SXSW 2014 Music Wrap Up


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I realized I haven’t even done a wrap up for 2013, but that’s because an error in judgment led me to thinking that leaving early (Thursday) was a good idea. Wrong! So in 2014, back to music at SXSW, but minus Saturday night. Sorry, but by Saturday all the bands are ragged out from playing 2 – 3 shows a day, I’ve been there over a week, and it’s just not as much fun.

This year I also wanted to spend more time with film goings-on, so I got a chance to see Tilda Swinton speak. Not only she is swoon-worthy, but her vocabulary is so rich and imaginative. Should we all be so erudite every day.

Of the 33 bands I managed to see this year, a few performances stood out, detailed here:

  1. Fat White Family at the Mohawk indoors – This was a most entertaining train wreck. Was the lead singer going to whip his dick out on stage or take a dump? Was that only beer he spit on to the crowd? This was pure punk, but deliberately so. I couldn’t tell if I were watching a master of music marketing at play or actual greatness. In the end it didn’t matter. Energetic and entertaining, it was the most rock’n'roll show of the week. Recommended band reading.
  2. Ex Hex at The Parish – This remains one of my favorite music venues in Austin (on par with the Mohawk) and the evening’s Matador showcase was terrific, but I have to say Ex Hex was phenomenal. After seeing several good but not great shows, watching this band showed a mastery of stage presence and showmanship, not to mention the music. I was truly sad to leave.
  3. The Deslondes at the Flatstock Stage at ACC – Delightful in every sense. A song about a boy who gave up his Matchbox car for a frog and one called Louise. Truly excellent connection with listeners in a sterile environment.
  4. Jetta at Clive Bar – I’m really waiting for her to become the next major talent. Besides the incredible voice, she’s got a great look, incredibly accessible pop songs, and stage presence. A major shout out to two very tall people who nicely asked if I wanted to stand in front of them so I could see.
  5. The Fresh and Onlys at Swan Dive Indoors – While I haven’t managed to see them yet in San Francisco, this show ensures that I’m going to be dragging everyone to see them. It was a great venue for their sound of sharply refined recorded nuggets turned into rough, live gold.
  6. Those Darlins at Shotgun – This was a last minute addition to my plan and was well worth it. Vibrant and tight, this band knew how to put on a live show and keep folks entertained.
  7. Marshall Ford Swing Band at the Victorian Room at the Driskill – Honestly, we were looking for a quick, easy-going show before seeing a movie, and this perfectly fit the bill. Unpretentious. My notes say “like an eminently drinkable alcoholic beverage – not original per se, but likable.”
  8. Parquet Courts at Bar 96 – This was the band I was most looking forward to seeing. The performance was fun but the crowd and venue left much to be desired. I will admit to laughing when someone flew by crowdsurfing while wearing Birkenstocks. Not a combo I’ve often seen.

In my prep this year, I listened to about 500 bands and used SongDrop to curate a list of some thing. It’s not complete, but you can take a listen.

How is it mid-April already aka Carla’s life changes

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Whew! 2013 has certainly started off with a bang, so many new things happening and so many good ones, too!

March was a typical swirl of prep and attendance at SXSW. For those of you who participated in our panel on BS business talk, the notes are at This will take you to a Google doc, with a re-cap of the articles we found on the topic, along with the results of our “translation” exercise. Remember, when in doubt, “call me!” seems to be the rallying cry.

April 1 was also my last day at AOL. During my days there, I was proud to work with many different teams – especially on mail and mobile products. It’s a treat to see Alto out there in the world, especially in contrast to some of the other “inbox zero” products. (If you want an invite, let me know!) However, it is time to take all that experience working on new product development and put it to action with a smaller company. So, off I have gone to a startup in San Francisco, where I’m working on everything from product designs, to figuring out the right mental model for a user, to thinking about the right marketing messaging. The group of people is more experienced than I am, so it’s a real treat to be learning and absorbing more.

This also means I’m in San Francisco every day. Catching up with people seems to be what defines April and May this year. So call me and we’ll have coffee, or lunch, or just discuss things.


