AUSTIN, Texas — The doors to South By Southwest Interactive closed Tuesday after five days of nonstop events, just as the madding crowds for the music festival started arriving.
Austin has a counterculture reputation, and SXSW’s origins are in the Wild West of the tech space. But recently, the festival has turned into what critics have called a brand orgy, and some SXSW attendees didn’t seem all that surprised that Washington was getting in on the action. (Early SXSW attendees have been saying the festival has jumped the shark for years.)
By one count, the number of members of Congress who stopped by South By this year was 17. Roll Call was able to confirm the presence of 12 (not counting at least a dozen Hill staffers), from both sides of the aisle.
Here’s what some of them had to say about South By:
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.:
"My South By highlight was visiting with SXSW's sizable Kansas City representation. Over 30 entrepreneurs and startup advocates gathered attended our SXSW meetup to discuss their companies, future plans for the Kansas City Startup Village and the role Kansas City can play as a national leader among gigabit cities.
"The message I heard numerous times at SXSW Interactive this year was that, for many startups, government is getting in the way of success. A number of entrepreneurs shared their challenges dealing with the tax code, crowd-funding rulemaking at the SEC, the current patent system and more. The need to address these issues and reduce federally imposed drags on our economy has never been more clear."
Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas:
"I have attended SXSW off and on for several years and remember when the festival was just in its infancy. I've watched it grow into one of the most anticipated intercultural exchanges in Texas. I very much enjoy meeting others from different parts of the country and the world and am glad that people from across the globe come to Texas to celebrate both the music and motion picture industries and take part in great conversations."
Rep. John Carter, R-Texas:
"I have enjoyed being part of SXSW for the last five years, engaging in conversations concerning new technologies, learning about out-the-box ideas that the private industry brings to the market, how those new markets create new private sector jobs and hearing from the serial entrepreneurs on how government can help or hurt opportunities.
"This year, alongside Dell, I had the great opportunity to host a couple of my colleagues, Reps. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Chuck Fleishmann, R-Tenn., and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, to learn about Dell's new business products and strategies. I learned a lot from these rising stars in Congress as they listened, asked great questions, and engaged in open debate to continue to find ways to keep America and its workforce on the cutting edge."
Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev.:
“I attended South by Southwest for the first time this year, and I participated in discussions about helping women-owned businesses and spurring enterprise development. Many leaders of the venture capitalist community stressed that government can play a big role in development in the technology sector. According to Springboard, one of the groups that I heard from, the women-owned companies they have supported have raised $6.2 billion in financing, have created tens of thousands of new jobs, and generated billions of dollars in annual revenues over the past 12 years.”
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.:
"The main thing I came away from SXSW thinking about was high tech jobs. East Tennessee is home to the world's premier national lab, Oak Ridge National Lab. ORNL is constantly producing new technologies that spur industries around the world. It was great to see the impact of ORNL on such a large stage. Innovators and entrepreneurs help drive this nation and, this weekend, what I saw certainly shows that our economic engine is ready to take off, if given the opportunity."
And the party isn’t over yet: Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, is attending the music festival on Saturday to take part in a discussion on music’s role in national security.
And there’s sure to be just as much, if not more, representation from Washington in Austin next year. Jaclyn Louis, legislative director for Rep. Tom Marino, spoke on a panel this year and was also scoping out SXSW to see if her boss should book a trip for 2015. She said the Pennsylvania Republican “is very interested and looking forward to attending in the future.”
An interactive festival wouldn't be complete without a stellar social media presence. Here are some of our favorite tweets and pictures from the week:
Issa tried out a new dance game from Microsoft:
Demoing a new Microsoft dance game. #sxsw pic.twitter.com/8CSUPwP55h — Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) March 9, 2014
Even congressmen like getting free swag:
Thanks @mpaa! MT @TheCredits: Rep. @farenthold nabbing one of our limited edition posters at #thecreditslounge #SXSW pic.twitter.com/fSRSPokbFV — Blake Farenthold (@farenthold) March 9, 2014
Moran spotted the founder of Reddit’s SXSW bus:
2 yrs ago I was at #sxsw explaining how we stopped SOPA/PIPA, now I'm driving next to @alexisohanian 's #wtpbook bus pic.twitter.com/7nVcLOkEUP — Jerry Moran (@JerryMoran) March 10, 2014
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel posed for selfies:
Love that @rahmemanuel is in the Chicago House at #sxsw !!! #chicagohouse pic.twitter.com/McPuzVPkCz — Scott (@ScottKawa) March 11, 2014
Kinzinger hung out at the Dell booth:
Having a great time spending Sunday with @Dell at #SXSW14 pic.twitter.com/fCBgwOEElC — Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) March 9, 2014
Warner posed for a photo with a fan from D.C.:
Got to chat with VA Senator & fmr. Gov. @MarkWarner today, thanks to @1776dc and @CapitalFactory! #sxsw pic.twitter.com/Zu1WBx4qWh — Patrick Stoddart (@prstoddart) March 9, 2014
Warren’s staffers made a connection with Tilda Swinton:
That time @FirestoneMike told Tilda Swinton she was awesome on the escalator. #sxsw — Lauren Miller (@laurenm) March 8, 2014
And in case you missed something, catch up on all of Roll Call’s SXSW coverage: