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Based on years of observation and personal experience, I’ve realized that even the most motivated and well-intentioned people who start recreational lifestyle blogs about really anything (i.e. music, travel, home decor, marathon training, gluten free recipes) – they almost certainly end up de-prioritizing and neglecting their respective sites. Fresh ideas, dreams of grandeur and hopes of one day becoming America’s Next Top Influencer can be quickly squashed by the mere fact that blogging takes a long time and entails a lot of work.

I am the first to mock full-time bloggers – especially the Fashionistas and the Mommys – the ones who house online banner ads and receive random, but awesome endorsements from Estee Lauder or Dole Bananas – Why do they get all-expense paid trips to Manhattan to try on the latest pair of New Balances or get to give away gift cards good for 250 letterpress wedding invitations? Psh, I could do that.
 
Well, turns out I can’t. Technically, I could. But I don’t, so I can’t really judge. It takes me a long time to write posts, edit them, re-read and sometimes, re-write them. On top of that, uploading, organizing, captioning and embedding photos and multimedia is a time suck too. Deep down in the recesses of my subconscious I know that I will never meet my modest internal goal of posting once a week as I already struggle to find time to call my family or run errands with my full-time job. And when I do have free time to spare to enjoy a concert, finish a book or travel to a far-off land – the last thing I want to do is open my uncomfortably warm laptop and attempt to write something clever or coherent about said experience.
 
But I just concluded 10 whirlwind days of SXSW, and anyone vaguely connected to me would know that South By is my favorite week of the year. Every free, waking moment that I’m not earning a living is spent actively exploring my beloved city; watching my favorite artists; discovering new ones while shamelessly eating free tacos, drinking free Budweisers and unwisely collecting free tshirts that I have to carry around for the rest of the day. Though a true blogger with a press credential would probably be updating their sites on a daily basis; Tweeting and Instagramming in real time; and providing intelligent analysis about whatever shows they got to see – I’m secretly glad that I could just blissfully live in the moment without any obligation or responsibility to report. However, since it was such a fun, jam-packed week – I did want to write a follow-up post detailing my most notable adventures and share some photos I captured with my new iPhone 5s. Teehee
 
 
Most Energy: TIE between Travi$ Scott and Sleigh Bells
Travi$ Scott fucking killed it. In the span of 30 minutes, Travi$ Scott stripped off his shirt, crowd surfed and sprayed liters of water (dare I say, 100 bottles?) all over an amped up, over-excitable crowd at Fader Fort. One of the wildest shows I’ve ever witnessed – I anticipate a big future for this dude. You can watch a vid of him performing  “Upper Echelon” here on the Fader site.

Travi$ Scott at Fader Fort

Travi$ Scott at Fader Fort

I’ve seen Sleigh Bells several times; and I’ve always known they were heavy on the distortion, loud on the volume and epileptic with their lights, and though they’re not necessarily new or undiscovered, I couldn’t not include them on this list. Sleigh Bells always delivers a loud, rambunctious rock and roll show. Their double-bassing drummer is immaculate; Alexis Krauss’ stage presence is undeniable; her sex appeal is unquestionable and in the tiny confines of the Red Bull Sound Select 4 Days in Austin SXSW series – headbanging ensued.

Sleigh Bells at Red Bull Sound Select

Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells


Best New Discovery: Strange Talk
So I got to see these Australian fellows twice throughout the week in two uncrowded intimate settings and thoroughly enjoyed what I heard – I’d recommend them to anyone who likes Friendly Fires or The Rapture. Will definitely check out their new album when it releases at the end of the month.
Best Multi-tasker: Robert DeLong
So this kid isn’t necessarily a new discovery either; in fact, he was all over SXSW last year, but I will forever be impressed with the mere process of how he creates and performs music. One guy mastering like.. 27 technologies including a Wii, XBOX controller and an Atari – it’s just fun to watch.
 
Best Production: Chromeo
That leg keyboard gets me every time. First time I saw them, and definitely not the last.

Chromeo at the Fader Fort

Chromeo

 
Best Celebrity Sighting: Chromeo’s brother
I’ve had a stupid fan girl crush on A-Trak for as long as I can remember. He was just chillin’ and watching the Chromeo set at a Dell-sponsored event riddled with middle-aged Dell employees and business school grads. Given his approachability and cool demeanor, you’d never guess that he’s quite possibly the most famous DJ and producer in the world. I bet those Dell bros had no idea the “Barbra Streisand” guy was calmly standing right next to them.
 

Me and Trizzy

“Hey is that the Barbra Streisand guy?”

Best Event Lineup: SPIN at Stubb’s 
Disclaimer: This list was only based on the events that I attended. I did not have an official SXSW wristband or a Music badge. If I had greater access to more exclusive events, I’d guarantee that I’d have a very different answer.
 
This was my first time attending the SPIN SXSW party, and it might be a contender for my favorite event of the week based on an informal cost benefit analysis. Short line with non-existent wait time, uncrowded venue with two stages featuring a well-curated lineup of some really talented and diverse artists – none of whom I’ve ever seen before, but have always liked and respected. Temples, Warpaint, ScHoolboy Q, Cloud Nothings, Future – all of them were great – Q being my favorite of the bunch. Only downside was that free Tito’s wasn’t available until 3 pm, meaning I had to sip on free Crispin cider tallboys for a few hours. Felt like drinking a gallon of overly sweet and carbonated Mott’s apple juice.

Temples

ScHoolboy Q

FUTURE

 
Best Kept Secret: The COMPLEX
Complex is one of my favorite magazines – providing quality entertainment coverage about everything from technology to sneakers, not to mention hip hop. This showcase was small, obscure and surprisingly under-attended the two times I stopped by. The COMPLEX touted free drinks and good rap and DJ sets curated by good blogs like Green Label and Pigeons and Planes – it just had a chill vibe populated by lots of trendy people wearing camouflage print, fitted hats and some really fucking dope sneakers. I didn’t get to see any of these guys, but Childish Gambino, Pusha T and even Skrillex graced The COMPLEX stage. Definitely making a point to come back next year. Mental note: need to cop a pair of Nike Rosche Runs.
THE SNDCLSH - DJ Lupe Fiasco and DJ Sky Gellatly spinning at The Complex at SXSW

THE SNDCLSH – DJ Lupe Fiasco and DJ Sky Gellatly spinning at The Complex at SXSW

 
FOMO Award: Watch the Throne
Dammit.
 
 
Most Disappointing: Julian Casablancas and The Voidz
Stereogum put it best in their headline “Watch Julian Casablancas’ Unfortunate Show at SXSW Fader Fort.” After the aforementioned riot that Travi$ Scott incited on the final day of Fader Fort that eager fans literally waited 3+ hours in line for, this personal hero of mine was a total let down. I’ve seen him perform with The Strokes twice and the stage presence, showmanship and volume I so badly wanted to experience again simply wasn’t there. The lights were turned low, he was hunched into as awkward a fetal position that someone of his height can muster and he muttered his way through songs no one was familiar with save his Daft Punk collaboration “Instant Crush.” I’m assuming he was hungover. As usual.
 
Meh, you win some you lose some.

Best of the Week: Jimmy Kimmel

This could technically contend for Most Disappointing since this was the one and only SXSW experience I badly wanted to attend, but did not get to. However, I knew my odds of receiving access to one of Kimmel’s five coveted Austin tapings was slim to none – so no tears were shed. Fortunately, all of the content still lives on his Youtube channel and as you can see from this video – he totally embraced his time here and I hope he returns in 2015.

Worst of the Week: Car Accident on Red River

The tragic events on Wednesday night shocked and saddened every single person in this city. I read that in the 28 years of SXSW, the accident on Red River was the first ever fatality. With events of this size and thousands of people milling around, accidents are bound to happen. However, in this particular instance I firmly believe that the culprit is the single person responsible for this horrific event. Not only does my heart go out to the victims and their families (and in case you haven’t heard the third victim passed away in the hospital this morning), but that beloved part of town will always be tainted with sadness and bitter memories. The Mohawk is my favorite music venue in Austin and I’ve had countless euphoric musical experiences there. I hope everyone remembers to be safe, careful and responsible and to remember how lucky we are.
 
If you have anything to spare, please consider donating to the SXSW Cares Fund where all proceeds will go toward a community-based recovery fund for the victims. I will say the light at the end of the tunnel is how evil acts such as this never triumph over good. The entire Austin community has united to donate blood and financial aid for the victims. In mere days, Vans raised over $20,000 in proceeds toward the cause. A sweet 18-year-old girl who plans to attend UT this fall was serenaded by her favorite band in the hospital. These acts of kindness remind me that the world isn’t always the evil place we make it out to be. And I wanted to give a sincere thank you to all of the friends and family members who called, emailed or texted me at godawful hours of the night to check on my safety. I love you all and I am so thankful you’re in my life.