Fieldwork War Story: A Dirty Diaper


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I wrote a post over at Steve Portigal’s War Stories about an experience I had doing some fieldwork. I spend a lot of time in people’s home (just this week, I got to visit some folks in LA). This serves as a constant reminder of the life of privilege that I possess. This story is just a window into someone’s life where I really had to take a step back and put the person into the whole context of who they are. It is also a reminder to be grateful for the life I lead.

Highly Personalized Advertising

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I really dislike it when people tell me that they hate advertising. No, what they hate is poorly targeted and irrelevant advertising. Today I got a highly targeted & personalized message. It’s also social media done oh-so-right.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I was in Austin. We were staying on the East Side and got the chance to check out plenty of joints new and old. On our first night we walked by one with a sign outside advertising “fine cocktails.” Now, being a cocktail lover,  I mentioned to my husband that we needed to go by there before the weekend ended.”Sure,” he said.

We continued our weekend, making fun of the bars on 6th Street for hawking $1 shots and well drinks. “What kind of cheap-o drinker do they think I am?” This is the thought that crept into my mind. Our friend Kevin suggested that if they began offering high end beverages to me I might be more inclined. Yes, yes, I thought, that is true.

At any rate, we finally made it back to this bar advertising “fine cocktails.” Now, if I see a place with “fine cocktails” I might expect that their bartenders have a menu of particulars. Or a list at least of their favorites. Or can communicate those to customers in a way that shows they understand the concept of “fine cocktails.” We finally got the attention of the bartender and I asked if he had a menu. He took one look at me (short, blonde, female) and said “I’ll make you what all the girls like.”

Here’s the rest of our conversation:

Me: “What is that?”

Bartender: “It’s a cherry smash.”

Me: “What’s in that?” <– Knowing full well it’s something syrupy sweet.

Bartender: “It’s a flavored vod…”

Me: “I don’t do flavored vodka. Do you have Pimm’s?”

Bartender: “Yes.”

Me: “Fine, a Pimm’s cup it is.”

Now, it should be noted despite that the bartender poorly assumed I would like something that is full of sugar and plainly hides the taste of alcohol, he made a delicious and well-crafted Pimm’s cup, muddling cucumber and Hendrick’s before adding Pimm’s and a splash of ginger ale. See, not so hard.

However, I couldn’t leave it at that. I don’t like that bartenders assume that because we are women that we want cruddy drinks. So I created a Foursquare tip:

“Despite claims to great cocktails there is no drinks menu. If you possess a vagina you will be told you should have some god-awful cherry vodka drink. Order your standbys & it’ll be fine.”

Today I got a tweet from a completely different Austin bar, the Firehouse Hostel:

@u_m: We’d love to serve you a handcrafted cocktail from our extensive drink menu. No god-awful cherry vodka drinks here! #ATX

WHOA! This means that the fine folks at Firehouse had to:

  1. Read my Foursquare tip
  2. Find my Twitter profile (ok, fairly easy as the two services are connected)
  3. Write a personalized invite to me that was relevant, topical and awesome

Read that again.

  1. They are watching what competitive bars in Austin are doing and seeing what people have to say about them.
  2. They are looking for people who might enjoy their services.
  3. They are crafting attractive marketing messages by hand.

Hats off, Firehouse. Looking forward to seeing you in the ATX!

Summer Reading


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I’ve put together a short list over at Ethnography Matters for my summer reading. Between this list and Grace’s 32 books before school starts in August, it’s a busy summer of books. Yes, I promised my daughters I would read all their summer reading too.

In the past week I finished both The Disappearing Spoon and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, both of which should have gone on this “business-y” summer reading list which is really focused on taking excessive amounts of data and crafting a coherent story. Next up is From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Let’s just say I was glad Grace’s list included the tremendous American Born Chinese as a palate cleanser.

At the end of the summer, I’ll craft a post over at Ethnography Matters with my thoughts on the five books outlined there.

All junk reading suggestions in September will be much appreciated!