The Best Activations at SXSW 2019 | The Seven Deadly Sins of SXSW

by Daniel Ramirez on March 7, 2019 in Entertainment, Art, Film, Music, Theatre, Food+Drink, Drink, General, Lifestyle, Living Texas, Austin, Travel,

Every year, media titans and Interactive outlets – networks, nationally recognizable brands, movie productions and A-list personalities work overtime to craft activations that draw attention from conference attendees – to achieve peak interest from the cultural hub of the world for a few weeks – and generate that ever elusive buzz that trends nationally and internationally. Last year, the Westworld installation fascinated fans of the show everywhere.

The stars of Amazon Prime's "Good Omens" mean mug for the camera (and maybe are coming for your soul).
The stars of Amazon Prime’s “Good Omens” mean mug for the camera (and maybe are coming for your soul).

CARDINAL SIN AT SXSW: Good Omens’ “Garden of Earthly Delights”

Never a conference to rest on its laurels in its over 30 years, SXSW 2019 already looks poised to supersede that incredible high point. The list that follows is inspired by what we anticipate will be the toast of the SXSW town, namely, Amazon Prime’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” in support of the forthcoming show, “Good Omens.”

Over the course of four days at Austin’s fabled Driskill Hotel, there will be libations provided near an all-encompassing tree (presumably of good and evil) that will dispense prophesy from apples and gifts. Food from the Austin culinary scene will also be on offer to tempt attendees, as will tattoo artists on hand to create sinfully good designs. There will even be heaven-or-hell themed cabanas with lounge areas for pampering by way of hair styling and mani/pedis (by butterLONDON, Cosmedix and SexyHair). And, if that isn’t enough, the “hell hounds” will be released on the unsuspecting public. [Don’t worry, we’ve been told that these will resemble puppies from Austin Animal Center who can be adopted, should you need a “hell hound” of your own.]

It all ramps up on the second day, when the entire activation shuts down for a private, invite-only party (one of two that are so exclusive, you might think they define envy) that will open the tree itself to pour cocktails from the tree itself, while celebrating the end of the world, as curated by Questlove, Dan Deacon and Hesta Prynn. It’s enough to cause one to make peace with SXSW and pray for one more day.

It all leads to a Monday night “Toast to the End” that will truly send the world off in fine style.

As for how to get in, there will be satellite activations that encourage Austinites and visitors to the Austin City Limits to “look for the signs.” If you see a sign that the apocalypse is coming, investigate further and you might snag an invitation to the end of the world.

But, if you still want to entertain the best temptations of SXSW, here are our most indulgent picks for this year’s activations:

Wisconsin is bringing the cheese back to SXSW with an abundance of dairy.
Wisconsin is bringing the cheese back to SXSW with an abundance of dairy.

Gluttony: Wisconsin Cheeselandia

Last year – a mere two weeks before the conference was to begin – a SXSW exhibitor canceled their attendance, leaving a hole in the SXSW schedule and a rather spacious open suite at the J.W. Marriott, downtown. SXSW organizers put in a call to the Wisconsin Cheese organization, because, in times of struggle and strife, cheese is always a comfort. Together with the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, they decided that cheese could absolutely come to the rescue and they made a plan. In record time, they would 3D print a wooden structure that would allow them to showcase “The World’s Largest Cheese Board.” The board had over 100 varieties of cheese and was over 70 feet long.

Needless to say, it was a hit. And, it set a Guinness World Record.

This year, they’ve been infected by Texas braggadocio and have decided that, like the Lone Star State’s motto, everything should be bigger in Texas. To that end, they’re bringing 7-liter gourmet fondues and have teased a “Ferris Wheel of Cheese” to interested parties. They’re calling it Cheeselandia. While the activation is only open to SXSW badge-holders, it is too fascinating an activation to go unmentioned, and the perfect excuse to indulge one’s gluttonous side.

Badgeholders only:

Collide On Rainey takes over the majority of the bars on Austin's vaunted Rainey St. district with more music than one can handle.
Collide On Rainey takes over the majority of the bars on Austin’s Rainey St. district with more music than one can handle.

Greed: Collide on Rainey

SXSW is a tidal wave of music and musical acts, and so spread out across Austin that one wishes that travel across town were faster (more on that, soon). It’s hard to know precisely where to be to make the most of a dive into the stream of sound. We’re here to help. For the past four years, Collide’s Collide on Rainey has increasingly made Rainey St. a sonic hub during SXSW. This year, they’ve taken over Lustre Pearl, Banger’s, Clive Bar, Container Bar, and L’Estelle House, posting a killer lineup – of differing genres – at each installation.

From gospel legend, Mavis Staples, at the Showtime House to Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real at Banger’s basement to the trendsetter lineup that’s launched some of the bands that pepper the airwaves today at StubHub’s Banger’s takeover – featuring Sir Sly, Flora Cash, and De La Soul this year – one need only walk a few steps to get into a whole new groove and enjoy an entirely new trove of musical treasures. The lines for these parties get significant, but even one party will sate the most aggressive avarice.

RSVP for each venue at:

Atlas Obscura's In The Element is poised to get people active during SXSW
Atlas Obscura’s In The Element is poised to get people active during SXSW

Pride: ‘In the Element’ by Atlas Obscura

Wanderlust is rampant in our nation, and never more on display than within the trendsetter culture that defines SXSW attendees. The team of journalists and adventurers at Atlas Obscura have taken it upon themselves to take the next step in exposing its readers to amazing destinations and have organized cultural immersion trips available to all who seek a vacation of an altogether different kind.

To that end, they aren’t just showing up at SXSW in Austin, Texas. They’re immersing themselves in the city and all that it champions – health, music, and the natural resources Austin has to offer. They will offer Lady Bird Lake runs for people of all paces, morning bicycle rides, as well as kayaking and paddle-boarding excursions, all from the Waller Creek Boathouse, where they’ll also host a variety of electronic bands to perform for attendees, as well as loan out the newest in attire and accessories to combat weather and the elements from GORE-TEX. They’ll even take you to witness the Austin bat colony at sundown with an expert on bat conservation.

At “In The Element,”  you can get out, get active with other adventurers and bask in the endorphin rush that follows regular activity in the playground that is Austin. You’ll be fitter, healthier, and better for it. And you can take pride (if you dare) in all of it.

RSVP for sessions (badgeholders preferred) at:

HBO's Game of Thrones brings an immersive experience to SXSW again, this time for their last season.
HBO’s Game of Thrones brings an immersive experience to SXSW again, this time for their last season.

Wrath: Bleed for the Throne by HBO’s “Game of Thrones”

Is there anything that defines the most furious of the seven deadly sins more than HBO’s “Game of Thrones”? Whether it is the sheer brutality of the show’s subject matter or the frustration of waiting so long for the next installment, “Game of Thrones” can inspire a great amount of anger that quickly turns to rage and finally graduates to wrath.

Luckily, HBO’s activation team has taken all of that vitriol and directed those energies not only toward an immersive experience, where attendees will walk through the fates of the ones who met their end on the popular fantasy drama, but toward a good cause. Partnering with the American Red Cross, the activation will host a blood drive that not only expresses the fight for the Iron Throne portrayed in the show, but the actual fight for life that goes on every day. Your donation of time and blood not only gets you preferred treatment on what is being billed as “an audience before the throne,” but can save a life in this present reality.

Needless to say, with the popularity of the show on the precipice of its final season, all blood donation appointments and visits are full, but standby lines will be available.


Returning for their 12th year, Rachael Ray's Feedback takes over Stubbs with a killer lineup.
Returning for their 12th year, Rachael Ray’s Feedback takes over Stubbs with an enviable lineup of food and music.

Envy: Rachael Ray’s Feedback/Feedback House

Every year for the past 12 years, stories have emerged from Rachael Ray’s music/food/drink activation during SXSW. Those stories are the stuff of legend, with tales of brilliant hot dogs, free-flowing libations, celebrity sightings in the audience, A-list music lineups, and, of course, epic waits to get in. It is, in essence, the most FOMO (fear of missing out) inspiring party of SXSW, year in and year out (our favorite story goes back to the incredible Mrs. Ray setting platters out on a table at Beauty Bar – now Scratchouse – and making certain that everything was perfect, mere minutes before doors opened for a waiting crowd that had no idea what was in store for them).

