I just returned from the interactive part of SXSW 2013 in Austin, Texas and one thing struck me different this year. It was so Gay... in the best possible use of the word. I attended the conference this year because my agency had two client marketing projects, but I have been many times to the music part that starts immediately after the interactive (technology) conference.
I am no stranger to Austin, the magical blue oasis in the red desert that is Texas. I was born and raised just down I-35, and frequented this wonderfully weird town as soon as I got my drivers license. Even after living in NYC for years and enduring all the usual Texas bashing, I could always point to Austin for some progressive redemption. So it should not have come as any surprise this year that the vibe was not just the usual hip, cool or weird as locals like to tout but really, really, Gay.
It wasn't just the fact that tapping the Grindr app almost fried my i-phone with hundreds if not thousands of Grindees within a few feet, but that Grindr Founder Joel Simkhai was actually speaking at the conference (I did not get to attend but heard it was very interesting). I did happen upon the after parties on 4th street later and all the clubs were jam packed with SXSW attendees.
Badges from SXSW were worn all day and all night later at the bars- where as just a few years ago when "Corporate America" traveled to conventions or conferences it's Gay attendees had to discretely wander off to find their own nightlife - (don't ask, don't tell style) not here, not this year and not at SXSW. All corners of the globe were represented, as were all major corporations yet we were all in the same club- literally the same club. What a great feeling this must be for those fresh faced college students attending the conference for the first time.
Day 4 came and just when I thought that things could not get any gayer (again the best meaning of the word) - Bravo's prince of all things pop culture cool - Andy Cohen shows up to broadcast his wildly successful talk show live from Austin / SXSW. He rolled into town with his brand of unapologetic "Gay Coolness" and accompanied by his army of straight allies officially anointing it "SXSoGay".
I am already looking forward to next year's festivities.