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SXSW 2013 Recap

sxsw 2013 logo

South By Southwest is by far the most overwhelming festival/conference out there. But it involves everything I love – tech, games, music, and film over the course of nine crazy days in Austin. Since I went for the Platinum Badge this year, I tried to do everything. Literally.

I quickly realized that wasn’t possible, but I sure gave it my darndest. For posterity’s sake, I tried to jot down every film, panel, and music set that I saw (or caught a part of) over the week. Add on all the parties and meet-ups with friends both new and old and it adds up to an exhausting, but amazing week.

A few notable highlights/awards:

Best Movie – Short Term 12

I don’t have the words to describe this incredible, emotional film, but Film Critc Hulk does.

Funniest Movie – Don Jon’s Addiction

Most Thrilling Movie – The East

Best New Song That I Have Been Playing On Repeat Constantly Since SXSWBastille – Pompeii

Top Three New Bands – Bastille, The 1975, CHVRCHES

I swear I’m not biased towards UK bands, it just turned out this way.

Most Emotional Song Performance – Stevie Nicks/Dave Grohl – Landslide

I have to admit getting a bit teary-eyed and having chills the entire time. Stevie Nicks has an amazing voice.

Coolest Song Performance – Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence

Singing along in unison with a packed crowd to Depeche Mode’s arguably most iconic song in a venue that has less than 900 capacity was pretty damn cool.

Best Panel – Jeffrey Tambor’s Acting Workshop

Despite never acting (or having ambitions to act), I laughed and learned more with Jeffrey Tambor about life and career than anywhere else during the week.

Best Food – Rachael Ray’s Feedback Party @ Stubbs

The menu was not only delicious, it was free!

Here’s the master list of events I participated in:


  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Drinking Buddies – Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, Joe Swanberg
  • Downloaded – Alex Winter, Shawn Fanning, Sean Parker
  • Short Term 12 – Destin Daniel Cretton, Brie Larson, entire cast
  • Don Jon’s Addiction – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brie Larson, Tony Danza
  • euphonia – Danny Madden
  • Some Girl(s)
  • Linsanity – Jeremy Lin’s Agent
  • The East – Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgard, Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij


  • Andrew WK @ Viceland
  • Talib Kweli @ Samsung Galaxy Soundstage
  • Shakey Graves @ The Parish
  • Atlas Genius @ The Main
  • Tegan & Sara @ The Main
  • Lord Huron @ Clive Bar
  • Family of the Year @ ACL Moody Theatre
  • Lord Huron @ ACL Moody Theatre
  • Bastille @ Club de Ville
  • The Chevin @ Buffalo Billiards
  • Ash @ Buffalo Billiards
  • Bastille @ Cedar Street
  • CHVRCHES @ Hype Hotel
  • Pusha T @ MTV Woodies
  • Trinidad James @ MTV Woodies
  • Joey Bada$$ @ MTV Woodies
  • HAIM @ MTV Woodies
  • Meat Puppets @ Stubbs
  • Sound City Players @ Stubbs – Foo Fighters, Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Rick Springfield, Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine), Krist Novoselic, Chris Goss, Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age), Lee Ving (Fear)
  • Local Natives @ Mohawk
  • Divine Fits @ Radio Day Stage Austin Convention Center
  • Alt-J @ Mohawk
  • Feathers @ Brazos Hall
  • The Neighbourhood @ Brazos Hall
  • Depeche Mode @ Brazos Hall
  • Fitz and the Tantrums @ Lustre Perl
  • Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls @ Blackheart
  • Eagles of Death Metal @ Stubbs
  • The 1975 @ Stubbs
  • Frightened Rabbit @ Stubbs
  • Blue Sky Riders @ Stubbs
  • Kenny Loggins @ Stubbs
  • Talib Kweli @ Lustre Perl
  • Chuck Ragan @ Cedar Street
  • Matt Pryor (Get Up Kids) @ Cedar Street
  • Twin Falls (Chris Carrabba) @ Cedar Street
  • Frank Turner @ Cedar Street


