In a panel discussion on Tuesday afternoon, Anthony Bourdain described his preference for “red-blooded countries”—passionate, unstable places where anything can happen—over well-behaved, Scandinavian-style ones, where calm and order are the norm. Applying this to SXSW, the film part of the festival is one of those Scandinavian countries, taking place in a system defined by meticulous organization. You can guess what the music portion is.
Film has its messy moments, but the system is clearly proscribed: You get a “queue card,” wait in a neatly ordered line, chat with a producer from St. Louis, and then get directed to your seat. Music is chaos, in the sense that it’s usually ruled by random chance rather than any distinct system. To see Bruce Springsteen (at a secret location) you needed to enter a raffle and hope for the best. Entertaining the impossible dream of getting Jay-Z tickets required a byzantine process involving Twitter and an American Express card registration. Then again, you could walk into a no-name bar at any time of the day and possibly hear something amazing. It’s a Wild West kind of atmosphere, which is by turns both thrillingly off the cuff and colorfully overwhelming.