SXSW memorial on Red River

One interesting fact that you might not know about me is that I have a huge girl crush on smokin’ hot Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen. Not only is she gorgeous (which is what ignited my initial attraction to her), but Teigen is interesting, smart and a hilarious person to follow on Twitter and Instagram.
Fun fact: Chrissy Tiegen retweeted me once and it was probably the biggest social media interaction I’ve ever had with a celebrity (I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a few from the likes of iconic rapper Bun B and my favorite producer Diplo).
Anyway, in addition to her constant (yet entertaining) social media activity, Chrissy Teigen also has a mouthwatering food blog where she chronicles her adventures in culinary school and different recipes she and her fiance John Legend love to cook. I’m not sure how Teigen manages to maintain her bikini-ready physique with some of her dietary choices, but I certainly admire a model who openly says that it’s okay to treat yourself and love food. It’s so refreshing compared to the rail thin runway models who survive on celery or Kate Moss’ ass backwards “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” mentality.
Anyway, Chrissy Teigen is inspiring to me in more ways than one – this year, she and John Legend decided to spend their holidays in Tokyo and essentially ate nothing but Japanese-style ramen noodles for a full week. It can’t be a coincidence that I too am constantly eating ramen and tirelessly trying to unearth new spots in Austin that serve this flavorful noodle dish.
As you can tell from my favorable reviews of Ramen Tatsu-ya and East Side King, I have a soft spot for Japanese noodles. Last week alone, I tried 3 different ramen dishes in the span of 5 days. Something is wrong with me.

Squid ink curry ramen from East Side King

Miso Not Ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya

A lot of my peers asked if I’d tried Kome ramen yet, saying it was comparable to Ramen Tatsu-ya, some even making bold statements claiming that it was better. Acclaimed for its sushi and only serving ramen during lunch, I was excited to try this place out on one of my Friday lunch breaks.
Turns out the reviews were right – it was just as good, better in some ways. I can’t determine which dish I prefer since they’re both so delicious, but I will point out some advantages that I really appreciated about my dining experience at Kome.
Tonkatsu Ramen from Kome

Tonkatsu Ramen from Kome

Food – Both dishes were comparable in taste, but Kome definitely put more ramen and toppings in the bowl. Ramen Tatsu-ya makes you pay extra for corn, hot sauce, even extra noodles. I simply got more value out of my Kome ramen.
Ambience – I got seated right away at Kome and didn’t feel crowded or stuffy. One of the drawbacks about Ramen Tatsu-ya is their seating model. The little restaurant is always cramped and crowded – I realize they don’t have much room to sit and high demand which is why there’s always a long line of patrons waiting to order and get seated. But the line files through the middle of the restaurant, right between the main tables where the majority of customers sit and dine. People who are already seated and trying to enjoy their meals are eye level with the belt loops of other customers waiting in line, which is a tad uncomfortable. Plus, there is always the risk of a waiter carrying heavy bowls of steaming hot soup tripping or running into you as they weave their way around people waiting in line.

Ladies room in Ramen Tatsu-Ya

Ladies room in Kome

Bathrooms – Both restaurants have awesome bathrooms. Who wouldn’t like this schizophrenic graffiti in Ramen Tatsu-ya? However, Kome took the minimalist design approach. I think the toilet paper wrapped in Japanese newspaper was a subtle, but nice attention to detail.