  • Machinima & Rooster Teeth Present “Blood, Sweat, and Online Videos: How to Achieve the Digital Dream”
  • Virtual Reality: The Holy Grail of Gaming – Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War), Paul Bettner (Words With Friends), Chris Roberts (Wing Commander), Nate Mitchell (Oculus Rift), Palmer Luckey (Oculus Rift)
  • A Conversation With Danny Boyle – Danny Boyle, Rick Smith (Underworld)
  • Much Ado About Much Ado – Joss Whedon, Amy Acker, Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillion
  • Innovation & Leadership in the Agile Age – Scott Cook (Intuit)
  • Jeffrey Tambor’s Acting Workshop
  • The Signal & the Noise – Nate Silver
  • The New Serendipity? – Joichi Ito (MIT Media Lab), Kevin Rose (Digg, Google Ventures), John Perry Barlow, Colin Raney (IDEO)
  • The Future of Google Search in a Mobile World – Guy Kawasaki, Amit Singhal
  • A Conversation With Steve Case
  • Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) Keynote
  • You Are Not A Lottery Ticket – Peter Thiel
  • Deadmau5 & Richie Hawtin – Talk. Techno. Technology
  • The Anatomy of Amanda Fucking Palmer: An Inside Look
  • SXSW Keynote – Dave Grohl
  • Music Curation in 2013 – Ryan Scheiber (Pitchfork), Steve Blatter (Sirius XM)
  • SXSW Interview: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

9 movies, 17 panels, and 37 shows in 9 days? I think I can do better next year.


Consequence of Sound Reviews Garbage – Not Your Kind of People

Adam Kivel for Consequence of Sound:

That said, the whole album sounds like an anomaly. This isn’t the kind of music that garners a lot of radio-play the way it did ten years ago. It’s not the type of music that gets the indie kids going, either. The appeal then, lies largely for Garbage fans (who have been salivating over this new release for a long while), those that haven’t left the ’90s behind, those for whom grungy arena pop is the genre that never dies.

I had the same thoughts when I listened to the new Garbage album. It’s not a disappointing album, nor does it blow me away. It’s just kinda… ok.

via Album Review: Garbage – Not Your Kind of People « Consequence of Sound.


Review: The Walking Dead Game Episode One: A New Day

Think you had enough The Walking Dead after that mess of a season two ended on AMC? As much as you might be, try to carve out a couple hours to at least try the first episode of Telltale’s new five-part “adventure” game on PC/Mac, PS3, and Xbox 360. I wrote a full review for Comics Alliance that you can peruse at your leisure if you feel so inclined, but suffice to say, I dug the characters in this game way more than the A-holes on the AMC series. I mean seriously, could those people be any less likable? (If you’ve seen Season Two, I know you’re with me)

Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly if you aren’t a fan of the TV series), the new characters introduced in “A New Day” are more likable than their television brethren. Lee’s a complicated guy with a past shrouded in mystery. He’s not necessarily the natural “leader” that Rick is and that allows for a more interesting dynamic when you encounter characters in the game. Clementine, the little girl you meet early on in the game, is everything that Carl isn’t on the show. She’s vulnerable and innocent, yet strong and resourceful when called upon to be. Playing through the game, I actually began to care for her and wanted to go out of my way to protect her. That’s something that I can’t say the same for any character on the show.

The game as a whole isn’t too bad, either. It’s more of an “interactive story” than a traditional Sierra adventure game, but that’s OK, because I was always terrible at those and usually needed help with them anyway. At $5 ($4 if you get a season pass on the PS3), it’s not a bad price for a couple hours of good episodic writing. Telltale is ambitiously setting up the choices you make in this game to really differentiate the story that you get from each play through. Kinda like Mass Effect with less shooting, if you will. Let’s just hope the ending doesn’t piss off as many people as that game did.

Read my full review on Comics Alliance.


Review: Fez

Fez is probably the Indie game equivalent to Chinese Democracy. Five years in development, it’s won Independent Games Festival awards in both 2012 and in 2008. Yeah, that statement made me do a double take too. I’ll admit to not following the game’s development saga too closely over the years, except for noticing that Phil Fish, the game’s creator, is apparently a huge cock. But knowing that some of the best creative minds are giant douches, I didn’t hold it against him when buying and playing the game.