This year, the lineup has been released just in time to make this article, but it hasn’t mattered in the 12 years she’s been curating food and music for the masses. Anchored by Bleachers, Big Boi, and a DJ set from Beastie Boys’ own Mike D, the lineup is a lively mix of different popular music genres. Country, from the United States and abroad, is well-represented with Lukas Nelson poised to make an appearance, as well as Yola, who hails from across the pond and seamlessly marries Country and Soul. R&B darling, Cautious Clay, will bring the groove to the Stubb’s backyard, while Austin favorite, Bob Schneider, and Feedback staple, The Cringe, will ensure that rock enthusiasts are sated.

Speaking of sated, it would be an incredible oversight not to mention the spread of food and drink that the reigning hostess of SXSW provides to those lucky enough to get in. Deep Eddy Vodka, Modelo, Late July, and Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls are sponsors, so guests can expect their products, along with Rachael Ray’s signature flourishes, to feature heavily, and to never seem to run out. Feedback could surely qualify for gluttony or wrath, but, let’s face it…if you’re not at this party, you desperately want to be.

Details (and RSVP expected) at:

SoHo in SoCo from CultureTrip plans to immerse visitors in different cultures with food music and arts at SXSW
SoHo in SoCo from CultureTrip plans to immerse visitors in different cultures with food music and arts at SXSW

Sloth: SoHo in SoCo by CULTURE TRIP Austin Motel

Honestly, it’s SXSW, so no activation can possibly be labeled as “lazy.” But, when your activation takes over an iconic Austin hotel – Austin Motel – it’s not too much of a stretch to think that there might be opportunity to lounge around comfortably. Considering that the first activation at Culture Trip’s SoHo in SoCo is a “Recharge Room,” where the will be administering facials, hosting a Screening Room, offering bites and libations, and hanging out by the pool, it makes sense.

But that’s not the only thing at work in Culture Trip’s SoHo in SoCo. The thrust of the activation is to bring the culture and artistry of London’s SoHo to SXSW. Working to craft unique experiences in popular travel destinations, Culture Trip is on the leading edge of “know before you go” travel. They don’t simply hit the high points of a locale, they dig in and try to make you into a local, with their inspired travel features, which is why they’ve brought their culture to an Austin original.

The Night Marker is a particular draw, as it showcases Hong Kong’s culture and cuisine (with dim sum!) for the Austin audience, all while allowing guests to shop for unique wares.

Of course, contrary to the sin we’ve assigned to them, this activation is a lot of what runway models and the celebrity fabulous call “working it.” It stands to reason that the finale of the activation will feature celebrities themselves from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” It all makes for an incredible weekend of fun and frolic, but with enough lounging around that it qualifies for the most leisurely sin of SXSW.

All Details and RSVPs at:

Four days, one venue, an epic lineup. Combine them all and add some sessions and you have the 2019 Capital One House at SXSW.
Four days, one venue, an epic lineup. Combine them and add sessions and you have the 2019 Capital One House at SXSW.

Lust: Capital One House

The moment we saw the lineup for this year’s Capital One House, we were riveted with anticipation. Sure, they are going to bring expert panels and conference sessions to Antone’s downtown, and those are reason enough to visit. In years past, they’ve provided snacks and beverages, along with their sessions (a practice all SXSW sessions could take a page from), and the content is never boring.

But just look at that lineup. Look at it. Bishop Briggs at Antone’s. CHVRCHES at Antone’s. Newcomer, Jungle at Antone’s. And those are just the headliners. The undercard for each night contains artists that you’ll be talking about in a few years, and you likely won’t be able to see them in an arena, the tickets will sell out so fast…let alone seeing them in such an intimate venue, hosted by SXSW and Capital One.

And then…there’s something spectacular in that lineup. As if the aforementioned weren’t enough, Capital One House is hosting St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Our darlings of any stage for the past three years, we’ve seen them at ACL Music Fest, at WhiskeyX, and at the hallowed hall of Austin City Limits itself. They put on a showstopper performance, no matter what the space, but to see them in the intimate space of Antone’s fills us with a desire to be there, an undeniable longing to dance and move, and a unquenchable thirst for soul.

It’s enough to qualify as lust, and we cannot deny it. Regardless of what day you happen upon the Capital One House, your desires will be well met.

RSVPs for all days still open at: