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SXSW – too big for Texas?

SXSW – too big for Texas? (photo)

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They grow ’em big in Texas, so it’s fitting that SXSW has begun to grow exponentially into a behemoth of a festival. I’m not actually there this time, kind of a bummer, but I can’t help wonder if I’d be somewhat frustrated if I were. SWSX has been going on for a long time, and it’s as respectable as they come in it’s scope and ambition – both of which have increased dramatically in the last decade.

Some new numbers on attendance look daunting though. What began in ’87 with 700 registrants, was as of last year, a festival of about 35,000 participants. And this year, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “Based on anecdotal evidence and unofficial figures, this year’s total… ran closer to 50,000.” you might not notice if 50,000 people dropped into Chicago or New York, but in a city of 750,000 like Austin, you’d notice. Especially since they’re all wildly bombed.

What’s more, SXSW is essentially an intimate affair, with really small venues. Most of them are just pubs that turn into clubs for 10 days give or take. Festival director Janet Pierson is all over it, but it might be too late for many in long lines being turned away already this year. “This is No. 1 on the list of challenges to tackle. We’re aware of it; we’re sorry about it. It’s something that we’re really going to have to sit down and look at from every angle,” she told THR.

I remember well my last time at SXSW (maybe not that well) and how beautifully disheveled it all was, yet well run. It was perfect, I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. Even when the cops took down some anti-corporate protesters and beat the shit out of some poor drunk guy on 6th street right in front of me – the only injustice I witnessed.

It was 2004 and already I had to stay in a hotel just outside the downtown area, the place was so booked up. It wasn’t on my dime so it was no big deal and I spent most nights crashed up somewhere closer to the action anyway. As crammed as some of the venues were, there was always a laid back vibe, no pushing or dickery. Even the rampant looting of promo goodies was done in good spirits. I witnessed a guy saying he was with a band called the Flaming Balls walk into a hotel suite filled with boutique giveaways and load up an industrial-sized garbage bag he’d taken from housekeeping with a small fortune in hair products, shoes, hats and miscellaneous hip accoutrements. No one gave a shit except the housekeeping lady who glared at him as he dragged the bag, too heavy to carry, down the hallway on his way out.

Later, after an all night party in a warehouse, burning one with The Walkmen, I cabbed back to a ridiculous after-hours at the looters crib. There was no band called the Flaming Balls, he was just some legend from LA who’d set up shop in Austin for the week – PlayStation, air conditioning, and a wad of hundred dollar bills – stealing from the rich and giving to young girls or something. There was rumor of a vending machine you could get joints out of. I saw chill people I’d known for years literally laying in gutters in the street, happier then they’d ever been in their lives. I saw TV on the Radio in a really small room for the last time.

SXSW is one of those magic places where you end up rolling with a motley crew of friends, work associates, and musicians who normally don’t hang – and some hugely blown out strangers. Some of what goes on I wouldn’t write about but it’s all quite wonderful I can assure you. It’s a place where you can make your way into most anything and if you miss a band they are almost always playing again somewhere else. There’s not a lot of attitude or injustice towards the average pleb, unlike some other festivals I know (Austin police have a mind of their own). I hope it manages to stay that way for my inevitable return.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.