SXSW
WYBCxSXSW Day 1

The first of many daily updates from WYBC’s SXSW delegation…

Doors were slated to open at 6:30, but we arrived early. So did about two hundred others, and we found ourselves in a line which stretched up and around the block. We were there for a party and free concert thrown by Tumblr, the social bloggery platform. The venue, a bar called Mohawk, had drawn our attention primarily for the setlist they had lined up. The hours spent in line were interspersed with card games, trips to nearby food truck Barbeque Heaven, and conversation with the other concertgoers. As the sun began to go down and the air started to cool off, we felt a shift, as the line began to shuffle forth into Mohawk.

The venue: a bar and concert space. Indoors, a heart-of-Texas bar setup and a small stage and dance floor for DJ sets and rock performances. For the pixellated folks who tend to populate SXSW Interactive, a couple video games were set up for perusal, including Street Fighter and this gem. Casual gaming stations are one solution to the pre-concert malaise which threatens to creep in during the three hours between doors and the performance itself. We played a few rounds of each game to the laid-back tunes of Friendly Ghost, DJing the first set.

Outdoors there was a larger stage, and a set of elevated wood-and-rust audience platforms connected by narrow stairways. The staggered platforms created a hierarchy of partiers: at ground level, a down-and-dirty mosh pit; midway up, standing room for more relaxed and stable viewers; and at the very top, a suave VIP lounge reserved for heavyweights in tech, music and marketing.

WYBC’s Max Weinreich and Pat Reed slipped into the VIP lounge to take a closer look. While there, we met tech god Jake Lodwick. While he is best known for creating the video-streaming platform Vimeo, Lodwick has also worked with CollegeHumor and is a partner at Mast Brothers Chocolate. At 31, Lodwick is feeling entrepreneurial as ever. His latest venture is Elepath, a software design studio which is hard at work constructing what product designer Pasquale D’Silva calls “weird software” ­– apps which satisfy some sort of creative curiosity. We were treated to a sneak peek of Keezy, a music-mixing app for found sounds. Lodwick even used the app to record a quick promo for WYBC (listen here).

Lodwick is the Kanye West of the software community – and we mean that in the best of ways. He got his start young, dropped out of college, and made a zillion dollars and a name for himself. He’s the subject of several art projects, including this photograph and this short film. He has a knack for raising money, even when he doesn’t have any ideas for what to do with it yet. Elepath was not created to sell a particular product—in fact, it’s unclear what exactly it was created for at all. In one interview, Lodwick commented, “It was fun raising money with no cofounders or product ideas.” Based on his internet persona, one might expect Lodwick to be abrasive; in person, however, Lodwick is relaxed and talkative. He chatted with us amiably in line for the restroom and offered his advice for the next generation of programmers: don’t get boxed in by mastering only one programming language; people are more valuable than products; and of course, enjoy youth for all that it’s worth. We stuck around the lounge for a bit longer and met a few other notables—CollegeHumor’s Michael Schaubach and Josh Ruben, Improv Everywhere founder Charlie Todd, and Peter Berkman, the frontman of the NYC-based band Anamanaguchi.  All in all, it was a downright nifty event.

Later in the evening, we returned down to the indoor stage to hear Pete and the rest of his chiptune rock band. Anamanaguchi’s sound is what would happen if a Pikachu mated with a strobelight and a guitar: an orgy of electric awesome. Anyone who has ever played a Game Boy or an NES has heard 8-bit music before, the voltaic soundtrack to countless battle sequences, boss fights, and heartbreaking defeats. But Anamanaguchi repurposes the limited sounds of the game machine as a headbanging, sugar-coated, pop/rock hybrid. The music stands on its own sans gaming nostalgia, but I couldn’t help reliving a few choice Pokémon battles.

Anamanaguchi use guitars over fairly elaborate tracks produced with an NES and a Game Boy, and their recorded work has gained street cred, especially through Scott Pilgrim: the Video Game. But the live show is incredible. They are masters of acceleration; they build, build, build and explode into raging guitar badassery. The crowd went from zero to mosh in a matter of seconds—a transformation no doubt due to the musicians’ stage presence. The between-song chatter was worth the trip in its own right. Frontman Peter Berkman introduced Anamanaguchi as a “Spiderman cover band—we’re called Nickelback.” Naturally, we had to nab Anamanaguchi ‘n’ friends for a WYBC soundbite.

All in all, the evening was a success: good music, good people, good vibes, and a great SXSW kick-off for the WYBC delegation. Stay tuned for daily updates!

-Max Weinrich