5 unforgettable moments from SXSW 2017

When you invite some of the world’s greatest talents in music, theater and tech to town for a 10-day span, you’re bound to get some memorable moments.

This year’s SXSW brought with it a slew of those moments. But after wading through everything from crews of semi-naked young men and women repping a new Bravo show to the bow ties and lab coats out in full force at Bill Nye’s book signing, we’ve managed to narrow down these five most unforgettable SXSW moments.

Garth Brooks’ surprise show at the Broken Spoke

Garth Brooks discusses his upcoming show at Auditorium Shores during a press conference at SXSW on Friday, March 17, 2017. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

By late last week, we knew SXSW keynote speaker Garth Brooks was planning to take the stage for a free show on Auditorium Shores on Saturday. What we didn’t know, however, is that the lucky crowd at the Broken Spoke on Friday night — St. Patrick’s Day, no less — would be treated to a surprise acoustic show as well. Strolling on the stage promptly at 11 p.m. wearing a Lone Star Beer T-Shirt, the country superstar launched into “Friends in Low Places” and went on to dazzle the audience with a 40-minute set that included 17 songs.

Hanson returns to where it all began

Many SXSWers got to see the all-grown-up former kid pop stars at various high-profile shows downtown, but our Statesman video team got the special treat of hearing them dig up an old a cappella tune for a trip down memory lane filmed out at the Krieg Softball Complex, where they had a fateful encounter in 1994 that helped change their career.

Lizzo takes Austin by storm

Lizzo, the 28-year-old rapper and queen of body positivity, ruled the stage at SXSW this year. The Minneapolis rapper was all over the fest, proving why she has long been one of our critic’s faves. Bonus points for her Lone Star ties: Her family moved to Texas from Detroit when she was 10, and elements of the H-Town sound mark her music.

Ryan Adams cancels show, then Tweets at haters

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

After Ryan Adams cancelled his Friday night show at ACL Live, it wasn’t long before the haters took to Twitter. But it also wasn’t long before the singer fought back, putting a few #meantweeters on blast with hashtag #TOPMEANTWEETS.



Joe Biden gives emotional talk centered on cancer research

In an emotional and much-anticipated talk at SXSW, the former vice president described his frustration with government silos preventing cancer research from moving forward and detailed the work he and his wife, Jill Biden, are doing with the Biden Foundation cancer initiative. He was even named “speaker of the event” at the SXSW Innovation Awards.

5 celebrities who were having the best time ever at SXSW 2017

Austin is always swarming with famous people during SXSW, but there are certain celebrities who seem to really, really enjoy their time in our fair city. Here are some folks who seemed to be having the most fun ever over the past two weeks.

Rachael Ray opened her first pop-up boutique, Moxie, in Austin During SXSW 2017. Rachael Ray plays with a dog at Moxie Shop in Downtown Austin on Thursday, March 15, 2017.
Rachael Ray:

The TV personality has never been shy about her love of Austin, and when she visits, she sure knows how to make the most of her time here. In addition to hosting the 10th anniversary of her popular Feedback party at Stubb’s on Saturday, Ray also last week opened her first pop-up boutique on South Congress Avenue, stopped by a KGSR taping and even found time to chow down at some of her favorite local restaurants, which include Grizzeldas, Wu Chow, Emmer & Rye and Ramen Tatsu-Ya. How cool is that?

Jason Sudeikis:

Sure, his latest movie premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse on Lamar during South by Southwest, but that didn’t stop Sudeikis from showcasing another of his talents: tending bar. You heard that right. The “Saturday Night Live” alum and star of “Colossal” jumped behind the Highball Bar at the Alamo Drafthouse last week to serve up some drinks at the film’s after party. “Colossal” opens worldwide on April 7. Here’s the review. 

Octavia Spencer:

What’s the best gift to give an Oscar-winning actress when she’s on the red carpet? A bottle of Franklin Barbecue’s signature espresso sauce, of course. That was the scene last week as Spencer made her way into Austin’s Paramount Theater for the world premiere of her thriller, “Small Town Crime,” and was awarded with the condiment. The gift-giver said he heard she was a fan.

Xavier Woods:

Whether it’s in the squared circle or the realm of YouTube, World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar Xavier Woods is no stranger to success. So it’s only fitting that Woods would make the most of his time in Austin, charming a packed house as co-host of the 2017 SXSW Gaming Awards.

Finn Cole:

Finn Cole, who plays Joshua ‘J’ Cody on TNT’s “Animal Kingdom,” bodyboards on the FlowRider surf simulator, part of the Animal Kingdom pop-up beach at SXSW on March 12, 2017. Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
You might not expect to see surfing in downtown Austin, especially when it’s rainy and 40 degrees. But as we all know, during SXSW, anything can happen. Last week on the corner of Congress and Fourth Street pro Flowboarder Sean Silveira tackled the waves on a “pop-up beach” and gave some lessons to “Animal Kingdom” actors Finn Cole (“Peaky Blinders”) and Ben Robson (“Vikings”), who looked like they were having a blast on the immersive installation promoting TNT’s show about a Southern California crime family. 



Even the Austin Police are feeling the Garth Brooks SXSW spirit


Sing us a song, Mr. Policeman.

The City of Austin is prepared for any events that might happen during Saturday night’s free Garth Brooks show (happening right now), but it looks like one Austin police officer got in the performing spirit early Saturday.

More: Garth Brooks performs surprise St. Patrick’s Day SXSW show for lucky crowd at Broken Spoke

In a tweet posted by the Austin Police Department a little after 3 p.m., an Austin police officer appears to be playing a tune at a piano downtown.

We don’t know what song he played, but we’re betting it was a good one based on the expression of the man peering behind the palm tree in the background.

More SXSW Content: Check out our Unofficial party guide

Ryan Adams is not having your angry tweets following SXSW cancellation

Would you say that to Ryan Adams’ face?

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Because if not you might want to think twice about any Twitter shade you throw the singer’s way after last night’s cancelled SXSW ACL Live performance. According to SXSW, the singer was forced to cancel his show due to illness.

But according to many a Twitter user, Adams is rude.

Today the singer took to Twitter to essentially appear on his own “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” bit, to both thank users for the well wishes (sarcastically?), and put a few #meantweeters on blast with hashtag #TOPMEANTWEETS. He also sarcastically apologized for not better planning his laryngitis and upper respiratory infection.

Keep up with all the SXSW shade and non-shade coverage here.

Is this Garth Brooks SXSW tweet shameless? Let’s let the friends in low places decide


By now, the news is out— Garth Brooks is indeed playing a free show Saturday night at Auditorium Shores for South By Southwest. He announced the free show at an 11 a.m. press conference Friday at the Austin Convention Center, where he previewed a snippet of his new single “Ask Me How I Know.”

Garth Brooks discusses his upcoming show at Auditorium Shores during a press conference at SXSW on Friday, March 17, 2017. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Tickets for the show were available at noon Friday but sold out within minutes.

Got $1,000? That’s what Garth Brooks tickets are going for on Craigslist

Brooks’ streaming partner, Amazon Music (he famously refused to put any of his music on any streaming service until October 2016) tweeted out that the show was sold out a mere five minutes after they went on sale.

Brooks’ team retweeted the Amazon Music tweet with what could be interpreted as a bit of hubris.

What does this mean? Are we to understand the implication of that tweet is that Garth Brooks LITERALLY the epitome of SXSW? Does his ego need to be fenced in? Is this just a shameless attempt to rope the wind of social media?

Maybe, but it also looks like the @SXSW part of that tweet was meant to literally mean “Garth Brooks is at the SXSW Conference” and not meant to equivocate Garth Brooks with the event.

At any rate, tomorrow will come, and it will bring a free Garth Brooks show.

More: Tickets sold out for free Garth Brooks show Saturday at Auditorium Shores

Just moved to Austin and hate SXSW? This might hit close to home

Listen, we’re all entitled to our opinions, no matter how long we’ve lived in Austin. Relative newcomers and lifers alike, however, will appreciate this satirical article headlined “Woman Who Just Moved to Austin Excited to Complain About SXSW for First Time.”

Pine box Overcoat performs on Sixth Street during SXSW on Wednesday, March 15, 2017.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

A sample of the South by Southwest vitriol of a fictional Austinite who “moved to Austin less than three weeks ago,” according to Onion-esque site The Hard Times:

“I’ve got a list of popular places and how long it takes to get there, so I can tweet about how much longer than usual it’s taking,” she said. “Then there’s the insulting names for the festival, like, ‘Suck by Suckwest’ or ‘South by Worthless.’ Also, if anyone asks, I’m just going to say the last year it was good was 1996. I figure there’s no way I’ll actually run into someone who was here in 1996 — no way could they afford it now.”

Come for that gem, stay for the great “Austin City Limits” joke. Read the full satirical takedown here, and read tweets from real Austinites who sound very similar in our hater’s guide.

Kyle MacLachlan, pastries and ‘damn fine’ coffee at the ‘Twin Peaks’ SXSW party

via Showtime

Special Agent Dale Cooper is in the building. Well, he’s at South by Southwest at least—he’s hanging out at the “Twin Peaks” party at Clive Bar on Rainey Street, according to social media reports.