Like many recent platformers, there’s essentially two games in Fez: the “easy” one which leads you to a minimum number of cubes to see the game’s ending and the “hard” one, which tasks you to collect all of the game’s hidden cubes in order to see the “true” ending.The game is essentially a 2D platformer with the “twist” of being able to rotate the environment in four directions, kinda like rotating a cube around.  The basic gameplay is pleasant enough, but isn’t terribly mindblowing, especially if you’ve played Echochrome before. I imagine those who haven’t seen the MC Escher-like trick of 3D to 2D perception platforming would get a kick out of playing Fez for the first time.

For those not going for the “hard” anti-cubes, the game quickly degenerates into a simple “collect the shiny thing” set of tasks. That’s not necessarily a negative thing, especially for those who love nostalgic 8-bit gaming, but it does leave Fez as simply an ok to “good” game played in that way. The fact that the game is riddled with technical issues like slowdown, choppy graphic transitions, and outright game crashes to dashboard doesn’t help matters much. However, due to the way the game is presented at times, it does give apologists the explanation that these technical bugs are “working as intended” as an artistic statement.

The “hard” game in Fez is a doozy and it’s where I imagine most of the rave reviews and “mindblowing experience” reactions to the game are coming from. It’s essentially a hardcore cryptography/linguistics challenge with some neat fourth-wall breaking moments. For example, you’ll have to break out your smartphone’s QR code reader in order to get a button sequence to get one of the anti-cubes. Or, you’ll have to look at Fez’s achievement list for a clue towards getting another. From reading the GAF, it appears that obtaining many of these anti-cubes requires you to successfully decrypt things like a hieroglyphics alphabet along or a Tetris block orientation code. In full disclosure, I had zero interest in whipping out my Moleskine and doing a Robert Langdon impersonation so as soon as I had the required number of “obvious” cubes to watch the game’s ending, I did.

All of these puzzles are fairly obtuse, and there is no handholding or guiding by the game. It’s probably the most frustrating part of this game because there’s barely any context for solving most of the puzzles. One of the best qualities of Braid I thought, was the elegance in which you are introduced to each puzzle. Jonathan Blow nailed the difficulty curve and environment presentation to give you all the tools that you needed to solve the game’s puzzles by simply using the techniques that you’ve practiced throughout the game. Fez, by contrast, requires you to have the mentality to be able to perceive and decode the subtle “clues” in random game locations. If you didn’t make a Rosetta Stone for the symbols (or didn’t want to do that work), well tough noogies, you’re locked out of fully completing this game.

If you’re the type of person who loves ARGs and assembling pieces of a Rosetta Stone while you explore environments, then you should stop reading right now and go give Fez all your money. If you’re like me, and prefer to watch Tom Hanks solve the Da Vinci Code rather than do the work yourself, then you’re probably going to be less impressed with Fez. It’s not a bad game, but it’s certainly not the Indie masterpiece that 5 years of hype may have let you believe.

(Also, the “normal” ending to this game is predictably very abstract with a pretentious tone. If you’re expecting any insightful, life-changing revelations from playing through Fez, you’d get more answers from the Mass Effect 3 ending than this game.)


Review: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Last fall, Microsoft and 343 Studios released a “remastered” version of the original Halo with online coop play, achievements, a smattering of Kinect-enabled voice commands, and a complete graphical overhaul. It’s somewhat of a transition title for the franchise as the baton of Halo development has been passed from Bungie to 343 Studios starting with the upcoming Halo 4. As a longtime Halo fan, I hope that this “Anniversary” edition of Halo isn’t any indicator of what the future of the franchise will be like because it’s an absolute turd bomb.

Why? Because the online co-op is completely broken. Here are three reasons why:

Read the rest of this entry »


Review: Judge Dredd Vs. Zombies (iOS)


What could be a more fun iPhone game than shooting the crap out of zombies as a badass postapocalyptic British lawgiver? Turns out, there’s quite a bit of alternatives. I had the opportunity to review Judge Dredd Vs. Zombies for Comics Alliance late last year and while the core gameplay was competently fun, it was sucked dry by the hollow presentation and shameless difficulty due to a freemium model-friendly unlock system.

