featured insanely talented visionaries; Ashley Crowder of 3D infrastructure platform VNTANA, Nonny De La Peña of Arizona State University and Cortney Harding of Friends With Holograms. If you’re keen to listen to the talk, you can find a recording here.
All three speakers alluded to embracing the Metaverse, using it as an addition to your existing e-commerce tactics rather than a replacement. Start prepping and building your brand’s spaces within the space now, it’s likely Apple’s next generation of products will be leaning into the Metaverse.
It would be wrong of me to not include a food joint in this list.
Cooper’s BBQ is an old time pit bar-b-que and is exactly what you’d imagine it to be. The center bar, embellished with floor to ceiling retro metal signs, serves a whisky-based cocktail list as long as my arm and screens showing live American football and baseball.
Set behind the bar is the pit bbq filled with every joint of slow-cooked meat you can imagine alongside a sides counter filled with the likes of mac ‘n’ cheese, corn, coleslaw, green beans and multiple fruit cobblers. This ‘Best of The Best’ venue is a must visit if you find yourself in Texas.
Pete’s Piano Bar
In true Danielle style, I’ll end this list with one of the greatest bars I’ve been to. Located on Austin’s famous 6th Street, Pete’s Piano Bar is nicknamed ‘Texas’ Original House of Song’.
It features two pianos face to face battling it out to get the crowd going with the best song possible with the likes of Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’ which became the theme song of our weekend, SHARE’s favourite anthem ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Still D.R.E.’
The crowd is so packed it’s impossible to not become best friends with everyone you rub shoulders with; giving false promises to stay in touch and show them around London the next time they visit, despite not knowing their name.
I will forever be grateful to the whole SHARE gang for giving me this opportunity to visit Austin and the mind blowing SXSW. I’ll never get over that this is my life and I cannot wait to see who gets to go next year and hear all about their experience!
Watch a video we created of the whole event here.