Little known fact: I used to work for Antone’s, home of the blues in the home of South by Southwest. I did their books and managed the place for a while. It was a fun but difficult job because I worked for the investors, not for Clifford and Susan. So while I got to meet a lot of incredible musicians and know them well, and drink with them often, the stress of being the person telling the owners they couldn’t have any money wore me down. So did the noise, the smoke and the late night hours.

During this time, I also did some contract work for South by Southwest. This was back before it became the behemoth event that it is today. At the time, they needed a database and I built databases in Filemaker Pro. Can you imagine running SxSW on Filemaker Pro today? With all the connections I had during the late 90’s, I attended SxSW, was welcome backstage for the Music Awards and got into any show I wanted, without a badge, without a wristband, without credentials. I just showed up. No lines, no waiting, free drinks and food. All was right in the world.

Then I went away for a long time. No one really remembers me now and those who might, are long gone too. That’s okay. It was a different time, a different lifestyle. I went from the club scene to the tech scene, to the higher education scene and at the time, they didn’t mix well. It’s ironic that SxSW Interactive and SxSW Education are now integral parts of the whole South-by experience. There are rock stars and groupies in every field and SxSW manages to harness them all into one sweet package every spring.

After years of stepping away from the action, my new business has forced my attention back to SxSW, mostly for SxSWi because it’s filled with information and connections for startups; but once you get your feet wet, you might as well jump in, right? But, things have changed. I’m a mom. I’m in my mid forties, not my mid twenties. I’m so far away from the music scene that I often hear songs for the first time months after they’ve been released. I go to bed about the time that others are just getting ready to go out.

Webb Telescope during SXSWi

Webb Telescope during SxSWi

So when analyzing my extremely limited experience with SxSW this year, I’ve realized that I can’t expect to just show up. I have to be in it and to be in it,  I have to plan. It’s not like the “old days” where I just walked around, heard a band and walked into the club. It takes a lot more initiative than it used to. Frankly, I’m not sure I’m up for that even though this year I kind of enjoyed myself thanks to those who did plan and let me ride their coattails. Did I make it to any music shows? Not many. It would get too hot or too late or I was too tired from the night before or my daughter wanted to see me during her spring break or I’d rather do family stuff than fight the crowds.

SxSW Mamas

SxSWi Mamas Mom up!

And SxSWi? Now that’s where I’m headed next year, but next year I want a badge. I focused on networking and checked out some parties but the lines were long, the networking was with skinny-jean wearing twenty-somethings, and the best moments I had were with my friends or simply going to the family friendly events with my daughter. It was great being out there again but after reading about all the sessions and speakers for both SxSWi and SxSWedu, next year it might be time to dive in. Of course, that’s if we don’t rent out our house and leave Austin instead…

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about other mamas at South by Southwest 2013! Did they have fun? Was it different than before? What was the best part? Did they take their kids?

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