If you’re looking for an epic Judge Dredd gaming experience based on the comics, let’s stop right there. This is not the game for you. While the word “zombies” in the title could imply a tie in to Garth Ennis’ epic “Judgment Day” zombie storyline, Judge Dredd vs. Zombies involves nothing of the sort. The closest you get to a story is a single briefing screen telling you that Zombies have infested Mega City-One and that Judge Dredd is the “Solution.” In fact, other than scattered badges and the occasional logo in each level, the only sights you’re going to see are Judge Dredd, zombies, and generic looking building interiors. To be fair to the developer, though, it’s what was promised in the title and by golly that’s exactly what’s offered.

Read my full review on Comics Alliance here


Review: Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3

Full disclosure: I’m a huge comic book and video game geek and have loved the Marvel vs. Capcom series ever since I was a kid. I’d buy each and every release, even if they only add new characters and come up less than a year after the last one. It’s a really fun fight experience and I find the ridiculous speed and combos a nice change of pace from the more methodical Street Fighter or Tekken series.

That being said, I really wish Capcom would include a nice tutorial mode or something to make it easier for newcomers to get into the game. It’s a blast to play and there’s definitely a larger audience for this stuff now that Marvel’s successfully launched so many high profile films.

You can find my full review of the game on ComicsAlliance. I’d feel honored if you read the whole thing, but I’ll admit it’s a bit detailed for you impatient types out there.

If you’re one of those people, here are some tl;dr points:

If you skipped out on the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and love the characters and/or just love a good brawling game, then picking up Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a no-brainer. It’s strictly superior to the previous version in virtually every way. Even if you’re not normally a fighting game person, you may want to at least rent the game once just to experience your beloved characters brought to full interactive life (LifeTip for overworked readers: I’ve found that setting the game to an easy difficulty and breezing through arcade mode is a wonderful stress reliever).

As for those who own the first version, whether or not you’ll find the right value in UMvC3 depends on how often you play with others — either online or on the couch together. This is a game meant to be played competitively. Things will get very tiresome on your own once you’re done experimenting with the new characters. Feel free to skip UMvC3 if you got the idea the first go-around and have no desire to see the new characters. It doesn’t bring a whole lot new to the table.

Read the full review: ‘Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3’ review on ComicsAlliance.


AnandTech’s iPhone 4S Review

Thank God Anandtech still does what it does, because the in depth tech gadget review has become an almost bygone relic of the early 21st century. Their iPhone 4S review is bar none the most informative and useful review you will ever read for the device.

Want to know all the stuff Apple didn’t disclose and other review sites didn’t even mention? Like an faster WiFi chip accounting for better transfer speeds? Or an improved vibrate mechanism? How about benchmarks on exactly how much better at each task the 4S is?

If you’re on the fence about the device (especially if you’re an iPhone 4 user) and need concrete data to decide on the purchase, this is the only review you need to read.

AnandTech – Apple iPhone 4S: Thoroughly Reviewed.


Marco Ament Reviews The Kindle Fire

Marco Ament:

I expected the Kindle Fire to be a compelling iPad alternative, but I can’t call it delightful, fun, or pleasant to use. Quite the opposite, actually: using the Fire is frustrating and unpleasant, and it feels like work.


via A human review of the Kindle Fire –


The Verge’s Kindle Fire Review

Joshua Topolsky:

For an OS that’s still playing catch up to iOS, and one which is plagued by fragmentation in its main, fully supported app store, the introduction of a completely separate store on a completely separate product which developers now have to to consider seems relatively awful to me. Sure, there are some great titles available to Fire owners — but what’s the long term plan? If the Fire doesn’t reach parity with Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich, all of the new “tablet” Android apps will be unavailable for this platform or require a second build which developers will have to maintain, and that seems untenable.

Disappointing if you’re looking for the Kindle Fire to be an all-purpose tablet device. That doesn’t mean that it’s completely useless as a full featured tablet, but I wouldn’t hold out hope for long-term developer support on yet another fragment of the Android ecosystem.

Kindle Fire review | The Verge