The Double-R Diner is set up at Clive Bar, complete with free limited edition doughnuts courtesy of Voodoo Doughnut, special cocktails, coffee and pie.

They even made a special doughnut for MacLachlan:




Sleepy? Grab some Z’s in your own personal nap pod at SXSW

Want to join in the South by Southwest fun but still require your daily nap? There’s a pop-up for that, of course.

Sleepyheads can stop by the Casper Mattress Nap Tour at the northwest corner of Congress Avenue and Fourth Street until 8 p.m. for an eight-minute nap in your own personal pod in an RV, free slippers and Chameleon Cold-Brew coffee, in case your power nap doesn’t leave you feeling ready to conquer South by Southwest.

And since this is Austin, there are two Casper dog beds for your best friend to rest up in while you wait. Enjoy!

Need more advice on where to relax at SXSW? Follow us on Snapchat @austin360snaps for tips.

stop by the Casper Mattress Nap Tour at the northwest corner of Congress Avenue and Fourth Street until 8 p.m. for an eight-minute nap in your own personal pod. Chloe Gonzales/American-Statesman
stop by the Casper Mattress Nap Tour at the northwest corner of Congress Avenue and Fourth Street until 8 p.m. for an eight-minute nap in your own personal pod. Chloe Gonzales/American-Statesman
stop by the Casper Mattress Nap Tour at the northwest corner of Congress Avenue and Fourth Street until 8 p.m. for an eight-minute nap in your own personal pod. Chloe Gonzales/American-Statesman

SXSW-goers find Austin’s lack of Uber, Lyft disturbing


South By Southwest is in full swing, which means crowds. Crowds everywhere, full of people with panels and parties to attend.

Many of those people forgot (or didn’t know) that Uber and Lyft no longer operate within the Austin city limits. And when it rains all weekend, as it did last weekend, people got upset at the gouged prices and long wait times for Austin alternatives Fasten and RideAustin.

Fasten is the latest mobile ride-hailing app to jump into the Austin market. Credit: Fasten

More: What we learned about Austin’s ride-hailing options by testing six of Austin’s ride-hailing apps

Making matters worse, both Fasten and RideAustin went down on Saturday night’s rainstorms, creating issues for people who needed rides, and needed them ASAP.

Local ride-hailing service RideAustin posted on Facebook early Sunday morning that its database locked up throughout most of the evening Saturday, and Kirill Evdakov, CEO of Fasten, confirmed that service also had problems, beginning a little after 8 p.m. Saturday. He called SXSW, rainy weather, and glitches with other services simultaneously “a perfect storm” that led to Fasten receiving about 12 times as many ride requests as normal.

More: Two Austin ride-hailing services report problems in first days of SXSW

During the outage, many people complained on Twitter about the resulting price surges…


While some people who just got into town were aghast that Austin does not have Uber or Lyft anymore…



One person was angry at Uber and Lyft for leaving Austin after the May election that included Proposition 1…

While another was worried about how RideAustin’s app could legally exist because it looks so close to Uber’s…

While many people thought the whole idea of complaining about transportation during a huge conference event was preposterous…



And others simply found (gasp!) other means of transportation for the weekend.


Anyhow, the whole event got its own Twitter moment Sunday night:

However, many people who arrived in town Thursday night for SXSW Interactive were well aware of the ridesharing situation in Austin. The following is from breaking news reporter Katie Hall, who went out to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Thursday night to interview conference-goers.

Britt Deyan, of San Francisco, landed in Austin on Thursday night for SXSW Interactive. Deyan said that SXSW had been good about sharing the fact that Uber and Lyft no longer gave rides in Austin.

“Every communication I was sent about SXSW told me Uber wasn’t here,” Deyan said as she climbed into a taxi.

Alisa Hetrick and Sami Huerta, both of Minneapolis, also grabbed a taxi after landing at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Hetrick and Huerta said they had been told by friends in Austin, who invited them to SXSW, that Uber and Lyft didn’t operate in Austin.

A group of six Mashable employees huddled together outside the airport after landing in Austin, discussing the ride-hailing app RideAustin. Their company had called a car ahead of time to pick them up, they said. A few of the people in the group said they were well aware of the fact that Uber and Lyft left Austin because their website had written about it. One of them, however, was not.

“I didn’t know until just now,” she said, after asking the reporter for ride-hailing app suggestions. “After the tragedy that happened a couple years ago at SXSW, I think they’re asking for another tragedy.” She declined to give her name.

What about you? Have you been having a tough time getting around at SXSW? Let us know in the comments.

Statesman reporters Katie Hall and Elizabeth Findell contributed to this report.

When Rachael Ray is in town for SXSW, will she be house shopping?

Rachael Ray has never been shy about proclaiming her love for Austin, so as she prepares to return this week to host her 10th annual SXSW Feedback party as well as open her first pop-up boutique, we had to ask: Why don’t you just move here already?

“I think I’m just going to keep making up more and more excuses and more and more things to do there until my husband and I have absolutely no choice but to buy a patch of land,” she said during a phone interview Monday. “I think it’s kind of weird that I’ve been in love with the city for 20 years and I haven’t bought something there yet.”

A-List Rachael Ray's Feedback
Rachael Ray and husband John Cusimano at the 2016 Feedback party at Stubb’s. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

New this year is Ray’s pop-up boutique, Moxie, located at 1327 S. Congress Ave., which she dreamed up with her friends and stylists Gretta Monahan and Cara Apotheker.

“It was just us girls sitting together saying wouldn’t it be fun if we did a pop-up to see if people like our groove?” Ray said. “We’re trying to show people a smattering of everything we’re interested in in an environment that’s more like a hangout. If they like it, maybe we’ll do it again. That’s our hope.”

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Celebrity chef and talkshow host Rachael Ray is opening up her first pop-up boutique at 1327 S. Congress Ave. The store features curated fashion, accessories and decor and will be hosting happy hours and events all week. Daulton Venglar/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Inside the shop, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through March 19, you’ll find a sampling of Ray’s favorite designers, including several Austin-based brands: Alexandra Dieck’s Lexicon of Style, Kristin Ann Rudge’s Kar-bn and Molly Salvi’s Squash Blossom Vintage. It’s decorated with furniture from Ray’s newly launched furniture line and also features a space to play vinyl records. There’s also a bar where cocktails will be served from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and brunch cocktails will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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Ashlyn Golden looks at a shirt at Moxie, Rachael Ray’s new pop-up shop located at 1327 S. Congress Ave. Daulton Venglar/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Rachael is a person who wants everything to be family, friends, and feel like home,” said Monahan, who flew in Friday to oversee the boutique’s opening. “This is super personal for her.”


Ray said she’ll head to the store, which also features a water bowl by the door for her four-legged visitors, as soon as she lands in Austin on Wednesday.

“I’ve brought my dog (to SXSW) every year,” Ray said. “She’s 12 years old and she’s been going there since she was 2. She’s welcome in Austin, and that makes me feel happy.”

Ray will also host her 10th annual Feedback event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Stubb’s. She said it’s amazing that something that started as a small party has become one of the highlights of SXSW.

“Ten years ago I was petrified. I was like, ‘People are going to throw stuff at me,'” she said about the first Feedback. “They’re gonna be like, ‘What is this cook girl doing down here?’ But I was like, you know what? I love this town. I love music. I write good food. I’m going to give it a shot. We got a couple of small sponsors and we threw our first party and people came and they were like, ‘Wow, this is really good. These bands are pretty cool. This is really fun.'”


This year’s lineup includes Weezer, Action Bronson, De La Soul, Margo Price, Bob Schneider and The Cringe, led by Ray’s husband, John Cusimano.

“We’ve been doing this so long you can actually see an arc of some of the bands,” she said. “A lot of bands have played more than once, but they started on smaller stages. It’s just amazing.”

As for this year’s menu theme? Queso everything, Ray says, laughing. Expect two-beer slow-cooked barbecue brisket over tater tots topped with queso, grilled corn dunked in queso and nachos with queso topped with crumbled chorizo and pico de gallo.

“I worked on this queso so hard. I bet it was tested 55 times,” Ray said. “I am so proud of this queso. … It’s going to taste like Rotel and Velveeta, but upping the game a bit. Honestly if I dipped my arm in this queso I would take a big bite.”

In addition to spending time at the boutique and hosting Feedback, Ray said her Austin itinerary will include stops at Grizzeldas, Wu Chow, Emmer & Rye and Ramen Tatsu-Ya, among other favorites.

“Austin epitomizes everything I love about being an American. It really celebrates the individual, it celebrates artists. It’s conducive to conversation,” she said. “It was green before it was cool to be green. It’s a very loving, social place. I just love being there.”

And if the pop-up shop is a success and turns into something more substantial, Ray said, it could finally give her the excuse she’s been needing to do some real estate shopping in Austin.

“If Moxie does well and is something that’s sustainable maybe that’ll be one of the catalysts for that,” she said. “If I had a reason to go that was business related several times a year, wouldn’t it make sense to have a place there?”