Best chopsticks I’ve ever used

Chopsticks – Kome’s utensils are the sharpest and most balanced chopsticks I’ve ever eaten with. Unbelievably easy to use.
Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll ever kick my ramen kick. Possibly when the weather warms up a little, but for now I’m eating it on a weekly basis and it’s wonderful.
2012 was a big year for PR and advertising. With the Presidential Election and the 2012 Olympics, I can’t imagine the exorbitant sums of money spent on this year’s marketing campaigns. I decided to round up some of my favorite commercials from this year. I chose these based on a mix of criteria – the innovation and creativity involved, overall look and feel, and most importantly, what emotions were invoked.
A lot of these will probably look familiar to you. I don’t watch a lot of regular programming, and when I do it’s normally a DVR’d show that I fast-forward through. However, I do tend to absorb a lot of ads when I watch sports games or news segments that occur in real-time. So here goes:
My favorite commercials of 2012:
Funniest: Guinness – Round Up Your Mates for St. Patrick’s Day
I discovered this gem on FastCompany’s list of the 15 Best of Ads of 2012, and I loved it! I don’t think this was a US-based ad, but it’s so clever, cute and light-hearted.
Best Sports: Tie between Adidas Is All In and Nike FuelBand Presents: Counts
Nike and Adidas are arguably the two most popular sports brands out there and I’ve always been impressed by both of their products and their marketing strategies. Both of the commercials below evoke a palpable “cool” factor and what I love about both of these campaigns is how they incorporate a multitude of people and activities that don’t necessarily involve sports, but demonstrate athleticism and high energy. Adidas compiled a super rad music video timed to Justice’s hard-hitting “Civilization” featuring everyone from David Beckham to Katy Perry. Nike simply captured memorable iconic moments like OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” music video and scenes from our favorite films.
Favorite Olympics: Proctor & Gamble: The Best Job and AT&T’s The New Possible
Ads during the Olympics are such a treat; it’s like watching the best ads of the Superbowl, but on a worldwide scale that lasts a few weeks. I love both of these ads for different reasons – the innovation behind AT&T’s “The New Possible” campaign was super impressive. Incorporating real, record-breaking Olympic results seamlessly into the ads was such a smart way to showcase AT&T and celebrate big Olympic wins in the U.S. Check out how they did it on FastCompany. On the flip side, the P&G “The Best Job” ad is one of the most touching commercials of the year. I love how it includes different sports and different cultures, but portrays how universal a mother’s love and dedication is. Though no products were prominently shown in the commercial, it still beautifully represented P&G and its family of brands.


Best Competitive Edge: Samsung – The Next Big Thing is Already Here

Samsung took a huge risk by choosing to capitalize on the hype and buzz surrounding the new iPhone 5. Rather than sitting back and letting the new Apple launch dominate headlines, Samsung proactively inserted itself into the conversation and made a bold, splashy statement. It’s not a secret that Apple users are uncharacteristically loyal, and Samsung not only made some question the supposed “greatness” of the new phone, but also made Apple fans look ridiculous for waiting in line for something competitors already make. I am a reasonably satisfied iPhone user, but I haven’t been blown away by any of the company’s recent launches. Samsung won’t ever convert the diehard Apple fans, but they are successfully targeting people like me who like their iPhones, but don’t think they’re light years greater than other alternatives.

Best Message: Expedia Find Yours

Expedia also chose to make a bold statement, but in a different, much more meaningful way. Documenting the story of a dad’s emotional and deeply personal journey to find his understanding regarding his daughter’s same-sex marriage, the message was poignant, sweet and incredibly moving. I’m glad companies like Expedia and Oreo are openly endorsing same-sex marriage and I consider this commercial a huge win in the fight for same-sex marriage and equal rights. Not too long after that ad ran, Expedia created a “Find Your Strength” commercial sharing the heartbreaking story of a young cancer patient who found strength in her best friend who she met at St. Jude’s. This one’s a tearjerker, but an uplifting, inspirational one. In response, Expedia is matching donations to St. Jude’s on its website.

At some point last year, a friend asked me “How many concerts do you think you go to in a year?” and I honestly couldn’t give a fair estimation. It really got me thinking – “How much money do I spend on live music in a year?” “How many bands did I see?” “Did I see any bands multiple times?” “If so, how many?” To provide some insight, I literally kept a Google Doc spreadsheet listing every show I went to this year and updated it regularly throughout the course of the year. Upon auditing my year to date, even I was surprised with my results. I attended a grand total of 48 shows/events and saw a whopping 107 bands/artists. That doesn’t even include the bands I watched more than once. Numbers like that make me really grateful that I live in Austin (where all but one 3-day event) took place.

I decided to make an infographic visualizing my year in live music. A screen grab is pasted below, click-through to see the full visual!

Key findings include:

  • Genre = Electronic and dance music comprised the majority of concerts I attended. Indie shows were a close second.
  • March and October were my busiest live music months, which is to be expected since SXSW and ACL take place during those time periods
  • Danny Brown and A-Trak are tied for artist I saw the most – each with 3 separate performances in 3 separate venues

Picture1

 

How appropriate that the impending Halloween season and the return of The Walking Dead have, resurrected, if you will, my WordPress. The past three months have extracted almost every ounce of energy out of me. So in true unoriginal, lazy fashion, I thought I’d provide a quick photo reel from my Instagram feed for you to feast your eyes upon. Enjoy!

ACL 2012 wrap-up post coming soon, I promise.

I went on a cruise.

One of my best friends got married.

I went to Madison, Wisconsin.

And Chicago, Illinois.

I went to four Texas football games.

And four tailgates…

I went to ACL.

It rained.

I ate a lot of barbecue.*

And drank a lot of alcohol.

The end.

*Barbecue in order from top to bottom from Franklin BBQ, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, The Salt Lick and Uncle Billy’s

I first discovered PostSecret in 2005 when The All-American Rejects featured a multitude of the postcards from the project in their Dirty Little Secret music video. If you’ve ever browsed through the blog or flipped through the pages of one of Frank Warren’s published books, you’re likely familiar with how powerful, captivating and honest these works of art can be.

We frequently hear critiques about inserting emotions and feelings into the art we create – whether it’s writing a meaningful song lyric or merely singing a song lyric with meaning and passion. I think that’s the secret sauce to PostSecret’s success and popularity – every little 4 x 6 postcard, no matter how simple, is so painfully genuine and honest.

I’ve always considered Warren’s concept wonderful because the process of sharing information that you don’t want anyone to know is so relieving and cathartic. Reading through these post cards often brings me joy – oftentimes because the feel-good, funny secrets make me laugh, but mostly because the people sharing the darker, sadder secrets might have achieved a sense of release by telling someone what was bothering them.

I’ve never submitted a secret to the site, but I’ve entertained the idea from time to time. I honestly can’t think of a secret good enough to share, but when or if I do, I hope you enjoy reading it, learning something personal about me and being a part of this intangible, but universal sense of caring and goodness. I know I certainly loved reading your secrets over the years and hope you keep sharing them.

I don’t know about your whereabouts and whether or not its unseasonably warm where you reside, but I hope you had a nice weekend. Odds are you’re sitting miserably in a cube staring at a painfully boring screen; watching paint peeling off the walls would at least be a change of pace from the mundane Monday 9 to 5.

Frost Bank tower, illuminated by Nike Fuel+ during SXSW

I am officially a full two weeks behind in sharing my glorious SXSW experiences and photos with you, but better late than never. I don’t know how journalists do it – attend the show, snap some photos, get plastered (presumable assumption) and somehow upload, edit and coherently write clever copy with lightning quick turnaround. I guess that’s why they get paid the big bucks. Actually, they don’t get paid shit, so I’m not really jealous of their “press credentials.” (Okay, I am a little jealous)

Cults at SAY Media Interactive Party - Speakeasy, March 12, 2012

Cults’ self-titled album is one of the best feel-good bodies of work released in 2011. You Know What I Mean? “Go Outside” and “Oh My God” never fail to remind me of Saturn commercials, you know the ones where people are completely fine with being stuck in a mid-size sedan together. Happy even. Their music is simple, happy and cute and will soon be my soundtrack as I usher in the summery weather. This band should also get an endorsement from Pantene Pro-V – there’s a lot of hair on that stage.

The Warner Sound captured by Nikon SXSW - La Zona Rosa, March 13, 2012

By the grace of god, my employer granted me (and a guest) VIP access to The Warner Sound (captured by Nikon) SXSW residency, which we took full advantage of on opening night. The line-up was stacked, the place was packed, the beer was abundant and we had one hell of a loud, sweaty Tuesday night.

Headliners, Theophilus London and Santigold, killed the crowd with their upbeat hits and crazy energy. I had previously seen Theophilus twice before, but Santigold was hands-down one of the best performances I saw at SXSW 2012. She performs with showmanship, sass and an entourage of oddly-dressed back-up dancers and band members – even a horse (depicted below).

After those two fun performances, a series of DJs and electronic artists blew the roof off – Flux Pavilion being a personal favorite with hard-hitting beats, trembling bass and stage production rivaling a Lisa Frank Powerpoint presentation. On acid.

Theophilus London, The Warner Sound captured by Nikon - La Zona Rosa, March 13, 2012

Santigold, The Warner Sound captured by Nikon - La Zona Rosa, March 13, 2012

Santigold, The Warner Sound - La Zona Rosa, March 13, 2012

Flux Pavilion, The Warner Sound captured by Nikon - La Zona Rosa March 13, 2012

Cults – Oh My God

Theophilus London – Last Name London

Santigold – Creator

Flux Pavilion – Daydreamer